My Boxing Day debut groundhop was a mouth watering local derby between Leyton Orient and Dagenham and Redbridge in the National League. The two sides were due to meet each other home and away over the Christmas period in a tantalising double header.
Brisbane Road had been my closest league ground prior to Leyton Orient’s relegation last season. I’d been there previously to see a keenly contested League Cup tie against Fulham in 2016, so I was looking forward to this revisit.
Competition: National League
Refreshments: £2.90 (tea and maltesers)
Star man: James Dayton
Who are ya, Leyton Orient?
Leyton Orient was founded in 1881 as Glyn Cricket Club. In 1888 the club added a football team and changed its name to Orient. The name was suggested by club member Jack Dearing who worked for the Orient and Steamship Navigation Company. Orient became Clapton Orient in 1898 to try and garner a bigger support base in the local area.
In 1905 the club was elected into the second division of the Football League. Orient moved to Brisbane Road in 1937 and changed their name Leyton Orient in 1946. In 1966 the club reverted back to just being called ‘Orient’ after the Borough of Leyton was absorbed into Waltham Forest. They became Leyton Orient again in 1987 after a campaign in the Leyton Orientear fanzine.
O’s won promotion to the First Division in 1962, their only season in the top flight of English football. They were relegated the following season. They had played in the Football League for 112 years prior to their relegation to the National League in April. In recent years the club has suffered with financial troubles related to their previous owners, which many believe were the main factor in their relegation.
- Leyton Orient contested the first ever London derby in the Football League with Chelsea in November 1905. Chelsea won the game 3-0 and the return fixture 6-1.
- Clapton Orient, as they were then known, was the first club to enlist en masse during WWI. 41 members of the staff joined the so-called Footballers Battalion.
- At the end of the 1976-77 season Andrew Lloyd Webber lost a bet to his brother Julien on the outcome of O’s final game. As a result he composed the album ‘Variations’ for his brother and it reached number 2 in the charts.
Orient had experienced an upturn in form since the arrival of manager Justin Edinburgh. O’s had won their last two league games, and their last three games in all competitions. This included an impressive 4-1 victory over Sutton United. They were still just one place above the National League relegation zone, but they had a three point cushion going into the game.
Dagenham and Redbridge, however, were in fifth place and pushing for promotion back into the Football League. The Daggers had lost their last two games. There were defeated 2-1 by Eastleigh just three days before this fixture, and were knocked out of the FA Trophy by Hereford the previous weekend.
The Leyton Orient experience
Train: Brisbane Road is only a 5-10 minute walk away from Leyton Tube Station. Leyton is on the Central Line.
Car: Brisbane Road is easy to reach by car as it’s just off the main Leyton High Road. Parking on most days will be tricky as controlled parking zones are enforced around the ground.
I alighted from a 158 bus full of Boxing Day bargain hunters, and families doing the holiday rounds and strolled down Oliver Road towards Leyton Orient’s famous old ground. The streets around the ground were fairly empty, but many fans may have taken the option of fuelling up on Leyton High Road.
The first thing that struck me on my return to Brisbane Road was the large queue for the ticket office. I remembered I’d had this same issue on the my first visit a couple of years ago. All tickets on the day must be bought from the four ticket office windows at the main entrance rather than on the turnstiles. The queue moved fairly quickly, but I had time to study the seating plan and ticket prices that were handily visible on the stadium wall.
I opted for a seat in the West/Main Stand in section G, which is closest to the Southern End. This is the end where the most passionate O’s fans reside. Confusingly, the ticket I was given said ‘West Stand Section B’. Section B is usually over on the Eastern side of the ground, but I headed for the West Stand entrance regardless.All I was fine and I immediately made for the snack bar underneath the stand that acted as a refuge from the cold December wind.
Brisbane Road is made up of four separate stands. Three of these are modern looking with the East Stand looking a little more dated with it’s pillars and slate roof. Away fans are located in one end of the East Stand and The Daggers had brought around 600 for this local derby. The ground must be one of the best in the National League and provides great views all round.
Plenty more than half the seats were filled for this East London clash although there was a definite sense that the numbers were bolstered by people making a one-off bank holiday visit. The atmosphere took a little while to get going with the away fans providing most of the early noise. They mockingly tried to tease a response from the Orient fans with a ‘Wakey wakey, Orient’ chant in the early stages. The home fans playfully retorted the same chant later on, once their charges had established a comfortable two goal lead.
Orient is a friendly and welcoming club that reflects the local area. This particular Boxing Day crowd comfortably played host to a mix of supporters. The traditional staunch East End fans were joined by large families enjoying a day out as well as the odd hipster looking to support their local community club.
Orient express themselves against Daggers
The visitors started the contest strongly and looked every bit the side that was chasing promotion. Orient struggled in the early stages, and a few errors meant they came under sustained pressure for most of the first 10 minutes. The Daggers struggled to create many clear chances, however, despite having having most of the possession.
The home side gradually managed to find a foothold in the game, and the majority of the first half was fairly even, with Dagenham having slightly more of the ball. Ferrier had a couple of opportunities for the visitors, and Caprice fired several dangerous looking balls into the Dagenham box, but the home side failed to create a notable chance.
Orient struck early in the second half and took control on the game. Dayton’s cross found Coulson in the box and the centre back headed the opening goal. Dayton was beginning to become a real threat to the visitors and was often helped by Clay’s decisive ball winning interventions in midfield.
Bonne doubled the home side’s lead just before the hour after a second assist from Dayton. The wide man played the striker in perfectly, and he finished with his second attempt after Cousins saved the first. Orient were beginning to play some great football going forward and still looked solid at the back.
In the final period of the game the visitors did manage to create a few chances and give the home crowd something to sweat over. Sparkes had an attempt that just whistled past the post, and Ling drilled a shot from outside the box just wide. The referee blew the final whistle and Orient had been well worth the victory, especially for their second half performance.
This local derby and revisit to Brisbane Road had a little bit of everything. A good contest and favourable result for the home team. This was complemented by a decent crowd, and some lively but good natured exchanges between the more passionate sections of each sides support. The only real downside was the price of the ticket. £20, or £18 for some sections, does seem like too much for a non-league game. The club has had its financial troubles recently, so you can forgive this to an extent, but the prices don’t seem to have been reduced since they left the Football League.
All back to Dagenham for the return fixture on New Years Day.