Leyton Orient’s Scoring Struggle
After 16 wins in their opening 21 league games, the O’s have mustered just one in their previous six, including three draws and two losses against second-placed Stevenage and third-placed Northampton.
In that span, Wellens’ men have netted just one goal - in their home victory against Doncaster – and conceded three against Stevenage this past weekend. That took the season total of goals conceded to just 16, still impressively low, but there are looming problems at both ends of the field.
On the 2nd January, away against Northampton, Orient lost Happe for the season, amalgamated with a three game suspension for Omar Beckles due to a red card in the same contest. This forced the board to search for reinforcements at centre-half to replace Happe and, momentarily, Beckles.
Ed Turns joined on loan from Brighton whilst Jamie McCart signed on loan from Rotherham. Both of which had unpromising performances in the defeat in Hertfordshire on the weekend, despite a clean sheet from Turns on his debut the week prior. Beckles will return away at Tranmere this Saturday, but Happe will not until next season, a gutting loss for Richie Wellens who instigated a successful partnership between Happe and Beckles in 2022.
To accentuate Orient’s problems, they have also now received a red card in three of their last four games (El Mizouni, Beckles, James), a disciplinary issue which must be addressed by Wellens to prevent more key suspensions in a limited squad.
At the other end, fans have been calling for a new striker, although Harry Smith has recently returned to the pitch for the first time this campaign after a loan to Exeter was cut short due to a lack of game time.
It’s astonishing how things can change so quickly as the free flowing goals that propelled Orient to the summit of League Two from the beginning of the season are suddenly so hard to come by. It is also astonishing how fans are indoctrinated by results so quickly.
In retaliation to comments about a lack of goals, the gaffer outlined how he is against January singings and believes his philosophy will see his team through without making so many additions and changes. His view doesn’t resonate positively with some fans but his persistence with the squad he has had since the summer is to be admired.
Even this season, the O’s haven’t had a dominant striker scoring all their goals, Irish winger Smyth has the most with nine, but Archibald, Kelman and Moncur are next with four. Kelman being the only striker out of the three.
The 33 goals have been spread out between nine players, exemplifying how a proper goal scoring striker is something that Orient may need in order to reignite their goal scoring form and maintain their top position. That being something that is seriously under threat now, courtesy of this dip in form since Christmas. Whilst it is good that Orient have not had to rely on one man to score all the goals, at the end of the day, a striker is there to score goals, and with Kelman (4) and Drinan (2) this has been an inconsistency this season.
All title winning teams must go through a troubled run in order to come out better the other side, typically because it is so hard to win all season long in any division. But it is how the team and manager responds to that barren run which really sets a team above from the rest.
With the transfer window nearing tis end, and a hesitant director of football in Martin Ling, Orient may need to rely on the likes of Archibald and Smyth for the remainder of the campaign if Leyton Orient are to be crowned League Two champions come May.