Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Daggers 0-1 Oxford, Deck the Halls

Dagenham & Redbridge suffered a third successive defeat last night to the hands of Oxford United and it was the same old story for the Daggers of no goalscorer. We all knew our fantastic defensive record would run out at some point and in the last 2 weeks it has been well and truly forgotten.

Fond Memories!
Walking down to Victoria Road I was in an optimistic/pessimistic mood, after witnessing our poor showing against Rotherham at the weekend I was wary of this game as we were facing a good team in Oxford. Optimism because we have to score more than one goal at some point and our squad was becoming fully fit once more with Billy Bingham & Peter Gain both coming back in the last week. It was all set to be an interesting encounter against the Daggers main rivals for the Conference title all those years back, can anyone remind me how that one panned out?

After walking into the ground and finding a place to stand in a fairly packed Sieve considering it was a Tuesday night it was nearly time to kick off and Johnny Still had made a few changes. Gavin Tomlin was replaced (much to some peoples delight, not mine) by Jon Nurse and Femi came in for Damien McCrory who wasn't even on the bench, not a clue what happened there. The expected one of Mark Arber replacing Phil Walsh at centre half was also made.

Dagenham & Redbridge Starting XI: Lewington, Ogogo, Arber, Doe, Femi, Gain, Lee, Bingham, Scannell, Nurse, Williams. Subs: Shea, Rose, Woodall, Walsh, Tomlin.

It was 19:45 and the teams came out, the Daggers hoping to half a run of back to back League defeats and Oxford to prove their point after squandering a two goal lead against Burton at the weekend. The referee blew his whistle and we were off, the Daggers were attacking the Marcus James Stand where a decent number of Oxford fans were situated whilst the U's were obviously attacking the Bury Road Terrace.

The first ten minutes or so were drab as it was a midfield battle, some good challenges and misplaced passes helping both sides into going nowhere. This effectively set the tone for the game and my was it horrible to watch, with only a few balls being whipped into the box that were cleared with ease for both teams to shout about. Damien Scannell had the first opportunity, he got down the right and showed a bit of pace before cutting inside and hitting a tame shot that appeared to be scuffed past Ryan Clarke's post.

Just over a quarter of an hour in to the match came the first good chance, Owulafemi Ilesanmi, or for those who are familiar and don't want a headache, Femi; got down the left and put in a fine ball for Jon Nurse back from Internation duty who headed wide when he really should have tested the keeper. The first real good opportunity wasted. An Oxford player then went down injured for a few minutes or so, but no harm done and he got back to his feet after a bit of treatment.

It was still very much a midfield orientated encounter with the odd ball going into the box from Ollie Lee and Damien Scannell; Scannell heading wide from Ollie's cross about 20 minutes into the contest. Then Oxford gave us a scary moment. A winger went down the left and swung a ball in that nearly caught Lewington out, but thankfully it went wide of the post, a very scary moment and Oxfords first real "chance" if you can call it that. Damien Batt, a former Dagger for a small period of time then received a yellow card for being an "arsehole", if you remember rightly the term "unsporting behaviour" no longer exists in this Blog.

Then without doubt came the best chance so far, Chris Wilder's men won a free kick down the left hand side and the ball was swung in delightfully for U's favourite James Constable who missed from yards out. Then just minutes later Oxford continued their attacking play, I'd just came out of the bogs and saw Lewington make a fantastic point blank save with his gangly legs from an Oxford player, Lewington confirming once more what an asset he is to the club.

Oxford United then got their breakthrough, another free kick in a similar position to the one previous on the left was won after Scott Doe fouled their left winger. Paul McClaren, no relation to Steve swung a ball in which found West Ham loanee Robert Hall who slammed home from inside the box to leave Lewington with no hope to stick Oxford a goal up. The Sieve silenced once more as the Oxford fans made their first peep of the night to cheer the goal that looked as though it had been coming.

