Sophie Le Marchand’s second-half header saw the O’s women’s team secure their place in the Isthmian Cup final with a 1-0 victory against Enfield Town Ladies on Wednesday night.
After going toe-to-toe for 75 minutes, Le Marchand glanced home Hayley Barton’s pin-point free-kick to see Orient progress to April’s final.
Manager Chris Brayford made one change to the side who started the 2-1 victory against Cambridge United Women on Sunday.
Connie Montiel-McCann came into midfield to replace Katharine Nutman as the O’s went in search of a third consecutive win.
Orient got the game underway on a cold night in North London, kicking from right to left in their all-red strip.
Quickly, Lily Bruno could have given Enfield the lead after pouncing on Danielle Griffiths’ return header but firing high over the crossbar. Shortly after, Bruno found herself in space on the left of the penalty area but could not keep her effort down.
With quarter of an hour played, Montiel-McCann chipped a deft pass into the path of Le Marchand. The winger raced through on goal but was thwarted by Enfield goalkeeper Caoimhe O’Reilly who stood tall to make the save.
After a spell of pressure, Enfield forced a corner that was well delivered and met by Claire Ford whose flicked header cleared the crossbar. Speculatively, Eliza Diaz let fly from distance, but the shot was never troubling Orient goalkeeper Naomi Ogunde.
It was a fiercely contested opening half hour, typical of a cup semi-final encounter. Orient were looking threatening in the wide areas, however needed to make greater use of the ball in the final third.
Soon, Enfield found more joy inside the penalty area. A shot from Diaz ricocheted off team-mate Katherine Long, she controlled before dragging her effort on the turn narrowly wide of the far post.
At the other end, Barton’s effort was pushed away by O’Reilly before Egle Trezzi fizzed the rebound wide of the post. Orient were looking to finish the first half on the front foot having been defensively resolute throughout.
Both teams had battled well but there was nothing to separate them at the break. It was a hard-fought semi-final yet neither goalkeeper had been severely tested during the opening 45 minutes.
Enfield got the second half underway and immediately saw an opening when Diaz lofted a through ball over the top for Bruno, who could not catch the shot sweetly enough to trouble Ogunde.
Orient began the half well as Lisa Holmback’s low ball across the box went unchallenged. Then, Le Marchand couldn’t stretch far enough to control a through pass down the left side of the penalty area.
On the hour mark, Suaila Cardoso Queni created the angle but miscued her strike wide of the target. The teams remained neck-and-neck and it was looking more likely that it was going to take something special to separate them.
In their search for an elusive breakthrough, the O’s first change saw Montiel-McCann make way for striker Lisa Fulgence with 76 minutes on the clock. With the final ten minutes looming, a goal for either side would set up an intense finale.
Instantly, Orient succeeded in breaking the deadlock from a set-piece. Barton whipped a teasing free-kick towards an unmarked Le Marchand, who glanced the ball home at the near post to give Orient a precious lead.
Again, the O’s made an attacking change with Chanel Richards replacing Cardoso Queni in a like-for-like swap upfront. Soon, Richards received the first caution of the match after catching Ford late in a challenge.
The final exchanges were scrappy and physical as Orient fought to protect their slender lead. After a nervous period of stoppage time, the referee’s whistle sounded much to the delight of the Orient faithful who are heading to the Isthmian Cup final.
After the match, Sophie Le Marchand praised the collective effort and highlighted some stand-out individuals:
“It feels absolutely fantastic to make it into two cup finals in a matter of days! We are very proud of the manner in which we won this evening. Our shape was excellent; they hardly got a sniff at goal all game and Egle (Trezzi) in particular was a force to be reckoned with in midfield.
“We dominated possession and fully deserved our goal in the 76th minute. It was a wonderful cross from Hayley (Barton) for the goal – the quality of the delivery was such that all I had to do was guide the ball over the outrushing keeper.”
Next, the O’s return to FA Women’s National League action when they travel to Ipswich Town Ladies this Sunday 3rd March, with kick-off at 14:00.