After their 5-1 loss in last week’s friendly vs Actonians U21, the team felt ready for today’s challenge and had trained hard for the game they’d been waiting for since day one.
O’s striker, Liliana Almeida, returned after recovering from an ankle injury suffered during the game at Upton Park in late-September and looked like she was making up for lost time straight from the kick off. After some patient build up play Almeida hit the first shot of the match in the third minute which, unfortunately for the returning striker, inched over the top right corner of the goal.
We then saw crowd pleaser, Bianca Corradi show off her quick footwork, passing a fair few of Stoke Newington’s midfielders before shooting from just outside the box. Sadly, the shot didn’t quite match the build up play and was easily gathered by Stoke Newington keeper Jess Cooper.
Stoke Newington, a well organised unit, were making it difficult for the O’s to find their usual passing rhythm for most of the opening quarter of an hour and came close themselves in the 18th, as the impressive Lili Wondwossen drove up the O’s right before sending a forceful strike just wide of Lola Durojaiye’s far post. Just a minute later and she repeated the trick, again just finishing wide of the O’s goal.
This seemed to spur the O’s into action and in the 21st minute a shot from right back Zainab El-Mouden narrowly missed the target with the Stoke Newington keeper well-beaten. Four minutes later Orient’s top goal scorer, Eve Pearson, drew a fine save from the excellent Cooper.
With Stoke Newington proving to be difficult to break down, Orient coach Chris Bright opted to send on young centre forward Jess Musk for Almeida in the 34th minute. It proved to be an inspired change as the substitute found herself in the right place at the right time, getting the decisive touch to break the deadlock in the 37th minute. Orient’s player of the match, Ellie Williams, showed nice footwork and a burst of pace to drive past the Stoke Newington defence before laying the ball off to Musk whose instinctive left foot finish proved to be the match winner.
After taking the heat out of the game with some clever possession football the O’s were awarded a free kick just outside the area. Another of Orient’s crowd pleasers, midfielder Zahmena Malik, hit the ball well but the dipping shot was just off target.
The O’s snapped right into play as soon as the second half begun, with Copeland testing the keeper with a fierce shot in the 47th minute. Cooper pushed the ball out but unfortunately the rebound fell kindly for the Stoke Newington defence who cleared the ball to safety.
Determined to equalise, Stoke Newington had an opportunity a minute later with Wondwossen, again proving to be a handful for the Orient defence, drifting in from the left before shooting. Although on target, it was no match for Durojaiye, the keeper’s positioning allowing her to gather the ball easily.
Despite a number of promising opportunities, the O’s couldn’t add to their lead. Corradi, burst through the midfield with another wonderful run before shooting just wide. Moments later Williams drove up the pitch, but after breaking through the back line opted to square the ball rather than shoot, unfortunately no one was there to finish off.
With frustration building Orient made a number of changes on the hour, Stephanie Harrow coming on for El-Mouden and Bobbi Ellison for Malik. The changes allowed Orient to attack down both wings but, again, despite numerous promising opportunities there were few clear-cut chances.
In the 71st minute, captain Copeland came off for Giulia Livi who snapped straight into action, with a stinging shot with what may have been her first touch of the game.
The narrow lead meant Stoke Newington were still very much in the game and much of their play was coming through Wondwossen – who broke forward at every opportunity. Despite this, Stoke Newington barely tested Durojaiye, with the Orient keeper a reassuring presence in the box, collecting crosses and corners before releasing the ball quickly.
As the match entered the final quarter Orient goal-scorer Musk came off for Almeida to re-enter play and add a more physical presence in the opposition box. Although the O’s were dominating possession, they were struggling to break down Stoke Newington – the opponents were quick to get back in position whenever they lost the ball.
Still Orient kept pushing, and after another swift break from Williams, the winger played inside to Livi only for the substitute’s shot to be kept out again by Cooper.
A minute before the whistle blew, Stoke Newington’s stand-out player, Wondwossen, almost snatched a point with a forceful shot from the right-hand side of the Orient area. Fortunately for the O’s the ball flashed just wide of the post.
The final whistle blew on a tough match, but the O’s Women could feel proud of a successful debut at The Breyer Group stadium.
Leyton Orient: Durojaiye, Alexander, El-Mouden, Almeida, Pearson, Corradi, Copeland, Worsfold, Bright, Williams-Peart, Malik, Livi, Ellison, Harrow, Musk
Subs unused: Ibrahim
Stoke Newington: Cooper, Thakore, Roland, Brooke-Taylor, Bramble, David, Pacheco, Seleznyov, Wondwossen, Mesuria, Bessadi, Drummond
Subs unused: None