The O's had to settle for a point after a competitive 0-0 draw on their FA Women’s Premier League debut against Cambridge United on Sunday afternoon.
Orient were without some key figures on this occasion with last year’s Player of the Season, Ellie Davies, and Sophie Le Marchand absent from the squad. Manager Chris Brayford restructured his starting line-up and opted for a 4-1-3-2 formation with his team looking to play on the front foot and take the game to the hosts.
The O’s, wearing their all blue away strip, got the game underway but it was Cambridge who looked to seize the initiative inside the first minute, dragging a shot wide from the left side of the box.
It was an even start with very little to separate the sides, but the O’s were looking to utilise the wide areas to good effect as Hayley Barton made her presence felt on the right-hand side.
Orient goalkeeper Naomi Ogunde was called into action for the first time on 10 minutes, tipping a long-range effort away for a Cambridge corner.
It was then that Orient created their first clear cut chance of the match. Barton chipped a through ball into the path of Ella Meadowcroft whose effort was well saved.
Orient looked to have gained a foothold in the game and Jasmine Campbell found herself in space on the edge of the box before unselfishly picking out Barton whose effort was just too high.
With 10 minutes of the half remaining debutant Hannah Porter looped an effort towards goal from just outside the box as Orient pushed for a breakthrough.
Moments before half-time, Campbell found herself in a good position once more, controlling the ball and striking on the turn into the arms of the goalkeeper.
Following the restart, Orient came close to opening the scoring when Meadowcroft found herself unmarked in the centre of the goal, but despite turning well the forward saw her shot saved.
With the hour mark fast approaching and legs beginning to tire, space began to appear as the game became slightly more open.
Cambridge were the ones asking questions of the Orient backline and found themselves in a one-on-one situation only for the retreating Francesca Cagetti to do brilliantly and force the Cambridge striker into dragging her effort wide of the mark.
In search of that allusive first goal, Orient made their first substitution of the match with 25 minutes remaining. Meadowcroft was replaced by Belen Ripoll-Douton, and shortly after Olympia Diamond was introduced to sure up the midfield.
Orient had created the better chances out of the sides and had an opportunity to take the lead on the 73rd minute when Ogunde’s long kick down field was headed on by substitute Ripoll-Douton into the path of Campbell who was crowded out before she could get a shot away.
The O’s looked the more likely to score as the game entered its closing stages and Natalie Colangelo was handed her debut with five minutes left to play as Orient switched to a front three in search of a late winner.
Orient’s final chance could have come from the penalty spot just two minutes from time, but despite Campbell going down as she shaped to shoot the referee waved play on as both sides were forced to settle for a point on the opening day.
Speaking after the game, manager Chris Brayford said; “We are pleased to get our first point on the board against a tough opponent, but slightly disappointed as I felt we were definitely the better team and on another day, we could have easily taken the three points.”
Captain Danielle Griffiths said; “It was a hard-fought draw against a tough opposition, we had opportunities to win the game and we need to work on taking our chances going forward. It is nice to have a point to start the Premier League season.”
Defender Connie Montiel-McCann, said: “It was a close game. Out of the two sides we had the better chances but it was good to get a point on the board and a clean sheet.”
The O’s are on the road once again this Sunday when they travel to Actonians in search of their first three points of the season.
Match highlights from Sunday’s draw can be seen here.