Tara O’Halloran’s stoppage time header secured a first home victory of the season for the O’s women’s team against Actonians Ladies on Sunday afternoon.
Hayley Barton gave the O’s the lead, but Carla Williams drew the visitors level before the break. Jennifer Laidlaw put Actonians ahead early in the second half only for Barton and O’Halloran to strike in the final five minutes clinching a dramatic three points for the O’s.
Manager Chris Brayford made one change to the side who began the 2-2 draw with AFC Wimbledon Ladies on Wednesday evening. Avril Kilkelly made her debut for the club at left-back in the absence of captain Danielle Griffiths as the O’s lined up in a 4-3-3 formation.
Actonians got the game underway at Mile End, however it was Orient who created the first chance on target. Katharine Nutman’s free-kick was diverted towards the bottom corner but palmed behind by Paige Horsnell in the visiting goal.
The O’s started brightly with neat passing and movement down the right side. Orient keeper Naomi Ogunde was called into action for the first time after ten minutes when she got down well to push a low shot away for a corner.
At the other end, Orient’s best chance came amid confusion over the official’s offside flag. A through ball left Sophie Le Marchand one-on-one with Horsnell, the referee overruled the offside call having seen a deflection off an Actonians player, but Le Marchand’s effort rolled wide of the post.
Orient’s confidence appeared to be growing when Barton embarked on a bold run down the right, she stood the ball up for Lisa Fulgence whose back-post header dropped onto the crossbar.
However, they continued to apply the pressure and succeeded in breaking the deadlock with twenty minutes played. Le Marchand played a well weighted through pass for Barton who latched onto the ball before guiding it past Horsnell and into the bottom corner.
Actonians’ Catherine Murphy received the first booking after catching Le Marchand who was looking to escape down the left. From the free-kick, the ball fell kindly for Fulgence in the area but she was unable to keep her effort down.
Orient appeared on top but Actonians could have equalised after a quick-counter attack. Alessandra Barreca released Williams who created the angle before dragging the ball narrowly wide of Ogunde’s far post.
With five minutes of the half remaining, Actonians levelled the match when Laidlaw’s cross led to a scramble where Williams was lurking to poke the ball home from close range leaving the game all square at the break.
Orient kicked off the second half, however Actonians got their noses in front on 51 minutes. Laidlaw found herself one-on-one and slotted the ball underneath Ogunde to give the visitors a 1-2 advantage.
In response, the O’s made their first change of the game with O’Halloran replacing Egle Trezzi in the midfield three. Immediately, Orient could have equalised but Lisa Holmback’s left-footed effort trickled into the side netting.
With just over an hour played, Nutman picked up the O’s first caution for pulling back Lafe Uche as she looked to break forward. Substitute O’Halloran was next to see a sight of goal but diverted her header harmlessly wide of the mark.
Orient’s second change saw Fulgence come off for Belen Ripoll Douton in a straight swap upfront. Debutant Kilkelly struck a well-hit free-kick which dropped agonisingly over the crossbar, before receiving much applause as she made way for Chloe McNee in the O’s final change.
After an increasing spell of pressure, the O’s snatched an equaliser with five minutes to play. Le Marchand picked out Ripoll Douton who spun and set the ball for Barton to drill into the bottom corner for her second of the game.
With momentum in their favour, the O’s were not finished and went on to claim a winner in dramatic fashion. Barton’s corner hung in the air for O’Halloran who leapt highest to loop the ball back across goal and into the net sparking wild celebrations amongst Orient players, staff and supporters.
After the game, Hayley Barton praised the team’s togetherness and collective effort:
“We have had some difficult results this season and it has been a challenge that the team have faced together. On Wednesday night and today, we showed that we are coming together as a team. We’re resilient and able to work the full 90 minutes to come from behind and get points against good teams. Today was a massive team effort, we didn’t let our heads go down at 2-1 and we all dug deep to secure the win in the final few minutes.
“Despite the score line at 80 minutes, we had controlled the game but we were unable to capitalise on our chances. It was nice to get two goals today and help the team to the win. Credit goes to the team though, our build up play was fantastic and the balls from Sophie and Belen made it hard for me to miss! We are starting to play like a proper squad, there is still room for improvement, but we have the right mindset to keep winning games! Our aim is to enjoy our football and try to improve in every game.”
Next, the O’s travel to Cambridge United Ladies in the FA Women’s National League Cup Second Round. The match will take place this Sunday 14th October with kick-off at 2pm.