Sunday, 29 January 2012

Daggers 3-2 Rotherham, Just Like At Wembley

Dagenham & Redbridge recorded a first ever win over Rotherham United in a regular league game by defeating the Millers 3-2, a scoreline that brings contrasting emotions for both sets of fans.

Pre match I was as pessimistic as I'd ever been. We've only ever beaten Rotherham once and we generally have an absolutely dreadful record against them. My couple of plusses for the afternoon were that Scott Griffiths would be making a return to Victoria Road, allbeit for the opposition; and that Andy Scott’s last visit to our ground as a manager ended in a 4-1 defeat. Encouraging signs or clutching at straws, it was one of the two.

I arrived into a sparsely populated Sieve at around 2:40, it was unusually empty with only 20 minutes until kick off. At one point I even questioned whether we would break four figures! Well done to the Rotherham fans that had made the trip, it's a long one and not very nice in pretty cold conditions, something I know from experience from doing the away leg of this fixture in September.

Over the tannoy the teams were then announced,

Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Ogogo, Doe, Arber, Femi, Abdulla, Bingham, Spillane, Montano, Woodall, Nurse. Subs: Hogan, Cunnington, DJ Green, Rose, Scott.

The Daggers showed just a single change from the side that lost undeservedly lost at Torquay in midweek, Cunnington dropping to the bench in place of the fit again Brian Woodall. A positive sign on the bench was the inclusion of Josh Scott, who had come back from injury once more, his impact will be detailed a lot more later on.

Rotherham United: Taylor, Bradley, Raynes, Griffiths, Naylor, Harrison, Taylor, Wood, Cadogan, Revell, Grabban. Subs: Warrington, Tonge, Cresswell, Schofield, Williams.

Andy Scott made four changes from the side that lost at home to Port Vale a week previous. Richard Naylor & loan signing from Crystal Palace Kieron Cadogan came in to make their Millers debuts, whilst Welsh International Mark Bradley & former Tranmere midfielder Danny Harrison also returned to the side. Johnny Mullins was missing through injury, whilst Marcus Marshall has gone on loan to fellow League Two side Macclesfield Town. Two players that frightened me were Revell, a prolific striker & Danny Harrison who seems to have developed a habit of scoring against us.

It was approaching 15:00 and the ground finally started to "fill up" to it's usual standards. The teams then came out to a slightly subdued atmosphere, not much noise available to us before we kick off near enough on the dot. The Daggers were in their now customary 4-3-3 formation which doesn't really work with Dominic Green in my opinion. The teams swapped ends, something that appears to work for us, the last two times we've attacked the Marcus James Stand in the second half at home, I believe we've gone on to win.

Daggers Corner.
The first five minutes of this encounter were very scrappy, with several corners being split between both sides. The first real effort of the day was from former Brentford man Lewis Grabban, however his strike from Sam Woods knock down went high and wide. Shortly afterwards and Rotherham began to dominate, with Harrison & Grabban both having shots blocked by the so far resolute Daggers defence.

Rotherham really should have taken the lead just after the ten minute mark. Chris Lewington's goal kick was headed back towards the stopper which meant a "chase" between Daggers captain Mark Arber and the 24 year old Grabban. There was only going to be one winner, as they raced towards the penalty area Arber went down and seemingly pulled Grabban with him. However the striker kept on his feet much to my delight, if he would have gone down, Arber was certainly off. He trotted towards goal, one on one with Lewington, as he hit the ball there was surely only going to be one outcome. Lewington got a touch and diverted it out for a corner. Superb play from the shot stopper who had kept us in the game once more. Rotherham should have been ahead.

John Still's men then began to establish a foothold in the match. First a neat Brian Woodall venture forward was snuffed out, before Billy Bingham had a shot from some way out that went just wide of the post. Some good invention from Woodall and at least Bingham was showing that he was willing to have a pot shot, something we miss dearly at times. Minutes later and Rotherham had another good opportunity. Cadogan made some good space down the right hand side before putting in a delightful ball which no Miller could get their head too, all getting in eachothers way to get rid of the danger.

Just before the half hour mark and Andy Scott's side took a deserved lead. A Grabban cross on the right hand side was cleared to Harrison who was on the edge of the box. With one touch he flicked it up and hammered home a beauty into the far corner of the net. Lewington had no chance as Harrison celebrated his first league goal of the season. My only criticism was that our marking was shabby, the closing down was simply not quick enough.

