The O’s women’s team were knocked out of the Women’s Premier League Cup First Round with a 3-1 defeat against a physical Cardiff City Ladies side on Sunday.
Orient made the long journey to the Welsh capital with hopes of upsetting Cardiff who compete in the Southern Division of the Women’s Premier League, above the O’s in South East Division One.
Manager Chris Brayford made enforced changes to the starting line-up on this occasion, but stuck with a familiar 4-2-3-1 formation. Vanessa Wilson played in goal, standing in for the absent Naomi Ogunde. Captain Danielle Griffiths returned in defence, Lisa Holmback came into midfield whilst Sárka Stryhalova led the attack.
On a pleasant afternoon it was Orient who started brightest and registered their first chance of the match on four minutes. Sophie Le Marchand saw the ball drop to her inside the box, but couldn’t connect cleanly with her effort.
Moments later, Cardiff thought they had taken the lead when Chloe O’Conner found the net only to be denied by the offside flag. It had been a quick start to the match, with both sides coming close to breaking the deadlock in the opening exchanges.
Cardiff began to stamp their authority on the game, pressing Orient high up the pitch and forcing them to play the ball quickly. However, the O’s looked promising when they were able to establish a passing game.
On 20 minutes, Orient’s stand-in goalkeeper Wilson was called into action for the first time. Cori Williams curled a teasing effort towards the bottom right corner which Wilson superbly tipped round the post for a corner.
The hosts appeared to increase the tempo going forward, using their pace in the wide areas to good effect. However, Orient continued to ask questions as Le Marchand was denied one-on-one by the foot of Cardiff goalkeeper Estelle Randall.
Soon after, Wilson came to Orient’s rescue once again when she got down low to push Williams’ fizzing shot out of danger. Wilson was certainly the stand out figure for Orient in the first half, keeping the O’s in the match with two excellent saves.
Cardiff’s best chance of the half arrived on 35 minutes. Williams beat the offside trap before squaring the ball to O’Conner in the area whose effort somehow came back off the post and away from danger much to the amazement of onlookers.
Five minutes later, O’Conner’s luck was out once more when her left footed free kick from the edge of the box curled over the wall and onto the bar, much to the striker’s frustration.
It had been a physically demanding half for the O’s who had to resist a wave of pressure from the hosts, particularly in the last 15 minutes. Cardiff played to their strengths, proved to be physical and had chances to take the lead. Orient needed more purpose when in possession, and conviction in the final ball.
Despite the O’s resilience, Cardiff broke the deadlock just three minutes after the restart. Williams received the ball just inside the box, before turning and firing her shot past Wilson to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
It had been a very physical game, particularly in the midfield area, with Griffiths and Cardiff’s Ffion Llewellyn collecting yellow cards in a matter of minutes.
On 62 minutes, Williams bagged her brace to double Cardiff’s lead with a goal very similar to the first. Williams received the ball on the edge of the box, worked some space before burying a right footed shot beyond Wilson at her near post.
Orient made their first change of the afternoon on 68 minutes, with left back Hannah Porter making way for striker Ella Meadowcroft as the O’s looked to pull themselves back into the game with just over 20 minutes remaining.
Cardiff all but sealed the victory on 72 minutes when they added a third goal courtesy of Kelly Issac. Williams turned provider, lifting a cross to the back post where Issac was waiting to smash into an empty net from close range.
In response, Orient made a double change on 74 minutes with Belen Ripoll Douton and Sárka Stryhalova came off for Kayleigh Xiohas and Rebecca Hirst, the latter making her first appearance of the season.
Orient continued to push forward in search of a goal, showing will and desire despite the scoreline. With five minutes remaining, they were rewarded for their persistence when Leyre Bastyr’s excellent in-swinging free kick from the right floated over Randall and into the net to hand the O’s a slim lifeline.
Without doubt, the O’s were buoyed by the goal which was thoroughly deserved due to their determination and work ethic. In the dying moments, they could have set up a nail-biting finale when Egle Trezzi’s header struck the crossbar from Griffiths’ corner.
Speaking after the match, midfielder Lisa Holmback said: “I havn’t played for a couple of weeks now so for me personally it was tough to be back with fitness and stuff. I think to start with they were playing quite fast and a quick game. At the end of the first half, I thought we picked up and got a little bit more control but I think we were too slow. Then the second half obviously the goals make it hard, you keep chasing and it was tough and very frustrating we lost.”
When asked about the message at half time, Holmback said: “It was still 0-0, still an opportunity for us to win the game, to shape up and work as a team to do a lot better because we know we can.”
After two weeks of cup competition Orient return to league action with a trip to ninth-placed Denham United Ladies on Sunday, with kick-off at 2pm.