In one of the most entertaining friendlies you are likely to see, Orient drew 4-4 with Arsenal XI at the Matchroom Stadium on Tuesday evening.
First half headers from Scott Cuthbert and Kevin Lisbie, together with a stunning strike from David Mooney sent the O’s into the break 3-2 up after Wellington Silva scored a brace for the visitors.
Trialist Johnny Gorman bagged the home side’s fourth early in the second half but goals from Chuba Akpom and a last minute equaliser from Danny Boateng secured a draw for the north Londoners.
Manager Russell Slade named his strongest available team for the first half of a game being played just four days before the 2013/14 campaign kicks off against Carlisle United this Saturday.
And Slade’s men quickly took the initiative when Mooney, who was shifted to the left wing for this evening’s game, did well to force the first corner of the night which led to a crazy minute that would set the tone for the rest of the game.
First Scott Cuthbert escaped his marker to get on the end of Lloyd James’s delivery before directing an unstoppable header past Deyan Iliev in the Gunners goal on four minutes.
And 60 seconds later, Orient were two up when Lisbie fought hard to get to another James corner and nod home from close range.
The away side had a good spell of possession in the immediate aftermath of Orient’s second and Aneke had their first shot at goal in the seventh minute, curling a decent effort just over the bar. The young forward also got on the end of a corner moments after, but again couldn’t find the target.
Despite Arsenal’s undoubted composure on the ball Orient were closing down their opponents well, winning the ball back in all areas of the pitch, and Slade will be pleased with how fresh his men look ahead of the new season.
However with only 11 minutes gone, it was the away side who would strike next when Gunners left winger Wellington Silva found himself in a good position just inside the O’s box. The Brazillian cut inside to gain a yard on Cuthbert and managed to squeeze a well controlled shot inside Jones’s left-hand post to pull a goal back for his side.
Orient’s rearguard were looking as solid as ever on a fine summer’s evening, winning the majority of balls in the air – including ‘keeper Jones – and coming out of most 50-50s on top.
While Mooney was playing out wide on the night, he and Lisbie continued to link up in the way they did throughout the whole of last season and started to give the Arsenal defence plenty to think about. In addition to this, Lisbie and Shaun Batt were combining well and a neat one two between the pair sent the former clean through on goal after 18 minutes but he could not beat Iliev, whose right boot prevented the hitman from grabbing his second of the night.
Orient may have struggled for goals at times last season but Slade will be delighted with the form in which his strikers are in going into the new campaign.
Much like the senior Arsenal side, the Gunners youngsters on show tonight were particulalry effective in keeping hold of the ball inside the Orient defensive third, but the combination of some solid defending and a lack of end-product meant they struggled to find an opening.
James’s consistently accurate deliveries from free-kicks continued to cause the away side problems all night and, with the Arsenal goalkeeper out of his goal, the midfielder may well have scored a stunning long range effort had referee Mick Russell not blocked his thumping drive from travelling more than five yards midway through the half.
It was a joy to watch two teams playing football that would not have looked out of place on the highest stage and this made for a compelling spectacle – both sides keeping the ball well and hitting their opponents on the counter attack as soon as they retrieved possession.
The O’s have been utilising captain Nathan Clarke’s good long-throw during pre-season and this weapon almost led to another goal on the half-hour mark, only for Lisbie’s angled header to be dramatically saved by Arsenal’s Iliev.
Moses Odubajo reminded the home crowd what a talent he is during the first period, getting the better of his man on several occasions before sending some enticing balls into the away side’s box, but Orient’s front pairing were unable to add to the scoreboard.
In what had already been an entertaining half of football, arguably the best action came in the closing five minutes when Arsenal’s Silva grabbed his second of the night as a result of a defensive mix-up between Cuthbert and Jones. But moments after conceding Orient’s Mooney came in off the left flank to get on the end of a loose ball and thump home a brilliant half volley from 20 yards, sending the O’s into the break with a 3-2 lead.
The O’s boss sent out ten fresh outfield players for the second half, including four trialists.
But the changes did not seem to have much impact on the team when, after only five minutes, Orient found themselves 4-2 up when a poor defensive clearance fell at the feet of O’s trialist Johnny Gorman who made no mistake in slotting the ball into an unguarded net from the edge of the area.
But, following the trend of this particualr match, it wasn’t long before the opposition pulled a goal back. Chuba Akpom had already seen one effort go just wide of the target and another well saved by Jones early in the second period, but the striker made no mistake with his third chance, tucking it in to the bottom left corner.
The game settled down after the early second half goals but both sides continued to create, with Harrison Georgiou – who has looked bright whenever he has played during pre-season – at the heart of most of Orient’s attacking play, leading to both Jack Sherratt and trialist George Bowerman having decent efforts at goal.
And with just ten minutes left on the clock, Georgiou sparked a blistering counter attack from the home side which created another opportunity for Bowerman that he would surely have finished off had it not been for a heroic last-ditch Arsenal challenge.
A flurry of late pressure from the away side had been well dealt with by an inexperienced Orient defence and it looked as though they were set for a well-deserved victory over some very strong opposition.
However a poor pass from trialist Ben Sampayo deep inside his own half with seconds remaining allowed Danny Boateng to intercept and tuck home a dramatic equaliser with almost the last kick of the game.
It was, though, yet another undefeated pre-season game and the first half in particular will give O’s fans great hope leading into the new season.
ORIENT (first half): Jamie Jones; Gary Sawyer, Mathieu Baudry, Nathan Clarke (c), Scott Cuthbert; David Mooney, Romain Vincelot, Lloyd James, Moses Odubajo; Shaun Batt, Kevin Lisbie
Goalscorers: Cuthbert (4), Lisbie (5), Mooney (43), Gorman (47)
ORIENT (second half line up): Jamie Jones De’Reece Vanderhyde, Elliott Omozusi (c), Alex Finney, Ben Sampayo (trialist), Johnny Gorman (trialist), Ross Jenkins (trialist), Harry Lee, Jack Sherratt, Harrison Georgiou, George Bowerman (trialist)
Subs not used: Jake Larkins, Josh Uzun, Lawson Okimeki, Elyon Marshall-Katung
ARSENAL XI: Deyan Iliev (Vikers, 63); Tefari Moore, Leander Siemann, Nico Yennaris (c), Danny Boateng, Isaac Hayden, Thomas Eisfeld, Kris Olsson, Chuba Akpom (Lipman, 75), Chuks Aneke, Wellington Silva (Jeffrey, 69)
Subs not used: Daniel Crowley, Glen Kamara, Tom Dallison
Goalscorers: Silva (11, 42), Akpom (53), Boateng (90)
Referee: Mick Russell
Attendance: 3,413 (860)