RIZA: WE WILL FIGHT TO END
LEYTON Orient boss Omer Riza is relieved that his side go into tomorrow’s must-win relegation dog fight at home to Hartlepool with half a chance of preserving their 112year Football League stay, after a crucial draw at Luton on Friday.
Following six straight defeats and no goals in their previous three games, the O’s were staring relegation in the face at Kenilworth Road had they lost and tomorrow’s opponents won.
Liam Kelly put in a real captain’s performance to almost stun the Hatters, overturning a 1-0 deficit with a penalty and an assist for Tristan Abrahams, before Isaac Vassell’s leveller for Luton.
But after a miserable season Riza will take the positives where he can find them.
“It’s going to be a big game,” the 37-year-old said about the visit of third-frombottom Hartlepool.
“The good thing is that we’re going into that game with half a chance again. It could have been all over. If we’d have lost (on Friday) and they (Pools) had won, it could’ve been all over. That’s not the case. We live to fight another day and against Hartlepool we’ll definitely be fighting.”
Riza is the Londoners’ fifth manager this season, but despite the chaos at Brisbane Road and the ten-point gap from league safety, he admitted he’s relishing his first crack at management.
“I’m loving it,” he said, adding: “To be manager of Leyton Orient at 37 years old, when my targets as a coach were to get into management in the league at 40 or 45, that’s what you look at. There are a lot of younger managers out there and I’m ready to do it. I’m going to take the opportunity.”
Riza will have been buoyed by a stunning six-minute second-half comeback against Luton after Danny Hylton’s 20th League Two goal of the season had put the promotion-chasing Hatters ahead in the first half. Though they rescued a point, it has effectively ended realistic hopes of Luton finishing in the top three – not that assistant manager Paul Hart is throwing in the towel just yet. “We’ve got to get a result on Monday (at Mansfield) to cement our place in the playoffs but, equally, to put people under pressure above us, ultimately Portsmouth. Hopefully they will experience some of these freak results.
“It is a mountain to climb but at the end of the season we’ve all seen stranger things happen. I will say it’s a long shot but it’s still there and we have to keep believing.
“We’ve got a quick turnaround now. The boys are a little bit disappointed now, obviously, but they’ll be fine for Monday. Our aim was to win both matches over the Easter period.
“We’ve drawn one, a win will make it look a good Easter on Monday and like every game we’re approaching it to win. We know what we have to do.”
YES: Leyton Orient celebrate Liam Kelly’s penalty and, inset, Danny Hylton nets for Luton STAR MAN LIAM KELLY Leyton Orient