18 April 2023

Richie Wellens ‘so proud’ of promoted Orient as he sets sights on winning title

18 April 2023

Richie Wellens spoke of his pride after seeing Leyton Orient seal promotion despite losing at Gillingham and set his sights on clinching the League Two title.

Orient suffered an early setback in an incident-packed game at Priestfield when Omar Beckles was sent off after just 14 minutes and, from the resulting free-kick, Alex MacDonald fired Gillingham ahead.

Cheye Alexander then made it 2-0 to the hosts from the penalty spot with 15 minutes to play, securing a victory that guaranteed their football league survival.

But despite the defeat – and a 23-minute delay during the second half due to a power cut which saw the floodlights go off – Orient were in buoyant mood after sealing a return to League One after an eight-year absence, thanks to Bradford’s 1-0 loss to Swindon.

“Leyton Orient never make things easy, and even the lights got involved tonight! Whoever was messing around with that generator in Gillingham wasn’t going to help us out,” said Wellens.

“We only became aware of the Swindon score when our fans started celebrating. I’m so proud of the players and I’m proud of the supporters.

“The club deserves this – a few months ago we were 20th in the league and looking over our shoulders. Now we’ve got the opportunity to flex our muscles against some real massive clubs.

“I thought at times tonight we were unbelievable. Obviously the sending off changed a lot, but even when it was 11 versus 10 we put on a performance. It was just a shame that the referee wanted to be the highlight of the show.

“We’ll take our medicine tonight, but we’ll do all we can to get enough points to win the title. I’m sure the supporters will make a big day of it at home on Saturday.”

Gillingham boss Neil Harris was also in a positive mood, with three points guaranteeing their survival despite a torrid start to the season.

He said: “What we’ve done since January is quite miraculous. The reaction is raw at the moment, but we were miles off survival. We’ve come so far in such a short space of time. Nobody can take away how good we’ve been.

“Let’s deal with the fact: we’ve just beaten the best team in the league 2-0. For 80 minutes, even playing with 10 men, they made it difficult for us.

“I wouldn’t say it’s our best performance this season, but it’s the best result. I think for 12 minutes we were poor, then the red card changed things. Our game management after that was excellent.

“Orient deserve to be league champions – they’re a top side. Congratulations to Richie Wellens for everything they’ve achieved.”

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