Early Sky Bet League One leaders Cambridge United make the trip to the capital on Saturday to take on Leyton Orient at Brisbane Road...
Playing with exuberance and ramping up the momentum by the week, Mark Bonner’s men are on a roll following three wins and three clean sheets from their opening four games, and will look to keep their form going against the newly-promoted O’s, who are eager to attain their first win of the campaign.
How to Watch
The weekend’s encounter, which kicks off at 3pm, will be played in front of a sold-out away end – with U’s fans snapping up their allocation of 1,200 in rapid fashion.
Should any returns be made available, the club’s Ticket Office Account on Twitter will be the first to provide an update, so be sure to keep your notifications on.
A unique piece of history, Leyton Orient were founded back in 1881 and have had to evolve numerous times throughout many obstacles. From the Clapton & District League in 1883 to the Football League in 1905, the O’s would remain a thoroughly competitive Division Two side for decades before peaking with a sole season in Division One in the early 1960s. Bad ownership forced the club out of the Football League for the first time in 2017, but they roared back at the second attempt and just last season stormed to the League Two table under the tutelage of Richie Wellens.
The eye-catching campaign saw pivotal goalkeeper Lawrence Vigouroux depart for Premier League outfit Burnley and Paul Smyth for Queens Park Rangers. In spite of that, recruitment so far has been sensible. Able to blend between a 3-4-1-2 or a 4-2-3-1, Orient could deploy Samuel Howes between the sticks following six years in non-league, with the suspended Dan Happe usually alongside the experienced Omar Beckles and Brighton & Hove Albion loanee Ed Turns. Familiar face Idris El Mizouni runs the centre of the park with his tricky approach and eye for a pass, with Theo Archibald to the left and either George Moncur or former Manchester United man Ethan Galbraith to the right. In the attacking department, the proven Joe Pigott will look to spearhead the side alongside the exciting Ruel Sotiriou, who has bagged twice so far in 2023/24.
Starting this weekend, they’ll be eager to rectify what has been a testing start. A winless pre-season set the tone, as Charlton Athletic secured an opening day win, before Plymouth Argyle knocked Orient out of the Carabao Cup at the first hurdle. A 0-4 blip against Portsmouth in their last home tie was backed up by an improved attacking performance, but they couldn’t register anything as Wycombe Wanderers held out for a 3-2 win. Finding their feet and a platform to build upon, they claimed a first point and clean sheet in a stubborn stalemate against Blackpool last time out. Now, they hunt their first third tier triumph since April 2015.
Leyton Orient: LLLLD
Cambridge United: WLWLW
Sitting pretty at the summit, the men in amber rightfully approach Saturday brimming with confidence after comfortably dispatching Bristol Rovers 2-0 the weekend prior.
A satisfying performance topped with three points was the perfect tonic for Bonner and co, who marked their 2,000th Football League outing with a disciplined and clinical success. Although the Pirates dominated the possession, it allowed the hosts to remain resolute, soak up everything that came their way and exploit via the counter attack – a forte they have developed well in the opening four. As opposed to last season, they kept themselves in the game and remained switched on, before substitute Fejiri Okenabirhie drew first blood and teed up Sullay Kaikai at the death to cap off a determined display.
Praising his team’s performance, the Head Coach acknowledged: “I thought the performance was outstanding, I thought we were brilliant. Start to finish, everything we asked the players to do in the main was outstanding… We looked a really good team today.”
The question now is how long can the U’s remain early front runners for? Long may it continue, where the faithful are concerned - with three wins from four an incredibly impressive start considering their pre-season expectations. With seven goals plundered and just two conceded, they’ve found that ruthlessness at each end of the pitch, giving them the spark to take the match to Orient and hopefully claim back-to-back away victories. Should they achieve that, it’ll be their best start to a season since 2008/09.
Bonner on the opposition: “They’ve got goal threats throughout their team, their defensive record last year was exceptional in the league, they’ve got some momentum and confidence from winning a lot of games last year… I’m sure we’ll see stronger results than maybe we’ve seen, but performances have been good in the main.”
Bonner on his team’s start: “I really like the consistent level that we’ve found so far. The performances in that sense have been good, but that’s simply driven by work ethic, mentality, attitude and things like that. The only way you become a consistent team is to be good the next day, and it’s trying to put good days together, and that might turn into good games and so on.”
Bonner on signings being around the corner: “Not at the moment… we’ll have something before the window shuts, but there won’t be anything before this weekend.”
The 18-man squad from last Saturday’s game are all available for selection once again. However, the extent of Saikou Janneh’s injury has been determined – his hamstring injury rules him out for roughly seven to eight weeks. Recovering well, Will Mannion and Adam May could be involved in a couple and a few weeks respectively, whereas Brandon Haunstrup is upping his training levels at St George’s Park.
Leyton Orient Wins: 14
Cambridge United Wins: 21
Down Memory Lane
There’s been some memorable past encounters at this weekend’s venue, with last time out proving the pick of the bunch as the lockdown legends of 2020/21 moved within one result from promotion as they wrapped up a thrilling 2-4 win on a warm April evening.
Prolific in front of goal, the division’s top scorers came out victorious in a topsy-turvy clash thanks to a double from Joe Ironside and second half goals from Shilow Tracey and Paul Mullin.
Reflecting on a wild night, Bonner said: “I thought we looked a really good side… It gives us a platform to build on. Play like that and winning and results will be a consequence of it - I loved the confidence that we played with.”
Overall, this will be the 50th meeting between the sides, with the first falling all the way back in November 1978 when the U’s claimed a 3-1 victory. United boast a decent record against the O’s, losing just twice in the last nine battles – where they’ve scored in every single game - and have lost just once in the previous seven in London.
Referee: Stephen Martin
Assistant Referee: Mark Dwyer
Assistant Referee: Bhupinder Singh Gill
Fourth Official: Gary Parsons