The young O’s started their Merit League One campaign with a 1-1 draw to Cambridge United thanks to a second half strike from substitute Ernold Haxhiu.
Orient fell behind just before the break, and despite early second half pressure from the visitors, Orient kept themselves in the game and were duly rewarded when Haxhiu stepped up off the bench and netted his first goal for the U18s to give the young O’s something to show for their efforts.
With a number of second year scholars unavailable due to first-team involvement and suspensions, the O’s fielded a younger side with six u16s featuring, including goalscorer Haxhiu.
Both sides had chances in the opening stages, with the best Orient chance falling to Ruel Sotiriou who saw his slot flash past the post after a quick break from the O’s as they picked up the loose ball in the opposition half.
After a fairly equal half Cambridge took an opportunity and broke the deadlock five minutes before the break. Having done well to keep possession in the final third, Harry Lea took a shot from distance, and the good strike flew past goalkeeper Arthur Janata and into the net.
Having trailed for the majority of the second half, Janata did brilliantly to keep the score at 1-0 giving his side a chance to counter after making a number of important saves early on in the half.
The O’s finished the game strongly as they pushed for the equaliser and substitutes Aaron Rowe and Haxhiu proved pivotal in the final third, with the former finding space down the right.
With only five minutes remaining Andrew Camilo-Tayaca crossed the ball which was headed back into the box by Toby Stevenson at the far post. Haxhiu attacked the ball and was able to convert from close range.
Even though the O’s battled for the final goal and the win the final whistle came just too soon for the young side.
Next up for the young O’s is a trip away to Stevenage on Saturday, with the game kicking off at 11am.
ORIENT: Arthur Janata, Andrew Camilo-Tayaca, Toby Stevenson, Hector Kypraniou (Ernold Haxhiu 58), Dan Happe, Teddy Perkins, Rian McLean, Pat Adamson (Aaron Rowe 78), Ruel Sotiriou, Amin Benyoucef (Miles Mercury 50), Charles Clayden
SUBS: Mason Hall, Brandon Shabani