By Gerry PrewettOn Saturday Bristol Rovers travel to East London to face an old adversary in a top of the table clash.
Leyton Orient have won all four of their opening games, have established a 2 point buffer and are playing well. After suffering relegation in a disastrous campaign last season they are looking to bounce straight back.
The spirit of his Orient team was on display in South Wales on Saturday. The top of the table O’s took an early advantage before being pegged back by Terry Butcher’s Newport County team and then regaining the lead. Orient took the lead when Paul McCallum out-jumped two defenders to beat Joe Day inside four minutes. Just three minutes later Day turned into nightmare as Jay Simpson's 35-yard drive rocketed past him.
The Londoner’s could have put the game out of sight as Dean Cox produced a weak effort, McCallum’s close range header failed to hit the target and then he rattled the crossbar. The complexion of the whole game changed in a little over a minute leading up to half-time with two goals to the Welsh team.
Scott Boden struck a left foot effort past Alex Cisak in the Orient goal on 41 minutes and then stunningly County skipper Mark Byrne matched Simpson’s strike for the home team to put the scores level.
Orient regained the lead 14 minutes into the second-half when Cox put away Blair Turgott's near post cross. With no more goals Orient headed back East up the M4 with a 3-2 score-line and 3 more points.
Speaking after the game, Head Coach Ian Hendon said of his team, “They were coming off the back of a relegation and I think the key thing was to speak to the players first and foremost because some just didn’t want to be here.”
“If the players don’t want to be at the football club then they go, it’s as simple as that. That’s what we’ve done and we cleared out those that didn’t want to be here and brought players here that do. They want to play for this football club, want to play for me and want to play for each other so it’s a good place to be at the moment.”
“Myself and my staff have come in and just started afresh. That’s all that we can say. I’m doing my job how I think I should do it and at the moment it’s going well. We’re not getting carried away with our start.”
“We will try to win every game we play but there’s no magical formula. We’ve set the players up to play and put our trust in them and they go and perform and do the things we’re asking and we’re getting the results at the moment.”
“It’s been fantastic. Winning is a good habit to get into. As I said we did it by hook or by crook. It’s been a good start but we’re only four games into a 46-match season so onto the next one now.”
Looking at the history of games between Rovers and Orient there have been some exciting clashes, none more so than a 2001 Boxing Day eight goal thriller, the highest aggregate score in games between the teams, which saw the Gas run out 5-3 winners. It is interesting that generally the games are fairly low scoring affairs, with a few notable exceptions.
Orient have rarely scored many against the Gas (until the last four games, where the record stands the O’s 15 goals, the Gas, 3 goals!) and yet Rovers have hit a 4 and a 5 (besides that Boxing Day game) and amazingly enough they have both been in London. The first of those victories was a 5-1 win with goals from Holloway (2), David Williams, Randall and Withey on 23rd October 1982. Two years later on 30th November, Holloway, O’Connor (2) and Randall were scorers in a 4-1 win.
In 1998-99 the sides were paired together in both the FA Cup and League Cup. After a 1-1 draw at Brisbane Road in the Worthington Cup First Round First Leg, Mark Warren hit a dramatic 119th minute winner in Bristol after the tie looked set to go to penalties. Rovers got their revenge in the FA Cup Fourth Round as three goals in the last 15 minutes saw off the O's challenge.
In an early season game in 2004-05 on 11 September Rovers travelled to Brisbane Road unbeaten with what appeared to be a rock-solid defence. However it crumbled and let in as many goals in one game as it had in the previous seven. It was a game in which Rovers played well in patches and actually led 2-1, but then conceded three goals in just seven minutes in the second half. It was ex-Gas Wayne Carlisle who inflicted much of the pain.
Another Boxing Day home game with Leyton Orient gave Rovers the perfect opportunity for revenge for that first defeat of the season at Brisbane Road. However a Robbie Ryan handball on the line meant Rovers were down to 10 men and a goal down as Lockwood converted his penalty against his former team. Jamie Forrester equalised from the spot in the second half but Rovers found the one-man deficit too great to overcome a determined Orient team. It was Rovers’ third draw in a row and a fourth game undefeated.
The last League visit was for a Division One game on 12 February 2011, Rovers made the worst possible start to the game, conceding after only four minutes when Jimmy Smith got on the end of a cross from Dean Cox and headed past Luke Daniels.
Things got worse on 15 minutes when Andrew Whing was allowed time and space to get down the right and when 35 yards from goal he unleashed a ferocious shot that flew past Daniels before nestling in the corner of the net.
Jones touched a Jeff Hughes effort wide of the post at the start of the second half and the midfielder was instrumental in a goal for Rovers after 52 minutes when Crowe headed his cross into his own net.
On 77 minutes Orient broke down the left, the ball was played into the box and Kane beat James Tunnicliffe to the ball before calmly slotting his shot past Daniels. Kane also scored the home side's fourth goal, a simple tap in from close range after a cross from Revell. So 4-1 to the O’s and ultimate relegation for Rovers.
Overall Rovers hold the upper hand with 43 victories to Orient’s 38 in the 110 games. However Orient have won the last 6 games between the clubs including their record 5-0 win over Rovers on 2 February 2010.
Orient striker Jay Simpson, spoke about Hendon’s influence on the club, “He has come in and stamped his style on how we play. After what happened last year, the club wasn’t really left in a great shape but he has come in and is determined to do well. He has managed to get the players on board and believing in what he wants to achieve. He wants us to go out and play, get on the ball, try and play it out from the back and enjoy ourselves.”
“This season there has been a massive change at the whole club. We have new players, new staff, manager, assistant manager, medical team. Everyone has come in with a positive attitude and it has had a good effect on the club and the atmosphere around the training ground and the fans are seeing it as well.”
Speaking about his career which started at Arsenal and saw him out on loan all over the League, Simpson said, “It is nice to be settled somewhere, but I know football changes overnight so you never know where you might end up.”