The O’s women’s team booked their place in the Capital Cup final with a dramatic penalty shootout victory against Queens Park Rangers Women at Honeycroft on Sunday.
Manager Chris Brayford made two changes to the side who began the 2-1 defeat against Billericay Town Ladies in midweek.
Naomi Ogunde returned between the sticks while Camila Pescatore replaced Sophie Le Marchand who was absent through illness.
QPR got the game underway on a pleasantly mild afternoon at Uxbridge FC, kicking from right to left in their traditional home strip of blue and white hoops.
However, Orient could not have wished for a better start when they broke the deadlock after 29 seconds. Victoria Grieve misjudged the flight of Hayley Barton’s long ball, allowing Suaila Cardoso Queni to race through on goal and expertly find the bottom corner.
It was a bright opening from the O’s who were buoyed after their early goal. Barton’s corner found Hannah Porter whose looping header was scrambled to the edge of the box, where she was waiting to guide a second attempt wide of the target.
Soon, Cardoso Queni found herself through on goal once again but this time QPR goalkeeper Kinga Golebiowski was equal to the strike. The home side were getting on the ball but hadn’t asked any serious questions of Ogunde in the O’s goal.
With half an hour played, Orient were finding plenty of joy in behind the QPR defence. Cardoso Queni set Barton free on the right, her attempted cross rolled into space for Egle Trezzi who fizzed a powerful effort over the crossbar.
At the other end, Courtnay Ward-Chambers released a dipping strike which dropped over the crossbar. Then, Orient could have doubled their lead when Lisa Holmback battled past the last defender but couldn’t get enough power behind her strike to trouble Golebiowski.
Quickly, QPR netted an equaliser courtesy of Jo Wilson deep into first half stoppage time. They worked the ball swiftly to the back post where Wilson created the angle, before smashing a left-footed effort high into the top corner leaving the scores level at the break.
Orient got the second half underway and should have re-taken the lead within minutes. Captain Danielle Griffiths curled a delightfully weighted free-kick onto the head of Trezzi, who watched in anguish as the ball came crashing back off the crossbar.
From QPR’s next attack, Danielle Puddefoot sent her free-kick into the grateful arms of Ogunde. It had been an intense start to the half while the physical aspect of the match was much like that of a London derby.
Orient came forward again with Pescatore who showed great skill to beat her marker before darting into the penalty area. Her cross-come shot was flicked wide by Cardoso Queni who was lurking in the six-yard box.
On the hour mark, QPR came close to taking the lead when Wilson weaved through two challenges only to be denied by Ogunde who stood firm. The home side looked to be growing in confidence with possession of the ball.
The O’s made their first change of the game with twenty minutes remaining. Pescatore was playing her final game for Orient before moving to America to take up a scholarship, and made way for Lisa Fulgence in attack.
Orient’s second change arrived on 86 minutes with Chanel Richards replacing Cardoso Queni. Despite both sides pushing for a winner, there was nothing to separate them at the end of normal time meaning a penalty shoot-out was required to determine the victors.
Both sets of players congregated on the halfway line as Orient were set to take the first kick. Griffiths, the O’s designated penalty taker, buried the ball low into the corner. QPR replied when Wilson picked out the opposite corner to level the score at 1-1.
Porter drilled Orient into a 2-1 lead, before Ogunde strongly palmed away Anya Kinnane’s attempt much to the delight of the O’s faithful. Fulgence confidently dispatched into the top corner to give Orient a 3-1 lead, before Puddefoot sent Ogunde the wrong way.
At 3-2, Trezzi was denied by the crossbar leaving Ward-Chambers to tie the score at 3-3. Leyre Bastyr shot high into the net to restore Orient’s lead, before Sue Kumaning dragged her effort wide sparking jubilant celebrations amongst the O’s players.
After making a crucial save in the shootout, Orient goalkeeper Naomi Ogunde gave her verdict on the performance and the confidence this victory instils:
“I thought we played very well, we dominated them majorly in the first half. It was a shame that we slacked, and they got a goal in the last minute of the first half, but we were definitely the better team.
“We brought it home so I’m very pleased and proud of my team. I think that now we’ve got the momentum going I definitely feel that we can win it and bring a trophy back. Hopefully we can carry this into the league and finish in a nice place.”
Ogunde had faith in her team when the game went to penalties and revealed the emotions after her vital stop:
“Always confident! I knew we had good players that would bring it home for us. It felt great, wish I could have done some more but that one was just enough for us so I’m very pleased.”
Now, the O’s take a week’s break before returning to FA Women’s National League action with a trip to Cambridge United Women on Sunday 24th February with kick-off at 14:00.