Leyton Orient Women were defeated 3-1 by Cardiff City Ladies in the FA Women’s Premier League Cup First Round on Sunday.
Ella Powell and Cori Williams secured the win for the hosts, before Orient’s Leyre Bastyr reduced the deficit with a sublime free kick six minutes from time.
After a 308-mile round-trip the O’s may have returned to London defeated, but have broken new ground in their quest to compete with the WPL’s most established sides.
Orient compete in the South East Division 1 of the Women’s Premier League where they sit third, whilst Cardiff are a step above them in the Southern Division and occupy 10th place.
This was a chance for the O’s to prove their worth against higher opposition, something they thrive on as a team.
Orient were forced to rotate the team with household names such as goalkeeper Naomi Ogunde and winger Hayley Barton absent on the day.
The O’s held their own during the first half when they were on the back foot for the most part. Stand-in goalkeeper Vanessa Wilson shone brightest, producing two wonderful saves to ensure the game was goalless at the break.
However, Orient were undone in the second half by some clinical finishing from a very physical and athletic Cardiff side. The visitors looked nervous on the ball at times, and couldn’t perfect the final pass when it mattered.
They struggled to break down Cardiff’s defence, but did not go without their chances and gave everything they had until the end. It was a learning curve for the O’s who are experiencing their first season as a WPL team.
Speaking to Rising East, captain, Danielle Griffiths discussed how the players coped with the mental and physical demands for this away game: “It is a long journey and we haven’t done anything of this sort before. We’ve got much better facilities so we’re better setup than we ever could have been. We need to make sure that as a team everyone is doing the same kind of preparation which is probably the next level of professionalism we need to get to. I think everyone has coped pretty well, but we are going to have to get used to those longer trips and having a more professional approach if we are going to continue to rise up the leagues.”
Griffiths assessed the positive aspects in Orient’s performance saying: “I think we can take that we can compete with teams in the division above which is important. I think we knew from previous games that to continue to test ourselves against those kinds of teams is great. Also, we had our chances. We created chances against a very good team, creating chances is half of it but we need to make sure we are finishing.”
Griffiths reflected on what the O’s had learnt from the game that will benefit them going forward: “I think it’ll be taking our chances when they come. The first ten, fifteen minutes we had a couple of chances and if we took those it would be a very different game. We wouldn’t be chasing, we would be holding a lead. I think also keeping our shape and discipline against a good team, even when we’re tired and feel like we’re being run ragged, it’s keeping that kind of discipline which we can work on in training.”
Despite exiting the WPL Cup Orient remain in two other cup competitions, the FA and Capital Cups, with their next opponents in both competitions being from the same league as the O’s. Griffiths talked about the team’s domestic ambitions saying: “Attention is always on the league but it’s nice to have a good cup run. Losing out on the Premier League Cup is disappointing but we’re still in two cups so we’ll be fighting for those trophies.”
There was a second of disappointment at the final whistle, as the chance of a cup upset slipped through Orient’s grasp. However, there is little time to dwell on what might have been as the O’s return to league action next Sunday. They travel to face Denham United hoping to close the gap on the league’s pace setters AFC Wimbledon.