Saturday, 24 March 2012

Daggers 2-1 Accrington Stanley, Still Got It.

There are some games and performances in football that define a particular season, games that have a massive effect on the bearing of the final league table. This is not just because of the three points they herald, it is because of a huge confidence boost they give, both to the fans and the players alike. This was one of those, this was a season defining afternoon. Not only were these three points a highlight, the atmosphere created by the Daggers in the Traditional Builders Stand was sensational, backed by Mark Arber who has recently tweeted, "The Traditional Builders Stand must be our Home end for future games. Sucked the ball in the net. What a feeling that was."
The Lads Warm Up.
Before the game I was cautiously optimistic, predicting a score draw which would have satisfied me. I arrived at Victoria Road for around 14:20 as the sun glared down upon me, the balmy temperatures continued to rise as I had my burger, I then headed into the Sieve for a quick read of the programme. This would be a brief stint in the Sieve as we were given The Traditional Builders Stand for the afternoon, so as soon as Lee, Bill, Chaz et al arrived, we would be heading there to create a good atmosphere for the lads.

They approached, and so with twenty minutes until kick off, we headed up and took our positions amongst the rest of the Daggers fans. I have to say, what a view it is from there. This was the first time I've been in the TB Stand and it's a fantastic spectacle from the lofty height, I’m afraid to admit it makes the rest of the ground look rather poor. With kick off approaching, a muffled sound came over the tannoy to announce the teams for the day’s vital encounter.

Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Doe, Baudry (Baldrick), Arber, McCrory, Nurse, Ogogo, Spillane, Elito, Parker, Akinde. Subs: Hogan, Bingham, Woodall, Scott, Wassmer.

John Still opted to keep with the same side that drew 2-2 with Barnet on Tuesday night, despite the threat of Jon Nurse being dropped for Dave Hogan in a spoof video on Friday afternoon in order to encourage votes for the nPower Fans Stadium.

Accrington Stanley: Nicholls, Coid, Nsiala, Kiernan, Murphy (no relation), Barnett, Joyce, McIntyre, Devitt, Lindfield, Grant. Subs: Dunbavin, Craney, Hopper, Hatfield, Amond.

Stanley boss Paul Cook made a single change from the team that drew 1-1 with Morecambe at the Crown Ground on Tuesday, with former Liverpool prodigy Craig Lindfield introduced for Pacos De Ferreira loan player Padraig Amond. The infamous Lancashire-Pacos relation being exploited for that deal I imagine.

The View
At this point I would like to give a massive credit to the Stanley fans that had made the trip down to Essex for the game. Having done the reverse fixture in somewhat worse conditions than this afternoon’s, I have a lot of respect for the opposition that have made the long trip down. Accrington is a club similar in stature to our own so it's always good to keep relations on a good note.

Just after 15:00 and the teams emerged to the freshly cut pitch as impressive noise rang down from the TB Stand. Mark Arber won the toss and opted to swap ends meaning that the Daggers would be attacking the Bury Road End, whilst Accy would be shooting towards a combination of supporters. With that, former Premier League referee Stuart Attwell blew his whistle to initiate proceedings between the two sides.

Within two minutes of the start, an opportunity was registered. Medy Elito who has looked like our most consistent threat in recent weeks flashing a shot over the bar from a Parker throw. Accrington were then nearly handed the lead after some poor play between Scott Doe and Chris Lewington. Doe played a ball back to Lewy who had to stretch to ensure it didn't go out for a corner; however he completely fluffed his lines and prodded the ball to the static Bobby Grant. However, Scunthorpe loan star Grant couldn't quite sort his feet out in time meaning the ball bounced away, much to everyone’s relief.

The Daggers then came almightily close on eight minutes when Akinde done well to earn a corner on the right hand side. It was put into the box beautifully where it met the head of Frenchman Baudry, his goal bound header was cleared off the line in slow motion as the scores remained level. A fast tempo to the game ensured for some ferocious attacking at both ends, it was just a question of who would break the deadlock first.

