A single second-half strike from O’s
striker Macauley Bonne was all that separated them from the Bucks at the end of
the first leg of a tight semi-final contest, leaving the second leg evenly
Backed by close to 500 travelling fans,
the Bucks made a bright and positive start, with Ryan Barnett prominent on the
right-hand side; however, the game’s first goal attempt fell to O’s sharpshooter
Bonne. Amari Morgan-Smith was harshly penalised for handball, and when Andy
Wycherley could only parry Dale Gorman’s well-struck 30-yard shot, Bonne headed
the rebound wide, perhaps caught by surprise at receiving the opportunity.
The visitors were creating more in
forward areas than the hosts, and James McQuilkin had a shot blocked from 20
yards after Barnett and Darryl Knights both saw crosses not dealt with
decisively by the O’s defence. Top scorer Dan Udoh then got within inches of a
first effort on goal, unable to reach Steph Morley’s left-wing cross after
Amari Morgan-Smith won a header from a free-kick to create the crossing
opportunity. Morley and Darryl Knights combined well on a couple of occasions
as the Bucks continued to look for weaknesses; O’s skipper Jobi McAnuff first
wasted a free-kick chance, then saw Bucks captain Shane Sutton thrust himself
in the way of his shot from the edge of the box, demonstrating the Bucks
determination and commitment.
Just before the 20 minutes mark, the
Bucks suffered a blow; whilst defending a situation which ended with an O’s
effort headed well wide, Morley went down with an injury, and it quickly became
apparent his afternoon’s work was over. He limped from the field dejectedly and
substitute Brendon Daniels, a more naturally attacking player, took up Morley’s
Orient weren’t able to use their
possession to great effect, and after Jon Royle conceded a corner on the right,
Matt Harrold was unable to rise and connect cleanly to direct a header, the former
Shrewsbury man yelling in annoyance. He wouldn’t have been in any better mood
when he joined a quick counter-attack, but ran past where the ball in from the
left would eventually arrive as the Bucks won the ball back through the
tenacious James McQuilkin.
The swirling wind inside the Breyer
Group Stadium was making it difficult for both teams; just after the half-an-hour
mark, Bucks skipper Sutton found himself at the heart of things, and received a
bang in the face for his pains. After attention from the physio, Sutton
temporarily left the field, with swabs in his nostrils to stem some light
bleeding; he would, however, continue.
Morgan-Smith, trying to work enough
space for a shot in the Orient ‘D’, laid the ball off for a shot by Knights
that was blocked, and he was to experience a sense of déjà vu moments later.
After a terrific bit of footwork from Barnett that left his marker on his
backside, the Bucks no.7 delivered another testing ball into the O’s penalty area
that set up Knights to drive hard and low at goal, his effort charged down.
Orient responded, and after Ross White
thrust out a leg to turn James Brophy’s low cross from the left away from goal,
Barnett was guilty of a loose pass; his clearance came off the back of his own
player and had the Bucks at sixes and sevens momentarily. That created a
shooting chance for the O’s, and after Wycherley again parried straight to
Bonne, the forward controlled the ball before then snatching at the chance and
blasting horribly wide from no more than ten yards out.
The visitors were coming out worst in
some of the physical challenges, and both Morgan-Smith and Streete went to the
turf, both provoking uncharitable responses from a slightly tetchy home crowd.
Streete was to be involved in the last action of the half too; from a long
throw-in from the right, the ball was knocked down and Bonne swivelled at the back
post to shoot, only to see Streete lunge across to deflect the effort wide of
Wycherley’s right post. From the resulting corner, Brophy had a shot blocked from
20 yards before then skewing second shot wide of goal as the ball rebounded to
HALF TIME: Leyton Orient 0 AFC Telford
The second half began with both sides
now attacking the goal behind which their fans were gathered, and it was the
Bucks followers who saw the first effort on goal. Dan Udoh, facing the imposing
Marvin Ekpiteta, swayed this was and that to find room in the left channel before
dragging a low shot wide of Brill’s far post.
The pattern of the first half continued,
with most of the shots on goal coming from distance. McAnuff shot from an angle
went wide past Wycherley’s far post, the O’s man vainly claiming a corner for a
deflection. Daniels then conceded a free-kick for a foul on McAnuff, and the
ball into the box, searching for Dan Happe at the far post, passed through the
danger area for a goal-kick, Happe some distance from connecting. The
breakthrough, however, was about to arrive.
On 54 minutes, the Bucks conceded an
attacking throw, and from a ball into the box from the O’s right, Harrold beat
Sutton to knock the ball down for Bonne to swivel and score low past Wycherley’s
left-hand into the corner, White unable to block the effort. With the
advantage, the home side started to look more confident as they went about
their business. Jamie Turley won a corner off White down the right, and the delivery
to the near post was met by Bonne; his header, however, went well wide of the
post, Bonne’s contact too firm to require Wycherley to make a save.
Gavin Cowan made his second substitution,
and replaced Morgan-Smith, who had found life difficult, with Andre Brown. He
quickly got involved, helping to set up a crossing chance for Barnett, whose
influence had waned, but the O’s dealt with the threat. They made a change of
their own, replacing Gorman with the lively Josh Koroma, although his first act
was to hurl himself theatrically to the floor, trying to win a free-kick;
referee David Rock was unmoved.
The sense was that Orient manager Justin
Edinburgh saw this as his side’s moment to try and take the tie away from the
Bucks, and they started to knock on the door more frequently, but without
really testing Wycherley. Brophy couldn’t direct a diving header at the far
post after the O’s returned an initial cross cleared by Sutton. Koroma was busy
making an impression, seeing a cross cleared, whilst at the other end, a rare
Bucks foray saw Udoh squeezed out between two O’s defenders as he tried to go
between them, his claims for a free-kick ignored.
That came with 15 minutes remaining, and
although they didn’t abandon their defensive duties the Bucks found their
second wind and sought a goal to take back to the New Buck’s Head. From a
corner conceded by McAnuff after pressure from Barnett, Sutton won a back-post
header and Brown’s close-range shot from the skipper’s knock-down was blocked low
down. Sutton was to be at the heart of things for the next few minutes; from a
corner won by Turley, the ball went to the far side of the box, and when Koroma
retrieved the ball and cut inside to shoot, it was Sutton who blocked his
effort. Then, from another O’s cross, a header back across goal that had
Wycherley beaten looked set to drop in before Sutton seemed to change direction
in mid-air to head the ball to safety.
Both sides ended the game looking for
the goal to either kill the tie or set up the second leg, and McAnuff shot wide
as he stumbled at the end of a surge into the penalty area. On 84 minutes, the
Bucks almost profited from some nervy Orient defensive work; a free-kick
retrieved by Brown was played into the box and with the ball cleared only to
Knights on the edge of the area he took a touch before his low shot, which he
tried to place into the corner, was blocked by Craig Clay. Goalkeeper Brill,
who had been prone on the floor, saw the ball fortuitously land within feet of
him, and gratefully grasped it to his midriff.
It was to be the last real opportunity
of a game which neither side ever looked completely in control of, and that in
itself offers some promise to the Bucks for the second leg. They had coped with
the majority of what the O’s could muster, digging in resolutely when the
National League table-toppers had looked to be gaining the upper hand, and must
feel that the opportunity of a Wembley final is still very much there to be
claimed.Leyton Orient: Brill, Ling (Coulson 45), McAnuff (c), Clay, Bonne, Happe,
Brophy, Gorman (Koroma 66), Harrold (Dayton 80), Ekpiteta, Turley.
Unused Substitutes: Sargeant,
Scorers: Bonne (54).