Craig Clay talks up the impact of Leyton Orient gaffer Justin Edinburgh plus Dean Brill and Josh Coulson
PUBLISHED: 10:00 03 January 2018
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Central midfielder reflects on tough period the O’s went through during September, October and November and what has changed
Craig Clay is thrilled to be part of a Leyton Orient team looking up rather than down following an excellent end to 2017.
The 25-year-old has played an integral part in the O’s upturn in form which has seen them build an encouraging gap between themselves and the bottom four.
After Orient’s 1-0 defeat away to Solihull Moors on December 2, Justin Edinburgh’s side were 20th with 21 points to their name and only three off the relegation zone.
Now they are eight clear of the drop zone and six away from the top-12 following a run of four wins from seven since O’s appointed the ex-Gillingham boss.
“The three months without a National League win hurt us, it is no secret it hurt us all, but we are approaching games differently now,” said Clay, when reflecting on Orient’s form in September, October and November.
“We are on the front foot and the gaffer has come in and put his stamp down and Dean Brill’s so commanding in goal and that takes a lot of pressure off us.
“I have to mention big (Josh) Coulson coming back as well. He is always talking to me, talking to Dan (Happe) and everyone and he’s a big plus and leader.”
As Clay alluded too, the main difference between the team during the months of September, October and November is the goalkeeper – with Dean Brill replacing youngsters Charlie Grainger and Sam Sargeant – and the return of Coulson.
Edinburgh’s impact also needs to be recognised, but Brill and Coulson have made O’s so much more solid and the confidence that was present during the first month of the campaign is slowly returning at Brisbane Road.
Clay and central midfielder partner Alex Lawless have been outstanding too since they were reunited for the visit of Sutton United on December 9, which resulted in a 4-1 win and turning point for Orient.
After spending only a short amount of time with the players in the lead-up to the Solihull game, Edinburgh got the reaction he wanted after spending a whole week with the squad ahead of hosting the U’s.
“The first game he had only been here for a day or two, but the week after he put his stamp down and made his mark,” said Orient’s number 23.
“He told us what he wanted and helped us cut out the mistakes at the back and told us the areas to be in and things to do, so the basics which we had maybe gone away from a little bit.
“Before every game he is telling us what to do, but also giving us freedom when we get into the attacking third and we look a lot better because of it.”
Orient showed more of the battling qualities which were lacking during the early parts of the season at Dagenham.
The first-half was played at a frantic pace with both teams creating opportunities, but Brill denying Dan Sparkes and Mason Bloomfield and Mark Cousins stopping Clay and Josh Koroma from finding the net.
David Mooney almost opened the scoring with a close-range header straight after the restart, but Cousins produced a magnificent save.
Fejiri Okenabirhie then had a great opportunity to steal the points for the hosts late on, yet blazed over and it finished goalless.
Clay said: “There was a 10-minute spell in the second half where they were on top, but you are going to have to come through periods like that in games.
“We were saying before we feel our fitness will come through and we feel like that no matter who we come up against because we are a fit team.”