Stanley were becoming increasingly menacing down the wings, especially the right hand side where McCrory was all over the shop trying to keep tabs on Jamie Devitt. Bauldry then showed why he is rated so highly by AFC Bournemouth, blocking powerful shots twice from Accrington midfielders before winning a head to head battle with aging Danny Coid. With that, Coid had to go off on a stretcher to applause all round, he was replaced by Will Hatfield on 17 minutes.

Minutes after and Chris Lewington had to be at his best to deny a shot on the turn from Bobby Grant whose volley was heading towards the top corner, smart goalkeeping from the youngster. Just as it looked as though Accrington were getting on top, Medy Elito came back with a run of his own. Going all the way from the half way line before firing a low shot which drifted just wide of Lee Nicholl's right hand post.

John Akinde hadn't really threatened the back line up until now, but his strength and close ball control ensured that he won a free kick on the edge of the box about 20 yards out. Damien McCrory and Mickey Spillane both stood over the ball, but it would inevitably be Mickey to hit it. After a dummy by Damien, Mickey ran up and fired it over the wall, but over the bar as well meaning it would be another goal kick.

With just three minutes to go until half time Accrington took the lead thanks to a fine curling shot from their prominent threat Bobby Grant. His strike nestled perfectly in the corner leaving Lewington no chance and the Accy supporters and players wheeling off in celebration. Whilst Lewington may have been at fault for a few goals in recent weeks, there was simply nothing he could have done to stop this magnificent strike.

There was action at either end before the half time whistle, Bobby Grant struck another shot from the same position, but this time it was blocked well and subsequently booted straight up the other end where John Akinde won another corner. From the resulting corner, the ball found its way through to Scott Doe who didn't infact make the front post run, however his central header was saved well from Nicholls who had managed to scramble across to the centre of the goalmouth.

That was the end of a very open and end to end first half. Accrington were ahead by the odd goal and probably deserved it, although it could be argued that going in level at half time would have been fair. Damien McCrory was having a nightmare, whilst John Akinde wasn't showing the form that had made him so difficult for defenders in the previous two games. One bright spot was the performance of Baudry who was immense, wherever the ball was, he was.

I was then informed that the famous tea bar inside the TB Stand was in superb condition and that the food wasn't too bad either. Being the lazy git that I am, I opted to not move throughout the whole duration of half time which made me rather chilly in the process. I'll say one thing for the TB Stand, even if it does have a great view, when a breeze blows through it gets rather cold!

As the teams came back out for the second half the temperature rose once more, perhaps this was a sign that we were going to turn the heat up on Accrington in the second half. Stilly made a change during the interval, Josh Parker was replaced by Billy Bingham as we switched formation to a 4-3-3. With around five minutes played in the second half, Jon Nurse had managed to get himself around the Accy defence before being brought down in the box; appeals for a penalty were waved away by Attwell.

With ten minutes gone Jon Nurse seemingly picked up an injury and was replaced by the clubs main striker Josh Scott. From a throw in on the near side, Mickey Spillane managed to work some space for himself before cutting into the box where he made the decision to shoot rather than cross. Needless to say his attempt from a tight angle only succeeded in hitting the side netting. After a lull in play, Accrington broke following a Daggers corner; however Hatfield could only manage to pull his shot wide of the goal meaning the deficit remained at one.

The infamous Woodall at Accrington
picture makes a return.
 John Still then made his third and final change unusually early in the match, on 60 minutes to be precise. Daggers' joint top league goal scorer Brian Woodall was thrust into the fray as the underperforming John Akinde was withdrawn. I remember thinking to myself at the time that it could well be a John Still master class of a substitution.

The game then became increasingly fast paced as Scott Doe produced a vital block at one end whilst Ogogo's shot from close range was blocked at the other. There was definitely another goal in this game. This was followed up by a Billy Bingham shot from around 30 yards out which cleared the bar, causing disgruntled noises from several fans who had previously urged him to hit the trigger. I'm sorry but if you call for a player to shoot and then he misses from 30 yards out, you have no right to yell abuse. Cretins.

