Leyton Orient fan's view: We are still a side to be feared (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Leyton Orient v Bradford fan's view
It has been a week since my last fan's view, which it's fair to say caused one or two ripples - most notably when I overheard someone on Tuesday evening remark to his mate: "That Fred Nathan, he sure does shoot from the hip."
Let me be clear, I did not feel I was being overly critical of the team and manager after Walsall. I felt I had the reasoning to back up my main points, which were that Slade struggles with a plan B when things are not going his way.
I feel the last two games, the sickening two points thrown away against Oldham and Saturday's insipid defeat to Bradford only further backs up my previous stipulation that something radical has to happen to this tired squad if we want to make it beyond the play-off semi-finals.
Firstly, a brief word on the Russell Slade "boo-gate" scandal from Tuesday night. For me, both sides are at fault - Slade, a very passionate man who was furious at the press conference after the Oldham game, does need to be less sensitive and take responsibility for some of his mistakes, rather than passing the buck on the paying fans.
However, despite our recent iffy form, Orient are not in a relegation fight or at the wrong end of the table, like we were when this similar situation reared its ugly head at Crawley last season ("The fans have short memories.") We are third in the league and guaranteed a play-off place which every Orient fan would have taken at the beginning of the campaign. When these last few games since the Brentford are weighed up against the rest of the season, we have much more to shout about and to praise this remarkable squad.
Onto the Bradford defeat. It was a woeful performance from a team lacking any sort of confidence, which is now completely resigned to the play-offs. In any other season that would be seen as a job well done, but given how we led the way for so long in the automatic spots, it is unquestionably a hard pill to swallow.
As soon as Aaron McLean put the Bantams 1-0 up against his former club, there was such an inevitability in my mind that the final result would be a loss. While we have recovered many points from losing positions this season, I am honestly struggling to think of a manager who becomes so incapable of chasing the game (the same can be said when the opposition go down to ten men).
He still is completely reluctant to take a gamble and put three up front. It is ridiculously infuriating to see just one man left up when 1-0 down and defending a corner in the dying embers. The players still seem to be panicking more and more as the game slips away - instead of taking a risk, they are so keen to get rid of the ball as soon as possible with aimless hoofs up field.
A note on personnel. Firstly, what has Chris Dagnall done to annoy Slade, that he gets just 10 minutes of games at the moment? It is not his fault that we do not play the ball into his feet, which he thrives off, rather than punting balls at his short frame.
Meanwhile, Kevin Lisbie looks completely shot and laboured. It baffles me why he is starting games - surely it makes more sense now that the play-offs are assured to rest his 35-year-old legs and bring him on with ten minutes to go, and then begin to start him again closer to the play-offs when he will be fresher.
Yet it is good to see Jamie Jones back playing and largely untroubled despite some understandable rustiness.
Finally, a quick word on Dean Cox. He has undoubtedly been the club's standout performer in the past three years and is capable of a bit of magic. Yet the fact he is completely undroppable is crazy - he would have to have a broken leg for him to be taken off the pitch.
His touch and decision making on Saturday was shocking, but while there is no-one to challenge his position and keep him on his toes, he will continue to take this complacency into the next game.
The side need to build some momentum if they are to stave off fifth place, with Rotherham and Preston both just one point behind. The possibility of avoiding them in the semi-finals should act as a tonic - as should the realisation that we are still a side to be feared, despite this wobble.
The season is most definitely not over yet.
Up the O's.
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