Orient came into the match sitting third in South East Division One with 31 points, while the visitors Cambridge occupied sixth position having collected 20 points this season.
Manager Chris Brayford opted for the same eleven which began the defeat to Charlton Athletic a fortnight ago. Captain Danielle Griffiths remained at right back, Connie Montiel-McCann supported Egle Trezzi in holding midfield while Belen Ripoll-Douton led the attack in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Cambridge got this game underway on an overcast afternoon at Mile End, with both teams looking to bounce back from defeats in their previous outings. Orient started with intent, getting on the front foot from the off with Montiel-McCann forcing a routine save from Cambridge goalkeeper Savannah Smith.
With ten minutes played, the game had been all Orient who were dominating possession and looking to use the wide areas to good effect. However, Cambridge registered their first real effort on 15 minutes when O’s keeper Naomi Ogunde pushed away Laura Bright’s close range free kick.
Then, against the pattern of play Cambridge broke the deadlock on 20 minutes. Lauren Gibson’s ball from the right picked out Faith Hewitt at the back post who controlled before curling her shot into the far corner of the net to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
At the other end, Orient almost hit a stunning equaliser when Trezzi let fly from range only to see her attempt drop just wide of the post. Since the goal, Cambridge had grown in confidence while the O’s continued to press forward in search of a leveller.
Ripoll-Douton came closest to finding an equaliser with two chances in quick succession, misjudging the flight of the ball with a header before being denied from close range by Smith and the offside flag.
At the break, Orient were left to reflect on a dominant opening quarter of an hour before the Cambridge goal which noticeably changed the tone of the game. The visitors rode an early spell of Orient pressure and took their chance well when it arrived.
The O’s got the second half underway and made a double change at the break. Montiel-McCann and Ripoll-Douton made way for Kate Bradley and Makesha MacFarlane respectively. Orient created a half chance after five minutes with Sophie Le Marchand heading over from Barton’s deep cross.
For Cambridge, Lauren Cartwright was the first player to receive a booking on 54 minutes for dissent and within moments she was dismissed after a challenge on Barton which saw the visitors reduced to ten.
On 65 minutes, Orient were forced into their final change with Ella Meadowcroft replacing MacFarlane who was unable to continue after taking a ball to the face. Soon after, the O’s created a well worked opening when Barton fizzed a cross towards Le Marchand who headed just over the crossbar.
Gradually, there was a confidence creeping into Orient’s play as they looked to create a wave of pressure on the Cambridge backline. Barton’s corner was pushed off the goal line by Smith, but Bradley and Hannah Porter were unable to make anything of the loose ball.
With ten minutes remaining, Barton’s cross struck a Cambridge defender but the subsequent handball claims were swiftly waved away by the referee. Then, Barton was heavily involved again when she flashed a fierce effort across goal from the right.
It was Orient doing all the attacking at this stage with Cambridge dropping deep and setting themselves up to restrict the O’s attempts to snatch a late point. However, Cambridge could have sealed the points on the counter when Hewitt raced through on goal only to be denied by an excellent stop from Ogunde.
Despite pushing until the end, the full-time whistle ensured it wasn’t to be for Orient who were subjected to their second successive league defeat.
After the match, captain Danielle Griffiths gave her thoughts on the performance:
“We gave them a sloppy goal in the first half, some poor defensive play and positioning which then meant we were chasing the game for the rest. I don’t think we ever fully recovered, we didn’t really take advantage when they went down to ten. It’s disappointing but I think we’re going to have to take it as a learning match for next season, that’s all we can do.”
On the challenge of facing AFC Wimbledon next week, Griffiths talked about the team’s preparations ahead of that game:
“I think it will be getting the confidence back that we should have had from the Charlton game that we should have taken into today. We know we’re better than teams like this and we just need to be able to show it.”
Next up, Orient will play host to league leaders AFC Wimbledon at Mile End Stadium on Sunday 18th March with kick-off at 2pm.