Former Sligo manager Paul Cook then made his second change of the match, replacing the somewhat anonymous Craig Lindfield with Irishman Padraig Amond. Somewhat ironically Cook worked with Amond at Sligo Rovers in 2010, who knew they would reunite at the close knit Lancashire outfit.

The game was fast becoming an all Daggers attacking display, but as yet without reward. Josh Scott hit a first time volley off target following a deep ball into the box from McCrory as the home side pushed for that equaliser. Where we were consistently attacking, gaps were being left at the back which Accrington were more than happy to exploit, fortunately for us Jamie Devitt's shot once again went wide of the mark.

As we continued to press into the box, I found myself screaming and hollering at several players to play the ball out wide to Scott Doe who was in acres of space. The one time Mickey Spillane did this, Doey played a fantastic reverse pass to Josh Scott on the edge of the box which was blocked superbly as it looked to be going in the bottom corner. The frustration was killing us all. Minutes later and Abu Ogogo spurned a simply fantastic opportunity from eight yards out, firing his shot an inch over the bar.

Another Stanley man then lay in agony in the Daggers penalty area following a good block, after some treatment from the physio it was decided that Rob Kiernan could simply not continue any longer. Former Huddersfield midfielder Ian Craney was brought on to see out the final 15 minutes for Accy. The away side then pushed to grab a second once again, only a superb last ditch Baudry tackle denying Amond a clear run on goal to almost certainly kill the game off.

Spillane then hit a shot that was heading towards the bottom corner before it was blocked as I released yet more yelps of anguish and despair. We were throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Stanley and it wasn't yielding any rewards. Scott Doe then picked up a deserved booking for a "smart" foul on Jame Devitt on the right hand side. If Scott hadn't made the challenge, the tricky striker would have been away down the wing, so a very clever tackle to say the least.

Then on 84 minutes, Lord Brian rose highest to head in that all important equaliser. McCrory who had been poor all afternoon roasted his man before dribbling into the box; his awareness then saw him pick out Spillane just five yards away. Supporters urged Mickey to shoot, but he composed himself before curling a ball to the back post which found the onrushing Woodall who was on hand to head home into an empty net. Dagenham & Redbridge 1-1 Accrington Stanley. Mass celebration from everyone apart from Lee who was just all too glad that we'd managed to equalise.

After continued celebrations the game restarted, both sides still felt they had a chance to win this game. Billy Bingham got the first chance after the restart but his 25 yard effort was blocked behind for a corner. From the resulting set play, the ball found Baudry who attacked it at the near post, his header landed straight in the gloves of the thankful Nicholls; anywhere else and it was 2-1 Daggers.

The Daggers win a free kick.
As the board rose for six minutes of injury time, Jame Devitt conceded a free kick on the far side after bringing down Damien McCrory. Whilst the wall was being arranged and the Daggers setting up how they were going to take it, Stuart Attwell consulted with his official as to the punishment of defender Aristote Nsiala for constantly berating the referee. Eventually, much to his amazement Nsiala was sent off, he was eventually escorted through the tunnel by a Dagenham official in order to calm him down.

The free kick was eventually taken by Elito and swung in towards the back post. Everyone then looked across in unison to see Scott Doe leaping up in Baywatch slow motion to head the ball into the net. I can honestly tell you that I have not celebrated a goal like that this season. Its sheer testament to how much we celebrated that I have to thank Lee for saving my life as he grabbed on to my shoulder as I nearly went straight over the seats in front of me. As I'm sure you can tell, I'm not over exaggerating.

It was Scott Doe with the not so infamous back post run. The celebrations were manic from fans and players alike. I have never seen Mark Arber so fired up after we’ve scored. The magnitude of this goal is simply unfathomable. I'll cut to the chase here as I'm so elated just writing this, we rode out the Accy storm and won the game 2-1.

Elation. Bouncebackability. Courage. Three words that sum up everything from Saturday. The relief when the final whistle went was unparalleled. I simply cannot put it into words. Everyone in the TB Stand went on singing for at least 15 minutes after the final whistle whilst Stilly et al were interviewed for The Football League Show in the centre of the park.

