It seems that October, the month of Halloween, is a month of bogey teams for Boro’ – Leyton Orient up next to test our mettle. First, there was Exeter City. Then came Oxford United in the Papa Don’t Preach Trophy. And then there was Northampton Town on the road. It’s enough to make you shudder. And that’s before the trick or treaters have even reached for your doorbell. So, are Boro’ in for some pre-Halloween scares. Or can we exorcise some nasty demons here?
Stevenage v Leyton Orient
Lamex Stadium, Stevenage — 23 October 2021 — Sky Bet League Two
“Oh, it can’t be so bad, can it?”
You may well ask that of us. A win rate of 24%? Not the worst in the world, is it? Maybe not. But it’s all in the context. Two of our four wins against the Os have come in cup competitions, while they’ve won twice as many as we have. That’s when we start to shift uncomfortably in our chair. Then we move the dial on, and look at how things are since the Os came back from non-league exile in 2019; four games delivering two wins for them, two goalless draws, and no goals for.
Our first meeting since the late Justin Edinburgh led them back to League Two in 2019 came at their place; a goalless draw on 17 August 2019 that – against the backdrop of an awful 2019-20 season – goes down as one of our better outcomes that year. The writing was very much on the wall by the time we squeezed in the return fixture before the Covid shutdown. The Os came up to the Lamex and routed us 3-0 on 01 February 2020.
Things didn’t get much better last season either. Again, Fortress Lamex had all the strength of a wendy house as the Os collected a 2-0 win on 24 October 2020. Things had, fortunately, picked up by the time we went back down to theirs on 09 March 2021, though. Not quite enough for us to find the back of the net, but we did earn a point and a clean sheet. It was the fifth clean sheet we’d managed in a row, as it goes. Not that it matters in this context.
Famous first meetings, and climbing high to find them
Our first-ever encounter with the East London side ranks as one of our greatest-ever moments; certainly for a non-league side relatively fresh to the Conference at the time. Down at Brisbane Road on 07 December 1996, Boro’ emerged 2-1 winners in our FA Cup Round Two game to set up a Round Three clash at ‘home’ to Birmingham City. It’d be 15 years before the chance to go up against them came around again.
And that was only after we’d been promoted (twice) to reach League One. Our first game since that FA Cup afternoon wasn’t as memorable; a 0-0 draw at their gaff on 19 November 2011. It didn’t get much better, however. The Os won 1-0 in the return leg at the Lamex on 02 January 2012. Failing to score against them, you see, isn’t a new thing.
Of course, it isn’t all bad news. Lucas Akins was on target on the road on 21 August 2012; Gary Smith’s Boro’ side making a flying start to League One that term. The trouble is, our 3-2 victory at Brisbane Road in the Paint Pot Trophy area quarter final on 12 November 2013 was the one time we a) scored and b) got the better of them in five fixtures spanning two divisions between February 2013 and August 2015. We lost them all to nil, including 0-3 away on 18 August 2015.
Slim pickings against the Os
That dismal league run against the Os came to an end, albeit temporarily, on 02 January 2016 with a 2-2 draw at the Lamex. But it couldn’t spark a revival that’d make our head-to-head look so much better. We lost 3-0 at their place (again) on 16 August 2016 and collapsed to a 3-1 loss two weeks later in the Checkatrade Trophy group stage. As the season moved past the halfway mark, however, things weren’t going so well for them.
The case in point is our 4-1 win at home to the Os on 28 February 2017; Tom Pett, Matt Godden, Ben Kennedy, and Luke Wilkinson were all on target as we smashed one of the earlier nails into the coffin that was our guests’ survival hopes that year. As the 2016-7 campaign came to its end, the Os plunged into the non-league pits of doom for the first time since 1905. It feels like they’ve been taking it out on us ever since they’ve returned.
Can we make it stop here and now?