By Tony Leighton
With wins from their first three Sky Bet League 1 games plus a Capital One Cup victory over Coventry City, Leyton Orient have sensationally bucked the trend of poor starts self-confessedly made by teams led by manager Russell Slade.
"I normally wake up in about October and my teams generally then improve," Slade told football-league.co.uk last season after the O's had lost their first three League 1 games but then did indeed improve by October.
The previous campaign had brought an even worse opening to the season for Slade's side, who lost their first five league matches. So this year's flying O's are, to most pundits, something of a surprise package at the top of the table.
Slade must surely have changed his pre-season routine to have got his team out of the blocks so quickly? "Not really," said the experienced manager. "We tweaked a few minor things, but it's mainly been about continuity.
"We've kept the nucleus of the squad - for example we've got the same back four and goalkeeper - and the signings we've made have mainly been players who were previously with us on loan."
Along with the wins have come goals, 12 in the four league and cup games played to date with veteran striker Kevin Lisbie claiming four of them and three apiece going to David Mooney and Dean Cox.
"Kevin has hit the ground running," said Slade, "but we're sharing the goals around and the assists have come from different areas of the team as well so it's been a very pleasing start for us in every way."
Three of Orient's next four games are at home, including a Capital One Cup Second Round tie against Premier League Hull City, giving Slade's men the opportunity to kick on from their tremendous opening to the campaign.
"Having a run of home games could be beneficial but teams will look at what we've done so far and come to our place looking to contain us, so the challenge will be to break down opponents who've got that mindset.
"The cup tie might be different, but it will be nice to get a Premier League team at home. All I wanted was a home tie - it's very nice to play at Premier League grounds, but when you lose 5-0 like we did at Everton last year it's no fun."
It will be fun for Slade and his team if they can build on their start to mount a concerted promotion challenge, a task they showed they have the capability of handling last season despite having to recover from that poor opening spell.
They finished just one place outside the Play-Offs and now Slade, who has previously led Grimsby Town and Yeovil Town to Play-Off finals, added: "The aim is to improve on last season - and that means pushing for the top six."
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