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Leyton Orient v Carlisle United fan's verdict
I've been as impressed with Orient’s form since the Johnstone's Paint Trophy defeat against Southend as with anything else achieved over the last seven seasons in League One.
We gambled everything on that cup game, seeing it as the one chance to turn a poor to average season into a successful one. It might be a meaningless competition but players, management and fans were all seduced at the thought of playing under new Wembley’s arch for the first time.
The danger of putting everything one throw of the dice is the impact when you lose. My worst fears were borne out when the O's crashed out and then lost to Crawley a few days later, with the fans deflated and the players tired and de-motivated.
The consensus was that the season was over, with nothing left to play for. February is very early to think like that and I envisaged an end to the season as miserable as last year with Orient sinking into trouble, relying on other team’s results rather than our own.
Remarkably Orient now sit top of the form table in the period between the Southend defeat and Saturday’s thrashing of Yeovil Town. Instead of throwing in the towel the players have found it within themselves to turn in a string of results that even leaders Doncaster can’t match. What is behind such a surprising turnaround?
The most successful Orient teams I have seen have all had outstanding captains like Steve Castle, Dean Smith, John Mackie or Steven Dawson. They’d be the ones to weather adversity and act as the driving force behind late comebacks and impressive away wins.
I’m not sure this team has such a captain. Nathan Clarke hasn’t had a chance to stamp his personality on the team due to injuries and the armband has been passed around a number of players.
What has impressed me so much and given me hope for the remainder of this season and next year is that this has been a collective effort. Even before the play-offs became so much as a faint possibility the team took professional pride in their performances.
They saw that as enough motivation to go out and give their best for each other and the fans. Even players who are only here on short term deals have bought into it.
There isn’t a team in the country who can achieve success without that kind of attitude and team spirit.
Whatever happens for the rest of this season, Russell Slade’s priority has to be holding onto that spirit (especially if we fall short of the play-offs this term) and using it to encourage our best players currently on short term deals to stay and attract new players where they are needed. For one reason and another we lost it after the 2011/12 season and we can’t afford to let that happen again.
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