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NLP Verdict: Wrexham AFC v Leyton Orient

The National League’s big fixture this weekend sees leaders Leyton Orient travel to third-placed Wrexham.

In Sunday’s NLP there will be extended coverage of the clash, and here we’ve penned our thoughts on how this one might play out.

Editor Alex Narey says…

The biggest clash of the season… apart from it being top of the table just what is the appeal?
It’s the sheer size of the two clubs; two former Football League giants who are trying to turn the vessel around in some choppy National League waters. Last season the fixture didn’t carry the same allure but now with both fighting at the top end of the league, and with so much consistency, it’s the absolute pick of the weekend.

Orient probably have a bit more flair while Wrexham appear to have the resolve. But both are very good all-round sides. It could be a cracker but then again with all big games where there is a lot on the line there is a fear it could be a let-down. Fingers crossed.

Two impressive managers going head to head, briefly sum up the job they have done…
Both have done superb jobs. When Justin Edinburgh arrived at Orient a little over a year ago there was a lot of expectation on him and I think some fans thought he would turn things around super quick. But he identified key areas that needed improving while working with the plus points he already had. The league form picked up and they gained momentum in the FA Trophy – the latter was an important factor in giving the fans something to cheer about.

Sam Ricketts has simply crafted Wrexham into a more disciplined and ruthless side. They may not quite deliver the box-office results that Orient or indeed Salford City do, but there is calm and effective way how they go about things.

Both have enjoyed great careers as players and that is rubbing off on their own squads.

Is this something of a battle of styles?
Yes, although Orient can muck in and do the dirty work while Wrexham can also dazzle in their play-making. That’s my only fear for the game itself; I hope Wrexham don’t just soak up the pressure and look to hit on the break. They shouldn’t, because they are good enough to win this.

Where will this game be won and lost?
It’s all about Orient’s firepower for me. If Macauley Bonne and Josh Koroma find their range it could be a long day for Wrexham. The O’s take no prisoners and when they get on top and sniff a weakness in the backline, they simply go for the jugular.

I can’t go for a draw, as much as my head tells me that’s a very strong possibility. I just think Orient are crafty, and with Jobi McAnuff pulling the strings in the middle they have the manpower to go to the Racecourse Ground and bring home the three points. Fortune favours the brave and all that…

Chief writer Matt Badcock says…

The biggest clash of the season… apart from it being top of the table just what is the appeal?
This is the sort of game the National League needs. Two of the heavyweights going well at the top of the table, clashing on a Saturday afternoon. There should be a really good crowd at the Racecourse and Orient fans will no doubt travel in numbers – and in confident mood.

Two impressive managers going head to head, briefly sum up the job they have done…
Justin Edinburgh is currently delivering what everyone expected when he arrived last season. He’s steading a veering ship and instilled a real purpose to his side. They look a much more robust outfit capable of taking games away from their opposition.

In the opposite dug-out is Sam Ricketts. There’s a reason why, just 20 league games into his management career, he’s been linked to Football League jobs. He says he’s not fussed about the Shrewsbury Town talk and that will be music to Wrexham’s ears. He’s kept the defensive solidity of last season and got the team more effective going forward.

Is this something of a battle of styles?
A local Wrexham paper described it as an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. Neither side play for the sake of playing but they both have talented ball-players to call upon. I’ve enjoyed watching both teams this season and I’d expect them to want to get the ball down this weekend.

Where will this game be won and lost?
It’s going to be fine margins when both teams are so good defensively. Josh Koroma is looking great for Orient going forward and, along with top scorer Macauley Bonne, Wrexham will expect to have their hands full. Wrexham’s goals are coming from all over the park but Ricketts will no doubt hammer home the importance of taking their chances when they come and being more ruthless in the final third than they were at Maidstone last week.

Well, it’s a four hour drive for me to Wrexham tomorrow so should we expect a 0-0 draw with barely a shot on target? I think these two are so hard to split and at this stage of the season there’s no win or bust scenario. I do think it will be a draw though, 1-1.

News editor Jon Couch says…

The biggest clash of the season… apart from it being top of the table just what is the appeal?
Two big clubs, steeped in tradition, and run by young managers with an attacking ethos and laced with Conference winners. After 10 years in the wilderness, Wrexham feel a return to the Football League is long overdue, similarly Leyton Orient after a miserable couple of seasons. Factor in a big crowd at the Racecourse and it promises to be a real winter warmer.

Two impressive managers going head to head, briefly sum up the job they have done…
Sam Ricketts has done a tremendous job in his first season in charge of Wrexham. No wonder he’s already being touted for Football League roles. Keeping him will be key to their progress. Justin Edinburgh used the second half of last season wisely to prepare a serious promotion assault and, without making wholesale changes, has brought back the winning mentality to Brisbane Road.

Is this something of a battle of styles?
Perhaps, although Wrexham are far easier on the eye and pose more of an attacking threat this season than they did last, while Leyton Orient are far more defensively sound. Both have now established themselves as serious contenders, boasting the all-round strength, and depth, required to stage a title bid.

Where will this game be won and lost?
In both boxes. Wrexham (12 goals) and Leyton Orient (13) have two of the top three most watertight defences in the league but both boast strikers clinical enough to unlock any defence. Ruthlessness in front of goal will be the key.

Time for me to get splinters I’m afraid. I can’t split them so I’m going for a rather cagey and underwhelming 0-0!


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