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Walsall v Leyton Orient fan's view: Time to freshen up the O's side
Russell Slade spoke last week about the crushing blow the defeat to Brentford had on the morale of his players.
That hangover appeared to be in full display with a lacklustre performance against a neat and tidy, if inconsistent Walsall side that will wonder how they managed to only draw the game.
You cannot blame the players. To play out of their skins for 35-odd games, keeping themselves at the top of the division against all the odds for seven months, only to be superseded by two teams with bigger resources and in all honestly, that extra touch of class, takes some recovery.
I have also noticed somewhat of a fear factor recently. Not many of this squad have been involved in a promotion race and the team is tensing up as a unit as the season draws to a close, taking fewer risks as they fear mistakes.
The weight of pressure has been built up to a point where it has started to affect the players in a negative way.
Slade of course took the positives. It was an improved second half display against a side that are well-marshalled under Dean Smith and haven't lost this season when they have gone in front.
It still showed some fighting spirit to get back in the game, however ludicrously fortuitous Nathan Clarke's equaliser was.
Whereas in the first period we lumped it high and hopelessly straight onto the heads of Andy Butler and Paul Downing, we actively tried to play passing football after the interval for the first time in quite a while.
I don't know where this highly successful facet of our game disappeared to in the past few games, but let us hope it is back for good.
The team seems to have lost its cutting edge and conviction that was so evident for much of this season to date. That is understandable, for the reasons outlined above. But it is solely down to the manager to rectify this.
Slade needs to look realistically at our position, well behind the top two having played more games, but also all-but guaranteed a play-off spot, and freshen the team up accordingly.
I would like to see more of Marvin Bartley, Shaun Batt, Yohann Lasimant and particularly Jamie Ness who was excellent when he came on for Lloyd James. They need to pose the manager a headache and keep the regular starters on their toes.
The centre of the park is a great example. James and Romain Vincelot have played together for the majority of the season and both seem to be running on empty the past few games, which teams have capitalised on.
Of course, Vincelot is suspended for the next two games, which I feel in some way is a blessing in disguise. Both need a rest and I hope on Tuesday he starts Bartley and Ness.
The manager's decisions cannot help but infuriate me at times. The game was crying out for the unpredictability of Lasimant on Saturday (remember Gillingham), who always manages to forge himself a chance in his limited playing time.
Yet Slade has his favourites and seems allergic to the idea of having neither Kevin Lisbie or Dave Mooney on the pitch at any one time. He also has his little routines, such as the utterly predictable substitution of Chris Dagnall around the 65 minute mark, despite nearly scoring moment earlier.
My problem has always been that he does not have a Plan B when teams suss out that we do not like being harried and hassled. Furthermore, he will not take a risk and perhaps go three up front to chase the game.
Despite all this, we must doff our caps to the spirit and tenacity of this squad and staff, who are unlike any I've ever seen in the 16 years I've had the misfortune of watching Leyton Orient.
They have allowed us to dream and that dream is certainly not dead. There are just improvements that need to be made.
Up the O's.
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