The O’s women’s team cruised into the FA Women’s National League Cup First Round with an impressive 1-5 victory against Swindon Town Ladies on Sunday afternoon.
Manager Chris Brayford welcomed several key players back into the side and made six changes to the team who began the 0-3 defeat to Cambridge United Women in South East Division One last weekend.
Tara O’Halloran started in goal with captain Danielle Griffiths and left back Leyre Bastyr returning in defence. Kathryn Canavan and Chloe McNee made their first starts of the season while Egle Trezzi reclaimed her place in central midfield.
Swindon got this cup tie underway on a mild afternoon in the South West. It was an energetic start to the game as Orient came out of the blocks quickly and looked to utilise their pace and power in attack.
With five minutes played, the O’s broke the deadlock when Hayley Barton pulled the ball back to Lisa Fulgence who clinically struck past a helpless Carla Heaton in the Swindon goal to get Orient off to the perfect start.
After a bright opening, the O’s came close to doubling their lead when McNee fizzed her shot wide of the post from the edge of the box. Meanwhile, Swindon were playing out from the back and trying to put together a spell of possession.
Orient were on the front foot with twenty minutes played and had created the better chances in front of goal. Sophie Le Marchand miscued a curling effort wide of the mark before Trezzi’s powerful downward header was scrambled away from the goal mouth.
Then, their patience and persistence were rewarded on the half hour mark when Hayley Barton made it two-nil. She battled her way through several challenges on the right side of the penalty area before bending the ball into the far corner to double the O’s advantage.
Swiftly, Orient netted a third from the penalty spot. Chloe Lawrence brought down Fulgence before Griffiths confidently stepped up to rifle the ball into the top corner and put the O’s in total control.
Despite the deficit, Swindon looked determined to find a route back into the game. Gipsy Viveach cleared the crossbar with an effort from range before Meghan Larkin shot straight at stand-in goalkeeper O’Halloran who had shown confidence and composure.
At the break, the O’s could reflect on an excellent first 45 minutes of impressive football and well-taken goals. They made their first change of the game with Trezzi being replaced by Keegan Russell for her first appearance of the season, while O’Halloran moved outfield as Canavan went between the sticks.
The O’s got the game restarted and were looking to increase their lead immediately. Le Marchand performed an intelligent dummy before squaring the ball to Fulgence who was unable to get enough power behind her effort to trouble Heaton.
On the hour mark, Swindon were handed a lifeline when Bastyr was adjudged to have brought down Emily Arrell as she looked to race through on goal. Abby Picton took responsibility and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom left corner leaving the score at 1-3.
However, the O’s responded perfectly in the blink of an eye when Le Marchand rounded Heaton and passed the ball into an empty net to restore Orient’s three goal cushion with twenty-five minutes remaining.
Shortly after, the O’s added a fifth when Barton’s corner was met by Fulgence who nodded the ball home to put the result beyond any reasonable doubt. Having netted a brace, Fulgence was replaced by Chanel Richards in Orient’s second change of the game.
Within moments, Richards could have added her name to the scoresheet but directed her headed effort wide before Le Marchand curled a shot past the far post. The O’s final change of the afternoon saw Barton replaced by Rebecca Hirst on the right side of midfield.
Five minutes from time, the O’s came close to a sixth when Le Marchand picked out Hirst who sent a well-struck effort over the crossbar. Soon, the referee’s final whistle confirmed Orient’s place in the First Round of the competition for the second year running.
After the game, captain Danielle Griffiths reflected on the most pleasing aspect of the O’s performance:
“I think it was the way we bounced back from the disappointment of last week. We started the game fairly quickly, we pressed and worked as a team. We were trying to find each other, we were moving for each other, and we were much more clinical than in previous weeks.”
Griffiths praised the excellent performances of stand-in goalkeepers Tara O’Halloran and Kathryn Canavan:
“We are really thankful to both of them for stepping up, they both did brilliantly. It shows that everyone is willing to pitch in wherever is necessary to help us and make sure we get the right result.”
Finally, Griffiths spoke about the confidence boost this result gives the team ahead of their return to league action next weekend:
“It’s exactly what we needed, put us on the front foot with five goals, we’re going to send a message to the teams we are coming up against next with quite a few big games in September and quite a congested schedule.”
Next, the O’s will travel to face Stevenage Ladies in the FA Women’s National League South East Division One this Sunday 9th September with kick-off at 2pm.