I can summarise it simply like this. It was the biggest getaway since The Great Train Robbery of 1963. You can argue that we deserved all three, but from my point of view we deserved just the one. It makes a pleasant change to be on the right end of a last gasp winner doesn't it? This win lifts us up to the lofty heights of 21st; I hope you don't suffer from vertigo!

John Still has to take the majority of the plaudits for today’s victory. He has come in for so much flak this season, but I'd say this was his finest game of the season in terms of tactical ploy and substitutions. At half time he made the very smart move to change to 4-3-3 in order to match Accrington, this stopped them exploiting us in the middle of the park as Billy Bingham was able to get around the pitch more. His substitutions were also very good, the introduction of Josh Scott and Brian Woodall were mastermind decisions.

Baldrick played an absolute blinder and was the man of the match by far, solid and confident when passing the ball. How can you not love any Frenchman that plays for Dagenham & Redbridge? Mickey Spillane was immense once more, whilst Scott Doe provided a valiant overlapping threat on the right hand side, these two players combined superbly.

Elito didn't have too good a game, but essentially he still caused problems for the resolute Accy back line. With that I'd like to add what an achievement it was to break down their back line twice, even if it was with an aerial dimension. The partnership of Josh Scott & Brian Woodall really worked for us with 30 minutes left to play, but the question is do you leave out John Akinde next week in order to accommodate these two starting?

The TB Stand
One thing I'm certain of is that we need The Traditional Builders Stand for the rest of the season. We created a superb noise in there this afternoon so I'm glad that we have it for the rest of this season. Hopefully this can carry forward into next season as well; the only problem may be the ticketing situation as if we do get it full time; it may need its own ticketing bracket.

Once again I would like to thank Accrington Stanley fans for making the trip down. Each time we've met them this season has provided a different and unique view of them and the club in general. The first was at a service station on the opening day where we were invited to play football with them, the second at The Crown Ground in November and now today. I wish them the best of luck for the rest of the season, if they can score some more goals they'll have a team capable of pushing forward for the play off places next season.

Next up for us is Port Vale away next Saturday, let’s hope we can get as many Daggers there as possible! Also I would like to ask you all to vote for Dagenham in the "nPower Fans Stadium", in order to get new facilities via a £10,000 prize, this would seriously benefit the club,

Remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy.

The Sieve

The Carling Stand
The Barking College Stand
The Warm Down.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Barnet 2-2 Daggers, Mayday

There are points in the season that you look back to if the worst comes to the worst. Last season, a personal favourite of mine was the Marvin Morgan miss at Leyton Orient, or the Robbo fumble at home to MK Dons. This season however, if we do go down by the odd point, this is the game I will look to for a number of reasons that will become clear throughout the Blog. By the end of the ninety minutes, the final score from Underhill was Barnet 2-2 Dagenham & Redbridge, but in truth, there was only one team that deserved any points from the game from my point of view at least.

First I'll start by telling my journey to the wonderful world of Barnet, I'm sure you'll all be reading this part avidly. It began with meeting Tom at Stratford for around 5:15, we eventually got the central line to Bank, where we changed onto the Northern Line all the way through to High Barnet. When there, (90 minutes early), we decided to evaluate our plans. After seeing a bloke walk past with a McDonald’s bag, we investigated and eventually found ourselves walking down Barnet High Road in search of the food outlet. Upon finding it amongst the cluster of exotic shops, (spot the lie), we went in and had some food for half an hour, before heading to the ground.

On our way back down the high street, you begin to see the lights of the famous Underhill, the stadium that is a weird cross between your local power league and the Nou Camp, only due to its floodlights I may add. We walked down before heading through an alley next to a pub where the majority of Daggers fans were congregating. After encountering some friendly stewards, we headed through the rusty old turnstiles to be greeted with something that made Accrington look like The Emirates.

