IT'S pleasing for Town to be making strides in League and Cup when, with less than a quarter of the season gone, they have only one ever-present outfield player.

That fact illustrates how much Peter Jackson has had to chop and change his personnel while trying to establish not only a new squad, but a firm foundation for a new club in the Third Division.

An inevitable consequence is that he has had to call on a number of youth products along the way and, so far, they are warming to the task with admirable drive and vigorous determination.

The latest, left-back Anthony Lloyd, let no-one down as a late replacement for chest-infection victim Tony Carss, and Jackson gave him a full 90 minutes as Leyton Orient were put to the sword in workmanlike rather than exuberant fashion.

It was enough for their chairman, Barry Hearn, to call time on manager Paul Brush's tenure after the final whistle.

Hearn had not been at the game, but seven matches without a win and a second-bottom placing in the League prompted the move.

Little did Hearn know that Town could easily have doubled their tally despite struggling to find their sweetest form.

Youngsters were the talk of the terrace, of course, and rightly so, but no-one should underestimate the roles of three of the elder statesmen - Andy Booth, Steve Yates and goalkeeper Ian Gray - down the spine of the team.

Gray's early first-half saves to deny Tom Newey and Gary Alexander helped Town settle under pressure from an Orient team who looked far better than their League standing would suggest.

Yates, too, was a Trojan at the back and it was his goal on the half hour - nudged home from close range after headers from Booth and Jon Stead - which gave Town the confidence to press on.

It wasn't until the 61st minute that Paul Scott finally broke the visitors' resistance with his second career goal - yet again Booth and Yates were involved - and after that, with Lee Fowler getting better by the pass, Town could have enjoyed a rout.

Not until six minutes from time, however, after Booth had nodded the clinching goal from a Fowler-Stead creation, did Jackson decide to rest a few aching limbs in readiness for tomorrow night's home meeting with Kidderminster.

Booth, Yates and young Andy Holdsworth were given standing ovations as they left the pitch to be replaced by Dwayne Mattis, Jon Newby and fans' favourite Nathan Clarke.

It meant Town finished the match with a team averaging just 21½ years of age and a five-man defence averaging just a fraction over 20.

That can only be good for experience as Town look to climb into the top half of the table for the first time this season, and what Jackson's jewels lack in terms of know-how, they more than make up for in tenacity and workrate.

No-one works harder than Stead - the only man apart from Gray to have started every match so far.

On Saturday he was watched by scouts from Manchester United, Blackburn, Everton, Newcastle and Wolves and, while he didn't find the net, he certainly showed why he has done on eight occasions in just 12 games this season.

Jackson reckons Booth takes a lot of pressure off the 20-year-old's shoulders, and Stead would readily agree.

Booth was magnificent against Orient, causing mayhem in the air and showing impeccable control on the deck, where he never wasted a pass.

It meant that wing-backs Lloyd and Holdsworth came increasingly into the game and that Fowler could demonstrate the full range of his skills from a holding role in midfield.

Not that Town had it all their own way, because in addition to those early saves by Gray, Orient went close through Jabo Ibehere and a deflection off Scott as the home contingent in a fine crowd of 8,942 waited patiently for their favourites to click into gear.

That didn't really happen until Scott's strike, which gave Town licence to attack with a little more freedom and the supporters all the encouragement they needed to raise the volume.

Booth twice hit the woodwork with towering headers - Holdsworth and Danny Schofield taking the corners in the absence of Carss - while Stead twice brought brave close-range saves out of Lee Harrison with Orient's defence being carved apart.

Captain Dave McGhee, making his first appearance in a year after Achilles trouble, could do nothing about it, while 16-year-old debutant Brian Saah seemed in a daze as Jon Worthington and Co powered past him in midfield.

The man really pulling the strings, however, was Fowler, who inspired a series of dangerous moves towards the end and bristled with the sort of quality which Town would do well to harness for the rest of this season at least.

This was not the most fluent Town display, but they got the job done and that's all that mattered as they face matches against two of the bottom four this week.

MATCH FACTS (Town 3-5-2)

Ian Gray Made fantastic saves early in the game to deny Newey and Alexander and keep Town in the game. Rating: 7/10

Andy Holdsworth Battled hard and set up a tremendous second half chance for Jon Stead after dancing past left wing-back Billy Jones Rating: 7/10

Anthony Lloyd Found out he was playing only an hour before the game and got stuck in with typical Academy determination Rating: 7/10

Steve Yates Scored his first goal for the club and proved a fine chaperone for the youngsters in a solid personal performance Rating: 8/10

Paul Scott His second goal of the season gave Town valuable breathing space and he will be missed when banned Rating: 7/10

David Mirfin Gets better by the game and, after a couple of early slips, he looked very steady as the left centre-back Rating: 7/10

Lee Fowler Got better as the game went on and, by the end, was completely running it, creating loads of chances Rating: 8/10

Jon Worthington Another non-stop display in the centre and will be disappointed not to have scored from Stead's last minute tee-up Rating: 7/10

Danny Schofield Saw a lot of the ball in the second half, using his skills to clever effect and helping Town take a firm grip Rating: 7/10

Andy Booth Led the line superbly and hardly wasted a pass all match. Got a great reception when he went off Rating: 9/10

Jon Stead Did not make the scoresheet but still got through plenty of good work and influenced plenty of attacks Rating: 7/10

Leyton Orient

Harrison, McGhee, Miller, Alexander, Ebdon, Jones (Forbes 77), Ibehere, Peters, Hunt, Newey (Tate 65), Saah (Purser 81).

Subs not used: Morris, Zakuani.


Andy Booth

Had a role in all three goals, hit the woodwork a couple of times and rounded off the scoring himself with his third goal of the season. If Town can keep Booth fit, he is going to be a major contributor and Jackson sensibly brought him off when the game was won


A brilliant save by Ian Gray to keep Town level on 17 minutes when Ibehere opened up the defence and Gary Alexander smashed in the shot. Had Town gone behind, it may have been diffciult to get back quickly

Subs used: Town: Newby for Booth 84, Mattis for Holdsworth 84, Clarke for Yates 84. Leyton Orient: Tate for Newey 65, Forbes for Jones 77, Purser for Saah 81.

Subs not used: Town: Senior, Brown. Leyton Orient: Morris, Zakuani.

Scorers: Town: Yates 30, Scott 61, Booth 82.

Referee: Kevin Wright (Cambridge).

Bookings: Town: Yates, Holdsworth. Leyton Orient: None.

Shots on target: Town 9 Leyton Orient 4.

Corners: Town 7 Leyton Orient 1.

Caught offside: Town 2 Leyton Orient 5.

Free-kicks awarded: Town 17 Leyton Orient 7.

Attendance: 8,942 (Away: 340).

Next story