Well, it turned out nice in the end. And if it seems that we’re still not quite sitting pretty at the top of the league, three wins out of three will do fine for a start. If only we could get that pesky takeover business sorted one way or another so we might have some idea what the world might look like come the end of the month. I guess there’s just no pleasing some people. I’ve just come back from holiday and have to have something to grouch about.
Orient, having lost at home on Saturday and clearly determined not to have two in a row, provided a stiff test of resolve and character. One that after a patchy first half we came through, with a little help from a truly naff defensive header that allowed Burton to run onto to score the winner. It was a mixed performance in just about all areas, but what was encouraging was that having gone in at the break behind the work rate and determination was evident in the second and ended up being rewarded. Orient will probably feel they did enough to earn a point, but they surrendered the initiative, took off their most effective forward (yes, Scowcroft), and we finished much the stronger of the two teams. And although the winner came from a defensive error, their keeper had no right to have turned over the bar Racon’s superb free kick, which should have been an early contender for goal of the season.
With Parkinson sending out the same starting eleven as for Wycombe and Hartlepool, most of the first-half incidents centred on Shelvey. A poor first touch in the opening minutes saw him lunge after the loose ball. Some referees might have reached for a red card, which would have been harsh but not absurd. Having had his warning his next foul saw a yellow card produced – but to his credit he kept his cool through the remainder of the game. The chances we did create seemed to fall to him, but after good approach work he shot over and then towards the break after Burton teed him up he blazed over.
With Semedo and Racon struggling to dominate midfield, Bailey seeing very little of the ball out left (and Youga not getting forward at all in support), Burton generally not finding support coming through quickly enough, the ball was given away too often and we only showed in flashes that we were capable of finding a way through. Sam, although picking up a booking for persistent fouling, was the main outlet. Orient, while looking second-best technically, battled hard and kept to a fairly simple game-plan. The difference at the break was down to quality of delivery. We had a few free kicks in dangerous positions but, except for one scrambled save by their keeper, didn’t really trouble them. Their deliveries into the box carried far more menace. It wasn’t a real surprise that one whipped-in free kick got the appropriate touch and put them ahead. A bit tough on us on the balance of play, but the impression was that we weren’t doing enough of the graft to create space and openings. We looked as if we had started to believe we are too good for this division and had run into a team determined to prove otherwise, one which would have been very satisfied with life at the interval.
It would have been no surprise had Parkinson made a change at the break to switch to 4-4-2. But instead perhaps there were a few choice words about having to win the battles. And there was an improvement in the second half as players anonymous in the first started to have more influence. Orient seemed less of a threat as Bailey and Youga pushed up more, while Racon had more joy in the centre. Bailey headed over from a good position and just as the Charlton contingent were striking up the call for ‘4-4-2’ we drew level. A ball in from the right found its way through to Shelvey, who swivelled to shoot low into the net.
After that we looked far the more likely winners, with Orient retreating more into their shell (and taking off Scowcroft). But with Racon’s free kick somehow turned over the bar it seemed we would end up settling for the point. Then a rather hopeful lofted through ball produced a weak header back from their defender and Burton latched onto it to lob the keeper. Orient made a couple more changes (we did bring on Solly for Sam – who had splendidly gone over to the other side of the pitch before being taken off to use up some seconds), but the final minutes were negotiated reasonably comfortably (well, compared with the final minutes of much of last season they were a breeze).
Parkinson might say that against determined opposition we needed to show patience but that eventually the chances came. I suspect there was more to it in that, with the second-half extra effort getting its reward. Does, however, raise the question of whether at the start of the season expecting the same eleven to start a fourth game in two weeks on Saturday will not see some very tired legs. Anyway, like that takeover that’s for tomorrow. Tonight ended well.
Elliott: 7/10. Flapped at one dangerous cross but otherwise dealt well with what came his way.
Richardson: 6/10. Is probably more used to this sort of football than anyone else at the club. Showed no inclination to support in attack, and seemed to barely feature in the game. But for a defender that’s no bad thing.
Youga: 6/10. One dangerous back pass and a sliced clearance, but otherwise sound and featured more going forward in the second half.
Llera: 8/10. Not sure who carries the can for their goal by losing their man, but provided the aerial strength to limit their main attacking option. Looked impressive overall.
Dailly: 7/10. Seemed sound too. Generally efficient and effective, especially as Scowcroft tired.
Bailey: 7/10. Poor first half, when he was out of the game, but made up for it in the second, going forward and defending.
Racon: 7/10. Also differing halves, but gets the extra point for the free kick which should by rights have been a goal.
Semedo: 6/10. Not bad, but he’s there to protect the defence and to work with Racon and in the first half Orient caused us problems.
Sam: 7/10. Was our main attacking option in the first half and worried them throughout. Be nice to see him nick a goal before long though.
Shelvey: 7/10. A real mixed bag. Could have seen red early on, missed the first-half chances, but kept his head well thereafter - and scored.
Burton: 8/10. Tough task in the first half when he lacked support, but kept working and took his chance well when it came.