Three late goals saw the O’s women’s team lose out to league leaders Crawley Wasps Ladies despite a characterful display in the FA Women’s National League on Sunday.
It was a tough result to take for Orient whose attitude and application was second to none, while they defended resolutely for long spells of the match.
Manager Chris Brayford made three changes to the side who began the 3-0 victory over Luton Town Ladies on 13th January. Leyre Bastyr returned at left-back, Camila Pescatore played an advanced midfield role while Suaila Cardoso Queni led the attack.
Crawley Wasps got the game underway on a bitterly cold afternoon at Oakwood Football Club, kicking from right to left in their black and yellow striped kit. Orient started brightly and forced an early corner which came to nothing as both sides battled for possession.
The hosts tested O’s goalkeeper Naomi Ogunde for the first time with ten minutes played. Faye Rabson found space on the edge of the box, before drilling a low shot on target which Ogunde comfortably gathered.
Almost immediately, Orient were trying to expose the Wasps’ backline. Cardoso Queni advanced towards the edge of the penalty area however, her threaded pass was too heavy for the overlapping Sophie Le Marchand.
Shortly, Crawley were beginning to add tempo to their game. A teasing cross from the right was confidently tipped behind for a corner by Ogunde, from which Darcey James headed wide of the mark.
It was a well fought opening quarter of an hour. Wasps appeared to have tested the O’s defence more, although Orient looked resolute and capable of causing problems going forward.
For a brief spell, the O’s were forced to whether a wave of sustained pressure from the home side. Emma Plewa drifted inside but Ogunde was equal to her effort, before Rabson glanced a header into the side netting.
At the other end, Pescatore’s corner was flicked on by Egle Trezzi and almost dropped for Francesca Cagetti but the ball was cleared to safety. Then, the game’s first flashpoint saw Naomi Cole cautioned for a shove on Chloe McNee.
With half time approaching, Wasps were probing yet Orient continued to stand firm. They countered via Le Marchand who freed Pescatore, but she struck straight at Crawley goalkeeper Francesca Gibbs.
At the break, there was nothing to separate the two sides after a competitive half of football. The O’s were forced to do a significant amount of defending, but needed something more going forward in the second half.
Orient got the second half underway in their all blue away strip. Le Marchand was quick to pick out the run of Lisa Holmback, who created an angle and fired into the grateful arms of Gibbs.
Despite this positive start, the O’s fell behind on 51 minutes. A corner fell to Cole at the back post whose effort was cleared off the line, however Kemina Webber was alert to bundle home from close-range.
Ten minutes later, Orient were level thanks to Holmback with a splendid finish. A floated free kick dropped for the Swedish midfielder, whose effort from the edge of the box swerved away from Gibbs and nestled in the top corner.
After the equaliser, the visitors found a new lease of life and looked more confident in possession. Cardoso Queni dispossessed Ellie Russell and spotted Le Marchand who couldn’t generate enough power behind her shot to trouble Gibbs.
With twenty minutes remaining, Orient made their first change of the game as Pescatore was replaced by Hannah Porter. Quickly, Danielle Griffiths’ pin-point corner drifted across the face of goal with nobody in blue there to meet it.
On 83 minutes, goal scorer Holmback made way for Lisa Fulgence in the O’s second switch. It was going to be a tense finale; Crawley seemed to lose composure on the ball while Orient made sure they were defensively organised.
However, Orient’s hard work was undone when Crawley regained the lead six minutes from time. Ariana Flieschman’s cross picked out Rachel Palmer at the back post, who struck a thunderous volley beyond a helpless Ogunde.
Avril Kilkelly replaced Connie Montiel-McCann for the final exchanges, but Crawley sealed the victory with a third in stoppage time. Cole wriggled into the box, before taking aim and watching a deflection take the ball cruelly past Ogunde.
Wasps compiled Orient’s misery by netting a fourth goal with the last action of the game. Jenny Drury curled an accurate finish from the edge of the box into the bottom right corner, as Orient were left deflated despite a largely resilient showing.
At the time of writing, Orient were waiting to discover whether they will be in action next Sunday. Otherwise, their next fixture will see them travel to Enfield Town Ladies for the Isthmian Cup semi-final on Wednesday 6th February with kick-off scheduled for 20:00.