This is not the first time the O's have suddenly buckled after gaining the advantage -- far from it -- and bad footballing habits can be difficult to unmake. First, Adam Chambers put the home side ahead on 57 minutes at Brisbane Road, with a very well-taken opportunistic strike from a loose ball. But within a minute or so the first of two unfortunate defensive slips was punished by Southend captain Adam Barrett. Orient's game then seemed gradually to disintegrate, and after another 15 minutes midfielder Alan McCormack pounced on Lee Barnard's blocked shot to make it 1-2. Barnard is an ex-O himself, though that will be of no comfort to the home fans.
Ironically, Orient played some good football, especially in the opening spell. However, it is errors at the back and a lack of incisiveness up front which often do the lasting damage at this level. Patulea, who I saw score for Orient against Brighton in the Carling Cup earlier this season, had a stinking first half and was rightly replaced by the much sharper looking Pires. Young Townsend, on loan from Spurs until January 2010, was by far Orient's best player, and McGleish and Chorley turned in solid performances overall.
There was little other inspiration in the O's side, however, and with the aforementioned Seagulls (who they drew with 0-0 on Boxing Day) coming back from two behind to trounce Wycombe Wanderers 5-2, they slumped to 21st spot and will struggle to survive on current form. Mind you, so will my (until recently) local side Exeter City, who are losing regularly on the road and could only grab a home point against Gillingham, with three tough games about to hit them. It's crunch time.
And yes, I know, it should be Os rather than O's. But the greengrocer's apostrophe has some helpful differentiating uses...