Sunday, 9 October 2011

Cheltenham 2-1 Daggers, Default Display

Dagenham & Redbridge got back to losing ways yesterday as they stumbled to a 2-1 defeat to top half of the table side Cheltenham Town at Whaddon Road, you could say it was the same old story for the Daggers.

A single coach departed from Victoria Road at 10:25, five minutes ahead of schedule which was a shock! The coach was full and in decent spirits in hope of coming away from Gloucestershire with a point at the very least, a short slash & dash at Oxford services about an hour in and we were on our way to Whaddon Road. We reached the ground nearing 2:00, and what a posh area it is compared to Dagenham, now let's be honest that isn't hard, but still! The coach pulled upbetween our away stand and a park and we were greeted with a local trying to ride a bike backwards, to everyones disappointment he succeeded and didn't hurt himself. As the pub was about a ten minute walk away, and we had learned there was no Sky in one of them to watch the Creepy vs Northampton game, we went straight into the ground.

The away stand is situated right next to a bowls green, which makes it look even more snobbier, but there you go! As you go through the turnstiles and the tunnel you come out into the open air of the stand as you may expect and my first impression of the three surrounding stands, marvelous. It looked like a proper football ground and is up there with the grounds I've visited so far in this and previous seasons. The first thing to do, was sample the in ground cuisine, or grub as we know it, I opted for a burger as my compatriots went for hot dogs, although the burger didn't look too clever, it tasted superb, the ground & catering now had top marks from me.

As we were in the ground so early we managed to catch the tail end of a mini soccer game between two local teams, a lot of clubs seem to endorse this now, having a knockout tournament game before each match for local youth teams, it's something that I'd like to see at Victoria Road, it's a very good initiative and brings in at least twenty more fans a game.

The teams came out to warm up and I was perked up instantly, James Shea emerged from the tunnel, this meant he was once again on the bench, you have no idea how un nerving it is having Dave Hogan on the bench Cheltenham fans, Chris Lewington was obviously still our number one. The announcer read out the team as this: Lewington, Doe, Arber, McCrory, Ogogo, Scannell, Lee, Gain, Tomlin, Nurse, Hewitt. Subs: Shea, Rose, Walsh, Woodall, Bingham.
Troy Hewitt was making his first start and Abu was back wearing a cast, Richard Rose therefore dropped to the bench.
For Cheltenham fans, your team lined up like this: Brown, Elliott, Bennett, Garbutt, Jombati, Pack, Low, Penn, Summerfield, Spencer, Mohammed. Subs: Lowe, Smikle, Graham, Duffy, Goulding. It surprised me that Goulding was on the bench as I was under the impression that he was one of their best players, but oh well!

The ground began to fill up and we made our way up into the middle of the section of the away stand we were given where were joined by the group who had made their way up by train from London. The ground was filling up, what looked like a very impressive attendance, especially on the side of their main stand which stood out like a sore thumb thanks to the three relatively new other stands. Mark Arber won the toss and opted to swap ends, the Daggers would be attacking us in the first half and Cheltenham their own fans.
The opening five minutes of the contest were drab as the players got a feel for the game and the conditions, but five minutes in came the first real opportunity. Gavin Tomlin with some neat work down the wing before putting in a ball towards the centre, Jon Nurse rose above the defender but his header went high over Scott Brown's goal, Brown was playing as usual number one Jack Butland was away on International duty with the Under 21's. Cheltenham then responded with a shot of their own, Jimmy Spencer's volley deflected wide of Lewingtons post for the first corner of the afternoon. On the ten minute mark, Troy Hewitt made himself a nuisance, he made a Robins defender pull him back and got a free kick. Oliver Lee took it and put it low down towards the near post, if a Daggers player was attacking it, he would have scored, but no one gambled and Cheltenhams keeper picked it up with ease.

It was very end to end after every opportunity, Cheltenham came back at the Daggers once more, former Wimbledon player Kaid Mohamed getting a shot away inside Dagenhams's box, it was blocked superbly by Scott Doe who has been outstanding recently. It seemed to be a case of five minutes gaps between each shot, about a quarter of an hour in, Gavin Tomlin nearly broke the deadlock. Tomlin played a neat one two with Oliver Lee, the former Torquay man then took a touch into the box and unleashed a fierce right footed strike that cannoned off of the postage stamp as it's affectionately known and out of play. I for one thought it had just crept in, a very good move and a sublime strike, but it just wasn't quite enough to get the opening goal.

