Chris Brayford made two changes from the side that beat Dulwich Hamlet in mid-week, bringing in Cheryl Anderson and Otesha Charles in place of Pamela McRoberts and Ellie Stenning.
Fresh off that victory on Wednesday evening, the O’s looked positive from the off and that positivity was rewarded in the ninth minute when they took an early lead.
Charles showed great tenacity to win the ball back high up the pitch and found Sophie Le Marchand in the box. The O’s winger then shot low past Grace Brooks in the Stevenage goal to net her 17th of the season.
Following that goal, the match took on an end to end feel with both sides attacking with purpose. Charles came closest to doubling her side’s advantage when she stabbed a shot just wide of the near post, while Orient ‘keeper, Naomi Ogunde, did well to keep out Amy Makewell at the other end, pushing her effort out and away for a corner.
Brayford’s side knew they had to be wary of Makewell going into the game, as she is far and away her side’s top scorer this season with 13 goals in 19 appearances. However, they were unable to prevent her scoring number 14 in the 39th minute. The Boro forward beat the offside trap and finished low into the bottom corner to level the scores.
Looking to regain their lead before the break, the O’s piled on the pressure in the final minutes of the half.
First, Egle Trezzi hit a cross/shot that flashed past the far post, then Charles was denied by a crunching tackle from Dominique Godbeer as she looked to get a shot away inside the six-yard box. Before finally, Barton played a ball across the face that narrowly evaded everyone in red and led to the teams going into half time all square.
Brayford made a change at the break, replacing full-back, Ria Collins, in a like for like switch with Connie Montiel-McCann.
Orient looked bright following the interval as they looked to regain their advantage, but they were undone by another ball over the top in the 54th minute. Ashleigh Deacon latched onto the loose ball and calmly slotted past Ogunde to put her side in front.
Charles had missed the two last games prior to this one through injury, and she marked her return to the side with the equalising goal in the 67th minute. The Guyanese forward did excellently to run onto Francesca Ali’s through ball, shrug off her marker, round the keeper and then finish high into the empty net to restore parity.
From then on, the O’s had their tails up as they sought a fourth win in five in all competitions, and they were ahead five minutes later. Dannielle Griffiths’ long range free kick rattled back off the woodwork and into the path of Ali, who did superbly to control a volleyed effort low into the bottom corner and give her side the lead.
Brayford made his second switch shortly after the goal, Anderson making way for Roberts. The Northern Irish midfielder thought she had put the result beyond doubt when she tucked home Le Marchand’s cross in the 80th minute. However, celebrations were cut short as the referee ruled the goal out for offside.
Orient’s final change saw Stenning replace Charles up top. She could have added to her side’s lead were it not for Brooks in the Boro net, who did well to keep out both of the forward’s efforts in the final five minutes.
Le Marchand had a chance to add her second and Orient’s fourth deep into stoppage time but curled her shot wide. The miss was of little consequence though as Tony King blew the final whistle shortly afterwards to seal a vital three points for the O’s.
Reflecting on the win, matchwinner, Ali, noted the improvement of her side’s second half performance.
“I don’t think we performed at our best during the first half, we came in at half time and we really wasn’t satisfied with our performance, I think all of the girls will agree with me on that. Then we came out in the second half and I thought we were the stronger team, we started to play our game, we got the ball down and began to knock it about.”
However, she was keen to downplay her role in the win, instead focusing on the wider context of the result.
“It’s always nice to hit the winner but I think the main thing is we got the three points today and that pushes us a little bit closer to the teams above us in the league.”
The victory moves Orient just nine points behind league leaders, Ipswich Town, with three games in hand on the East Anglian side. Although, attentions now turn to the Isthmian Cup, where they take on Billericay Town for a place in the final of that competition at Mile End Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Orient: Ogunde, Collins (Montiel-McCann 46”), Griffiths, Bastyr, Auguste, Trezzi, Ali, Barton, Le Marchand, Anderson (McRoberts 73”), Charles (Stenning 82”)
Goals: Le Marchand 9”, Charles 67”, Ali 72”
Stevenage: Brooks, Dunnage, Breckenridge (Godden), Ryan (Knell), Godbeer, Deacon, Josland, Makewell, Sibanda (Webster), Emmings, Biggadike
Goals: Makewell 39”, Deacon 54”
Referee: Tony King