Due to the horrific recent weather, this was Orient’s first game since January 23rd. Manager, Chris Brayford, made three changes from the side that defeated Phoenix Sports in the Isthmian Cup Quarter Final last time out, with Danielle Griffiths and Leyre Bastyr returning to the side at the heart of the defence, while Ellie Stenning also came in up top, Rose Hayles, Pam McRoberts and Hayley Barton the ones to make way.
The O’s started the game brightly with a flurry of early pressure that almost resulted in an opening goal.
First, Cheryl Anderson curled an effort just past the far post, then Sophie Le Marchand volleyed wide from Stenning’s cross before Griffiths struck the crossbar with an in-swinging corner, all in the space of a matter of minutes.
It was the home side who were to break the deadlock though. With her side’s first real attack of note, Sarah Milner broke down the left and delivered an inch perfect cross onto the head of Gibson who powered a header into the roof of the net to give the Hamlet a 19th minute lead.
Orient responded well to the early setback though and almost levelled when Stenning found space in behind the Dulwich defence and fired a shot from a tight angle which Marie Louis did well to palm away for a corner. Egle Trezzi then headed narrowly over from the resulting set-piece.
The home side had the final chance of the first half as Anna De Pelligrin cut inside and unleashed a shot which looked like it would have caused Naomi Ogunde some trouble in the O’s goal, had it not deflected off Bastyr and away for a corner.
Brayford made an alteration at the break, switching out Anderson for Barton on the right-hand side of midfield.
Seeking to make their second semi-final in as many games, Orient battled away in the second half looking for an equaliser. Their first chance came in the 55th minute, the ball fell to Le Marchand in the area who skewed a shot wide on the turn.
A slip from Griffiths almost allowed Dulwich to double their lead through substitute, Raquel Arran. Fortunately though for the O’s, her effort went high and wide of Ogunde’s far post.
In an attempt to turn the tide back in his side’s favour, Brayford made his two final changes before the 80th minute. McRoberts and Giorgia Bracelli replacing Lisa Hölmback and Fran Ali in the centre of midfield.
Chances came and went in the final ten minutes as Orient hunted down a goal that would have taken the tie to penalties. Most notably, Jasmine Auguste fired just over from outside the box, before Barton jinked her way into the penalty area only to be crowded out before she could get a strike away.
In stoppage time, the O’s had one final chance as Louis pulled off a smart save to deny Barton. The visitors packed the penalty area for the resulting corner, which was headed wide at the near post by Le Marchand. The referee then blew the final whistle moments later, much to the delight of the home crowd.
Speaking after the game, O’s captain, Griffiths, expressed her frustration at exiting the cup.
“It was a pretty bad day at the office. I don’t think we ever really got started in the game, we made life easy for them and always seemed to be on the back foot which is disappointing.
It’s always difficult to get back into the game (after conceding the first goal) and they’ve got a big crowd behind them so we felt that as well, but we should be able to deal with those kinds of things and we didn’t today.”
Orient have the chance to right the wrongs of this defeat almost immediately in mid-week as they again take on Dulwich Hamlet, this time at the Mile End Stadium in the 2nd Round of the CCFL Cup.
Orient: Ogunde, Collins, Griffiths, Bastyr, Auguste, Trezzi, Ali (Bracelli 78”), Hölmback (McRoberts 70”), Anderson (Barton 45”), Le Marchand, Stenning
Dulwich: Louis, Rowe, Marino (Hickman 45”), Hands (Williams 74”), McElvaine, Gall, Gibson, Saylor, Milner (Arran 59”), Monkman, De Pelligrin
Goals: Gibson 19”