Kitch throws a positive light on O’s campaign

Brian Jeeves

Wigan Athletic v Leyton Orient – Sky Bet League One – DW Stadium – Saturday (3pm) – Preview

Peter Kitchen cast an eye over Leyton Orient’s recent Jekyll and Hyde results and put some perspective on things, insisting this can and will be a satisfactory campaign for the East Londoners, whatever happens from here on in.

Speaking to Yellow Sport ahead of the O’s trip to Wigan Athletic on Saturday, the former frontman said: “We are still in with an outside chance of reaching the play-offs, but conversely aware that a defeat to the Latics would be a massive blow to these ambitions. We are in a good position, currently ninth in the Sky Bet League One table and only six points behind sixth-placed Stevenage who we play on Saturday week. 

“Meanwhile, we just have to keep plugging away whilst hoping that our other play-off rivals begin to stutter as we near the business end of the season. The week ahead could be a season-defining eight-day period for us because, after the Wigan game, we have a midweek home clash against fourth-bottom Port Vale, before facing Steve Evans Stevenage away on Saturday week, a team who have proved to be difficult opponents for us in recent years. 

“Also in this period, there are a few standout fixtures which could have a huge bearing on our play-off chances, for example, Blackpool versus Portsmouth this Saturday, Bolton versus Oxford on Tuesday, Peterborough versus Stevenage on Wednesday and on Saturday when we are at Stevenage, Peterborough will be hosting Portsmouth and Derby play Bolton – all very exciting stuff to add to the mix.”

Kitchen continued: “We are capable of beating Wigan and Port Vale, and the outcome of all three of our games next week will go a long way in determining whether the O’s top six hopes can be a reality or whether we will have to shelve these ambitions until next season. 

“Wherever we finish in April, it has been a very successful campaign in which some of our players have developed and grown in stature, we have consolidated our League One status and more than held our own while adapting to the higher level. 

“For O’s fans, it’s been an exciting roller coaster ride, especially since Christmas, when the team put together a fantastic eight-game unbeaten run with two draws and six wins, including the scalps of league leaders Pompey and third-placed Bolton, to lift the team from sixteenth up to ninth. 

“Unfortunately, recent home defeats to Burton Albion and Bristol Rovers have put a temporary dampener on proceedings, but we have the chance to bounce back at Wigan. The outstanding highlight of our recent unbeaten run was our taking of all three points off some of the league’s high flyers, Pompey, Bolton, Blackpool and Oxford United, teams who are all in the promotion mix and who try to play open, expansive football. 

“Equally of concern however is that we continue to come unstuck when we encounter the lesser teams who pack their defence, get everyone behind the ball and park the bus. This highlights for me there is still room for improvement, especially the need for more vision, guile and better decision-making from midfield and for us to be more direct and decisive when opportunities arise in the final third. 

“Another important factor affecting our consistency has been the absence of our influential wide players Theo Archibald and Jordan Graham with long-term injuries, two key players who have been sorely missed. We also have to remember that we have a lot of young players and a small squad and at times we can look heavy-legged and a yard off the pace. 

“Some fans on social media have criticised the lack of a Plan B, but we mostly stick with the same system every week with a squad made up of similar types of players, so when Richie makes substitutions, he’s not necessarily changing the system or how we’re playing, just replacing like for like to give us more tempo and energy. 

“If he wants to change the system, and, or have a Plan B, then he needs to have different types of players and we don’t have a large enough squad or the resources to carry bit-part players. We have to keep believing in the way Richie sets up his team because this has proved to be mostly effective on many occasions, so let’s keep picking up points and hope that our nearest rivals will also slip up. 

Looking ahead to Orient’s trip to the NorthWest, Kitchen concluded: “Wigan currently sits fourteenth in the table and has done very well to consolidate their League One status, despite being handed an eight-point deduction at the start of the season for failing to pay their players wages on time. 

“They held us to a 1-1 draw in E10 back in November in a very even contest, although they did miss a penalty in the first five minutes of that game. Their results have been inconsistent and since Christmas, they have lost at home on several occasions, including defeats to Exeter, Stevenage, Derby County and Man Utd in a third-round FA Cup tie. 

“On a very positive note for the O’s, we are defensively solid and are good on the road and since Christmas, we’ve had away wins at Cambridge United, Port Vale, League leaders Portsmouth and seventh-placed Oxford United. We can go to the DW stadium with a positive mindset and no pressure so let’s enjoy what promises to be an exciting and eventful week ahead of supporting the O’s.” 

Peter Kitchen’s prediction: Wigan Athletic 1-1 Leyton Orient

Jeevesie’s prediction: Wigan Athletic 1-2 Leyton Orient

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Brian Jeeves

Email: sport@yellowad.co.uk