Manager Chris Brayford made five changes to the side who started at Ipswich. Naomi Ogunde returned in goal, Lisa Holmback, Kayleigh Xidhas and Hayley Barton came into midfield whilst Belen Ripoll Douton led the attack in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
This was Orient’s first home game since October 15, after a string of five consecutive away games. It was a glorious afternoon and the O’s started brightest with an early spell of pressure. Barton was causing concern for the Denham defence down the right, with the hosts’ high press forcing the visitors back inside their own half.
After a lively start to the match from the O’s, the tempo had eased with 15 minutes played. Denham had seen more of the ball, but failed to ask any serious questions of the hosts’ defence. Hannah Porter stood out, making some calm and collected interceptions in the early stages.
However, Orient’s best passage of play came when Chloe McNee and Xidhas combined to free Sophie Le Marchand down the left, but her cross could not find anyone in a red shirt. Without doubt it was the O’s who were on top, but they were lacking a killer final pass after some promising attacking play.
On 27 minutes, the O’s worked another good chance when Barton whipped in a delicious cross that was met by Le Marchand who was denied by a smart save down to her right from Denham goalkeeper Gracie Perkis.
With half an hour played, Orient would be disappointed not to have opened the scoring after a handful of decent openings had gone amiss. Denham had rarely troubled Ogunde in the O’s goal, with their only shot on target from Sophie Cheadle sailing wide of the post.
On 32 minutes, Orient finally broke the deadlock courtesy of Barton after some good work out wide. Connie Montiel-McCann chipped a delightful ball into Barton’s path on the right, whose high cross dipped into the net at the far post to give the O’s a much deserved lead.
With five minutes until half time, the O’s looked keen to extend their lead whilst momentum was on their side. Holmback seized the initiative, driving forward before firing her shot just over the bar. The hosts had utilised the pace and trickery of Barton and Le Marchand to good effect, and looked to counter at pace.
After a positive first half, the O’s took a slender lead into the break. They had been resolute in defence, solid in midfield, but needed more conviction in front of goal. For Denham, they would be looking to get more of a foothold in the game after being on the back foot for the most part.
Whatever was said at half time had its desired effect when the O’s doubled their lead two minutes after the restart. Barton made a bold run down the right, before picking out Ripoll Douton who brilliantly angled the ball into the far corner.
With the wind in their sails, Orient made it 3-0 on 49 minutes in clinical fashion. Le Marchand drifted inside from the left, and drilled a low shot right-footed beyond a helpless Perkis. The O’s had started the half superbly, wasting no time in putting this game to bed.
The floodgates had well and truly opened now as Orient bagged a fourth, and Le Marchand a brace on 54 minutes. Xidhas played a wonderful ball into Le Marchand who rounded the keeper and slotted into the net to put the result beyond any reasonable doubt.
After an electric start to the second half, the game had slowed but Orient continued to get numbers forward. Xidhas had been effective playing through the middle, whilst Barton and Le Marchand continued to offer width in attack.
Orient made three quick changes from 72 minutes with Barton, Xidhas and Ripoll Douton coming off. Joanna Gomm, Makesha MacFarlane, and Rebecca Hirst were given the opportunity to get some first team minutes under their belt having impressed for the development squad.
Despite the scoreline, Denham failed to give up but instead worked the ball nicely at times to create a couple of half-chances. Their persistence was rewarded on 83 minutes when they pulled a goal back courtesy of Cheadle, who slipped into space in the box before firing past Ogunde for what was merely a consolation.
Orient would be disappointed to have lost their clean sheet, but almost added a fifth goal with five minutes remaining. Le Marchand unselfishly squared the ball to MacFarlane whose initial attempt was blocked before seeing her rebound brilliantly tipped away by Perkis as the O’s booked a trip to Charlton Athletic in the Semi-Finals.
Speaking after the match, top goalscorer Sophie Le Marchand gave her thoughts on the team’s performance: “I’m really pleased, I think when we played Denham before in the league we realised what a tough side they are. They are always really well organised and defensively sound, they’re a big strong group of girls.
“I think it made a big difference today being on our turf, the pitch is a lot wider, it feels bigger, so we can play our game and use the space more effectively. Whereas on their pitch away from home it was boggier, the weather was really unpleasant, so I think that suited us more today. I think we put on a really good performance and looked more like ourselves after last week’s defeat, so I’m really happy we’re back to business.”
Orient return to league action next week with a trip to seventh placed Stevenage Ladies in the FA Women’s Premier League, with kick-off scheduled for 2pm.