That was effectively the last action of the half, Nurse booked for a cynical challenge right at the death as the referee blew up. Some boo's rang out at half time which I find disgraceful, superb encouragement for the players that at half time, you're entitled to your own views on it, but I don't agree in the slightest. Question was, what would we do in the second half, it looked as though a goal wasn't coming once again and I was looking to Johnny Still to bring on Tomlin who seems to be the creator in the team.

The teams came out to the second half and I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the Daggers, maybe Stilly had given them a bollocking and they'd perk up, it was time to find out! For the first 10 minutes of the second period, it mirrored that of the first, poor play all in the middle of the park, add to that the drum absolutely pounding my head, I wasn't a happy bunny. Heslop managed to break down the right hand side and it was lucky that Scott Doe got back and got in an important block or it may well have been their second.

The first half chance for the Daggers in the second forty five then. Billy Bingham whipped in a delightful ball from the left hand side that caught everyone by surprise, excluding the skipper Mark Arber. He took on a very difficult volley and got if anything too good a connection that saw it fly past the post, a half chance, but not one you expect to be scored from a striker let alone a centre half! Oxford then made their first change of the match, Josh Payne coming on for Simon Heslop who had a very good game in my opinion. A few minutes later the Daggers then had a sub of their own, Hayley Woodall (Brian) coming on for Billy Bingham who had a decent game for me on his return from injury.

Woodall was involved straight away, Femi who was fast becoming our man of the match thanks to his excellent running swung in a fantastic ball into the danger area, one that the keeper couldn't come for. It reached Woodall at the back post amongst a crowd of defenders who prodded over the bar, a brilliant chance to equalise, but once again wasted by the former non league man. Then Scannell got in on the act, whipping another one in that just went over the heads of those in the box, it just wasn't quite happening for the Daggers at the moment.

With the Daggers on top, it was nearly Oxford who got another goal. With us going forward we were left exposed at the back and a very quick breakaway saw Hall I think it was go round two defenders and Lewington before doing slightly better than Ryan Giggs and hitting the bar with only Ogogo to beat on the goal line. That was our 9 lives used up in one. Constable who had been fairly ineffective all evening was then replaced by Deane Smalley, hoping to make a big impact.

Darren Potter then very nearly doubled the lead, another good run ended with a shot that was saved superbly once more by Lewington between the sticks, earning his money again was the big man. Then came the Daggers final sub, Damien Scannell who had a decent game replaced by Gavin Tomlin much to our delight. Within seconds he had created an opportunity. About a metre onto the pitch and he swung a ball in, Williams had to back pedal a bit but still got a fantastic header away which was saved fairly comfortably by the Oxford keeper.

Tomlin then sent over another ball on about the 90 minute mark, this one found Williams square on the head and he couldn't have caught it any better. His header looked for all the world that it was heading into the top corner but Clarke got back and pulled off a magnificent stop to leave my dreams of a Poznan in tatters and Williams in shell shock at how his nigh on perfect header had been stopped and denied him a goal and the Daggers a point. Mark Arber had a late quarter of a chance that he cannoned over, but it was tough so I'm not too disappointed about it.

That was the end of the match and as the referee blew his whistle the boo's rang out inside Victoria Road which personally I don't agree with, but others choose to do so and that's up to them. I prefer to not clap at the end if we've had a poor performance as my personal view is that booing is disrespecting the players. Anyways, that was that and that was another three points dropped where I think we should have at least picked up one.

The main plus points of the game, Femi who was magnificent for us along with Scott Doe & Chris Lewington once more, Billy Bingham also had a decent game. This also highlights the importance of Tomlin in our team as the creative spark, he came on and made things happen, something that Scannell could only do in fits and starts. Two players I haven't mentioned at all, Abu Ogogo who had a fairly quiet and solid game along with Jon Nurse who was poor last tonight by his own standards, I'm sure he'll put that one right at the weekend.

So now we face Morecambe at home on Saturday, a side who we always enjoy playing for one reason or another, I'll see you all there and then you can read my report afterwards on yet another 6-0 victory over the Shrimps. There's clutching at straws and then theres that.

There's always one bright side, well, two in this case, at least Orient & Crawley both lost.

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