Barker nets on return from injury as O's end year with victoryOrient Academy Manager Richard Thomas praised the performance of the young O’s as they rounded off the year with a 2-1 win over Gillingham on Wednesday.
Goals from under-16 Amin Benyoucef, his second in as many games, and captain Charley Barker, on his first start since four months out, sealed the victory for Orient.
A number of under-16s, 15s were included in the side, with the fixture played as an under-17s game having reached an agreement with their Kent opponents.
A late goal back for the Gills ensured an anxious finale but the O’s kept their calm and ensured they ended the year with just two defeats to their name.
Thomas was pleased with skipper Barker and admitted he was like he’d never been away from the team.
“It was great for him to come back on a personal note and lead the team by example,” he told leytonorient.com.
“It looked like he'd never been away which is the best thing for us and he is right up there with anyone else who has got a contract and I hope he will be at the club for a long time.
“Playing alongside him in central midfield was 14-year-old Bradley McClenaghan who also has great potential. The rest of the squad was made up of 16s and 17s so we were as pleased with the day as any other this season, because it shows we have got a lot of strength in depth at this club.
“To see them come in and perform so well and dominate the ball for large periods was excellent. There was some fantastic creative football going forward although we were slightly ill-disciplined out of possession, which we will work on over the Christmas period.
“Amin Benyoucef has scored two in two now which is great for him and everything is looking good with the group.”
Benyoucef opened the scoring for the O’s after some initial good link-up play with Andrew Camilo-Tayaca and the young O’s striker provided a cool finish.
Barker started the move which lead to his goal as he played in Ruel Sotiriou, before receiving the ball back just inside the area and remained calm and composed before placing the ball into the back of the net.
A late goal saw Gillingham pile on the pressure, though goalkeeper Arthur Janata and the rest of the team were able to see the game out.
The team will not be back in action until the New Year now when they face AFC Wimbledon on January 7.
ORIENT: Arthur Janata, Andrew Camilo-Tayaca, Toby Stevenson (Alfie Fleming 75), Charley Barker (c) (Luca Carter 67), Teddy Perkins, Jaedon Phillips (Michael Searle 82), Aaron Rowe (Kleon James 82), Bradley McClenaghan, Ruel Sotiriou, Amin Benyoucef, Charles Clayden
GOALS: Benyoucef, Barker