Lee thankful to Edinburgh and O's for Wembley experience
PUBLISHED: 10:00 20 May 2019 | UPDATED: 18:04 20 May 2019
Simon O'Connor Photography
The midfielder made his final appearance for Leyton Orient in the FA Trophy final against AFC Fylde and paid tribute to the club
Leyton Orient midfielder Charlie Lee admitted the squad were gutted they couldn't end the 2018/19 season with one last win in the FA Trophy final against AFC Fylde at Wembley on Sunday.
Danny Rowe's brilliant free kick in the 60th minute was the difference with the Coasters earning a 1-0 victory, but with the O's backed by almost 25,000 supporters, it was still a day to remember.
For Lee, it was his final appearance in an Orient shirt after being informed by head coach Justin Edinburgh he wouldn't be getting a new contract.
While it was a bittersweet moment, the 32-year-old was delighted to finally get the opportunity to play under the arch at the national stadium.
"It was a brilliant experience. I have been around a long time now, but I had never played at Wembley, so I'm thankful to Orient for giving me the chance to play here and it was amazing," Lee said.
"We are genuinely gutted at how it ended, but it has been a brilliant season and we are immensely proud about what we achieved."
In terms of the game, O's were very slow out of the blocks and fortunate to not be behind at half time.
Alex Reid had a couple of excellent chances while Andy Bond missed a sitter from a few yards.
Orient improved after the break and hit the post three times through Jordan Maguire-Drew, Marvin Ekpiteta and Joe Widdowson.
Matt Harrold also inadvertently blocked Maguire-Drew's effort on the line which was destined for the back of the net.
Rowe then showed his class and why he won the National League's Player of the Year award with a wonderful free kick.
It wasn't to be for Edinburgh's team, but Lee remained hugely proud of everything they achieved this season with promotion to League Two secured.
He added: "We definitely had enough chances to equalise and maybe to win the game, but well done to Fylde.
"They won the game and they have had a really good season as well. Now Orient can look forward to League Two and this time in my life has been a proud moment."
Lee confirmed hours before kick-off this would be his last game for O's and it brings an up-and-down two years at Brisbane Road to an end.
He suffered anterior cruciate ligament damage during the first month of the 2017/18 campaign and only returned the following April.
It was a long journey back, but he recovered and was a crucial member of this title-winning team, especially in the first half of this season.
The central midfielder made 35 appearances in the National League this term and scored in the home wins over Solihull Moors and Havant & Waterlooville, but he will now move on and target a sixth promotion with a different club.
Ex-Peterborough United ace Lee concluded: "It has been a brilliant season, but I had discussions with the gaffer and he said he wouldn't keep me on next season.
"He didn't have to involve me for the final, but he said I deserved it and I was immensely proud and very thankful he gave me the chance to come on because you don't get many chances to play at Wembley.
"I'll still be watching next season and I genuinely be cheering Orient on because it has been a brilliant two years and sky is the limit. I think a lot of success is coming the club's way."
The saying goes once an O, always an O and that certainly seems the case for Lee and probably most of this special group of players.