Just after that, Cheltenham thought they'd scored, a corner wasn't cleared and it enabled a Cheltenham player to slide home the goal to stick them into the lead, or so they'd thought. The linesman flagged and it was given offside, so we stayed at 0-0, but a goal was definitely coming for either side. The Robins continued their good play with former Dagger Marlon Pack being the architect of many of the moves, only a last ditch Damien McCrory tackle saved the away side and then just minutes later, a McCrory block once again halted the Cheltenham attack.

Troy Hewitt then got himself into the game, Jon Nurse broke down the Daggers right and put in a delightful low ball, but Hewitt couldn't quite get a telling connection, it appeared he was pulled back, but the half hearted appeals didn't faze the referee and play continued. Hewitt, on the left this time got his first shot of the afternoon away, he cut inside of their right back and hit a curler that was comfortably saved by Brown between the Robins sticks. Just a quick word on Brown, well done to him receiving the banter well pre match, a lot of players are sour with the away fans, but he raised a smile and managed to joke about it.

Cheltenham then had a good period of possession, Luke Summerfield mustered a shot from far out which was comfortably saved by Lewington, but just minutes afterwards the deadline was broken to leave the Daggers record of no 0-0's for 78 matches in tact. Peter Gain fouled Marlon Pack down the right hand side, Luke Garbutt took it and swung in a delightful ball which met the head of a diving Alan Bennett who headed home into the far corner. Cheltenham took the lead with a good header, although it could be argued that the marking was slack once more, on came the dreaded home goal music and down sunk the 135 travelling faithful for the fourth away game in succession. They really should have added a second minutes afterwards, Garbutt who assisted their first, got down the left and swung in a ball which flashed across the six yard box, any touch and it was a goal; another lucky escape for John Still's men.

Nursey in Happier Times!
 Just as it looked we'd be going in behind at the break, the lord and saviour made sure we were level. Damien Scannell produced some Tomlinesque trickery down the Daggers right hand side before hitting a tame shot that was blocked by a Robins defender. It fell to Jon Nurse who I've been highly critical of recently, but he took this opportunity and blasted it home to send us potty, somehow and somewhat undeservedly we had equalised and looked like we were going in level at the break. No Daggers goal is complete without a Poznan and over half of us dually obliged, we were level!

That was the half over and the teams went in all square, Cheltenham probably feeling hard done by, but at the end of the day, we got that bit of luck and Nursey's practice of blasting the ball in the net from five yards before the match has paid off somewhat ironically. In a jubilant mood I celebrated with another burger, although the bun on this one was a bit off and a flick of the programme. The main player focus was on Marlon Pack rather obviously, he's come on leaps and bounds since he left his loan spell here and was probably the best player on the park in the first half, he even looks a bit like Romain Vincelot now!

The teams came out of the tunnel and like the fans were raring for the second half to get underway. It done so and the Daggers had the first chance of the contest, Damien McCrory who had been one of our best players in this match so far, ran at Mark Yates' defence and unleashed a speculative shot that went high over the bar, nice to see some drive from the back though! However, the early promise was wiped out as Cheltenham took the lead from a breakaway. The Daggers were left over exposed in the middle, Marlon Pack played a ball with the outside of the boot that just wrong footed Peter Gain who couldn't intercept it in time. It fell to James Spencer who hit the mark from just inside the box, a powerful shot beating Lewington at his near post, one that the Daggers star will probably feel disappointed about. A despondent Scott Doe lay on the ground after not being able to track back in time.

Chris Lewington was then tested once more, Spencer's cross was deflected goalwards towards the near post but Lewy's reflexes were once again tip top and he pushed it behind the post. Cheltenham were beginning to take full control of the game. Lewy then made the save of the game. Spencer who was becoming the chief tormentor latched onto a ball that was hooked over by Josh Low after Pack had threaded a fantastic ball over the top. Low's cut back found Spencer who headed goalwards, but Lewington scrambled back across to tip the header over the bar and out for a corner to everyones disbelief, yet more reasons why he was the August player of the month and probably soon to be the September player of the month.

