The O’s women’s team finished their debut season in the Women’s Premier League with a goalless draw against a resolute Enfield Town Ladies side at the QE Stadium on Sunday.
In the reverse fixture in September, the O’s cruised to a convincing 9-0 victory in their first home league game of the season. Chanel Richards, Ella Meadowcroft and Sophie Le Marchand bagged braces alongside strikes from Hayley Barton, Egle Trezzi and captain Danielle Griffiths.
Going into the final day of the season, Orient were guaranteed a fourth-place finish in South East Division One with 38 points. Meanwhile, Enfield sat tenth with 19 points but would finish ninth should they better Denham United’s result.
Manager Chris Brayford made four changes to the side who began the 2-2 draw with Stevenage Ladies last weekend. Kayleigh Xidhas and Rebecca Hirst came into midfield, while Le Marchand returned to partner Lisa Fulgence in attack as the O’s lined up in a 4-4-2 formation.
Enfield got the game underway on a glorious afternoon in North London. It was the hosts who started on the front foot and had an early chance when Katherine Long worked space in the box before drilling her shot into the side netting.
On five minutes, Orient saw their first glimpse of goal when Leyre Bastyr’s long ball fell to Fulgence who miscued her effort over the crossbar. In the early stages, Enfield were playing a high press while the O’s were taking time to gain a foothold in the match.
Shortly after, Hirst played a well-weighted ball into the path of Le Marchand whose effort was saved by Kerrie Marlborough in the Enfield goal. Moments later, Le Marchand was causing problems down the left side as she skipped past her marker and fired straight at Marlborough once again.
With fifteen minutes played, Orient were beginning to find their feet and almost broke the deadlock after a well-worked counter attack. Le Marchand picked out the run of Barton who burst into the box and stung the palms of Marlborough.
After a drinks break due to the hot conditions, Enfield’s Holly Brandon reacted quickest to a loose ball and fired her shot through a crowd of bodies only to be denied by Naomi Ogunde in the Orient goal.
In the build-up to half-time, Orient were seeing more of the ball and pushing Enfield further back into their own half. However, the sides went into the break all square with more conviction needed in front of goal in the second half.
Orient got the game restarted having made their first substitution of the match at half-time. Louise Hogan came into the midfield in place of Xidhas who was forced off with an ankle problem.
The O’s were caught off guard as Enfield’s Regan Coleman found herself one-on-one with Ogunde who brilliantly blocked the first attempt before quickly reacting to deny Coleman at the second time of asking.
Swiftly, Orient regained their composure and started to take control of the game. Hogan superbly retrieved possession in midfield before threading the ball into Barton, her cross found Fulgence whose effort was deflected behind for a corner which came to nothing.
Before the hour mark, Orient made their second change of the afternoon as Meadowcroft replaced Hirst. The O’s were looking more threatening at this stage, with Bastyr picking out Barton at the far post who looped her effort over the crossbar.
Despite creating multiple chances, the O’s were failing to convert them. Barton whipped a delightful cross for an unmarked Fulgence who volleyed the ball over from close-range, before Le Marchand fizzed a shot wide of the post.
There was more cohesion about Orient’s play as they retained the ball in midfield and looked to break forward at pace. They were creating waves of pressure but needed to be cautious of Enfield’s counter attack.
With fifteen minutes remaining, the O’s looked to be edging closer to a breakthrough as Barton evaded her marker with some neat footwork before clipping the ball over the crossbar.
On 82 minutes, Orient’s final change saw Connie Montiel-McCann make way for Belen Ripoll-Douton. The substitute could have won the game when she met Barton’s cross only to see her headed effort kept out by Marlborough, a save which ensured both teams finished the season with a point a piece.
After the match, captain Danielle Griffiths assessed the performance before reflecting on a positive fourth place finish for the O’s:
“We are slightly frustrated with the outcome, it’s a game where we should have taken our chances and put it away early. To come away with a draw is a bit of a disappointing end to the season, I feel like we could have done better.
Overall, it’s been a fantastic first season in the WPL. I think at the start of the season if we had been given fourth we would have snapped your hand off to take it. It’s a really positive start, we’ve set ourselves well for a good challenge next year so hopefully we can go onto challenge for the title.”