The O’s women’s team progressed to the FA Women’s Premier League Cup with a dominant display against Luton Town on Sunday.
With this being the determining round, both sides knew a win would ensure progression to the competition proper. Orient were looking to bounce back from defeat at Actonians in their previous outing, whilst Luton boasted a 100 per cent winning start to the campaign.
Manager Chris Brayford opted for a 4-4-2 formation. Ellie Davies partnered Egle Trezzi in central midfield, Hayley Barton returned on the right side, whilst Belen Ripoll Douton and Sárka Stryhalova led the attack.
After a cagey opening five minutes, the hosts had two early efforts which failed to trouble Naomi Ogunde in the Orient goal. In response, the O’s created their first opportunity of the game when Davies found herself in space on the right and stood up a cross for Ripoll Douton whose acrobatic effort cleared the crossbar.
Almost instantly, Orient had another golden chance to take the lead Stryhalova rounded Luton ‘keeper Angelika Kopec and looked certain to score but for a last-ditch goalline clearance.
Orient were growing in confidence, creating the better chances and attacking with purpose. Despite this positivity, it was Luton who broke the deadlock on 10 minutes when Jess McKay’s fierce strike from the left side of the box swirled over Ogunde into the top corner.
Falling behind failed to affect Orient’s mentality, with the visitors producing some excellent flowing football down the left side. Sophie Le Marchand delivered a lovely cross into Ripoll Douton whose guided header was well saved down low by Kopec.
Luton goalscorer McKay then could have added to her tally for the afternoon but dragged her effort wide, before Orient almost equalised at the other end when Barton’s long-range effort crashed off the bar.
With half an hour gone, the O’s continued to ask questions of Luton’s defence as Le Marchard fired straight at the goalkeeper before Stryhalova beat Kopec to the ball but could only find the side-netting.
On 37 minutes, Orient’s dominance finally paid off, as Barton showed strength to evade her marker before picking out Le Marchand who volleyed home from close range to draw the O’s level at 1-1.
Orient completed the comeback on 43 minutes after more good work down the left. Le Marchand turned provider this time, finding Stryhalova whose effort was blocked before Ripoll Douton reacted quickest to give Orient a 2-1 lead at the break. On the balance of play Orient deserved to be ahead after creating numerous chances through some well worked attacking moves.
Luton began the second half brightly with one attempt finding the side netting, and another dealt with by Ogunde. Orient themselves continued to threaten going forward, with Ripoll Douton shooting wide and Stryhalova forcing another save from Kopec.
On the hour mark, Luton found their equaliser to level the match at 2-2. Ogunde came to collect a cross before an aerial collision saw the ball trickle into the net, with Nicola Henman claiming the goal as Orient appeals for an infringement were swiftly quashed.
Orient’s spirit and belief were rewarded again when Le Marchand earnt her second assist of the game on the 67th minute, prodding the ball into the path of Davies who tucked a shot beneath Kopec to give the O’s a 3-2 lead.
Sadly, Orient were forced into their first change of the match when Stryhalova could not continue after being caught in the face by Luton captain Rachel Carter who took the game’s first booking, and Naomi Stirling came on in place of the forward.
With 15 minutes left and one goal to separate the sides, Orient made their second change as Ella Meadowcroft replaced Ripoll Douton in attack.
Having been introduced for the final stages, Meadowcroft wrapped the game up on 87 minutes with her first goal of the season, receiving Le Marchand’s pass to slot into an empty net and seal a 4-2 victory for the O’s.
Speaking after the game, Orient Player of the Match Egle Trezzi said; “There were some great individual performances but it was also a great team effort. We played the way we are capable of, we showed really good spirit, positive mentality and great confidence.”
With a hat-trick of assists and a goal to her name, Sophie Le Marchand said: “I hope this is a realisation for the other teams in our division that we are here to be taken seriously, we are here to compete and can beat teams who did pretty well last season.”
After three consecutive away games, Orient return to league action at Mile End on Sunday with Enfield Town the visitors.