Leyton Orient have been eagerly anticipating their season opener ahead of their first campaign back in the EFL, but it will be a sombre affair as they host Cheltenham Town at Brisbane Road.
Everyone associated with the club is still coming to terms with the loss of Justin Edinburgh, but Jobi McAnuff stated that they will channel his legacy and memory into the season, starting on Saturday.
It will be a big occasion for Orient and an emotional atmosphere in the ground, to which Cheltenham fans will also contribute with their own tribute of respect for Edinburgh.
The O’s have also been dealt a setback through the loss of Macauley Bonne and Josh Koroma who were pivotal last season, but have since added three new forwards – the most recent being Louis Dennis.
Cheltenham meanwhile have been fairly busy this summer, and manager Michael Duff has mostly looked to recruit young players, with an average age of 23 of the five recruits.
The stand-out arrival is Reuben Reid, who has always scored goals in the bottom-tier, but The O’s will be confident of keeping him quiet as they have held onto key defenders such as Marvin Ekpiteta and Dan Happe, despite interest from elsewhere.
Both teams are a bit of an unknown quantity heading into the season, and each is capable of being a surprise package, so the start of the season could be vital, particularly for Cheltenham who have failed to win on the opening day since their return to the EFL in 2016.
Leyton Orient’s 5-2-1-2 formation may surprise a few next season but it was very effective upon its introduction in the second half of last season, as it allows three key players in Happe, Ekpiteta and Josh Coulson to feature.
The only injury setback for The O’s currently is Jobi McAnuff [although Brill is a concern], and despite Dale Gorman impressing on occasion in pre-season it is likely that interim manager Ross Embleton will go with new signing Josh Wright, who will be partnered by Craig Clay – Orient’s Player of the Year last season.
The line-up remains very similar to the one which finished last season, with the obvious additions of Lee Angol and Conor Wilkinson replacing the outgoing forwards.
Both are exciting prospects for the O’s, particularly Angol who has been on fire in pre-season, scoring four goals – so Embleton will hope both can impress on their debuts.
Louis Dennis could make a late bid to start after signing from Portsmouth on Thursday, and could challenge the strikers or Maguire-Drew for a place in the team, though he may be better used as an impact sub whilst he adjusts to his new team.
The only other position of contention is right-wingback. Myles Judd started the season at right-back last season before an injury allowed Sam Ling to come into the fold, and he has been ever-present since so will likely continue under Embleton, especially as he been preferred in pre-season.