Jonny Davies on Leyton Orient: The end is swift and brutal. It felt like within a minute of our final penalty Rotherham had lifted the trophy

I still believe we deserved a happy ending but it finished in tears at Wembley

Perhaps I was naïve to think that we had fate on our side. It’s been an epic journey, from the opening-day trip to Carlisle and subsequent hospital trip to pick up the captain Nathan Clarke on the way home, to the breakfast meetings with Barry Hearn, the coach journeys with Mrs Lisbie’s cooking, the frantic deadline days, the late nights, the early starts, the records broken.

Since this column began back in August what you’ve seen is the inner workings of a football club moving forward as one, where each and every character, from kit man to manager, is doing everything humanly possible to take us to the next level. At the core has been a group of players, assembled without a penny having been spent, bonded by togetherness, who have exceeded all expectations and defied all odds.

It felt like the story had a happy ending. I still believe we deserved a happy ending but it finished in tears at Wembley on Sunday. Having led the League One play-off 2-0 at half-time, it’s difficult to come to terms with the fact we won’t be in the Championship next season after we were eventually beaten by Rotherham on penalties. Congratulations to them.

It was a surreal finish. Time seemed to stand still as the players wandered zombie-like around our half of the pitch, some inconsolable, others sat gazing into the distance amid the chaos of Rotherham’s celebrations. The ending is so swift and brutal. It felt like within a minute of us missing our final penalty Rotherham had celebrated and lifted the trophy. Then you realise that, after all the nerves, excitement and 49 games, the season really is over.

The changing room was like a morgue afterwards and it was difficult to see many of the lads in tears. The misery was worse for Clarke and Chris Dagnall, who were escorted off by the drugs testers for a random spot test. The manager, Russell Slade, fulfilled his post-match press duties with a brave face but clearly was hurt.

By the time Rotherham had returned from celebrating our changing room was near empty. Most had headed off to the players’ lounge to meet their families. Defender Mathieu Baudry, credit to him, went to a nearby pub full of Orient supporters to apologise for missing his penalty. We’d dreamt of meeting friends, family and colleagues and heading off into the night as one, but instead we left in dribs and drabs. When I went to board the Tube at Wembley Park, I bumped into a solemn pair of our defenders Gary Sawyer and Scott Cuthbert, heading home to Brentwood, in east London.

The training-playing-training-playing routine is over. The players out of contract will have meetings this week, but the next time the others will see each other is in Las Vegas in a week. The trip won’t be in the context people had hoped, but might get the disappointment out of their systems.

It hurts now, but hopefully in time we can look back on it with some fondness. We gave it our all in front of around 25,000 Orient fans, who were magnificent. The journey across London was spectacular, with flags and support on the Underground, and it was special to see so many friends and families wearing Orient shirts with pride.

Orient is a family club and it was heartening to see dozens of our former stars. They included Peter Kitchen, our hero of 1978, walking down Wembley Way. Then there was John Mackie, our captain when we were promoted in 2006. John, who now runs a fruit-and-veg stall, organised a reunion of players from that promotion team and they were enjoying the day with the fans.

Finally, I want to thank you all for reading the column over the last 45 weeks. It’s been a year to remember and be proud of, that I’ve been happy to share with you. We can rise again. Up the O’s.

Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor