National League: Awesome Orient on the brink of EFL return
EastEnders used to be the best drama in London. Then Leyton Orient came along. The O’s lurched from farce to disaster under the ownership of Francesco Becchetti but now – finally – look to be on their way back.
It’s not been an easy road. The old regime presided over 11 managers, two historic relegations and a great deal of public embarrassment before the O’s were finally rescued by lifelong fan Nigel Travis in 2017.
Now they’re just days away from an EFL return. Only a remarkable set of results will prevent the O’s re-joining the 92 when they face Braintree Town on Saturday at Brisbane Road.
So we decided to take a closer look at the National League champions-elect.
Getting out of the National League isn’t easy. Just ask the likes of Wrexham and Hartlepool United. You need a solid managerial appointment to guide the team through the gruelling 46-game season.
Gary Johnson, Danny Cowley, Martin Allen and John Still have all won the division since 2013. Ex-Tottenham Hotspur star Justin Edinburgh looks set to add his name to that illustrious list come 5pm on Saturday.
Put simply, Edinburgh was a fantastic appointment. The 49-year-old is a cut above this level and was unlucky not to guide Gillingham to the League One play-offs during the 2015-16 season.
He’s shaped the O’s into an effective attacking unit but more importantly reorganised the defence into the meanest in the division. The consistency of the likes of Joe Widdowson and Dean Brill has been crucial to that.
Goals, goals, goals
Balancing attack with defence can be a difficult task. But the O’s have had no trouble sharing the goals about this season with 73 strikes spread across 14 different players throughout the campaign.
Defenders Josh Coulsen and Marvin Ekpiteta have chipped in with six and seven apiece, while even Jordan Maguire-Drew – a late arrival from Brighton & Hove Albion – has added three in 11 matches.
However, it’s Macauley Bonne who deserves the bulk of the praise. The 23-year-old has followed up a 22-goal season last time around with a 23-goal haul this season, making him Orient’s most important asset.
He’s scored over 30% of their entire league tally. Strike partner Josh Koroma was the one attracting interest from Huddersfield Town in January, but it’s Bonne who gets the plaudits.
Forget Pep Guardiola and Manchester City’s ill-fated quadruple. Orient fans will be eager to complete the elusive non-league double of National League and FA Trophy in the same season.
Only Wealdstone, Colchester United and Wycombe Wanderers have managed the feat since the league was founded in 1979. The latter of the trio were the last to complete the historic two-some all the way back in 1983.
Our traders don’t think Orient will have any trouble wrapping up the league. We have them down at 1/200 providing Braintree avoid playing the role of party-poopers on Saturday.
Then their date with destiny awaits against AFC Fylde at Wembley on 19th May. Can they go down in non-league history before a return to the EFL? We wouldn’t bet against it.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.