I'm not going to lie, it wasn't very nice. Then again, I'm not really sure what I was expecting. Don't get me wrong, I love older grounds, but this just went past the awe factor and backed unwillingly into the, "avidly dislike" factor. We were housed in the East North Terrace which was under cover; from underneath it looked like glorified scaffolding. The cobbled steps were quite dangerous even for a sober person, whilst there were several beams in the way obstructing your view if you're stood towards the back.

The rest of the stadium is something of a botch job. You can count in total that there are eight different stands available for you to watch the match in. The North Terrace to our right is completely open to the elements along with the adjacent North West Terrace. These were both old fashioned standing area's which didn't attract any crowd throughout the match, one clever touch however were the nets behind them which stopped balls going into the roads that they backed into.

Opposite to us was the "main stand" that looked relatively new, the dugouts were also situated in front of this. Next to that was a smaller stand which was billed as the "Family Stand", similar to our own Barking College Stand. You then see the South Stand which was opened in 2008, this holds 1016, furthermore it is located next to the brand new club offices/ executive box area.

The final stand which I have partly described is the one we were in, The East North Terrace. This was split half way between the Daggers fans and the more vocal of the Barnet faithful. The only thing separating the two sets of supporters was a net, seven stewards and two metal bars placed about two metres away from eachother. This made for a great atmosphere and good banter between both sets of supporters. One thing I didn't quite understand was this sign that was situated in front of us, we can't really help standing......

The ground began to "fill up", at least our section did anyways, before the teams were announced by the tannoy man.

Barnet: Brill, Dennehy, Mustoe, Hector, Kamdjo, Downing, Hughes, Byrne, Holmes, May McLeod. Subs:O'Brien, Deering, Saville, Yiadom, McGleish.

Former Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez made two changes from the side that was defeated at home by Morecambe at the weekend. There was an exchange in goalkeeper as Liam O'Brien was replaced by the regular stopper Dean Brill, whilst in midfield the tricky Sam Deering was left on the bench in place of the powerful Cameroonian, Clovis Kamdjo. Daggers' perennial pain in the backside Scott McGleish would be a fantastic option to call upon from the bench for the Bees.

Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Doe, Arber, Bauldry (Baldrick), McCrory, Nurse, Ogogo, Spillane, Elito, Parker, Akinde. Subs: Bond, Woodall, Wassmer, Bingham, Scott.

John Still made a single change from the weekend victory; however it was a decision that impacted drastically upon the positions of particular individuals. Luke Howell was unavailable through injury; this meant Mickey Spillane pushed up from right back to partner Ogogo in the centre of the park. Scott Doe also returned from injury/illness, which meant he was able to fill in at right back, a position he has been accustomed to recently. Josh Parker partnered John Akinde up front in attack that had both pace and power.

As the clock ticked nearer to 19:45, Lee, Bill & Chaz walked through the turnstiles along with a number of others, meaning the Daggers' support was looking very good. The time finally got here and with little warning from the man on the tannoy, the teams came out to good applause and song from the majority of the East Terrace. They lined up, done the pre match handshake before getting ready to start the vital encounter. Mark Arber won the toss against his former employers and opted to swap ends in the first half. This meant we would be attacking upwards as Barnet have the big sloped pitch I have ever seen. I've seen ski slopes that are less vertical.

Just a couple of facts before I begin the report. The away side hasn't won in this fixture for around seven years, furthermore, Dagenham have failed to win at Underhill in eight years. Just though I'd show you the literal and metaphorical uphill task we faced in North London.

Straight from kick off and there were half chances down either end. Top scorer Izale McLeod managed to hit a poor effort towards the body of Lewington, whilst Medy Elito struck a ball first time from a tight angle which didn't trouble former Oldham 'stopper Brill. Just over ten minutes into the match and a good chance came the away sides’ way. Josh Parker bamboozled the full back before putting in a ball on the floor towards Akinde & the surprisingly attack minded Mark Arber. Both managed to get a connection on it, but neither could get it past Brill who managed to claim it with no assistance from his static defence.

Lewington Earlier In The Season
Then for the first time this season, Chris Lewington came out of his box and headed the ball rather than catching it, clearing the ball to Spillane from a Ben May punt upfield. Mickey then gathered it before working his way around two defenders and going on a barn storming run towards the goal, however his reluctance to shoot at the correct time was shown as he was eventually closed down and his shot blocked.

