The O's women leaped to second in the Women’s Premier League table with a comfortable victory over Luton Town on Sunday.
The O’s came into the match on the back of an impressive 2-0 victory at Ipswich Town last weekend, meanwhile Luton were looking to bounce back from a 4-1 defeat to AFC Wimbledon.
Manager Chris Brayford stuck with a 4-4-2 formation and made four changes to the side that began at Ipswich. Francesca Cagetti came into the back four, Egle Trezzi partnered Lisa Holmbeck in midfield, whilst Belen Ripoll Douton and Sárka Stryhalova led the attack.
On a glorious afternoon, Luton looked to settle into the match with an early spell of possession and an effort on goal that came to nothing. It was Orient who created the first meaningful chance of the game however, when Stryhalova squared the ball to Ripoll Douton in the box who cleared the bar from close range with a first-time shot.
It was a quiet start to the match with very few clear-cut chances for either side. Although, Orient were gradually growing into the game and snatched the opening goal with 20 minutes played. Luton goalkeeper Grace Brooks hesitated in coming to clear a long ball forward leaving a composed Stryhalova with time and space to chip the ball over her and into the net.
Luton were quick to respond however, and would have drawn level from a corner but for an excellent goalline clearance from Hayley Barton. It had been an even game before the goal, a moment of misjudgement that opened the door for Orient who took full advantage.
On 36 minutes, the O’s doubled their lead with the attacking players showing great understanding in the build-up. Sophie Le Marchand received a flick on from Ripoll Douton, drove to the byline before putting the ball on a plate for Stryhalova to bag her brace from close range.
The O’s had gone up a gear since the second goal, and looked in control of the match. Le Marchand fizzed a fierce effort just shy of the right-hand post, before netting Orient’s third on 43 minutes. Trezzi’s looping ball dropped nicely for Le Marchand who smashed home from the centre of the goal to put Orient in a commanding position at the break.
Orient’s goals had changed the game significantly after an even opening quarter of an hour. They grew in confidence, bridging a healthy gap between themselves and Luton. The hosts had rarely threatened Naomi Ogunde’s goal, and faced an uphill battle to salvage something from the second half.
Luton had to score the next goal to stand a chance of staging a comeback, but almost fell further behind soon after the break. Trezzi picked out Barton on the right with a nice pass, the latter went on a typical driving forward run before seeing her cross hit the bar.
With two goals to her name, Stryhalova had her eyes on a hat-trick and came agonisingly close when her left footed effort struck the foot of the post. At the other end, Luton’s Zara Carroll hit her free kick too high, before a clash of heads meant a brief delay to the match.
With both players able to continue, Luton’s Rachel Kosky was next to put a free-kick over the bar. On 67 minutes, Orient made a double change with strikers Ripoll Douton and Stryhalova making way for Chloe McNee and Chanel Richards as the O’s switched to a 4-3-3 formation.
Richards wasted no time in making her mark on the game when she grabbed Orient’s fourth goal on 69 minutes. Luton keeper, Brooks, came out to deny Le Marchand only for the ball to fall nicely into Richards’ path who picked her spot and slotted home from just outside the box.
Moments later, Richards could have had a second when she raced through on goal but was denied by the feet of Brooks this time. Orient’s final change followed with Kirstie Jackson, who was making her first appearance for the Club, coming on to replace Holmbeck with 15 minutes remaining.
Luton were searching for a consolation, and were frustrated when Nicola Henman headed over from close range. Despite a wave of late pressure from the hosts, Orient were resolute and saw out the game to secure their third straight league win and as many clean sheets.
Speaking after the match, goalscorer Sárka Stryhalova said: “It was a really good game from us, three points is the main thing. I finally scored my first goals in the competition so I’m really happy. I really like the fact that in the team we support each other, this is the most important thing.”
After another great performance on the road, Orient will be keen to extend their winning run in the league to four games when they travel to Norwich City on Sunday.