 Minutes after the goal and Rotherham could smell blood. Alex Revell picked up the ball 20 yards out and hit a powerful shot towards the top right hand corner of the net. Lewington scrambled over frantically and palmed the shot out for a corner which came to nothing. Ahmed Abdulla then broke up the play with some neat passing in the middle of the field, probably the first thing I've noticed him do in his time here on loan from West Ham.

The Daggers then made a pivotal change. Abu Ogogo & Mickey Spillane then swapped positions. This saw Mickey revert to right back and Abu push on into midfield, where his drive and ferociousness was needed alongside Billy Bingham. On the 35 minute mark and the home side earned themselves a free kick. Spillane stepped over the ball and fired it way over the bar and into Bury Road. A free souvenir for the person whom the ball hit on the back of the head in Bury Road.

Just before the half time whistle and we had a flurry of action. Some good play down the left hand side for the Daggers saw Billy Bingham put in a lacklustre cross that failed to beat the first man. From this cross the Millers broke upfield in a move that resulted in Cadogan squaring a superb ball to Grabban who seemingly just had to tap it home. However, no one told Mickey Spillane what the script was, as he somehow managed to get back and put a superb block in to deny Grabban once more. Supreme last gasp defending from the Daggers.

The final attempt was from the boot of Billy Bingham. Much like his previous speculative effort, this one drifted wide of the far post as the referee blew up for half time. Some boo's rang around the Sieve, but only a few. I couldn't really complain at half time, a very poor performance and I sincerely hoped that Stilly would give them a boot up the backside in the interval. Rotherham's forward line had far too much time on the ball, how Lewis Grabban hadn't scored his 13th league goal of the season was beyond me. Plus points were Spillane & Bingham who were both having gutsy games, I was optimistic of a revival in the second half, but I don't think anyone could have predicted what we was in store for.

The Daggers made a change as the sides returned for the second half. Ahmed Abdulla was taken off to a rapturous cheer, his replacement was Josh Scott, returning from injury once more to another cheer. The first chance of the second half happened straight from the off, Billy Bingham who was seemingly our main threat, flashed another speculative effort wide of the post to get us all on edge.

Just before the fifty minute mark however and the Daggers found that all important equaliser. Mickey Spillane took a free kick adjacent to the Sieve wall, he hit the ball towards the back post where it was open for anyone to stick a head on it. Someone did get their nut on it, Jon Nurse. The Barbados man scoring a tremendous diving head from about 12 yards out to put us on level terms. I'm not quite sure anyone could believe it, the ball trickled into the far corner past Taylor to make it 1-1. It was now anybody’s game. I've had many doubts over Nurse, but that's exactly what I want from him. There was passion and drive in that header, we have our Nursey back!

The game became increasingly more open which allowed either side to attack in an end to end free flowing contest. Josh Scott was the first to try his luck, breaking down the right hand side into the box before hesitating upon whether to shoot with his left or right foot. The former Hayes man did try and flick it onto his left boot and his shot was blocked so the attack came to nothing. I suppose it's a measure of his current confidence that he didn't want to take the shot on with his right foot, it will come back to him though; in time.

Rotherham's chief striker Lewis Grabban then broke through once more, but was denied well by Lewington who was having another superb game. The Millers then came close yet again, but Grabbans low ball into the area was just behind all of the players which meant it went out for a throw in on the far side. The game was now frantic and even, whoever was to score next would have a major foothold in the contest.

Just after the 60 minute mark as the dark began to descend, and it was the side from Essex that took the lead for the first time in the match, courtesy of a Mark Bradley own goal. Abu Ogogo picked up the ball from 20 yards out and hit a shot that was going to be saved with ease by Taylor between the sticks. However a huge deflection from Bradley saw it creep into the centre of the net to send the Sieve wild in a surprised manner. We didn't deserve it, but hey, who cares! The first bit of luck we've had all season!

This game then began to have an essence of the Play Off Final about it. Rotherham equalised less than a minute later, that chap Scott Griffiths picking up the ball after a Millers play laid it off to him with his hand (from what I can see.) Former Dagger Griffiths then put a ball into the centre of the box where the previously anonymous Revell was on hand to head home past a helpless Lewington, into the top corner of the net. Absolutely terrible marking, although I'm sure there was a handball in the build up. No excuses for the slack marking once more though. Game on at 2-2!

