Question of the WeekHow much VAR should there be in football?
By: Andrew Doherty
LAST week we decided to start playing with 10 minutes to go, when it was too late. Today we were up against a mid to lower table team in Leyton Orient, who are known for having spirit and last week came back from a goal down to beat Walsall.
As Walsall is to Birmingham, so Leyton Orient is to London. It's a community club which bounced back from non-league to regain its league status this season, before the terrible and tragic death of their manager Justin Edinburgh. I used to go sometimes to Orient when I lived over in East London, and it was always a friendly place. From Town's point of view, we just had to hope that the players had learned lessons and were going to take to the pitch with the right tactics, attitude, skill level and invention.
Town's much-changed team today was: McKeown - Hendrie, Waterfall, Öhman, Gibson - Hewitt, Hessenthaler, Clifton - Vernam, Hanson, Rose. In the opposition line-up were three ex Mariners, Joe Widdowson, Matt Harrold, Craig Clay and on the bench James Alabi.
My wife called. "When's the result?", she asked. "About ten to five as usual". It took me a few seconds to realise she was talking about the Brexit vote result. I was in the zone by now. Hopefully Town's players were too. The first few minutes told us very little as the ball pinged about like a hot potato. The only topic of interest to me and Ian next to me was Orient's number 5: "a gangly bugger", observed Ian. On 9 minutes Hewitt hacked down Orient's Clay close to the corner flag. The free-kick came in and was launched towards goal from the right. Happe shot, forcing a good save from McKeown but Town's defence didn't react and Happe made no mistake with the second attempt. Town 0, Orient 1. Town looked all at sea. "Stop faffing about", was the cry next to me. On 18 minutes a Hendrie error led to an Orient break, but Waterfall saved the day for Town. On 20 minutes the pacey Dayton won a free-kick outside the box after a collision with Öhman. Wright crossed to Coulson. Town's defence again stood still as Coulson ran on, picked his spot, and unchallenged stroked the easiest of chances past McKeown. Town 0, Orient 2.
Town did provide a response on 22 minutes when a good run from Rose led to Hessenthaler receiving a pass, beating a defender and striking a good shot on target. The shot was at a comfortable height for Orient's keeper who saved well. The corner was wasted as Hanson committed a foul in the box. Two minutes later Hendrie went one better than Hewitt, hacking down an Orient player and getting booked. Orient were too quick and Town who were lacklustre throughout weren't equal to the changes of pace. Orient's Harrold then was booked for a clumsy tackle on Clifton. Town's offensive effort was reduced to a game of headball in the Orient box. Town posed no threat. The game was messy, and Town were not benefiting from this at all. Expecting them to take control seemed to be too much to ask. On 31 minutes an injury to Gibson and the unscheduled timeout afforded Mr Jolley the chance to address the team. What was he saying? "You're off to Skegness Town if you don't buck up" was Ian's suggestion. Town won a couple of free-kicks but were unable to make any headway from them. Gibson was doing ok on the left but the whole collective lethargy was captured when Vernam seemed uncertain of what to do when just working the ball into the box seemed easier. The game had become more niggly and physical. Orient were winning the physical as well as the footballing battle. Widdowson clattered Vernam. Town looked lightweight. The build-up was slow and lumbering. Disinterest set in. Ian, who has admirable musical taste and goes to Bloodstock, and I turned our attention to discussing Lawnmower Death and Toad the Wet Sprocket. And the gangly Orient number 5 continued to impress. "He's unplayable, he's like a clothes horse", commented Ian. On this performance, Town would lose to themselves and would get trounced by a team of inanimate objects. Orient didn't have to break sweat. It was awful. Town 0, Orient 2 at half-time. "You should be ashamed of yourselves", shouted a spectator behind me to the players by way of advice as they trooped off.
Green and Ogbu replaced Clifton and Vernam for the second half. Both of the replaced players had looked out of sorts. The two substitutes made an impact on 50 minutes as a good flick by Ogbu from the right found Green, whose own flick forced a great save. Hanson looked to be held back but the referee declined the penalty appeals and awarded a corner. On 53 minutes a mistake by Gibson let in Gorman but fortunately Gorman's forward pass led to an offside decision. That was a let off. Hewitt was then booked for clipping Brophy. Frustratingly, Ogbu was pulled back for a free-kick to Town after impressively wriggling clear in midfield. Whitehouse replaced Hewitt on 58 minutes. Town had a let off soon after when Dennis missed from 3 yards following a cross from Brophy. Then an awful mistake by Waterfall let Harrold in. Orient played the ball around patiently before Clay fired a curled shot which Town's perennial saviour McKeown saved brilliantly. Town's build-up became more purposeful for a short spell, but Orient were solid and well drilled at the back, and had no need to take chances. Town then went back to losing the way which they had never found. There was a multiple passing move however on 67 minutes which led to a cross from Hendrie. Hanson slid in to meet it but fired over from less than 5 yards. On the sideline Mr Jolley mirrored the fans' frustration. Good work from Ogbu then found Hendrie, who put in a deft chip to Whitehouse. The header was wide. This was better. Orient then won a free-kick to stop Town's mini revival. Whitehouse failed to clear properly but Town managed to clear the danger. After the game was stopped for attention to the injured Rose, Orient passed patiently and Rose had to clear off the line from a shot from Coulson. Another fluid move resulted in Clay and Brophy interlinking and gaining a corner. Orient were playing with confidence. Town spluttered and floundered. The inevitable happened … Orient broke out on 79 minutes and as Town dithered, ex Mariner Alabi surged forward from midfield and coolly slotted the ball home past McKeown. Town 0, Orient 3. Barring the jubilant 383 Orient supporters, the remainder of the crowd of 4,132 were unimpressed. Many of them left. This was reminiscent of being steamrollered by Chelsea. But this was Leyton Orient. Town had no ideas. Clay threatened again for Orient and Town survived an appeal for a penalty, before Rose went down at the other end and was denied. Anything would have been a pittance by this stage. On 83 minutes Alabi fell over when under pressure from Waterfall. The referee gave a penalty. It looked soft, but in the scheme of things this was typical of the day as Town proceeded to destroy themselves. Wright made no mistake from the spot. Town 0, Orient 4. Four minutes later Town lost possession again, and Alabi went down, but it was a fair tackle. The end couldn't come soon enough as the only team looking likely to score was Orient. And so it ended: Town 0, Leyton Orient 4. Embarrassing.
Orient didn't beat Town today. Town beat themselves. Town had nothing to offer. Orient had nothing to do, as Town were listless, uncoordinated and devoid of tactics or teamwork. The second half was better but 5 minutes of passing isn't good enough. I know Mr Jolley likes statistics so that's £1.11 of entertainment for my £20 entrance money. Orient strolled up the pitch, and showed pace when they needed to, won the physical battle and stamped all over the hapless Town team, who would have struggled to beat a Grimsby Sunday League side today. Town were utterly clueless and abysmal.
Mr Jolley wrote the following in today's programme notes: "The narrative of a game is dictated by its outcome". You might wish to change the narrative, Mr Jolley. This was outright rubbish.
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