Leyton Orient came from 2-1 down to beat hosts, AFC Rushden and Diamonds, 3-2 in the FA Youth Cup. Brendan Shabani scored an equalising goal in the first half, whilst a brace from Jaedon Phillips saw the U18’S march on into the First Round of the FAYC.
Second Year scholar, Ernold Haxhiu played the full 90 minutes in the centre of midfield for Orient. Haxhiu spoke of the character his team displayed throughout the game to come away with a fantastic victory.
‘’After the game, everyone is buzzing. I don’t think it was an easy game to play in. At times, we were under the cosh. Being 1-0 down, and then 2-1 down, I think the boys have shown real character. We’re all just buzzing with the win and the performance really.’’
Haxhiu displayed his ability to get into the box, showing great awareness to assist Jaedon Phillips for the equalising goal. A well cushioned a header across the six-yard box, from an Alfie Fleming cross, put the ball on a plate for Phillips to level the scores. The number 4 oozed maturity post-match, focusing on his team, rather than himself.
‘’I don’t want to take the glory for myself. I think it was more of a team effort and more of a team push. Of course, though, getting an assist it benefits me. It’s a personal bonus. But it’s about the benefit for the team, rather than myself.’’
Peter Gill has been experimental will Ernold’s positioning in previous games, playing him in various midfield roles to find which he best suits, both personally, and for the team. Versatility is clearly a quality of the young talent.
‘’I don’t really mind, anywhere in midfield suits me. I feel like I can do the box to box role, sometimes if I have to stay in a more attacking position, I feel like I can help the team and contribute.
Mainly, I play as a deep-lying midfielder. I think tonight it was important that I stuck to that position because, we had to try and control the game and slow the play down. So, I think me sitting back and putting in defensive duties first, helps the team grind out that 3-2 win’’
Orient’s away victory means the squad have an opportunity to play once again at the Breyer Group Stadium. The O’s will host Southend United in the next stage of the tournament.
Southend are familiar opposition, having beaten the O’s 5-0 already this season, but Haxhiu is looking to get revenge.
‘’We’ve played Southend this season already, it wasn’t the best game from us, we had a few injuries and how we played on the day. I think now with the momentum we’re carrying, I think all the boys are up for it.’’
I think we’ll be ready for it. It’s about how we train these next few weeks, how we manage in our games, then on the night our performance will show how hard we have worked.’’