The O’s women’s team finished their 2018-19 league campaign with a narrow 2-1 defeat against league champions Crawley Wasps Ladies at St. Paul’s Sports Ground on Sunday.
Darcey James’ superb strike gave the visitors an early lead, Lisa Holmback levelled for Orient after some neat link-up play with Egle Trezzi, before Naomi Cole’s spot kick won it for Wasps.
Manager Chris Brayford made two changes to the side who started the 1-0 defeat to Actonians Ladies in the Capital Cup on Thursday night.
Latoya Smith replaced Naomi Ogunde between the sticks, while Connie Montiel-McCann reclaimed her place in the back four as Francesca Cagetti dropped to the bench.
Crawley got the game underway on an overcast afternoon at St. Paul’s Sports Ground, kicking from right to left in their black and yellow striped kit. The league champions passed the ball confidently in the opening exchanges, working to play through Orient’s pressing game.
Quickly, Crawley wasted no time in asserting their authority on the match when they opened the scoring with four minutes played. Darcey James drifted into space on the edge of the box before unleashing a powerful strike which dipped neatly under the crossbar.
Soon, Wasps were looking to double their lead when Ellie Russell fed the ball to Faye Rabson on the left side of the penalty area, she shifted onto her left foot before firing low into the grateful arms of Smith in the O’s goal.
With the visitors next attack, Rabson swept the ball towards the bottom corner only for Smith to smartly tip the effort around the post. The O’s had been under some pressure but were beginning to show glimpses of promising attacking football.
On twenty minutes, Orient carved out two excellent chances from corners. Hannah Porter glanced her first header narrowly over the crossbar, before looping her second on target only to see it cleared off the line by a covering defender.
Now, the home side were starting to find their rhythm. Hayley Barton picked the ball up on the right side of the box, drifting slightly away from goal before letting fly with a purposeful shot that was tipped behind by Wasps’ goalkeeper Frankie Gibbs.
Much to their relief, the O’s netted an equaliser ten minutes before the break. The home side countered with Trezzi who drove upfield before chipping the ball exquisitely into the path of Holmback, who prodded the ball underneath Gibbs to level the scores at 1-1.
At half-time, Orient could reflect on a tough start to the game after falling behind inside the opening five minutes. However, they dug deep and grew into the match to conjure a well-worked equaliser which left the game hanging in the balance.
Orient got the second half underway but neither side created any meaningful chances in the early stages. There was a stoppage in-play as O’s skipper Danielle Griffiths received treatment for a knee problem with little under half an hour remaining.
With 66 minutes on the clock, Orient made their first change of the match as goal scorer Holmback was replaced by Chloe Christison-McNee in the midfield. Sensibly, manager Chris Brayford was taking no chances with Griffiths who made way for Cagetti moments later.
However, Wasps were awarded a penalty just three minutes after the changes when Cagetti tripped James as she advanced into the box. Captain Cole stepped up and coolly sent Smith the wrong way to put Crawley 2-1 ahead.
The O’s made their final change on 77 minutes with striker Lisa Fulgence replacing Katharine Nutman as they pushed for an equaliser in the final quarter of an hour. Wasps were dominating possession however, forcing Orient to sit deep and resort to counter attacks.
Despite a battling display, the referee’s whistle saw Orient’s season finish in defeat. Although, fifth place in the league, Capital Cup runners-up and Isthmian Cup champions mean the O’s can reflect on a hugely positive campaign which will no doubt set them up for future success.