You really couldn't take your eyes off this game, it was superb in terms of action and excitement. Jon Nurse narrowly headed wide of the goal before Mark Arber produced a superb headed clearance from underneath his own crossbar to keep the scores level. Rotherham then began to dominate the proceedings once more, with Grabban having his shot cleared from all of two yards to deny the Millers yet again. Andy Scott's men continually attacked, but to no avail. The Daggers were blocking shots from the South Yorkshire side left, right & centre.

However, I then thought the side in black had taken the lead. Sam Wood unleashed a shot from outside of the area which was surely flying into the top corner of the net. Chris Lewington was nowhere near it, but Mickey Spillane produced a gravity defying block to keep the scores balanced. This game was more open than Katie Price's legs. Rotherham than had a very valid appeal for a penalty turned down. Josh Scott seemingly blocking the ball with his hands just inside the box. I was genuinely surprised the referee didn't give it, I thought we'd seriously got away with one there.

Michael Raynes then got himself into the book as the first yellow card of the contest was brandished. From the resulting free kick the ball was headed out for a corner. From the resulting corner came a goal. Scott Doe had only scored once before for Dagenham & Redbridge. I had the privilege of seeing that at The Don Valley in September and he repeated the feat against the same opposition on 77 minutes. A superb run and glancing header at the near post beating all of the Rotherham defenders and the 'keeper to make it 3-2. A carbon copy of the one he scored in the game in September. Cue manic celebrations and cries of "Just Like Wembley."

Rotherham were intent on equalising as you would imagine and straight from the restart former Orient striker Alex Revell had a shot saved easily by Lewington. The Daggers then broke up the play with a substitution, Brian Woodall being replaced by Adam Cunnington with ten minutes remaining. A good decision by Still who realised the game was becoming in danger of being too end to end, a situation that could potentially lead to a Rotherham goal on the break away.

Raynes Receives His Marching Orders.

Then came an interesting point towards the end of the match. Mickey Spillane & Michael Raynes squared up in the penalty area before being dragged to one side by the referee. Former Scunthorpe man Raynes received his second yellow and his marching orders, Spillane was also shown a yellow. At this point I noticed the paramedics in the Executive area of our ground. I couldn't help but feel that Dave Andrews may be having a heart attack after seeing us lead a game! On a serious note, I hope whoever that was it ok now.

The game dragged painfully on and the fourth official flashed a four up on his board. Probably the right amount of time added on I have to say. Half way into the allocated additional time and I was certain that the Millers had equalised. A ball from the far side was floated in along the floor and took a deflection which saw it creep towards the back post. I was certain it was going in, but the net didn't ripple and it went inches wide of the post to preserve the lead. That was it. Full time. Game over.

Were the three points deserved in my opinion? No. Do I care? No. Someone summed it up beautifully on our forum. First half performance wasn't even Conference standard. Second half performance will keep us in the league.

I thought that Abu going into midfield along with the introduction of Josh changed the game today, you can see the impact they both made in there respective positions. Towards the end I remember a crunching Ogogo tackle where he got the ball, that's the kind of grit and determination we've been missing with Abu at right back in the last few matches. I also thought that Mickey Spillane was sensational once more. He made a number of superb blocks as well as some fantastic challenges to win the ball, he is easily our best signing this season for me.

Femi has a bit of a poor game today, but other than that I really can't fault anyone in terms of individual performance, we even played the ball on the deck quite a bit! Arber may not have pace, but his experience at the back is needed badly, a supreme return at home for him. Montano improved greatly following the introduction of Josh Scott, those two could have a very good rapport with eachother in the coming games. A partnership that is destined to bring us some goals I hope, along with Woodall who was seemingly not fully fit this afternoon.

All I can say to the 250 Rotherham fans that made the journey down to this corner of Essex, is, unlucky. You didn't deserve to lose, but at the end of the day that's football. A fantastic win for us and one that moves out of the relegation zone, 2 points above Northampton Town whom we play at home in two weeks time.

My final nod goes to Gavin Tomlin who scored twice more for Gillingham yesterday, yet they still lost 4-3. Life's a bitch.

Next up for us is the longest away trip of the season, Morecambe away at their new Globe Arena. I'll be there with around 52 other Daggers to see how we get on. Until then, have a good week!

Follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy.

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