Dagenham & Redbridge were having a good spell of pressure and with just under 20 minutes played, they threatened to score the first goal. Josh Parker won the ball and took a heavy touch which enabled Nurse to latch on to it, even though I'm sure Parker wanted the shot himself. However Nursey took another touch before hammering a shot towards the near post under pressure from a Barnet defender. His strike went just wide of the post, hitting the side netting when he really should have done far better.

The home side then managed to get something of a foothold in the contest, with Ben May shooting at Lewington, whilst Ricky Holmes fired a shot high over the bar minutes later, when crossing the ball for his counterparts in the box would have been a far better option. The Underhill outfit hadn't really offered anything in the opening twenty minutes or so and it showed as the vocal support began to deteriorate.

Mickey Spllane
 With 25 minutes on the clock, the Daggers took a thoroughly deserved lead. From a free kick 30 yards out, the ball was laid into Damien McCrory’s path, his terrible shot/ amazing pass found Elito on the left hand side. The former Colchester winger got round his man before hitting a wonderful ball into the box which found the head of Spillane who rose highest amongst a crowd of players at the near post. His pin point header went in just underneath the bar to leave Dean Brill helpless and the 351 Daggers in attendance going mental. It was such a massive goal, lots of singing and a Poznan ensued as we celebrated taking the lead.

Minutes after the restart and the away side who were increasingly dominant hit the woodwork three times in successive seconds. Josh Parker got down the left before curling in a ball towards the near post which found the head of Baldrick, his glancing header came back down after hitting a combination of bar and post before falling to John Akinde. Akinde managed to rise above his marker and head the ball over the helpless Brill, but he also hit the bar when it was easier to score! Unbelievable scenes as no one could quite come to a conclusion as to why we were still only 1-0 up.

Then came the cruel and fatal blow that we've come to expect to many times this season when watching Dagenham. From a foul throw, Barnet broke down the left hand side. A chipped ball over the top found the onrushing McLeod who had seemingly broke the offside the trap set by Daggers' defenders. With one touch, he chipped the ball neatly over Lewington as everyone watched it bounce agonisingly into the empty net. 1-1 when it should have been 2-0 just minutes earlier.

After a period of slightly quieter play, there was a major talking point with 30 minutes gone. The away side from Essex had two penalty appeals turned down. Firstly Medy Elito was crowded out after cutting into the box, I personally thought this one could warrant a spot kick, but the referee decided otherwise. In the same phase of play, Jon Nurse was also brought down; once again the referee waved it away and play continued.

The only other action during the rest of the first half was a couple of half chances from Barnet players Ricky Holmes and a surprise header from Mark Byrne that went over. Jon Nurse hit a shot that got a double deflection before finding its way through to Dean Brill, whilst John Akinde was proving to be a difficult man to handle up front.

That was the end of a frantic first half in which the Daggers dominated. The sheer fact we failed in our attempt to get a second whilst 1-0 up, is what had cost us. Those two/three times we'd hit the woodwork could well come back to haunt us, moreover we should have killed the game off by now, typical Dagenham some may say. One player that I haven't mentioned enough is Mickey Spillane, an absolutely sensational first half for him, pulling the strings and making the passes in the midfield, not to mention his well taken header.

I won't ramble on about half time or other player performances so I'll skip straight through to the start of the second half where it was the Daggers to kick off attacking the South Family Stand. John Stills basement men were slow out of the blocks so Barnet managed to get the first attempt of the second 45 away. Chief troublemaker Ricky Holmes created space on the right hand side before drilling his shot over the bar for a goal kick when he really should have been hitting the target.

Neither side were able to create any real opportunities for the following quarter of an hour, with optimistic shots from Jon Nurse & Mark Byrne the only thing to really talk about. John Still then made his first change on 65 minutes, when the lively Josh Parker was replaced by striker Josh Scott who was returning from a three game ban after being shown red at Swindon two weeks previous. This was a decision that bewildered me as Parker looked as though he had a lot left in the tank, furthermore he was really troubling the Barnet backline with his immense pace. With him off, we had lost a really good outlet.

