Fan's View: Automatic promotion slipping away from Orient (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Rowland Lyons says that automatic promotion is slipping away from the O's as Brentford and Wolves March on
Saturday’s trip to Sheffield United was a match in which, arguably, neither side had much to play for – quite bizarre considering where the O’s had been up until they went on this now five-game winless run.
The Blades have endured, but are now enjoying a rollercoaster ride having successfully staved off an unthinkable second relegation in three years. Having reached a Wembley FA Cup semi-final, United had a team full of players not wanting to miss a big day out and a potential re-visit for a final in May.
So the scene was set for the O’s, now a dead cert for the play-offs, by virture of the Blades and Crawley – the sides with the most fixtures still to complete – recently slipping up and giving us a more than likely season extension well into a tenth month of an already lengthy campaign.
I say extension because Wolves are now out of sight and Brentford, boasting arguable home ‘gimmies’ – winning against bottom club Notts County on Saturday and dead certs against Crawley in midweek - are the most likely to fill those two automatic promotion spots.
But the O’s didn’t help themselves in this latest encounter either. After making a good start and looking like the side that had consistently topped the division before the turn of the year, it was ‘business as usual’ as – despite having received several warnings from the Blades - it was more poor defensive play that literally gifted our hosts a share of the spoils.
And, despite the fact that the O’s are now unlikely to be figuring in the top two equation again this season, there was still an excellent away following to what is one of the ‘citadels’ of English football: a ground that despite now being all-seater, would comfortably grace the Championship, or even the top division at a push.
I just hope now that the east Londoners can put the last few weeks behind them and at least finish the season with a flourish, starting on Saturday against Gillingham, another side with little to play for. The Gills have improved enormously since former Orient winger Peter Taylor took over, and can rightly be proud of their league position in their first season back in this division.
Another tight game will certainly be in prospect, especially if the Gills have a good following in attendance this Saturday. They will be definitely looking to prove a point, or three, after allowing Rotherham to nick two late goals and ‘condemn’ us to fourth spot in the table. We just need a win, after all, the early-March success at Port Vale seems ages ago now.