At about 9.35pm last night a man sitting in an office in Burton upon Trent let out a little squeal of delight. This man – the CEO of Bovril – was the only winner as this sorry mess of a third round FA Cup replay went into extra time. It was cold. A good percentage of a commendably large and noisy City following had an ice and snow-strewn journey back to Hull ahead of them. Nobody wanted extra time.
That it probably shouldn’t have got to that point is another matter. We’ll get to that later. First, just a word on getting into Brisbane Road. Well, two words: small time. The searches conducted on everyone for such a low-key game were way over the top and caused some City fans who had arrived in good time to miss the kick-off. There is a lot to like about Leyton Orient – a well-run club with good fans – but the overzealous stewards are not among them.
No matter. Once in the ground we saw a City side lining up thus: Jakupović, Rosenior, Dawson, Chester, McShane, Bruce, Evans, Quinn, Cairney, Simpson, Proschwitz. On the bench were Cracknell, Hobbs, Olofinjana, Stewart, Faye, Wilson and Cullen.
Despite this stronger-than-expected starting XI it was Orient who started the better. A series of crosses and attacks seemed to find the head or boot of Paul McShane – excellent all night – meaning no early action for the under-the-spotlight Eldin Jakupović.
Indeed on 10 it is City who launch the first genuine threat as Nick Proschwitz puts Jay Simpson through in a one-on-one. Our former Arsenal man sort of beats the keeper but overhits the ball and the chance is gone. We need someone who can finish them.
On 18 Orient have a goal chalked off for offside when a shot takes a deflection, hits the post and is tapped in by the miscreant. It signals the start of a decent spell for the Os and on 24 their number 11 heads narrowly over.
City look comfortable enough but unlikely to threaten the Orient goal too seriously. On 26 Proschwitz hits a free-kick wastefully over (why isn’t Andy Dawson taking them?) and Tom Cairney repeats the feat from open play on 28. Ten minutes of drab shadow boxing ensues, but then something truly magical occurs…
On 39 minutes, Cairney releases Liam Rosenior down our right with a beautifully weighted pass. Rosenior advances and then finds Proschwitz on the edge of the Orient box, our right hand side. The ball goes slightly behind the big German and is at an awkward height. No matter. Proschwitz simply chests it and hits an astonishing volley on the turn that flies into the top corner. It was worthy of Mark Hughes in his pomp and saw us go into half-time one up.
A half of football without conceding and we can all go home. That’s the dream. And the half starts in a suitably quiet manner. Stephen Quinn and Cairney buzz about looking good, and our back five seems more than capable of quelling any threat from the home side.
After 20 minutes of not very much we go close twice. On 65 a Rosenior cross finds Corry Evans who shoots wide when he should have tested the keeper. On 67 an incredible run by Simpson brings him another one on one. His shot is hit tamely at the keeper. We need someone who can finish them.
On 70 Orient have another goal ruled out by the linesman, after a Jakupović parry is tapped home by an advancing but offside O. We respond by bringing Cameron Stewart on for the industrious Quinn.
On 77 Dawson is rightly booked for time-wasting, and three minutes later is taken off by Steve Bruce to be replaced by Seyi Olofinjana. My notes at the time read simply: “odd. Necessary?”. Daws had offered little in attack but had defended well. All we had to do was see the game out, but this change totally altered the team’s shape and left a few players playing out of position. Maybe
We were to suffer from this change, but by that point it really should have been 2-0. An outstanding tackle and pass from James Chester puts Simpson through in a one-on-one, though at a tighter angle than his previous two chances. He hits it disappointingly wide anyway. We need someone who can finish them.
On 87 the moment our fingers and toes had been dreading came. Orient were afforded way too much room down our left. Fortunately Dean Cox mishits his cross. Unfortunately it sails over Jakupović’s head and into the top corner. Bah.
Was it Jakupović’s fault? I’ve seen many excellent keepers beaten in such a way. In a City shirt it’s happened to Tony Norman, Alan Fettis and Boaz Myhill. I just don’t recall it happening to any of them on the back of a performance like the one Jakupović put in on Saturday. Ho hum, 30 more minutes then.
Extra time was horrible. Nothing really happened. I won’t inflict the minor details on you. We were poor and didn’t look much like scoring. Our shape had gone and Olofinjana was looking isolated in midfield. My only note for a good 20-minute period is an Alex Bruce booking.
As extra time wore on, Proschwitz in particular visibly tired. He saw plenty of the ball but didn’t seem to know what to do with it, running in random directions that bore no relevance to the game, rather like a game of FIFA Pro, but when a large dog is chewing one of the controllers.
Neither team looked like scoring, but Orient were looking the better team. It therefore came as both a relief and a surprise when, on 118 freezing cold, arduous minutes, a Proschwitz cross was poorly cleared and Cairney drilled the ball into the bottom right corner of Orient’s goal. It was something which he deserved after a series of bright cameos and a good performance on the night.
We closed the game out successfully and finally could all go home. A few City players trudged off without bothering to thank the fans. I won’t name them. Rosenior made it very clear how grateful he was to us all. Top man. He was right to. I just had to get back to north London, but anyone who made that journey from the north deserved nothing but the highest of respect. Just don’t draw our next FA Cup game, City. If you thought Brisbane Road was cold last night, it’ll be nothing on Oakwell.