Leyton Orient U18s secured the Merit League 2 title on Saturday as they defeated Cambridge United 3-1 in their final match of the season.
An electric start to the game saw Orient race into a 2-1 lead with only seven minutes played, with Christian Owusu and Freddy Moncur scoring for the O’s. Sandro Semedo then extended their advantage on the 62nd minute.
On the back of a hectic period that saw the O’s youth team play four fixtures in space of a week, Andy Edwards made four changes to the side that won at Northampton as Jack Humphrey, Michael Clark, Montel Agyemang and Scott Kashket all came into the starting XI.
Keen to get off to an encouraging start, Orient did not have to wait long to break the deadlock as Christian Owusu put the hosts ahead on the third minute. Captain Sam Ling cleverly intercepted a pass inside his own half before picking out Sandro Semedo with a wonderful left footed pass in behind the Cambridge defence. As Semedo burst into the box he then unselfishly touched the ball across to Owusu to his left who fired into an empty net.
There was to be little rest bite for the O’s however as two minutes later Cambridge equalised when Dylan Williams released Justin Leavers inside the Orient penalty area and the forward pulled the ball across for Jordan Brown to tap home.
The early drama was not to end there though as Orient regained the lead with only seven minutes on the clock. Sam Alderson nicked the ball off Cambridge defender Frankie Jones inside the U’s half and played a pass into the box for Scott Kashket to race on to. Desperate to make amends for his mistake, Jones only made matters worse by bundling Kashket over inside the box and a penalty was awarded.
Freddy Moncur stepped up to take the spot-kick and confidently fired the O’s back in front by sending Cambridge ‘keeper Mohammed Otuto the wrong way and rifling the penalty low to his left.
Following the frantic start the game settled into a scrappy affair after Moncur’s penalty and Orient were then dealt a blow as Jack Humphrey twisted his knee awkwardly and had to be replaced by Josh Koroma early on.
Having seen chances become a rarity after the blistering start, Orient then came close to adding a third when Michael Clark’s towering header from his own half was latched on to by Kashket and the forward’s cross narrowly missed Owusu but fell to the feet of Semedo who saw an effort pushed round the post.
Soon after Semedo was at the heart of another flowing Orient move having regained possession in the middle of the pitch before racing towards the Cambridge goal and threading a pass through for Owusu.
The striker was unable to control the pass as well as he hoped however and U’s stopper Otuto beat Owusu to the ball but it dropped straight to the feet of Moncur who would have bagged his second of the game had it not been for Jones getting back in time to head his effort off the line.
After the break Orient got off to a sluggish start and it was the visitors who could take more encouragement as Jake Shaun’s free-kick stung the hands of Ben Card in the Orient goal.
Players from both sides then came together just short of the hour as an incident between Kashket and U’s full-back Macauley Joynes sparked a heated reaction.
The incident appeared to spur the O’s into life and they were denied by the woodwork moments later when Montel Agyemang’s shot was blocked into the path of Semedo who saw his follow up effort crash off the post.
Semedo did not have to wait long for another chance however and the winger made no mistake this time by rifling home Orient’s third. A long ball into the Cambridge half was touched down by substitute Victor Adeboyejo into the path of Moncur who picked out the run of Semedo to his right. Semedo then controlled the ball inside the penalty area before firing a shot in at the near post.
Adeboyejo was making his first appearance since suffering a foot injury in the win at Newport County last month and the forward nearly scored with 15 minutes remaining as he stole possession off U’s captain Danny Burns but could only send a chipped effort over the bar.
Moment’s later Ling combined well with Owusu down the left and whipped in a great cross towards the far post but Koroma could only lash a first time volley wide of the post.
As the game approached stoppage time Orient continued to push forward and Owusu came within inches of claiming the O’s fourth goal with a thunderous shot from the edge of the box that cannoned back off the underside of the bar.
The win secures the Merit League 2 title for the youth team having claimed 27 points out of a possible 30 and Academy Director Andy Edwards was pleased with his sides attitude, saying:
“I thought it was a scrappy game, the pitch was bobbly and the wind was blowing, but I thought we was professional and went about it in the right way. We created good chances and I feel the better side won.
“We have a strong group here and we set the boys the challenge of winning the league which they have done convincingly. I am very pleased with how they have performed over recent weeks and also with the consistency that they have shown,” Edwards added.
Orient’s U16s side also ended their season with a resounding 8-0 victory against Cambridge to conclude a terrific campaign and extend their unbeaten run to 40-matches. Noel Mbo claimed a hat-trick while Ruel Satorio scored two and Steven Alzate, Tristan Abrahams and Andrew Tayaca added one each.
ORIENT: Ben Card, Myles Judd, Michael Clark, Sam Ling (C), Jack Humphrey (Josh Koroma 18), Sandro Semedo, Montel Agyemang, Freddy Moncur (Kane Adams 78), Sam Alderson, Christian Owusu, Scott Kashket (Victor Adeboyejo 57)
SUBS: Arthur Janata, Charley Barker
GOALS: Owusu (3), Moncur (7 pen), Semedo (62)
BOOKINGS: Kashket (57)
CAMBRIDGE: Mohammed Otuto, Frankie Jones, Macauley Joynes, Jake Shaun, Keagan Cole (Leon Davies 77), Danny Burns (C), Jordan Brown, Dylan Williams, Justin Leavers (Elliott Hogan 61), Matt Foy, Elvis Lentell (Josh Emmins 66)
SUBS: Dom Mason, Josh Burniston
GOALS: Brown (5)