John Still then made his first change of the afternoon, Troy Hewitt who had a decent game when you consider the poor service he was given, was replaced by Hayley Woodall, or Brian Woodall to those of you that haven't listened to one of his interviews. I personally thought Woodall should have started, with no Williams in the side, we didn't really have a hold up player, Nursey has been under performing and Hewitt isn't exactly dominant in the air, forgive me, but I'm pinning a lot of hopes on Rob Edmans when he becomes fit again. Woodall made an instant impact, winning a flick on which unfortunately went to no one as Nurse was on the other side of the pitch.

Peter Gain then picked up the first booking of the afternoon and that was quickly followed by Oliver Lee who got himself into the referee's book for throwing a ball down in disgust. A silly booking really, coupled with the fact that we wouldn't be time wasting anyways, I don't understand the referee's sometimes. Peter Gain was then taken off after making another rash challenge, another one and he'd have been sent off, so common sense prevailed and Billy Bingham replaced him in the middle, Gain responded by smashing his hand against the dugout in frustration. For Cheltenham Russell Penn & James Spencer came off to be replaced by Daryl Duffy & Jeff Goulding.

After The Final Whistle
The Daggers came so close to getting that all important equaliser with just five minutes remaining. Woodall played the ball to Tomlin who's trickery outfoxed Luke Garbutt, Tomlins left foot shot looked to be creeping in, but the extended hand of Scott Brown tipped it round the post and out for a corner. Despair as we thought it had gone in, now we know the pain other teams have felt through Chris Lewington's superb goalkeeping this season! The Robins made their final change, Mohamed coming off to be replaced by Brian Smikle as the referee held up the board to indicate three minutes of stoppages. Try as me might, we couldn't find that elusive second goal to equalise, Billy Bingham's shot that went past the post the closest we came, the referee blew and it was over, another away defeat.

Chris Lewington
This image sums it up for me
 The players came over, despondent and applauded the 135 travelling faithful, Chris Lewington in despair, I feel sorry for the lad more than the rest, he's been outstanding, at the end of the day, he's kept us in so many games, he may have made a few errors, but he's young; his quality has more than outweighed his mistakes.

Cheltenham were value for their win, even if their attempt at a Poznan was cringeworthy. Marlon Pack ran the show  and has been one of the most influential players I've seen from any club so far this season, James Spencer also seems to get himself into the right places and causes havoc, Cheltenham have a good team and I personally think they'll be top half at the very least if they keep their current performances and form going, then again was it really that much of a challenge to beat us?

To the Daggers, I don't really know what to say. Jon Nurse had his best game of the season for us and was still relatively poor, the marking was poor for their goal and Cheltenham deserved the win. Troy Hewitt didn't get the service to trouble Scott Brown and I'd have to say that once more Chris Lewington was probably our man of the match, although McCrory ran him very close, just one lack serious lack of defending from him in first half where he was easily beaten sticks out in my mind. I'm getting as sick as you are of wheeling this one out, but when we get our key players back, we'll be a better side, Medy Elito is a major miss, Josh Scott needs no introduction, Sam Williams was a miss & Rob Edmans will bring something new to the fray, I've heard good reports about his hold up play and aerial prowess.

I hope we do better next weekend, but you can tell people are becoming anxious, people want money spent, others don't, there's a sharp divide. At the end of the day flashing money doesn't always solve problems, but we seriously need someone who can stick the ball in the net, hopefully we'll improve next weekend against lowly Plymouth Argyle, if we lose that one, we really are in shit street.

Thanks for reading and I'll address you again next week against Plymouth, also Daggers fans, remember that it's the Essex Senior Cup draw on Thursday night, I know a number of us like that competition and it'll be a welcome distraction in many cases! I'll leave you with some other pictures of the day, also if you could "tweet" on "share" this Blog it would be much appreciated!

Whaddon Road

The Away Terrace
The Daggers Defend

At The Final Whistle


  1. Very good & honest review of the game.

  2. A very fair and balanced piece. I don't think you will struggle this year and you were far from the worse time to play at the ABS this season. All the best for the rest of the season.

  3. Good blog and I think when you get your players back you'll pull clear. One thing I can get used to is all these good comments about us from other fans.

  4. Excellent read and very entertaining. Glad you enjoyed your day.