Lisa Fulgence netted a goal in each half to maintain Orient’s 100% record on the road this season after recent victories against Luton and Swindon Town respectively.
Manager Chris Brayford made two changes to the team who began the 1-5 victory at Swindon in the FA Women’s National League Cup last weekend.
First choice goalkeeper Naomi Ogunde started her first game since August 19th while Hannah Porter returned in the centre of defence.
Stevenage got the game underway on a mild afternoon in Hertfordshire. However, the O’s came flying out of the blocks as Fulgence struck the crossbar with a header from Hayley Barton’s corner inside two minutes.
Orient had threatened from the wide areas and it was from here that the opening goal arrived on 11 minutes. Barton’s cross was scooped into the air by a Stevenage shirt before falling to Fulgence who calmly guided the ball into the bottom corner to put the O’s ahead.
However, the hosts could have levelled moments later after a scare at the back for Orient. Captain Danielle Griffiths misjudged a back pass, leaving Nicole Emmings one-on-one with Ogunde who superbly denied the striker with a brave point-blank save.
With fifteen minutes played, the O’s were deservedly ahead but needed to maintain concentration in defence with Stevenage growing into the game. Orient were creating chances but needed to be more clinical if they were going to increase their advantage.
On 21 minutes, Sophie Le Marchand did well to connect with Barton’s cross but directed her header over the bar. Then, Katharine Nutman picked out Tara O’Halloran who shot straight at Georgia Knight in the Stevenage goal.
After half an hour, the O’s were seeing the majority of possession and controlling the pace of the game. However, Stevenage had found some joy down the left-side with Ellie Searle drilling a low ball across goal that was confidently gathered by Ogunde.
By half-time, the O’s had enjoyed a dominant first half but will have been disappointed not to have extended their lead. Much gratitude was owed to Ogunde who was alert to deny Stevenage their best opportunity of the first 45 minutes.
Orient, in their all blue away strip, got the game restarted but it was Stevenage who threatened during the early stages. Emmings worked some space in the box only for a last-ditch covering tackle from Fran Cagetti who came to the O’s rescue.
Shortly after, Emmings was looking to threaten once more as she allowed the ball to drop on the edge of the box before guiding the shot inches over the crossbar. It had been a much improved showing from the hosts as Orient were forced to endure a spell of defending.
On 55 minutes, the hosts produced some flowing build-up play on the edge of the box resulting in Amy Makewell’s powerful strike that was well held by Ogunde. The O’s were sitting deeper now and needed a second goal to swing momentum back in their favour.
Midway through the half, the O’s first change saw Louise Hogan replace Chloe McNee in central midfield. Within minutes, they came agonisingly close to doubling their lead as Nutman’s exquisite pass found Le Marchand who lifted the ball over Knight but inches wide of the far post.
Finally, much to their relief, the O’s bagged a second goal on 73 minutes. Barton played a well-weighted pass into Fulgence on the right side of the box, the striker composed herself before fiercely drilling the ball underneath Knight to claim her brace.
The O’s introduced Belen Ripoll Douton with fifteen minutes to play as Barton made way just moments after her assist. Stevenage were searching for a goal that would make for a nervous finish to the match, but Ogunde was equal to Searle’s cross-come shot from the left-side.
At the other end, Fulgence was frustrated not to get her hat-trick as she received the ball unexpectedly before turning and shooting into the grateful arms of Knight. Then, a neat one-two between Le Marchand and Ripoll-Douton saw the ball sit up for Hogan who fizzed her effort just over the crossbar.
Orient’s final substitution saw Keegan Russell replace Nutman with two minutes of normal time remaining. They stayed organised and disciplined to secure an important victory which sees them jump to third in South East Division One.
After scoring four goals in her previous two games, striker Lisa Fulgence commented on the O’s display and spoke about her form in front of goal:
“I think this has probably been the best performance we’ve had. It wasn’t a great performance, but it was one of the best we’ve had as a squad and seeing out a game. Sometimes when you come away from a game and you don’t score, you think did I do enough, even though you feel like you ran and ran. With a goal, you feel like you have done something, you’ve got something out of the game.”
You don’t have to wait long to see the O’s in action again with another league fixture just around the corner. They welcome Billericay Town Ladies to Mile End Stadium this Wednesday 12th September with kick-off at 19:45.
Photo by Chloe Hartwell.