An unwelcome sense of familiarity crept in during the final stages of Leyton Orient’s defeat to Harrogate Town last week.
The Orient faithful had seen it all before – a promising start to the campaign appearing to fade into the distance as the O’s looked out of ideas and well beaten by an organised, but unspectacular opponent.
It’s an often-used platitude, but a measure of a good team is how they react to these set-backs.
Orient suffered 13 separate defeats before they bounced back with a win in the 2019/20 season, while they needed three attempts before they picked up a victory following a loss last campaign.
This is in stark contrast to two of the club’s most successful sides over the last decade, Russell Slade’s and Justin Edinburgh’s vintage of 13/14 and 18/19 picked up a win immediately after their first league defeat.
The performance against Harrogate was the sort that in recent times would have ensured a slump ensued over the following fixtures.
That’s why it was so vital that Orient responded with a much-improved display against one of the division’s early pacesetters, Bradford City, on Saturday.
Against the Bantams, manager Kenny Jackett made a switch that demonstrated his tactical nous, as he opted for a lopsided 4-4-2 formation instead of the 4-2-3-1 he had deployed up until last weekend.
The alteration saw industrious central midfielder Craig Clay line-up on the right-hand side of midfield and also a classic little and large partnership form up top – with 6’6 Harry Smith and the spritely Ruel Sotiriou chosen to lead the line.
While Clay did his job diligently, Orient’s lack of attacking threat down that side of the pitch was evident which could cause problems for Jackett’s side in future outings.
The skewed 4-4-2 formation might not be a long-term solution for the O’s, but it provided them with the jolt they needed to bounce back well and record their second win of the season.
Commenting on the victory, Jackett acknowledged the somewhat makeshift nature of his approach post-match: “Wherever you can, you have to play to your players’ strengths.
“We’ve lost a couple of players in (Paul) Smyth and (Aaron) Drinan and that’s perhaps changed the way we attack.
“You have to be adaptable during the season because at this level you don’t have that type of squad and you have to get the best out of the players you have in whatever formation that is.”
Saturday wasn’t the first time the former Millwall boss has been proactive with his tactics either.
On opening day against Salford City, Orient were being over-run at the beginning of the second- half.
It took just five minutes for Jackett to take decisive action as he opted to throw caution to the wind and bring on winger Theo Archibald in place of the more defensively minded Clay.
The positive switch from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 might not have earned the O’s three points but it did halt Salford’s momentum and maintain an unbeaten start.
Against Carlisle United a fortnight later, Orient found themselves a goal down at half-time and under the cosh.
Jackett made a double switch at the break that saw debutant Jayden Sweeney, who had been targeted throughout the game, depart for the more physical Shadrach Ogie, while Sotiriou was replaced by Smith.
At one end of the pitch Ogie stood firm against the Cumbrians’ overzealous approach, and at the other, burly target man Smith went on to net a deft equaliser mid-way through the second period to earn his side a valuable point.
It’s been a mixed start but following the eye-catching victory over Bradford optimism is growing around E10. However, a dash of realism is still required.
Each of Orient’s first five opponents of this campaign were also League Two sides last time around.
In the same fixtures last season, the O’s picked up ten points. That Jackett has only managed to amass eight provides a reason for caution.
A lack of squad depth was a concern in pre-season, and it’s proven to be a problem for Orient so far with the squad beginning to look threadbare when a few injuries have occurred.
If Jackett is to carry on making alterations as he’s done throughout the opening fixtures, he’ll need a reasonable number of options to do so.
When the 59-year-old has been faced with adversity this season, he’s turned around and looked across to a bench that is mostly made up of talented but inexperienced youngsters with the average age this season just under 21-years-old.
Jackett will be hoping that a return from injury for Drinan, Smyth and Adam Thompson will remedy that, as should the signing of Callum Reilly while the arrival of on-loan centre-back Alex Mitchell from Millwall may also facilitate a move to a back three.
Whether Orient’s boss will have enough weapons at his disposal to continue tinkering and mount an assault on the top three, only time will tell but sitting sixth after five games represents a positive start.