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  • Writer's pictureBy Dan Evans

Orient remain clear in League Two despite Swindon draw


Leyton Orient (1) 1 Beckles 11

Swindon Town (0) 1 Wakeling 63


By the time the football season reaches March, you can often tell how well a team is likely to finish without even looking at the league table.


For those with a genuine chance of glory, everything has become automatic. The players, even those who have arrived in January, are accustomed to one another and the manager is more than familiar with what they all can do.


Passes land crisply into the stride of their intended target, set-pieces drop perfectly on the expectant heads of waiting team-mates, long periods of play just disappear as if nothing is happening when the team on the path to success is ahead.

This could certainly have been said of Richie Wellens’ Leyton Orient throughout a 1-1 draw with play-off hopefuls Swindon Town on Saturday afternoon.


Even though the day did not end in victory, Orient’s unbeaten run was extended to seven games and their 11 point lead at the top of League Two remained intact, possibly explaining why there was no desperation to find a winner in the closing stages and little hysteria when the final whistle blew.


A recent upturn in form has seen some of Wellens’ injury stand-ins perform so well that those who once seemed undroppable are now having to settle for a place on the bench. George Moncur, Darren Pratley and Paul Smyth all started as substitutes against Swindon, and were only called upon in the second half.


When a team is in a vein of form such as the Orient are in, there is little need for opponents to make things easy. Yet, after just eleven minutes, Swindon allowed Omar Beckles a free run at a Kieran Sadlier corner as he headed in the opening goal.


Former Chelsea player and assistant manager Jody Morris has been in charge of the west country club for little over a month, and his frustration was visible on the Brisbane Road touchline.


Although under pressure from the off, his charges had begun competently in east London and a vociferous travelling support deserved better than to see their team undone so simply by a dead ball routine.


Other than a Charlie Kelman shot stinging the palms of Sol Brynn not long after the opener, the visitors’ goal faced little obvious threat.


Charlie Austin, let go by QPR at the end of last season, is Morris’s captain and his inability to get the better of Beckles went a long way to explaining why Swindon were largely kept at arm’s length themselves.


Austin set up Rushian Hepburn-Murphy to volley wide with their best chance of the first half, and Lawrence Vigouroux saved comfortably from both Reece Devine and Jonny Williams before the interval.


A controlled start to the second half made it appear that the league leaders would be capable of playing all day and all night before Vigouroux would be bothered again, yet a bold change from Morris disrupted the procession.


With wing-back Devine forced off through injury, the Swindon boss threw on attacker Jacob Wakeling in his place. When Hepburn-Murphy found a rare yard of space to play a forward pass on the hour mark, the substitute’s perfectly timed run allowed him to beat Vigouroux with a powerful effort.


The benefit of keeping some of his key men hungry during their time on the bench almost won the game for Wellens. First, Smyth forced Brynn into a smart stop and then Moncur bent an effort wide of goal from another set-piece routine.


Some draws agonise and frustrate, those that keep you clear at the top of the league table with one less match to play do not. The warmth with which Wellens embraced Morris at full-time suggested this was not an outcome he was overly frustrated by.


Leyton Orient: (4-2-3-1) Vigouroux – James, Beckles, Turns, Sweeney – Clay, El Mizouni – Archibald (Smyth 58), Sotiriou (Thompson 76), Sadlier (Moncur 58) – Kelman. Subs not used: Byrne, Ogie.


Swindon: (5-4-1) Brynn – Hutton, Minturn, Clayton, Tomlinson, Devine (Wakeling 53) – Hepburn-Murphy, McEachran, Kadji, Williams (Darcy 77)– Austin (Shade 77). Subs not used: Copland, Adeloye, Jephcott, Aguiar

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