The Leyton Orient U18s are on track for an extremely successful season, having already won the Youth Alliance Southeast Division before the Christmas break.
The O’s had a strong start to the season with 14-game winning streak. This included early impressive victories including a 3-0 against Cambridge on the first game, 4-0 away to Barnet, and 5-0 against Gillingham and Stevenage respectively.
Arguably the most important victory came in beating Luton Town 5-3 at home. Luton had challenged Orient to the league title last season, eventually beating them to it. They were then seen as the O’s biggest competition by coaches and players.
While the Orient first team struggled for wins and points, the U18s remained undefeated in the League and domestic Cup competitions, over a total of 20 games.
This led to many of the youth team getting call ups into the senior squad.
Josh Koroma, who had spent the majority of pre-season with the first team, enjoyed several spells with the squad, making appearances as a substitute before finally making his first start against Barnet in 3-1 loss.
First year scholar Sam Dalby made appearances on the bench for the seniors, but it wasn’t until former academy manager Andrew Edwards took command of the first team that the 17-year-old got his chance. He started for the first time against Crawley Town on Boxing Day, in a 3-1 victory in which he bagged his first goal. He started another two games before picking up an injury.
Defender Myles Judd also had substitute appearances for the O’s early in the season. Judee started seven of the last eight games and got an assist in a 1-0 win against Accrington Stanley.
Cup semi final
Richard Thomas’s U18s side are also into the Semi-Final of the Youth Alliance Cup having knocked out Yeovil Town and Cambridge United respectively. Picking up the league and cup double would a be great achievement for the team .
Youth Cup Heartbreak
The third round of the FA Youth Cup saw the O’s pick up their first loss of the season. After dominant victories away at Southend United and Poole Town, winning 6-0 and 7-0, the side were then faced with the task of taking on Premier League side Leicester City, again in an away tie. Apart from the absence of Judd, Thomas fielded the strongest XI possible but it wasn’t enough as the side were dominated by an impressive Leicester side who came away with a 3-1 victory.
The O’s consolation goal on the night was scored by top scorer Tristan Abrahams, who brought his total to 22 goals already this season. The second year scholar’s goalscoring form has led to him being sent on loan to gain first team experience with Cambridge City.
Other second years to go out on loan include defender/midfielder Rian McLean who headed to Southern Premier Division side St Neots Town. Under-18 goalkeeper Sam Roach had a couple of loans already this season at Barkingside and Cray Wanderers. He now is set to test himself further by heading to Southern League Division One South side Histon, Finally, fellow second-year scholar Pat Adamson has linked up with Ryman North side Soham Town Rangers.
The U18s have been rewarded for their success so far this season with professional contracts being given to Dalby, Koroma, Abrahams, Judd, Henry Ochieng and Steven Alzate. It is an achievement the players and coaches should be proud of.
Thomas’s side now have four games left of the campaign, the team will then be placed into another league with the 10 other qualifying teams from the Southeast and Southwest Division to find an overall winner at the end of the season.