The O’s women’s team fell to a disappointing 0-3 defeat against a clinical Cambridge United side in the FA Women’s National League South East Division One on Sunday.
Kelley Blanchflower put the visitors ahead moments before the break, Becky Shephard doubled their advantage prior to the hour mark before Blanchflower netted her brace with five minutes remaining.
With several key players missing for this clash, O’s boss Chris Brayford was forced to make six changes to the eleven who began the 0-1 victory against Luton Town Ladies last weekend but maintained a 4-4-2 formation.
New goalkeeper Lottie Ivison made her debut between the sticks while Connie Montiel-McCann, Louise Hogan and Francesca Cagetti came into defence. Sophie Le Marchand returned at left midfield and Suaila Cardoso Queni partnered Lisa Fulgence in attack.
Cambridge got the game underway on a miserably wet afternoon in East London. During the opening exchanges, the visitors were on the front foot and trying to ask questions of a much-changed Orient back four with some threatening play out wide.
With fifteen minutes played, the U’s had seen the majority of possession and were utilising the channels to create crossing opportunities which Orient were able to deal with. The O’s were growing into the game but neither side had created any meaningful chances on goal.
On 21 minutes, momentum sat with Cambridge as Ivison superbly tipped Stephanie Gale’s curling effort past the post. At the other end, Katharine Nutman had Orient’s first attempt on goal with a distant shot that was held by visiting goalkeeper Savannah Smith.
Shortly after, Ivison was called into action twice in a matter of minutes. First, a deep free kick skimmed off the wet surface seeing Ivison react smartly to push the ball behind. Then, she got down quickly to push a low drive towards the near post away for a corner.
However, after a spell of sustained pressure Cambridge took the lead on 43 minutes. A cross-field ball from the left fell to Blanchflower who controlled well before drilling her shot low into the bottom corner to give the U’s a 0-1 lead at half-time.
It had been a lacklustre first half from the O’s who were lacking cohesion and creativity going forward. They made a double switch at the break with long-term absentees Chloe McNee and Tara O’Halloran returning in place of Pinja Piira and Belen Ripoll Douton.
Orient began the second half and looked to be playing with greater intensity during the early stages. Montiel-McCann came across to left-back, Hogan switched to right-back leaving Nutman to slot into central defence with McNee and O’Halloran forming a new partnership in central midfield.
Despite Orient’s tactical re-shuffle, Cambridge could have doubled their lead on the counter attack when Shephard’s cross picked out Gale who glanced her header wide of the target. Soon, the U’s were causing problems from crosses once again as the ball dropped for Blanchflower in the box but she sliced her effort leaving Orient to clear the danger.
Then, Cambridge succeeded in doubling their lead on 58 minutes thanks to Shephard. She raced onto a through ball before taking her time and showing composure to lift the ball over Ivison and into the far corner of the net.
Clearly, Orient were affected by this two-goal cushion but kept pushing to re-gain some control in the game. They were forcing Cambridge to drop deeper into their own half at times but couldn’t carve out a clear-cut chance on goal.
Unfortunately, the O’s were forced into their final change of the match on 75 minutes with Chanel Richards replacing Montiel-McCann due to illness. Despite losing their captain, Orient began to see more of the ball and created some flowing forward moves.
On 82 minutes, the home side produced their best football of the game with Cardoso Queni, Fulgence, Le Marchand and O’Halloran combining in an eye-catching move which undeservedly broke down inside the penalty area.
Despite such encouragement, Cambridge added a third goal five minutes from time when Blanchflower latched onto a through pass before rounding Ivison and slotting home to secure all three points for the visitors.
After the match, Orient defender Francesca Cagetti reflected on the performance:
“We’re a little bit disappointed because we came out thinking of getting the three points and actually we lost 3-0. A little bit disappointed with the performance for all the team and obviously it’s a lesson to take on board.
“Next week, we’re going to have a cup game and we’re hoping to do better. We need to take in every game as a lesson. Obviously, today was a bad performance but next week we are going to go on the pitch, show what we are capable of, put this loss away and do our best.”
Next, the O’s will begin their FA Women’s National League Cup campaign with a trip to face Swindon Town Ladies this Sunday September 2nd with kick off at 2pm.
(Photo courtesy of Chloe Hartwell)