After the original fixture scheduled for January 21st was called off due to a waterlogged pitch, the match was rearranged for a week later at Mile End Stadium.
Orient were last in action a fortnight ago falling to a narrow 2-1 defeat at the hands of Milton Keynes Dons. Meanwhile, Ipswich scored nine without reply against Haringey Borough in their previous match. The O’s came into the game in second place whilst Ipswich began the day in fourth.
Manager Chris Brayford made two changes to the side which started at MK Dons. Kathryn Canavan and Sophia Piotrowska came in for the absent Chloe McNee and Sárka Stryhalova as the O’s lined up in a 4-4-2 formation. Le Marchand partnered Makesha MacFarlane in attack, Leyre Bastyr began at left midfield, whilst Vanessa Wilson moved across to left-back.
Ipswich got the game underway, starting brightly and playing the ball around with confidence in the early stages. Their first chance of the match came on eight minutes, when Amanda Crump’s free kick dropped for Harriet Petley whose effort was palmed away at the near post by Orient keeper Naomi Ogunde.
Moments later, Ipswich were causing Orient problems once again when Cassie Craddock’s looping effort clipped the crossbar. With the visitors knocking on the door, the O’s were yet to create a clear-cut chance and needed to ask more questions of the Ipswich defence.
It was a typically close opening fifteen minutes between two of the league’s top four teams. However, Orient opened the scoring on 19 minutes courtesy of top scorer Le Marchand. Hayley Barton’s low cross took a deflection which diverted the ball away from Ipswich goalkeeper Sian Fagg and into the path of Le Marchand who slotted home to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
Five minutes later, Ipswich came close to an equaliser when Zoe Cossey’s cross found Sophie Welton at the back post whose left-footed strike was pushed away by Ogunde. At the other end, Orient could have doubled their lead when Le Marchand worked space inside the box before seeing her low shot held by Fagg.
Ipswich were determined to find an equaliser before the break and almost got it when Crump’s corner from the left struck the far-post. Then, MacFarlane set Orient on the attack after threading a nice pass into the path of Le Marchand who was denied by Fagg once more.
This had been an entertaining top four encounter with both sides seeing their fair share of chances as the half progressed. Ogunde came to Orient’s rescue twice in a matter of minutes, firstly to push out Crump’s free kick before clawing a dangerous cross away for a corner.
However, after a period of pressure Ipswich grabbed their equaliser on 41 minutes thanks to Natasha Thomas. A corner from the left was whipped into the back post where Thomas rose to nod the ball home and level the match at 1-1.
Shortly after, Orient could have regained the lead when MacFarlane raced through on goal only to see her shot blocked by Fagg. At half time, the O’s were clearly frustrated to concede late in the half whilst Ipswich would have been pleased to be level at the break.
The second half began quietly with both sides eager to score but equally keen to avoid conceding in a tight encounter. On 57 minutes, Ipswich came close to taking the lead when Cossey drove towards the penalty area before firing her shot wide of the right-hand post.
It was going to take something special to settle this game, and Orient provided it on the hour mark. Piotrowska showed great vision to play a delightful through ball for Le Marchand who rounded the keeper before passing the ball into the net to give the O’s a 2-1 advantage.
On 65 minutes, the hosts made their first change of the afternoon with Piotrowska, who had performed well, making way for Connie Montiel-McCann. Moments later, Orient could have scored a third only for Lisa Holmback’s close range header to drop over the crossbar.
After taking the lead once again, the O’s pressed forward in search of another goal. Although, Ipswich had shown their ability to get forward in numbers and move the ball quickly meaning Orient could not afford to lose possession cheaply in the midfield.
With fifteen minutes remaining, Le Marchand went in search of her hat-trick and stung the palms of Fagg with a strike from the left, before Crump denied MacFarlane with a well-timed tackle in the area.
Orient made their second substitution on 83 minutes with striker Belen Ripoll-Douton returning to action in place of Wilson. As a result, Le Marchand dropped back into midfield whilst Bastyr reverted to her natural left-back position.
In the final moments, the O’s last change saw MacFarlane make way for first team debutant Suaila Cardoso Queni. After a valiant display, Orient closed out the game to secure an important three points and keep up the pressure on league leaders AFC Wimbledon.
After the match, goalscorer Sophie Le Marchand gave her thoughts on the performance: “I think we really showed a lot of heart today. The last few weeks have been frustrating because we’ve had waterlogged pitches, we’ve maybe not been at our best, we’ve struggled with injuries, and we really showed a lot of heart and ground it out today. I’m feeling really proud of the girls and the way we played considering our injury situation at the moment, so it feels good.”
Le Marchand commented on her two goals saying: “I felt like my confidence was maybe on the wain a little bit because the goals havn’t been coming quite as frequently in the last few games. From a personal point of view it was great, and it was actually really nice to play up front for a bit today, I enjoyed it!”
The O’s are back in action this Sunday with Luton Town Ladies the visitors to Mile End Stadium in the FA Women’s Premier League, with kick-off at 2pm.