Orientearache: I’ll take a dull 0-0 draw against Sheffield Wednesday
15:34 24 November 2011
This blog begins on Saturday the 6th of December 1998. Britain had been rebranded ‘Cool Britannia’ under the fledgling New Labour government, Cher’s awful dirge ‘Believe’ was riding high in the charts and the weather was extremely, extremely cold. Orient’s game that day had been under some doubt due to freezing overnight temperatures, but the early morning sunshine and the presence of the live television cameras no doubt both helped persuade Kingstonian and referee Mark Warren that the FA Cup second round tie should go ahead.
Three weeks earlier, the O’s had smashed then-rivals Brighton 4-2 in the third round courtesy of a Tony Richards hat-trick and Wim Walschaerts (undoubtedly the second most talented Belgian to play for Orient). That game at Brisbane Road had been my first ever FA Cup match, and I couldn’t wait to clock up number two in south west London.
Knowing that the game was live on the box was an extra incentive: all the Spurs, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United fans I went to school with would finally realise what I’d been telling them all along! Yes, Alex Inglethorpe has the best volleying technique in the football League. Yes, Matt Lockwood could play for England. Yes, Amara Simba is a French international. Yes, Leyton Orient really are a professional football club.
It was the worst game I’ve ever seen.
Orient have sunk to some hideous defeats in my time (hello 1-4 at home to Cheltenham and 5-0 at Bournemouth amongst many, many others), but at least they all tended to have something to recommend them (usually the opposition). There was nothing good about 0-0 draw at Kingmeadow.
Devoid of all semblance of excitement, goalmouth action, effort, atmosphere and ability, the game was the epitome of the moribund levels football can occasionally sink to. More recent goalless efforts at home to Walsall and away at Yeovil have also seared themselves on the memory as the second and third worst games I’ve ever seen respectively. Between the three of them it’s almost enough to make you long for the dire American system of never allowing a game to end as a stalemate… but who on earth would have wanted to watch ‘overtime’ in any of those fixtures?
Suffice to say I didn’t bother with the replay - in which Tommy Taylor’s side scraped through by the odd goal in three – which was probably sensible decision seeing as Orient had crashed out of the FA Cup at home to non-League opposition in the previous two seasons. In ‘97/’98 it was an embarrassing loss to Hendon; a year earlier even a Justin Channing goal couldn’t save the O’s against Stevenage.
Last weekend - a mere two and a half weeks shy of 15 years later - Orient and Stevenage shared their second ever competitive fixture. I wish they hadn’t (or, at least, I wish I hadn’t been there to watch it).
Comfortably the fourth worst match I’ve ever seen, it was an excruciating war of attrition between Orient (short on ideas, physically overmatched) and Stevenage (rigidly organised, unfailingly direct) neither of whom had the guile to do much more than huff, puff and give away goal kicks.
I can see why Stevenage have been successful in recent years: they’re incredibly difficult to play against both with and without the ball, they press the opposition high up the pitch and they stick within their – obvious – technical limitations. Wrist tapping manager Graham Westley has done a great job with limited resources, but I certainly wouldn’t want to see Orient play that brand of football any time soon.
Our inability to break Boro down meant that the loss of Dean Cox was clearly keenly felt, even though he hasn’t been at his creative best this season. Hopefully the apparently imminent signing of Lee Cook will go a large way to sharpening Orient’s blunt attack; the QPR winger hasn’t played much football in recent years due to injury, but he will be a cut above most League One defences should he be fully fit.
Hopefully he’ll be available for this week’s game at Sheffield Wednesday. The Owls have won seven of their eight home games in League One this season, and the O’s are going to have to be on top form in order to get anything from the match. I’ll take a dull 0-0 draw…
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