The O’s women’s team were knocked out of the SSE Women’s FA Cup First Round by Ipswich Town on Sunday despite a spirited second half fightback to force extra time.
After cruising past Haringey Borough with an 8-0 league win on Tuesday night, the O’s came into the match with an air of confidence. Ipswich sit 4th in South East Division One, just a place and three points off Orient in third, and overcame Actonians 2-1 in their previous outing.
Manager Chris Brayford made three changes to the side who began at Haringey. Hannah Porter returned at the heart of defence, seeing captain Danielle Griffiths move to right back. Meanwhile, Chloe McNee and Makesha MacFarlane, who was making her full debut for the first team, came in for Kayleigh Xidhas and Rebecca Hirst respectively as the O’s adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation.
After an impeccably observed minutes silence on Remembrance Sunday, the game got underway in cold and wet conditions. Orient carved out the first chance of the match, with striker Sárka Stryhalova spinning her marker inside the box before forcing an early save from Ipswich goalkeeper Leanne Smith.
With 15 minutes played, there had been relatively few clear-cut goal scoring opportunities. Ipswich had pace in attack whilst Orient were organised without the ball, looking to use the speed and trickery of Sophie Le Marchand and MacFarlane in the wide areas.
On a dreary day in Suffolk, the rain began to pour midway through the half. It wasn’t just the weather causing problems however, as Miagh Downey’s low cross asked questions of the O’s defence who scrambled to clear their lines.
Ipswich were gathering some momentum at this stage, Sophie Welton skipped three challenges before Porter bravely blocked her fierce strike. At the other end, MacFarlane showed great vision to link up with Trezzi who couldn’t direct her effort on target from the edge of the box.
It had been an even half of football, but it was the hosts who broke the deadlock on 35 minutes. A corner from the right was flicked on at the near post, with Griffiths unfortunate to see the ball deflect off of her and beyond stand-in goalkeeper Vanessa Wilson.
Despite this setback, Orient could have equalised immediately. Griffiths delivered a great corner from the left side that was met by Trezzi whose header was cleared off the line.
Orient started the second half with purpose and looked keen to get an early equaliser. Trezzi fizzed a well hit free kick wide, whilst Leyre Bastyr looked dangerous with her runs down the left side as the O’s looked to test the goalkeeper more often.
On 64 minutes, Orient made their first change with Belen Ripoll Douton coming on for Connie Montiel-McCann. An occasional loose ball and careless pass appeared to be Orient’s downfall, who committed players forward but were wary of Ipswich’s ability to counter.
With 20 left, Ipswich doubled their lead when Cassie Craddock found herself with time and space in the centre of the goal to sweep the ball into the bottom right corner and dent Orient’s hopes of reaching the Second Round.
In response, Orient made two changes in a matter of minutes. Joanna Gomm and Kayleigh Xidhas came on for McNee and MacFarlane. With ten minutes remaining, the O’s were still pushing for a goal that would make for a tense finale.
Orient had been vastly improved in the second half, and finally reaped their rewards when they pulled a goal back on 86 minutes. A scramble in the penalty area saw the ball drop to Xidhas whose shot was diverted into the net via a blue shirt to give the O’s a lifeline.
With renewed hope, the O’s spirit and character paid off when they completed the comeback in stoppage time thanks to a freakish own goal. Griffiths whipped a wonderful free kick into the box, which was nodded onto the back of an Ipswich shirt and deflected into the net to spark joyous scenes amongst the Orient faithful.
Orient took this momentum into extra time, starting on the front foot and twice coming close to taking the lead. Xidhas saw her fine strike brilliantly tipped over by Smith, before Le Marchand’s left footed effort was cleared off the line.
However, it was Ipswich who took a 3-2 lead on the 97th minute when substitute Gemma Moore’s cross from the right looped over Wilson and into the far corner to restore the hosts’ advantage.
Minutes later, the game took another twist when Orient were awarded a penalty after Le Marchand was clipped in the box. Griffiths struck her penalty cleanly, but Smith was equal to it pulling off a fine save to keep Ipswich’s lead intact.
This was a real kick in the teeth for the O’s who had been on top until the third goal, and Ipswich sealed their place in the second round with a fourth on 107 minutes. Natasha Thomas’ strike came back off the post and fell to Zoe Cossey who smashed home the rebound.
Speaking after the match, defender Hannah Porter gave her thoughts on the game: “I thought our goals were a little bit sloppy. We did well to pull it back to 2-2 right at the end of the game. I think if we had taken our chances a bit more, bit tighter in defence, it might have been a different story but quite disappointing. We’ve definitely got the qualities to go ahead in games and win games, but it just wasn’t our day today at all. (Today’s defeat) will give us the drive and determination to do well next week and put the not so good performance today right with hopefully a better one.”
Orient have little time to dwell on this defeat as they return to Capital Cup quarter-final action on Sunday. They welcome Denham United to Mile End Stadium for a 2pm kick-off.