The O’s women’s team had to settle for a point after a tense 2-2 draw with Stevenage Ladies in the FA Women’s Premier League on Sunday.
This was Orient’s last home match of the season with Sporting Club Thamesmead, the home of Charlton Athletic Women, the venue for this game.
In the reverse fixture, the O’s came away with a 2-0 victory thanks to second half goals from captain Danielle Griffiths and striker Sarka Stryhalova.
Manager Chris Brayford made three changes to the side who began the defeat to Milton Keynes Dons at Brisbane Road on April 29th. Francesca Cagetti returned at the heart of defence, Belen Ripoll-Douton occupied a wide midfield role, while Stryhalova led the attack in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Stevenage got the game underway on a mild afternoon in South East London with perfect conditions for football. It was a quiet start to the match with both sides experiencing early spells of possession, but neither had managed to carve out an opportunity on goal.
Orient’s first half-chance of the game arrived on seven minutes when Connie Montiel-McCann’s clever pass picked out Griffiths on the right, she delivered a fierce cross into the box that was headed wide by Lisa Holmback.
Then, the O’s came closest to taking the lead on 18 minutes when Ripoll-Douton cut in from the right before unleashing a dipping shot that was tipped over by an alert Nicole Emmings in the visiting goal.
Soon after, Stevenage registered their first teasing shot on goal when Amy Josland’s long-range strike cleared the crossbar. At the other end, Orient had two chances in quick succession with Holmback seeing her half volley saved by Emmings before Stryhalova’s close-range effort was cleared off the line.
With half an hour played, the O’s were creating opportunities but lacking conviction in the final third. On the stroke of half time, the visitors took advantage and opened the scoring when Rebecca Scola cleverly turned home a free-kick to give Stevenage a 1-0 lead at the break.
Orient got the second half underway determined to find a quick response to going a goal behind. On 48 minutes, Hayley Barton showed great determination to beat her marker down the right before darting into the box and firing into the side netting.
Then, Barton was wreaking havoc on the right side once more as she brushed off her marker before flashing a powerful effort across the face of goal. The O’s had started their quest for an equaliser with intent and could have levelled when Cagetti’s well-taken volley dropped narrowly wide of the post.
Against the run of play, Stevenage caught Orient off guard when goal scorer Scola found herself through on goal only to drag her shot harmlessly wide of the target under pressure from the retreating O’s defence.
Swiftly, Orient capitalised and netted an equaliser on 61 minutes courtesy of Stryhalova. Leyre Bastyr’s cross from the left picked out Barton who directed the ball back across goal where Stryhalova was lurking to guide the ball home from six yards.
With twenty minutes remaining, Orient made their first change of the afternoon with Ripoll-Douton making way for Kayleigh Xidhas in a like-for-like switch at left midfield. The O’s could have completed the comeback almost immediately when Holmback brilliantly battled through two challenges before seeing her effort deflected behind for a corner.
Orient were rewarded for their persistence when they took the lead on 74 minutes. Barton’s corner caused a huge scramble in the box where the ball eventually popped up for Hannah Porter who rifled her shot into the top corner to claim her first goal of the season.
Unfortunately, Egle Trezzi was forced off through injury and replaced by Jade Henry in the O’s second substitution of the match. In dramatic fashion, Stevenage were awarded a penalty with eight minutes remaining after Amy Makewell went down in the area. She took responsibility and confidently rolled the ball into the bottom left corner to level the game at 2-2.
On 84 minutes, the O’s made their final change with Montiel-McCann making way for Ella Meadowcroft. Moments later, a coming together between Stryhalova and a Stevenage defender saw the referee hand the home side a penalty. After a significant delay, Griffiths stepped up only to watch her effort clear the crossbar.
In spite of some late pressure, the O’s were made to settle for a point which guarantees them a fourth-place finish in their debut WPL appearance.
After the match, defender and goal scorer Hannah Porter gave her views on the performance and how the team can improve in their final fixture next week:
“I thought we had a better second half than the first. We didn’t play the ball quick enough, overall it was a bit slow and sluggish. In the second half we picked it up, got a lot better and created more chances.
I think we need to play one-two touch maximum, play the ball quickly because once we pass it around teams can’t get near us. We need to keep pushing for the goal, they are going to come because we have a good team of strikers and everyone can hit a ball.”
On scoring her first goal for the club, Porter said:
“I’m really pleased to get on the right end of the scoresheet! I’ve waited for it all season, so I am really pleased.”
Next, Orient will travel to face Enfield Town Ladies in their final match of the season this Sunday 20th May with kick-off at 2pm.