The O’s women’s team fell to a narrow 2-1 defeat against Billericay Town Ladies despite a spirited display in the FA Women’s National League on Wednesday night.
Manager Chris Brayford made three changes to the side who began the 2-0 defeat against Denham United Ladies on Sunday afternoon.
Latoya Smith deputised in goal, while Egle Trezzi and Katharine Nutman were recalled in place of Chloe Christison-McNee and Lisa Fulgence.
Billericay got the game going under the lights on a brisk evening at The AGP Arena, kicking from left to right in their all blue strip. The match began at a high tempo with both teams battling to get a foot hold during the early exchanges.
It was the home side who registered the first shot of the match when Zoe Rushen lifted the ball harmlessly over the crossbar. Both sides were looking to press high up the field, trying to force mistakes in the final third.
After quarter of an hour, Orient were yet to ask any serious questions of Billericay goalkeeper Alex Baker. They had been forced to do some defending but were holding their shape to good effect.
However, the home side broke the deadlock courtesy of Rushen with 22 minutes on the clock. She wriggled to the by-line on the left, before cutting back and drilling a fearsome strike past Smith to give Billericay the lead.
In response, the O’s forced their first corner of the match after a persistent charge down the left by Sophie Le Marchand. The final product was lacking but they looked capable of causing problems when breaking forward.
Then, Orient were denied twice in quick succession by Baker. She brilliantly clawed away Cardoso Queni’s effort that was destined for the top corner, before audaciously palming Hannah Porter’s venomous drive around the post.
At the break, the O’s could reflect on a positive reaction to falling behind while feeling they could have been level but for two wonderful stops from Baker. They needed a touch of quality and composure in the final third during the second half.
Orient got the game restarted, but it was Billericay who came close to doubling their advantage. Smith’s clearance dropped for Sam Pittuck whose speculative effort from the right fell just wide of the target.
With 55 minutes played, Megan Jiggins received the game’s first booking after a tussle with Cardoso Queni. Orient were pushing for a leveller and let a glorious chance pass by when Le Marchand’s excellent ball across the face of goal went uncontested.
There was a fighting spirit about the O’s who were dually rewarded with an equalising goal on 64 minutes. From a corner, Trezzi guided a precise header beyond Baker before peeling away in celebration.
Shortly after, Orient could have completed the comeback. Danielle Griffiths whipped in a delightful free-kick for Porter, whose flicked header was firmly held by Baker from point-blank range.
However, the O’s hard work was swiftly undone when Billericay restored their lead with twenty minutes remaining. A deep free-kick slipped cruelly from Smith’s grasp, dropping for Rushen who prodded home the rebound to claim her brace.
In their first throw of the dice, Orient made a double substitution with Hayley Barton and Nutman making way for Camila Pescatore and Rebecca Hirst. Immediately, there was an impetus to get fresh legs on the ball as the O’s chased a late leveller.
Orient’s final change arrived with two minutes of normal time remaining. Fulgence replaced Francesca Cagetti before Lisa Holmback stung the palms of Baker with an effort from distance.
Deep into stoppage time, the O’s forced a corner pushing all but two players forward, but this came to nothing. The referee’s whistle secured the points for Billericay however, Orient could leave Essex with pride after a hearty performance.
Next, the O’s travel to Queens Park Rangers Ladies in the Capital Cup semi-finals this Sunday 17th February with kick-off at 14:00.