LEYTON ORIENT U18’s produced a gutsy performance despite losing 2-0 away at Colchester United on Saturday. Sam Szmodics struck twice from range within the first half as the hosts preserved their 100 per cent league record, though Orient can take comfort from their battling spirit throughout the game.
Having entered the match missing first-choice defenders Alex Finney and Andis Nikolau through injury and suspension respectively, the O’s looked to assert themselves early against the league leaders, and they produced an opening as early as the 10th minute when Sinclaire Sandy persisted down the right before picking out Elyon Egneku in the box, but the striker was unable to sort out his feet in time to get a shot off.
Despite their positive start Orient then found themselves a goal behind two minutes later, as Jamce Shehaj’s clearance fell to Szmodics, and the Colchester midfielder curled a 25-yard shot past Charlie Grainger and into the corner of the net.
The visitors then produced their best chance so far with 32 minutes gone as Sandy went on a jinking run before releasing Josh Uzun who in turn slipped the ball in the direction of Shola Oladipo, but the winger failed to hit the target when well positioned to test James Bransgrove.
Szmodics’ enthusiasm to shoot from distance was a major part of the home side’s play, and he again let fly with a shot that Grainger was more than equal to. The Orient stopper also demonstrated good reactions to deny Macauley Bonne on the follow-up, though the Colchester number nine was ruled to be offside.
But with only five minutes left before the interval the U’s struck again, as their patient build-up was rewarded when the ball eventually made its way to Szmodics, and his strike from just outside the area beat Grainger.
Yet, the O’s could have conceivably been on level terms at the break, as first Oladipo was unlucky to see his fizzing shot come back off the post after good play from Freddy Moncur and Sandy, and then Lawson Okameji saw his effort well saved by Bransgrove when through on goal after linking well with Uzun.
Colchester nearly made it 3-0 within the first 15 minutes of the second half as Bransgrove’s goal kick made its way through to Bonne, but the striker’s attempted lob beat Grainger and the crossbar. The O’s continued to perform gallantly, and in the dying moments Oladipo’s inviting cross was somehow missed by the Orient bodies in the box. Although they were ultimately beaten, the character shown from his players would have pleased manager Andy Edwards.
“I thought the boys could be proud of their performance today,” noted goalkeeper Grainger after the game. “We kept the ball well today and created chances, but we just didn’t put them away. If either of Shola (Oladipo) or Lawson’s (Okameji) chances went in before half time that would have given us the confidence to go and get another goal”.
Midfielder Okimeji epitomised Orient’s commitment, and he concurred with Grainger’s thoughts. “I think the lads played really well, we were just unlucky not to get a good result,” he said. “We may have lost again today but performance-wise we can leave here with our heads held high.”
Orient: Charlie Grainger (C), Sam Ling, Kevin Kwarteng (Kane Adams – 71), Lamce Shehaj, Jack Humphrey, Lawson Okimeji, Sinclaire Sandy (Robert Mehsah – 81), Freddy Moncur, Shola Oladipo, Josh Uzun (Christian Owusu – 73), Elyon Egbeku. Subs not used: Ben Bridle-Card
Colchester United: James Bransgrove, Callum Rogers, Michael O’Donoghue, Callum Harrison, Conor Clarke, Frankie Kent (C), Tyler Brampton (Tom Monk – 71), Jack Curtis, Macauley Bonne, Sam Szmodics, Tariq Issa (Marley Andrews – 71). Subs not used: Ron Carroll, Charlie Gardiner
Goals: Szmodics (12, 40)