Russell Slade admits these are “special times” at the club after the O’s climbed back into the automatic promotion places in League 1.
Leyton Orient’s 2-0 win at Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday night was enough to leapfrog Wolves back into second place and keep the East Londoners on course for a remarkable promotion.
Their win took them to 51 points from 24 matches and Slade’s side have a two-point cushion over Kenny Jackett’s highly-fancied side with a game in hand.
Slade has consistently played down their chances of automatic promotion in the opening months of the season but since Christmas his comments have indicated he believes Orient can last the distance and play Championship football next season.
Speaking after the O’s 15th league win of the season, Slade said: “It was a big, big result. Part of my team talk was that cold Tuesday nights in the middle of winter will define where we are in the summer. It was important we stuck together and dug in and managed to get that result because it’s now we need those results.
"It’s no good coming in during March and April and turning on the performance when it doesn’t matter quite so much. It matters now and we have to dig these sorts of results out at these sorts of places if we are going to be successful.”
The Orient boss added: “These are special days. For me, these are special days at this football club. We just need to keep that momentum going, hopefully nurse those players back to full fitness and I’m sure we can finish off the job we started in the summer.”
After a quiet start to the match, the visitors opened the scoring with their first meaningful attack. Debutant Jamar Loza played an incisive through ball to Moses Odubajo and the winger calmly rounded keeper Chris Weale to score from a tight angle.
Loza was the surprise name up front alongside Kevin Lisbie after Slade opted to play the Norwich City striker, on a 28-day youth loan, ahead of Spurs forward Shaq Coulthirst. But the decision paid off and Slade was impressed with the impact of the Canaries youngster.
Slade said: “He’s (Loza) got that little bit of pace, hasn’t he? He’s got quick feet and that quick interplay and the link up for the goal shows what he’s got. It was a great, little first goal we scored.
“He’s got loads of potential and we were pleased with his contribution. Inevitably he’s playing Under-21 football so it’s very difficult for him to adjust to first-team football so quickly but he did well.”
The O’s were wasteful in possession during the second half which created a few problems for themselves but the visitors eventually sealed another precious victory in the 87th minute when former Orient defender Tamika Mkandawire diverted Dean Cox’s corner into his own net.
Slade said: “It was a big win but our form has been excellent. We’ve had two wins and a draw [in the league] coming out of Christmas, all three away from home so I can’t ask for anymore.”
In a busy week of transfer activity, the O’s signed Hull City keeper Elden Jakupovic on Tuesday and the 29-year-old was thrown straight into the action at Shrewsbury.
The Bosnian-born keeper has made nine appearances for the Tigers, including twice against the O’s in last season’s FA Cup third round ties.
He has represented both Bosnia-Herzegovina and Switzerland at Under-21 level and also has one full cap for Switzerland.
Jakupovic has joined for an initial month but with Jamie Jones sidelined for at least three months, the likelihood is Orient will try to keep him for an extended period of time.
When asked about offering him a longer deal, Slade said: “Possibly because we actually discussed a 93-day loan.
“We want to make sure he’s happy and enjoying his time here and both parties will be keen to move it further forward if we’re both happy.
“I thought he (Jakupovic) was excellent in everything he did. I thought he looked calm and collected. He didn’t have a lot to do but what he did he did very well. His kicking was excellent and I just think he adds that little maturity to the group as well.”
Orient have not finished with their January business and the O’s boss has now set his sights on bringing in an experienced striker.
“I want at least one more if we can get a front man in,” Slade said. “It would probably be a more mature front man as well.
“The boys I’ve got in will do jobs whether they come on for five minutes or start a game. We need that little bit of depth on the bench and I think you’ve seen that tonight. These young players will come on and give us that little bit of vitality and energy which might get us over the line as well.”
For the first time in several weeks, the O’s bench had decent depth rather than just relying on youth-team players. Slade admits he is enjoying having more options and expects the situation to improve over the next fortnight with Romain Vincelot and David Mooney close to resuming training.
He said: “It’s nice to look at your bench, which I haven’t been able to do for a couple of weeks, and think I can do that or do this. That should only get better. We’ve got the likes of Mooney and Vincelot to come in to that group which is a nice feeling.
“I’m hoping they will be somewhere close by January 18. If we can get them close by that Saturday then that will be great and I would still like to bring in another forward,” Slade added.