Orient manager Chris Brayford made three changes to the side that lost out to Enfield last time out, with Skye McNally, Cheryl Anderson and Katherine Long coming into replace Kate Bradley, Ria Collins and Egle Trezzi.
Following the postponement of last weekend’s game with Wimbledon, the O’s came into this one well rested, and they started brightly in Hertfordshire. Michelle Young’s deflected effort looked destined to give her side an early lead, only for it to cannon back off of the crossbar.
Throughout the game, the electric pace of winger Nyara Denny would prove to be a constant threat to the Stevenage defence. She was presented with her first chance in the 18th minute as she latched onto Long’s ball in behind, however, keeper Tea Oldroyd was equal to her effort.
Despite dominating the early stages, Orient were almost hit with a sucker punch just before the half hour mark when Becky Shephard raced through on goal. Naomi Ogunde did well though to charge out at the forward’s feet and block the shot.
Young and Barton had a couple of efforts each before half time but were unable to find the target, meaning it was all square at the interval.
The O’s started the second half as they finished the first. Some neat footwork from Denny saw her dance around the Boro backline and hit a goal bound strike that had to be cleared off the line by a covering defender.
A free-kick right on the edge of their own box spelt danger for Orient shortly afterwards, but they soon turned the situation to their advantage. After clearing the ball, they countered in numbers eventually finding Long in behind, Oldroyd rushed out to narrow down the angle and ended up forcing the O’s forward to scoop one narrowly over.
The opener finally came in the 59th minute. Barton broke forward with the ball and jinked in and out of Stevenage bodies before firing low into the net to give her side a deserved lead.
And just like London buses a second came soon after. Long was impeded in the penalty area leaving the ref with no choice but to point to the spot. The forward then dusted herself down and powerfully dispatched the spot kick to double Orient’s advantage.
With the lead secured, Brayford made three changes in quick succession. Off came Long, Denny and Barton to be replaced by Smith, Kayleigh Xidhas and Maisie Cannon.
Xidhas came so close to adding a third just minutes after coming on, only a last-ditch intervention prevented her from tapping home Young’s cross at the far post.
Two of the substitutes combined deep into stoppage time to bag the third. Xidhas’ wicked delivery was met by Smith, who thumped home a header to add an extra layer of gloss to the score line.
Speaking after the game, skipper Giorgia Bracelli expressed her delight at the mentality shown by her side as they picked up their first three points of the campaign.
“We’ve all been working really hard in the week with our fitness. I think the fact that we got a really late goal shows that we kept wanting it even though we were 2-0 up. So, it feels even better to know we’re fit and ready to go for the rest of the season.”
The O’s will be looking to build on this win when they travel to Dulwich Hamlet next weekend for a Second Qualifying Round tie in the F.A Cup.
Orient: Ogunde, Lee, McNally, Kerr, Anderson, Heria, Bracelli, Barton (Cannon 74”), Young, Long (Smith 70”), Denny (Xidhas 74”)
Subs: Muriel Jaramillo
Booked: Kerr 38”
Goals: Barton 59”, Long 64”, Smith 90”
Stevenage: Oldroyd, McLucas (Schofield 63”), French, Greenwood (Shannon 55”), Clarke (Godbeer 63”), Josland, Shephard, Godden, Sibanda, Emmings, Breckenridge