Late drama saw the O’s women’s team held to a 3-3 draw after a valiant performance against Actonians Ladies in the FA Women’s National League on Sunday.
Having been 2-1 down, Orient staged an inspirational comeback to lead 3-2 before Alessandra Barreca’s free-kick three minutes from time prevented the O’s taking all three points.
Manager Chris Brayford made five changes to the side who began the 4-0 defeat to Enfield Town Ladies last time out.
Key alterations saw Chloe Baker start in goal, skipper Danielle Griffiths returned from absence at the heart of defence, while Valeria Moreno was given the nod in attack.
Actonians got the game underway on a bright but slightly fresh afternoon at Rectory Park, kicking from left to right in their traditional home strip of blue and white stripes.
The frantic tone of this match was set when Orient were awarded a fifth minute penalty. Moreno was clattered into by Actonians goalkeeper Paige Horsnell, leaving Griffiths to confidently bury the ball into the bottom left corner and give the O’s an early lead.
As quickly as Orient took the lead, Actonians found themselves on level terms. Carla Williams received the ball on the edge of the box, pulling the trigger and watching the ball trickle into the bottom corner to haul the hosts back into contention.
Orient had seen more of the ball and looked very comfortable in possession, putting together some neat exchanges as they played through the thirds. Naomi Graham tried her luck from range for the home side, but the shot angled harmlessly away from the target.
Then, Actonians succeeded in turning the game around on 33 minutes. Much like her first goal, Williams picked up the ball on the left-side of the box before looping it over Baker and into the corner to give the home side a 2-1 advantage.
Buoyed by their turnaround, Barreca released a speculative effort from the right side of the penalty area which kissed the crossbar on its way over. Orient had been in control of proceedings but needed to ask more serious questions of Horsnell in the Actonians goal.
Within minutes, Orient should have netted an equaliser but for the brilliance of Horsnell. Katharine Nutman’s teasing cross was deflected into the path of Moreno whose powerful strike forced a superb reaction save from Horsnell to deny the O’s.
At the break, Actonians led 2-1 having fallen behind inside the opening five minutes. The O’s were vastly improved and enjoyed the better of the play, but were lacking some added quality in front of goal.
After taking the chance to re-group, Orient got the second half underway as the sun basked down on to the astro surface. This match could be seen as a dress rehearsal for the Capital Cup final which pits these sides against each other once more on May 2nd.
On 55 minutes, the O’s dragged themselves back on to level terms. Lisa Holmback’s pass found Sophie Le Marchand on the right of the penalty area, she squared for Moreno who swept the ball home confidently from close-range setting up an exciting last half hour.
Whatever was said at half-time appeared to have worked wonders when Orient completed the comeback just three minutes later. Holmback played Le Marchand in down the right, she battled past her marker before expertly drilling the ball in at the near post for 3-2.
Confident and revitalised, Orient had the wind in their sails and were beginning to see plenty of joy moving forward. Naturally, the O’s began to drop deeper in an attempt to stifle the hosts search for another equaliser with fifteen minutes to play.
Some excellent free-flowing football between Holmback and Kayleigh Xidhas received a rapture of applause and symbolised the quality which Orient possess. For the final ten minutes, the pair were replaced by Pinja Piira and Maisie Cannon.
In spite of Orient’s bravery, Actonians snatched an equaliser three minutes from time. Barreca stepped up and lashed the ball home to leave the game hanging in the balance, as the O’s threw Hayley Barton into the fold in their last roll of the dice.
Either side looked capable of going on to win the match, however the referee’s whistle meant they would share the spoils on this occasion. The result sees Orient remain fourth in South East Division One with just one league game remaining.
Now, Orient’s attention turns swiftly to the eagerly-awaited clash with Ashford Town (Middlesex) Ladies in the Isthmian Cup final this Wednesday 17th April with kick-off at 19:30