Leyton Orient Women dug deep to secure a vital three points with a 2-1 win against Ipswich Town Ladies in the FA Women’s Premier League at Mile End Stadium.
Sophie Le Marchand put Orient in front after 19 minutes with a calm close-range finish, before Natasha Thomas’s header drew the visitors level just before the break.
It was a cautious start to the second half from both sides.
When Ipswich Town scored their equaliser just before half-time, momentum swung momentarily towards the away side as Orient nerves began to jangle. However, half-time provided an opportunity to regroup, which appeared to benefit Orient who crept ahead when Le Marchand skipped round Ipswich goalie Sian Fagg and scored her second goal, making out to be the match winner.
Ipswich began to turn the screw after falling behind, trying to exploit the O’s defence with teasing crosses into the penalty area. Orient goalkeeper Naomi Ogunde was on hand several times to clear the danger, but it felt like only a matter of time before the visitors found the net.
Speaking to Rising East after the game, Orient captain Danielle Griffiths reflected on her sides’ performance: “It was a good, battling performance which is important. I think it’s something we have been lacking in recent weeks so to show fight and determination to get the three points throughout the game was very important. Footballing wise there is still room for improvement, but we’ll get there.”
This game between two of the top four teams in the WPL South East Division 1 certainly lived up to expectation, with goals and chances at either end.
Orient’s victory ensured they remain in second place with 31 points, five shy of league leaders AFC Wimbledon and four ahead of third-placed MK Dons who have three games in hand.
In recent weeks, Orient have become familiar to a 4-2-3-1 formation with the motivation to create space for the wide players to join attacks. However, manager Chris Brayford opted for a different approach setting his side up in a 4-4-2 formation for a match between two tactically astute teams.
The O’s squad has been hit with illness, and injuries to key players. However, Orient showed fight and togetherness to overcome a difficult opposition in Ipswich. Le Marchand’s opening goal worked wonders for settling any Orient nerves, creating a platform for the hosts to build upon.
Griffiths told Rising East about how important it was for Orient to get the first goal saying: “I said in the pre-match huddle that it’s much easier to defend a lead than to chase when you’re behind, so I was very happy that we went ahead, and we were able to have that bed-rock and relax into the game.”
As Griffiths said previously, there is room for improvement in certain aspects of Orient’s play. They could have taken a healthier lead into half-time, but for a combination of good goalkeeping and lacking that cutting edge in front of goal.
Griffiths spoke to Rising East about how this victory was crucial in helping the O’s maintain their title challenge saying: “I think it was a very important victory, one of the most important ones we’ve had this season. Ipswich are within touching distance of us in the league, as we are within touching distance of MK Dons and Wimbledon, so it’s probably one of the most important victories we’ve had this season.”
What to Expect From the O’s
Orient will play four games throughout February. Luton Town, Norwich City, and AFC Wimbledon await in the league whilst Southern Division leaders Charlton Athletic are the O’s opponents in the Capital Cup semi-finals.
This Sunday the O’s welcome fifth-placed Luton Town Ladies to Mile End Stadium in the Women’s Premier League. Orient have met Luton twice this season in the league and determining round of the WPL Cup, winning both matches in Bedfordshire.
Griffiths told Rising East what she is expecting from Luton next weekend saying: “Another difficult game, they’re quite physical, they’ve got a really good striker who can hit a ball, so it will be another tough battle. Hopefully after today’s victory we can build on the bed-rock of today.”
After overcoming a tough hurdle in the shape of Ipswich, Orient will take confidence into a challenging month where crucial points are there to be won or lost in the race for the coveted league title.