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Review of 2013: Orient enjoy special year

Orient boss Russell Slade and his captain Nathan Clarke have had a lot to smile about this year. Pic by Simon O'Connor Orient boss Russell Slade and his captain Nathan Clarke have had a lot to smile about this year. Pic by Simon O'Connor

Tom Taylor
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
10:38 AM

Slade’s men push for promotion again

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It could just be that 2013 goes down as one of the best years in Orient’s history.

Despite a terrible start to their 2012/13 campaign, hope sprang eternal after a positive conclusion to last year, but in true Orient style they got a harsh reality check as they were thumped 3-0 at Yeovil at the start of January.

O’s got their own back a week later when narrowly defeating the Glovers in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy to set up a regional final with rivals Southend for a spot at Wembley.

And they pushed Hull all the way in the FA Cup before Robbie Brady made the heartbreaking difference in extra time during the replay.

Orient’s form in League One was strengthening, with only one loss in six before February caused the most pain for supporters, and one week in particular.

One minute they were dreaming of the play-offs and Wembley, but then O’s picked the worst possible time to crumble to three straight defeats.

A late collapse at Hartlepool was followed by more anguish at the death as Southend stole a march to the JPT final.

Three days later, Crawley nicked a victory against a dejected Orient squad which all but killed off their promotion hopes.

The campaign could have gone into meltdown at that point, but O’s found another gear and highlight wins against Bournemouth, MK Dons and Coventry left them just outside the play-off places.

A run of seven wins, four draws and only two defeats in the final 13 games saw the east Londoners go into the summer break with plenty of belief and boss Russell Slade signed a new contract.

“I feel we’ve made huge progress on and off the field in my time here and we have some positive foundations in place to build on for next season,” said Slade.

And they certainly did build on those foundations, producing a remarkable start to the current season.

It was almost as if Slade had saved all his good results from the start of the last three campaigns and used them for this term.

O’s went on an outstanding, record-breaking run which saw them win their first eight league matches to move to the top of the table, a feat which would have been scoffed at by the majority of O’s supporters before the season’s start in August.

And further stunning performances against Notts County, Tranmere and most impressively Peterborough saw them remain at summit going into the final month of the year.

Following their win against Rotherham in October Slade said: “We have a special group and we’re doing particularly well, but my message to the players was that we don’t have to change anything.

“Before today’s game, in terms of our league performance, we have 87 points from the last 43 games, so we didn’t have to change a thing.”

Those statistics are good enough for promotion and have been further progressed in November with a solid run of results.

They end the year second in League One following a creditable draw at promotion rivals Wolves.

What the new year holds for Orient is uncertain, but if they can get close to repeating the previous 12 months in the league, the O’s could be set for a special 2014 too.

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