Preview: Leyton Orient v Gillingham
- Credit: Archant
Yohann Lasimant’s late, late winner at Gillingham on Boxing Day maintained Leyton Orient’s position at the head of League One.
The teams meet tomorrow at Brisbane Road and a lot has happened in the intervening three and a half months.
The O’s automatic promotion hopes could finally slip from their grasp following a horrible run of one win in seven games and manager Russell Slade is determined his team will regain some momentum for what is looking like a tilt at the dreaded play-offs.
He said: “Automatic promotion is going to be difficult for us now, but there are still five games to go and we need to go into them with the right attitude, belief and spirit that got us to the top of the league in the first place.
“We need to keep focused and cut out the individual mistakes.”
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Orient’s London rivals Brentford are 10 points clear of Orient with five games remaining and can as good as clinch promotion with victory at Swindon.
The O’s are on their worst run of form of the season at just the wrong time and an eye of concern is a lack of goals for the strikers.
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David Mooney was the last frontman to find the back of the net, scoring against Colchester United on March 1.
Slade said: “Fortunately we contribute from other areas. ‘Coxy’ and Mo (Odubajo) are both in double figures, we have threats all over the pitch.
“The strikers will drift in and drift out, but we need them to return to form sooner rather than later.”
With the play-offs looming, it could work in the O’s favour that they have a number of players in the squad who have experienced the end of season lottery before - both winners and losers.
Scott Cuthbert is one of seven who have been involved before, losing the 2010 League One play-off final during his time with Swindon Town.
Orient’s play-off record is decidedly mixed. The won promotion from the old Division Three in 1989, beating Wrexham over two legs.
But the lost in the fourth tier final to Scunthorpe United at Wembley in 1999 and Blackpool at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff in 2001.
The Scottish defender said: “It’s a horrible feeling to lose a play-off final.
“I’ve never been in that position before but I’m sure winning is a much better feeling! That euphoria is something I really want to experience.
“There’s the possibility of a trip to Wembley which would be massive for the fans who have supported us all season. But we have to get there first.”
The game kicks off at 3.07pm as a mark of respect to those who lost their lives in the Hillsborough disaster 25 years ago.
The Gills have lost their last two games against teams who Orient could face in the play-offs - Rotherham United and Peterborough United. They are five points clear of the drop zone.
Midfielder Romain Vincelot should be fit to return from a foot injury. Winger Dean Cox, who came off in last weekend’s draw at Sheffield United with a slight leg injury after scoring his 13th goal of the season, is also likely to be available for selection.