Orient came into the match sitting fourth in South East Division One with 34 points whilst Wimbledon topped the table with 48, 12 clear of Milton Keynes Dons in second.
Chris Brayford made two changes to the side who began the 4-1 victory over Norwich City Ladies on March 25th. Egle Trezzi and Sárka Stryhalova were absent so captain Danielle Griffiths returned to the squad at right-back whilst Fulgence led the attack in her first start for the club.
On a pleasant Spring afternoon at the home of Barking FC, Wimbledon got the game underway but it was Orient who registered the first shot on target with six minutes played. Fulgence slotted a pass into the path of Lisa Holmback whose strike was well held by Shanell Salgado in the visiting goal.
The O’s were growing into the game, applying a high press, and beginning to see more of the possession. Holmback brought down Connie Montiel-McCann’s lofted pass but was unable to connect cleanly with her effort which failed to trouble Salgado.
It had been a positive opening fifteen minutes for Orient who had restricted the league leaders to very few opportunities. This strong start was rewarded on 19 minutes when Fulgence opened the scoring on her full debut. Sophie Le Marchand showed good vision to square the ball to Fulgence who was denied by Salgado at first, before bundling in the rebound to give the O’s a 1-0 lead.
However, Wimbledon were awarded a penalty just three minutes later when Francesca Cagetti brought down Hannah Searle. Jordanne Hoesli-Atkins took responsibility, placing a low shot towards the corner that was saved by Orient goalkeeper Naomi Ogunde much to the home side’s delight.
In the blink of an eye, Ogunde kicked a long ball upfield that bounced nicely into the path of Fulgence who calmly controlled before firing the ball past Salgado to double the O’s advantage on 25 minutes.
Now, there was an air of confidence about Orient’s play as chances continued to fall their way. Fulgence saw her shot on the turn pushed away by Salgado before Le Marchand was unable to connect with Hayley Barton’s cross at the far post.
Then, Wimbledon’s best chance of the match arrived on 33 minutes. After some fluent build-up play, Caroline Bisson found herself one-on-one with Ogunde but dragged her effort harmlessly wide of the mark.
On 38 minutes, Wimbledon won another penalty when Hannah Porter was penalised for an alleged handball. This time, Bisson stepped up and drilled the ball low past Ogunde to pull a goal back for the Dons.
Under a spell of Wimbledon pressure in the minutes before half time, Orient remained resilient and took a narrow 2-1 lead into the break. They could be pleased with their first half performance and would be looking to continue with the same approach in the second.
Minutes after the restart, the visitors came close to an equaliser when Katie Stanley’s cross hit the crossbar. Wimbledon had started brightly and forced the O’s to sit back and defend in the early stages of the second half.
Orient created their first chance of the half on 53 minutes when Barton’s corner dropped for Kate Bradley whose snap shot from inside the area was blocked by a blue shirt. The competitive nature of this game was showing with strong tackles and physical battles ensuing all over the pitch.
Shortly after, Wimbledon could have levelled the match when Stanley received the ball in the penalty area before drilling a low shot towards goal that was blocked by one of her own players. At the other end, Barton evaded her marker with ease before drilling a low shot into the grateful arms of Salgado.
The visitors continued to try and cause problems for the O’s defence. A long ball from Sian Wylie found the run of Bisson who lifted the ball over Ogunde only to see it drop just wide of the far post. Then, the Dons thought they had equalised with a far-post header only to be denied by an Orient body on the goal-line.
With just under twenty minutes remaining, the O’s made their first change with Holmback being replaced by Rebecca Hirst. Soon after, goalscorer Fulgence made way for Belen Ripoll-Douton in a like-for-like change in attack.
In the final ten minutes, Wimbledon were pressing forward in search of an equaliser but Rebecca Sargent’s angled header didn’t have enough power behind it to trouble Ogunde. The Dons were seeing most of the ball and trying to find a way through the resolute O’s defence.
However, Orient’s work rate and determination were second to none with everyone pulling together to produce an impressive team performance and secure a vital three points against the league’s front runners.
After the match, goalscorer Lisa Fulgence gave her views on Orient’s performance:
“I thought it went really well. I think we all battled from top to bottom, making sure we were all pressing at the right times and made sure we got into the box when balls were out wide. I think we did really well on the whole.”
Fulgence described her feelings after getting on the scoresheet in her first start for the club:
“Absolutely great! It’s one of those things where I know I’ve only played a bit of one game, but to get that monkey off my back straight away is the best thing for me. Once you score, you just feel like I know what I can do and keep going from there.”
Ahead of Orient’s next fixture against Milton Keynes Dons, captain Danielle Griffiths said:
“We should be full of confidence and hopefully the rest of the girls are as well. If we can beat Wimbledon, we can beat MK Dons who were sitting second in the table so hopefully we can pull out the same performance and the same result.”
Next, the O’s will welcome Milton Keynes Dons Ladies to Brisbane Road on Sunday April 29th in the FA Women’s Premier League, with kick-off at 12pm. It promises to be a great occasion, so please come down and get behind the team in their penultimate home match of the season.