Leyton Orient fan's view: We know the players have it in them to get to Wembley (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Leyton Orient fan's view: O's are hitting form just in time for Peterborough United play-off clash
An unlikely promotion that for so long has resembled a fairytale story has now gained a grittily realistic edge. Three games is all that separates Leyton Orient from a return to the second tier of English football, a league we last were part of 32 years ago.
It has been a few games since my last blog. After the insipid display against Crawley, I called for the players to put the inevitable disappointment of leading the division for so long only to fall away to the back of their minds and finish the season strongly, building the required momentum that could make or break our play-off campaign.
It is credit to the playing and management staff that in the final three games, we did not slip away. The way we brushed aside MK Dons was reminiscent of the ruthlessness shown much earlier in the season.
In interviews, Russell Slade and the players continuously said they did not mind where they finished or who they played. Yet while all three teams are very strong in their own right, I cannot believe that they were not collectively hoping to finish third and face Darren Ferguson's Peterborough United team.
Normally, the sixth place side is widely tipped to go on and win the play-offs, such is their momentum. Just look at a team such as York City in League 2, who came from nowhere to be in the mix and are many people's fancy for promotion.
In League 1 however, the four teams have been set in stone for a quite a while, with Peterborough finishing over ten points behind Orient, Rotherham and Preston. By their own fans' admission, they scraped in due to the absence of a better side. Posh don't have the impetus gained by battling to gain that last play-off spot.
Do not get me wrong - Posh are a very good side who have very recent experience of the Championship, having only been relegated this time last year. They also have excellent form, the best out of all four play-off teams, having won four and only lost one of their last six games, as well as an enviable play-off record - three campaigns played, three campaigns won, the most recent coming in 2011.
Darren Ferguson knows what it takes to get through these games and their squad have played at Wembley already this season in their Johnstone's Paint Trophy triumph over Chesterfield.
Yet their ability to outscore many teams largely via the red-hot marksman that is Britt Assombalonga has largely masked the defensive vulnerabilities that have plagued them all season. On paper, they are without a doubt the weakest side.
Yet you do not need me to tell you that the play-offs have an uncanny knack of flying in the face of the expected outcome. Slade cannot treat Peterborough lightly as they are perfectly capable of blowing us out of the water in the first leg.
What is crucial for Orient is to play our free-flowing, passing game, rather than letting nerves get the better of them and resorting to the long ball. Even though the playing surface at London Road is not the best, by the looks of things it has recovered enough from the winter period to accommodate playing out from the back.
There are a number of heartening aspects of the team's game at present. Aside from being able to carry the momentum of two straight wins, the strikers are hitting form at just the right time after a lengthy drought. Kevin Lisbie has four goals in five, while Dave Mooney and Chris Dagnall each have three in five.
Crucially, Moses Odubajo looked to have found a second wind against MK Dons, having been completely shattered over the past few weeks. He was excellent on Saturday as was leading assist provider Dean Cox. It must be encouraging for the wide men to have in-form strikers in front of them when it really matters.
For me however, the most crucial aspect of our recent mini-revival is John Lundstram. Put simply, he is far too good for this league. How refreshing it is to have someone whose first instinct is to play it forward with all the assurance and skill of a player with an incredibly bright future in the game. In the forthcoming matches, he must continue be the focal point of our play and with him at the club, I am genuinely ten times more optimistic than before his arrival.
I'd quickly like to mention Gary Sawyer as well. While much maligned by many sections of our support, over the last few games he has been solid as a rock and assured in possession. I would not be at all unhappy to see him start and to be given a new contract at the end of the season as well.
When the two sides met at London Road earlier this season, we arguably played the best game of the season in a comprehensive 3-1 win. We have one of the best away records in the country, let alone in League 1 - we know the players have it in them to get to Wembley. Now, they must go out and make a statement of intent that this little club means serious business.
Keep the faith,
Up the O's.
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