The O’s women’s team achieved a hard-fought 2-0 victory against a strong Stevenage outfit in the FA Women’s Premier League on Sunday.
Manager Chris Brayford made one change to the team who began against Denham, with Sárka Stryhalova leading the line in place of Belen Ripoll Douton in a familiar 4-2-3-1 formation.
On a cold afternoon in Hertfordshire, the hosts came flying out of the blocks and almost opened the scoring inside the first minute. Some good work down the left saw the ball sit up for Nicole Emmings whose shot was well blocked from 12 yards.
Stevenage were experiencing an early spell of pressure and continued to cause problems for the O’s. Ellie Searle escaped her marker from a free kick, but saw her snap shot at the near post well saved by an alert Naomi Ogunde in the Orient goal.
It had been a purposeful start to the match from the hosts. They looked more comfortable in possession, were pressing well, and exploited the wide areas to good effect. However, Orient made themselves easy to beat with loose balls and sloppy passing proving to be their downfall.
Orient’s best chance of the match came with 20 minutes played. Hayley Barton delivered a high corner that was headed down by Hannah Porter to Sophie Le Marchand whose effort was blocked on the line.
In a flash, Stevenage raced up the other end and struck the bar from a cross on the right side. Orient were living dangerously, but to their credit stood firm to resist an onslaught of pressure from the hosts.
At the break, Stevenage had been by far the better side and would have felt they deserved to be ahead. Despite a disappointing half for the O’s, they showed resilience to deny the hosts an opener, but needed to raise their game significantly in the second half.
Orient made a change at the break, with Leyre Bastyr coming on for Connie Montiel-McCann. Bastyr slotted in at left back, meaning Vanessa Wilson moved over to the right side of defence.
Despite seeing more of the ball in the early stages of the half, the O’s couldn’t create any meaningful chances in front of goal. Meanwhile, Stevenage continued to probe but Orient remained organised at the back with captain Danielle Griffiths leading by example.
On the hour mark, the hosts squandered another good opportunity when Paige Logie volleyed Emmings’ corner wide of the post. Orient were still very much in this match, they worked hard defensively in the hope that they would eventually be rewarded in attack.
On 63 minutes, the O’s made a double change with Francesca Cagetti and Makesha MacFarlane coming on for Wilson and Kayleigh Xidhas. These changes provided security in defence combined with pace going forward.
Orient’s reward for their patience came on 66 minutes when they were given a penalty after Le Marchand was tripped in the box as she turned her marker. Captain Griffiths stepped up and confidently swept the ball into the bottom left corner to give the visitors an unexpected lead.
In a physical encounter, Lisa Holmback received the games’ first booking for a foul in midfield. The O’s confidence was revived, and they could have extended their lead when MacFarlane blazed over after Barton and Stryhalova combined nicely in the build-up.
Stevenage had no choice but to push forward, whilst Orient looked to soak up the pressure and capitalise on the counter. Ogunde came to Orient’s rescue first, pulling off a fine save to deny Amy Makewell, before Griffiths heroically threw herself in front of Emmings effort on the edge of the box.
After a gutsy second half showing, Orient sealed the victory with a second goal three minutes into stoppage time. Barton’s excellent cross found Le Marchand at the back post whose knock down fell perfectly for Stryhalova to smash home from close range.
However, Orient were reduced to ten moments later when Holmback, who had been pivotal in midfield, was shown a second yellow card. This was the last action of the game, a result which sees the O’s leap to second in the division.
After the match, captain and goalscorer Danielle Griffiths gave her thoughts on the performance saying: “The first half was not our finest hour, we needed to step it up in the second half and I think we showed resilience to come back and get the victory. It’s always good to win when you are not at your best.”
“(The opening goal) was a confidence boost personally as well as for the team. Sophie did really well to win the penalty and then it was just a case of making sure we converted that. We knew if we went ahead we had a good chance of winning the game, so we just needed to get that foothold and thankfully the opportunity arose.”
Orient are back in action on Sunday, December 10 where they will take on league leaders AFC Wimbledon away from home (kick-off 2pm).