Gloucester City (a) Preview
The FA Cup, don't you just love it. Year in, year out the form book and league standings are thrown out the window as shock results or 'cupsets' as they are known take place. Nobody knows about cup upsets as much as Orient, having experienced shocks on both sides of the coin.
Sunday's First Round draw threw up a classic footballing cliche for Russell Slade's men, a banana skin, against non-league Gloucester City of the Blue Square North, three divisions below League One Orient.
At first glance, I was delighted with the draw. For the past few years, I've wanted Orient to draw non-league sides away in the FA Cup as it gives me an opportunity to visit grounds I wouldn't normally envisage travelling to. So naturally, Gloucester City was an ideal cup draw for me. I'd never been to Gloucester and it was opposition Orient have never faced. That joy was short lived when I delved a bit deeper and found that The Tigers played at Whaddon Road, the home of Cheltenham Town.
In previews before on this site I've discussed the oppositions players, manager and old encounters against the Orient. Here, I'm a little lost. As I've mentioned, Orient have never played the eighteen times Gloucestershire FA Senior Cup winners, so I thought I'd discuss the last time we played at Whaddon Road in the FA Cup and Orient's varying results against non-league sides in the same tournament.
2003 was the year of the British Forces invasion of Iraq, the year Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea and Dolly the Sheep, the first cloned animal died.
On Saturday 6th December 2003, Orient played Cheltenham Town in the FA Cup Second Round at Whaddon Road, Martin Ling was still in his honeymoon period as Orient manager after his appointment just two months earlier and Lee Thorpe lined up alongside Gary Alexander in the Orient starting line-up.
With both sides dreaming of the Third Round and a tie against a big club, Orient's dreams were in tatters after just sixteen minutes. Glenn Morris was shown a straight red card and Grant McCann slotted the resulting penalty past substitute Lee Harrison.
McCann doubled the Robins' lead after thirty-four minutes and the score remained at 2-0 at the break. Ten man Orient were all but out after an hour when veteran Bob Taylor made it three. Matt Lockwood did restore some pride ten minutes later but didn't progress.
This is the third consecutive year that Orient have been drawn against non-league opposition. Last season saw Bromley, of the Blue Square South, travel to Brisbane Road and goals by Matt Spring, George Porter and Jimmy Smith saw off the non-league side.
Two seasons ago, before we bowed out to Arsenal at the Emirates, Orient struggled past non-league opposition in the second round. Droyslden were the opposition and the Blue Square North side nearly had a scalp as they went 1-0 up on an icy pitch in Manchester. However, Scott McGleish spared Orient's blushes.
Due to adverse weather, the replay against the Bloods of Manchester was Orient's next game, nearly two weeks after the original game. I remember deciding very late to head up to a bitterly cold Brisbane Road to see an unforgettable game. On 80 minutes, Orient were out. Droylsden were 2-0 up and ten man Orient had failed to create much till the fantastic Paul-Jose M'Poku dared run into the away side's box. A tired defender tripped the tricky Belgian and Ben Chorley slotted home to secure a frantic finish. A late, late equaliser by Jonathan Tehoue took the wind out of the away sides sails as the experience and fitness of the Orient players told as Orient fired a further six past the non-leaguers.
Back in 2002, Margate, then of the Conference were the visitors to Brisbane Road. Pressure was on Paul Brush as Orient scraped a draw against the lesser opposition. Orient made the trip to the seaside town made famous by Del Boy & Rodney in the replay and were left humiliated as the Conference side won 1-0.
One of the most famous games against non-league sides was a Second Round replay against Northwich Victoria. The Vics, then a Conference side, travelled to East London to play in a televised tie that would lead to one side hosting a Tottenham Hotspur side.
Two goals in two minutes from the non-league side had seemingly put the Vics in the Third Round but goals from Carl Griffiths and an own goal led to extra time. With the game heading for the agonising drama of penalties, one man stepped up and made himself a hero. That man was Scott Houghton. The stocky midfielder chased down a passback to the Vics keeper who put all he could behind the kick only for Houghton's backside to direct the ball into the empty goal and send the Orient fans into histeria.
I'd take another Droylsden delight rather than a nail biter against Nortwich or a mauling by Margate on Sunday. Here's hoping for the best.
Up The O's.