Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Season 2011/2012: Match 21: Leyton Orient 1 Huddersfield Town 3 (nPower League One)

Once again I find myself in London for work, and yet again my visit to the capital coincides with some live football.

Having seen Europa League, Carling Cup and Championship football on my two previous visits, this time I was lower down the pyramid, watching Leyton Orient attempt to drag themselves away from the League One relegation zone and Huddersfield aiming for promotion to the Championship.

I've long had a soft spot for Huddersfield, for a very odd reason - during my uni years, I spent a rather large portion of my life managing them in Championship Manager 1997/98 - 20 years in charge, missing out on promotion to the Premier League via the playoffs on TWELVE occasions.

If it's something you're interested in, there are several colleges that offer degrees in sports management.

Anyway, I digress.

On the tube map and London A-Z, Leyton's Brisbane Road stadium looks as though it's a long way from central London, but I found it a lot easier and quicker to get to than White Hart Lane or Upton Park.

The first thing I saw when I alighted from Leyton underground station was the new Olympic Stadium, which Orient have their eyes on as potential post-games tenants.

Which seems a little odd given that they were nowhere near filling Brisbane Road tonight. Only 3,674 hardy souls braved the heavy east London rain for the match, although that may be understandable given the weather, Orient's league position and form, Huddersfield's league position and form, and the fact that Barcelona and Milan were squaring up in the Champions League quarter final live on TV.

Brisbane Road is a weird little ground - a comparatively enormous main stand (the one in the picture above) with three wee ones completing the set-up. The stand I was in is made of wood, giving it an old-fashioned vibe that even Links Park can't match.

Weirder still, the four corners of the ground are filled with blocks of flats looking out onto the pitch, and many of the balconies were occupied by fans watching the match.

There was the potential for quite a Caledonian connection in the match, with Orient's squad including Scott Cuthbert and Marc Laird, while Huddersfield have Gary Naysmith, Scott Arfield and Jordan Rhodes, as well as former Dundee United striker Danny Cadamarteri and ex-Hibs keeper Nick Colgan.

Only Laird and Rhodes started the match, with Cadamarteri and Arfield coming off the Huddersfield bench.

Orient started the match brightly, and took a deserved lead with a sweet goal from Matthew Spring, the midfielder firing home from the edge of the box with quarter of an hour gone.

But Huddersfield levelled immediately, Orient's Jimmy Smith getting the final touch on Rhodes' back heel, although the Scottish striker did his best to claim the goal as his own.

Rhodes. who now has 36 or 37 goals this season depending on whether the first was his or not, was by far the best player on the park, finishing with a hat-trick (if we give him the opener).

He was a constant danger to a lacklustre Orient team, who looked beaten the moment their visitors scored. They looked devoid of ideas, made fundamental passing errors and struggled to get the ball into dangerous areas. As we can often see, a team down on its luck may struggle even to complete the basics, and too often they passed the ball straight to Huddersfield's players when under no pressure. Midfielder Dean Cox in particular seemed incapable of completing even a simple pass.

That is to take nothing away from Huddersfield, who were combative, first to every ball and quick to get the ball forward towards Rhodes. His was a real striker's performance, slamming home from close range for his side's second and coolly slotting into the net to complete his hat-trick in the last minute.

Arfield also looked good when he came on, and maybe his status as one of the lost talents of the Scottish game is premature, particularly if Huddersfield can push on up to the Championship. Rhodes, it is clear, is destined for greater things, not least a place in the Scotland squad once he's established at a higher level.

A good game, and one I'm glad I picked over a gig - if it had been a 0-0 draw I'd have been raging.

Man of the Match: Only one contender - Jordan Rhodes. A striker of genuine quality, combing pace and power with a finisher's instinct. Definitely a player to keep an eye on over the next few years.

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