Leyton Orient U16s terrific season continued on Sunday as they defeated Bury 4-1 to be crowned the National Category 3 champions.
Danny Webb’s side had already enjoyed great success this season by winning the South East division and went in to the final with a 30-match unbeaten run against Category 3 opposition.
Having travelled on the Saturday and witnessed the first team claim a dramatic 3-2 injury-time victory at Chesterfield, the group stayed in a hotel overnight before travelling to Moor Park, the home of Derby County’s U21s, for the final.
Following an encouraging start to the match from both sides, Bury looked dangerous on the counter and created a couple of good chances with one effort brushing the post before going out for a goal kick.
Orient found themselves restricted to shots from distance early on and Tristan Abrahams came close with a free-kick but despite beating the goalkeeper, it was the striker’s turn to be frustrated by the woodwork as his effort crashed back off the post.
Having remained resolute throughout the opening exchanges, Orient were looking increasingly dangerous from set-pieces and wide play which saw the Bury defence have to deal with a lot of balls into the box as the match started to swing in the O’s favour.
Josh Koroma scored twice in the U16s Southern Final win against Bournemouth last month and the forward continued his goalscoring form by breaking the deadlock on the 23rd minute. Jesse Amoh showed good work down the right and delivered a cross for Koroma at the back post to which the forward made no mistake by firing a left footed shot back across the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner.
The goal appeared to spur the O’s on as they quickly went in search of a second and they achieved just that by doubling their lead five minutes later. A well-worked set-piece caught out the Bury defence and O’s defender Myles Judd was left with the simple task of applying the finishing touch from close range.
Bury responded to conceding a second by moving another player into attack but the pairing of Judd and Dan Happe at centre-back coped well with a number of aerial battles as Orient went in to the break with the two-goal advantage.
At half time Webb made a couple of changes to the side as Orient looked to push on and kill the game off with a third goal. It was not to be forthcoming however despite Abrahams and Koroma in particular looking increasingly dangerous in and around the penalty area.
As the second half wore on the O’s performance flattened slightly and on the 67th minute Bury halved the deficit when the Shakers right back attacked the byline and cut the ball back to the penalty spot for the ball to be swept beyond Orient goalkeeper Sam Roach.
With the game well and truly open again Bury pushed forward in the hope of grabbing an equaliser but the Orient back line of Amoh, Judd, Happe and Sam Telling defended brilliantly to protect O’s stopper Roach and kept shots at a minimum during what was a crucial period of the match.
With Orient having to fend off pressure from their opponents the game became increasingly open and with 16 minutes remaining the O’s regained their two-goal cushion thanks to a moment of individual brilliance from Steven Alzate.
After winning the ball back in their own half, the O’s broke away in numbers and Alzate cut in from the left and beat no less than five players to enter the box and curl home Orient’s third of the afternoon in spectacular fashion.
Noel Mbo then sealed the win on the 83rd minute by showing predatory instinct inside the box to smash the ball into the roof of the net after Koroma’s free kick had been well saved to round off an emphatic win for the O’s.
The win secures the league and cup double for the U16s and coach Danny Webb was delighted with his players attitude after the match, saying: “I am absolutely thrilled for the boys. I’ve tried to install a winning mentality over the last three years and I think this is a credit for all of their hard work over that period. This win is the icing on the cake for the players and it is nice that we can add another trophy to the boardroom trophy cabinet.”
“We travelled on the Saturday and stayed in a hotel overnight to prepare for the match how a first team would. It was a big learning curve for the players by not only travelling and eating together but also preparing correctly for the match the night before and being professionals which they all did,” he added.
“It was the first time that these boys played in a match which had so much at stake. The match had been hyped up, and rightly so, but they prepared and treated the game no differently to how they have for any other game during this season.”
“They are a group of mature lads but obviously football is ultimately about winning and as I said before this win caps off three years of hard work from everyone. The group has rarely lost over the previous three years and not only have all of them developed as players but now they also possess the winning and ruthless mentality which is needed to become a professional footballer.”
Academy director Andy Edwards was also full of praise for the group, saying: “It is a brilliant achievement for the players and it is a reflection of the hard work that has been put in by themselves and their coach Danny Webb over the past three years. It now gives the players a platform to push on from and they are an age group that we think very highly of as we have offered 11 scholarships to that age group which is unprecedented for us in recent years.”
Please show your appreciation for the U16s at Saturday’s first team match against Oldham Athletic when they will parade with the cup during the half time interval.
ORIENT SQUAD: Sam Roach (GK), Jesse Amoh, Myles Judd, Dan Happe, Sam Telling, Charley Barker, Henry Ochieng, Steven Alzate, Josh Koroma, Pat Adamson, Tristan Abrahams, Noel Mbo, Jonathan Burtonshaw, Rian McLean, Michael Obafemi, Ruel Sotiriou, Andrew Tayaca, Arthur Janata (GK)
GOALS: Koroma (23), Judd (28), Alzate (74), Mbo (83)
Image: Julie Roach @joolzmroach