Less than two months back, Leyton Orient were flirting with relegation and an instant return to the National League was looking a likely proposition in East London.
A sorry 1-0 defeat at Port Vale on 18 January left the O’s only five points above danger after a six-match winless run saw Ross Embleton’s men slip to 20th in the standings.
But just two losses in nine matches since then – four of which have been victories – have seen Orient open up a 20-point on the League Two relegation zone and after looking over their shoulder for so long this term, plans for next season can soon get underway in E10.
Their Football League status won’t be mathematically confirmed for another few weeks, although with Stevenage looking doomed at the bottom of the standings and just one team being relegated this season after Bury’s expulsion, the O’s are all but safe and can already start looking towards another campaign at this level.
With a great deal of stability currently off the pitch, headed by the guidance of Nigel Travis, Orient, who were recently one penalty-kick away from being promotion to the Championship before slipping into Non League football in under three years, are in good hands and there is reason for optimism at Brisbane Road.
It feels like decades ago that Orient were unable to pay their players under that the mess that was Italian businessman Francesco Becchetti. As does the inevitable relegation that occurred at the end of the 2016/2017 campaign. The East Londoners have stability at present, someone that understands the football club and has a feasible structure in place to keep moving the club in the right direction, something they’ve seriously lacked since Barry Hearn sold up in 2014.
After the exceptional promotion winning campaign from the National League with the late Justin Edinburgh as manager 12 months ago, this season, in which a strong end could result in a top-half finish, is a continuation of the work that Edinburgh put in place and more progress under the current regime.
Fans are clearly happy with the current work, too. Orient, who are historically a well supported club, done no harm by their location, are averaging just over 5,500 in home games this season, which makes them the fourth best supported club at this level in terms of average attendances.
A poor run of just one victory in 13 league matches from November until January ended any hopes of the O’s creeping into the top-seven – but the right platform is in place for Orient to continue their progression into next season and eventually get back to where they so recently found themselves under Hearn.
With a young, fresh and hungry squad at present, combined with the experience of player-manager Jobi McAnuff and Josh Wright, who was famously Edinburgh’s final signing before his sad passing, Orient have the right mixture of youth and experience in their ranks and nothing is stopping them from daring to dream in 2020/2021.
Salford City, who went up with the O’s last term, were fancied for another promotion but have also struggled and find themselves sitting 10th in the standings, which shows the unpredictability of League Two. On the plus show, it gives a host of sides the opportunity to be in the running for promotion and there’s no reason Orient can’t make it themselves next term.
However, focus for Embleton in the near future will be finishing the season strongly and in particular, looking to upset the odds against play-off chasing Bradford City on Saturday knowing a victory will hand Orient consecutive league victories for the first time since mid-October and just the second time this season.