The O’s women’s team came from behind to draw 1-1 with Ipswich Town Ladies at The Goldstar Ground in the FA Women’s National League on Sunday.
Paige Wakefield headed the home side in front on 52 minutes, before Sophie Le Marchand coolly slotted home an equaliser with fifteen minutes remaining.
Manager Chris Brayford made two changes to the side who started the 1-0 win over Enfield Town Ladies in the Isthmian Cup semi-final on Wednesday evening.
Latoya Smith was back between the sticks in the absence of Naomi Ogunde, while Katharine Nutman replaced Connie Montiel-McCann in the midfield.
Ipswich got the game underway on a drizzly afternoon in Suffolk, kicking from left to right in their traditional all-blue home strip.
The home side enjoyed an early spell of possession, Amy Nash released an effort from distance that never troubled Smith in the Orient goal. Soon, Nutman seized the initiative with a determined charge to the by-line, resulting in a corner kick which came to nothing.
Again, Orient worked the ball nicely down the left side. Le Marchand drove a teasing ball across the face of goal, but nobody in a red shirt was there to connect and the chance fizzled out.
With quarter of an hour played, neither side had conjured any clear-cut chances on goal. Ipswich saw more of the ball in the early exchanges however, Orient were growing into the game with the majority of their attacking play going down the left.
On 23 minutes, Wakefield received the first booking of the game after scything down Lisa Holmback as she charged over the half-way line. After half an hour, there was still nothing to separate the teams during a hard-fought battle in boggy conditions.
Then, Orient saw their first glimpse of an opening on 36 minutes. Le Marchand cushioned a neat reverse pass into Suaila Cardoso Queni who fended off her marker in the box, but Ipswich goalkeeper Sian Fagg was equal to the strike.
At the break, the sides went in all square after a well-contested first half. Orient looked solid defensively, limiting Ipswich to shooting from range. Nutman was pulling the strings effectively in the middle of the park, while Le Marchand was threatening out wide.
Orient got the game restarted amid overcast skies and light winds, however neither side had blown the other away so far. Cassie Craddock deceived Danielle Griffiths with her quick feet before finding Amanda Crump who shot straight at Smith.
Lindsey Cooper picked up the hosts’ second booking after catching Le Marchand with a late follow through inside the O’s half. Speculatively, Toni-Anne Wayne launched a dipping free-kick towards the near post which Smith did well to push behind for a corner.
However, Ipswich broke the deadlock from this set-piece courtesy of Wakefield on 52 minutes. She peeled away from her marker just ahead of the penalty spot, before nestling a header in at the near post.
Ipswich looked to double their advantage when Craddock forced a straight forward save from Smith. A neat ball let Natasha Thomas in behind the O’s back-line, she cut back and squared for an incoming blue shirt but Nutman was there to cut out the danger.
Orient made a double substitution on 63 minutes with Hayley Barton and Francesca Cagetti making way for Rebecca Hirst and Lisa Fulgence. Once again, Smith was alert to bravely throw herself in front of Anne-Wayne’s outstretched effort at the far post.
At the other end, Le Marchand skipped to the by-line before pulling the ball back for an unmarked Cardoso Queni who opted for placement, but her effort was deflected wide for a corner which came to nothing.
In search of an equaliser, Cardoso Queni struck an ambitious long-range effort which took a nick on its way through and dropped over the crossbar. Within minutes, their persistence finally paid off.
On 73 minutes, Orient orchestrated a well-worked equaliser. Griffiths picked out Fulgence who intelligently played in Le Marchand to calmly tuck the ball underneath Fagg and draw the O’s level.
However, they had Smith to thank for keeping them from falling behind once more. The ball dropped kindly for Crump who found herself in space at the back post, yet her point-blank strike was superbly smothered by the Orient goalkeeper.
In the last five minutes, Orient made their final change as Cardoso Queni made way for Kayleigh Xidhas. With the result hanging in the balance, the rain began to pour setting up a cagey finale.
Orient could have walked away with a victory when Holmback’s driven effort was palmed into the path of Hirst, but Fagg was equal to her rebound despite the offside flag being raised. This was the last action of a tough battle with the sides forced to share the spoils.
After the game, Sophie Le Marchand placed emphasis on the O’s defensive work while feeling they could have taken all three points:
“I think we battled really well. We were very aware that they’ve had a change of manager and that they were incredibly up for the game as a result. In the first half, we were really solid, defensively we maintained our shape and that’s the shape we’ve been working really hard on the last month or so.
“We could have pushed forward a little bit more in the first half, given ourselves a few more chances. I thought we dominated in terms of creating chances in the second half, we were quite unlucky not to win it in the end.”
Le Marchand has netted three goals in as many matches, an upturn in form she feels is a reward for her efforts:
“I’m totally a confidence player. I feel like I’ve been working really hard in training and things haven’t quite been clicking for me, but it was just a matter of time. Behind the scenes I’ve been working hard, just needed my luck to change and hopefully that’s done the trick!”
Next, the O’s take a week’s break before travelling to face Enfield Town Ladies in the FA Women’s National League on Sunday 10th March with kick-off at 14:00.