Leyton Orient v Port Vale – Sky Bet League Two – Breyer Group Stadium – Saturday (3pm) – Preview
It seems like an eternity since Leyton Orient last tasted Sky Bet League Two action and despite the club sticking stringently to the COVID protocol, former frontman, Peter Kitchen isn’t convinced that some of their rivals can say the same.
Speaking to Yellow Sport ahead of the O’s clash with fellow play-off hopefuls, Port Vale at the Breyer Group Stadium, Kitchen said: “We should be back in league action following an enforced four-week break. O’s have done everything by the book, although I think at least two of our opponents may have taken advantage of the situation due to injuries.
“We have been particularly unlucky how these fixtures have fallen. Without a doubt, O’s have been the worst affected club in League Two. The interruption has dented the season and could put a spanner in our promotion or play-off chances.
“From the cusp of the automatic promotion places in early December, we have dropped to thirteenth place, twelve points behind third-placed Sutton United and seven off Mansfield Town in seventh.
“Several teams, whose fixtures have hardly been affected, have taken advantage, with Tranmere, Sutton, Swindon and Mansfield all building momentum. Meanwhile, our inactivity has seen Crawley, Bradford and Salford all overtake us.”
Kitchen continued: “We might well have two or three games in hand, but they still have to be won. That will become increasingly difficult with fixtures piling up. It is always better to have points in the bag.
“Indeed, I think it will now take a minor miracle and a massive display of character for us to claw our way back into contention.
“The lack of game time has impacted the players match fitness and sharpness. We can take some positives from the one outing during this period. We matched Championship side Stoke City in all areas – apart from in front of goal – during our FA Cup exit in the Potteries. Had we been sharper in the attacking department, I feel a cup upset might well have been on the cards.”
Looking ahead to Vale’s visit, Kitchen added: “It is the first of three huge games next week, all against teams towards the top – two of which are at home.
“The situation has ensured that each game will be classed as a cup final and are essentially must-win matches if we are to close the gap and have any chance what with all three now above us in the table.
“Port Vale have also had their share of postponements and have been on a dismal run of form, losing their last three on the bounce and slipping from second-place in mid-December to ninth. They too, can’t afford to slip up.
“Kenny Jacket and the players will feel aggrieved by how the situation has affected them. But they can’t afford to dwell on the injustice or use it as an excuse. They are professionals and know they have to take each game as it comes, roll up their sleeves, be brave and embrace the challenge.
“We are at home where we have usually been very productive in terms of wins and goals. Despite having lost all of our last three games, we should come back stronger and fresher, with a virtually injury-free squad.
Orient have recruited right-back, Dan Moss on loan from Millwall, as cover for Tom James, while attacking midfielder, Otis Khan has arrived following a short spell at Walsall. I’d expect more signings over the next fortnight. Kenny and the team know exactly what they have to do. Make no mistake, this game is massive and I believe the O’s will step up to the plate. “
Peter Kitchen’s prediction: Leyton Orient 2-1 Port Vale
Jeevesie’s prediction: Leyton Orient 1-0 Port Vale