The O’s women’s team twice fought back from behind to secure a point against AFC Wimbledon Ladies in the FA Women’s National League on Wednesday night.
Manager Chris Brayford made three changes to the side who began the 5-4 defeat to Cambridge City Ladies & Girls in the SSE Women’s FA Cup on September 23rd.
Katharine Nutman and Egle Trezzi came into the midfield trio while Hayley Barton returned to the right wing as the O’s lined up in a 4-3-3 formation.
AFC Wimbledon got the game going under the lights on a mild evening at Mile End Stadium.
It was Orient who started on the front foot as they enjoyed a confident spell of possession during the opening exchanges.
Orient saw their first sight of goal with just under ten minutes on the clock. Kathryn Canavan whipped a delightful cross to the back post for Sophie Le Marchand who miscued her header wide of the target.
With quarter of an hour played, Wimbledon’s Rebecca Sargent tried her luck with a shot from distance which sailed harmlessly wide of Naomi Ogunde in the Orient goal. At the other end, Lisa Holmback’s fierce strike was crucially blocked by a blue shirt after some tidy build-up play.
Occasionally, the Dons were seeing some joy in the wide areas with Ogunde being called into action to deal with a driven cross from the right side. Moments later, she confidently gathered a floating cross that failed to trouble the Orient goalkeeper.
The visitors’ carved out their best chance of the match on the half hour mark. Georgia Heasman raced through on goal but shot straight at Ogunde who got down well to deny the Dons an opening goal.
However, the Dons were gifted an opening goal with 36 minutes played. Jess Trimnell drilled the ball towards the bottom corner and watched as the ball squirmed underneath the palms of Ogunde and rolled into the net.
At the break, the O’s found themselves behind and would have been disappointed with the manner of the goal they conceded. They needed greater creativity in attack after failing to ask any real questions of Chanell Yardley in the Wimbledon goal.
Orient got the second half underway and equalised within two minutes of the restart. Barton pounced on a loose ball on the right side before cutting inside and lifting a delicate left-footed shot over Yardley to level the game at 1-1.
Moments later, Orient could have taken the lead and it was Barton pulling the strings once again. She glided down the right side before her attempted cross struck the post, sitting up for Le Marchand who nodded the rebound wide under pressure.
The hosts were growing in confidence after drawing level while the game gradually became more open in the midfield. Fran Cagetti fired her pass into Le Marchand who controlled well and set the ball for Trezzi who fizzed a powerful strike narrowly wide of the mark.
Despite this bright spell, the Dons reclaimed the lead just after the hour mark. A cross from the right was fired across the box where Sargent was lurking to cushion the ball home from close range.
However, the O’s were quick to respond and netted their equaliser on 67 minutes. Danielle Griffiths’ free kick dropped for Holmback who swiped at the ball and watched it trickle into the bottom corner bringing Orient level at 2-2.
Wimbledon seized the initiative and went in search of a third goal, but Sargent’s low drive was tipped behind by Ogunde. Orient made two changes in quick succession with Chloe McNee and Tara O’Halloran replacing Holmback and Trezzi with fifteen minutes remaining.
It was going to be a nervy finale with nothing to separate the two sides going into the last ten minutes of the match. Orient made their final change with Lisa Fulgence making way for Belen Ripoll Douton in a like-for-like swap upfront.
Orient watched a glorious opportunity pass them by on 82 minutes. Barton’s corner led to a scramble in the box where the ball popped up for McNee whose effort nestled into the side netting.
Neither side were able to snatch a winner with the referee’s whistle seeing the points shared after an entertaining encounter.
After the match, captain Danielle Griffiths praised the team’s performance:
“I think overall it was probably a fair result. We conceded what we would call two sloppy goals, but we showed great character to come back fighting in the second half. I think we could have had the chance to win it, we were certainly on the front foot for the last twenty minutes of that game. It’s positive and I think it’s some of the best football we’ve played this season.”
The O’s return to league action this Sunday 7th October when Actonians Ladies are the visitors to Mile End Stadium, with kick-off at 14:00.