Holmes who was given increasing space and license to roam on the right hand side then got another two shots away in quick succession. First he fired wide along the ground, whilst the second time he fired high and into the netting behind the terrace. The Daggers weren't really offering much, with a Josh Scott flick on the best build up play in a poor period of the game, that tells a story doesn't it!

(Artists Impression of Scott Doe Front Post Header)
 On 72 minutes though, the infamous Scott Doe front post run heralded yet another reward. A Medy Elito corner went towards that infamous near post where Scott Doe was on hand to glance a header off of the bar and into the far corner of the net. His celebrations matched ours as he came over to join in the jubilations with us. It was now 2-1 Dagenham, we really needed to keep this lead.

Within five minutes Lawrie Sanchez made a change in an attempt to instil some creativity into the Barnet side. Former Oxford man Sam Deering was on in place of the fiery midfield engine Clovis Kamdjo.

Within minutes of this change, the scores were level from a nothing shot. Ben May turned and took a pot shot from 30 yards out which Lewington watched calmly as he believed it was going wide of the far post. Of course, I and the other 351 travellers believed in the 'keeper’s judgement, so when we saw the net ripple and then shocked Ben May celebrating we couldn't believe our eyes. We stood in awe as our 'stopper had made a horrendous error through poor judgement and horrid positioning. It was now 2-2 and Chris Lewington wanted the ground to open up and swallow him whole as you may expect.

Both sides were now on the attack hoping for a winner, with both sets of supporters nervous whenever the ball went towards their goalkeeper. Mark Hughes (not related to Sparky), was the first to have a go, but his speculative right footer curled wide of the post and into the 50 seated Daggers. Minutes later and Elito hit a shot towards the near post; unfortunately it just didn't creep in, despite us willing it in.

Baldrick was then given a booking, whilst in injury time John Akinde was replaced by Brian Woodall. A completely meaningless and pointless substitution given the quantity of time remaining. Despite the increased attacking presence, neither side could manager to score that elusive winner so the scoreline remained at 2-2 before the referee brought an end to proceedings with four minutes of added time played.

My summary is this. It's a point gained from the perspective that at kick off, I expected us to get nothing given our terrible record at Underhill. It can be conceived as two points lost given that we dominated and should have been out of sight by the half time whistle. They could have been such a valuable three points, but I'll settle for the one as it see's us draw level on points with Hereford & Macclesfield. As Lee said this is our season, always the ones playing catch up.

I was extremely impressed with Mickey Spillane who was immense all night, keeping a level head whilst challenging every given ball. Not only that, but he encouraged the team to play football and lead by example, stringing a number of good passing moves together. Josh Parker was also very good in the time he played, creating numerous opportunities thanks to his incredible pace; he’ll be a vital player at the weekend.

John Akinde was also very good despite not scoring once again. He created numerous chances thanks to his exquisite hold up play; moreover the linkup between him and Nurse was admirable all night. That leads me on to Nursey who is in good form and showed it once more last night, creating several opportunities, even if his final ball was on par with that of a drive down a fairway.

Looking towards the back line and we have superb pairing in Arber, the inspiration captain and Baldrick, probably the best centre half we've had the fortune of loaning at the club. They were both solid and Baldrick in particular looks very capable of being able to track back and make vital challenges to clear the danger.

My final point regarding the team is Chris Lewington. I feel so sorry for the lad; we have to remember he’s only young. The amount of points he saved for us at the start of the season are seemingly forgotten by some supporters. He was at fault last night, but that's no need for a section of supporters to berate him with constant swearing and abuse, especially those 10-20 chavvy teens who only watch us play when we're at a local derby where they believe they can cause some aggravation.

We all left Underhill in a sombre mood with a point to show for our travels across London, after changing at Tottenham Court Road & Stratford, I eventually arrived back at Chadwell Heath for 23:30.

Also a massive well done to the 351 Daggers in attendance last night who all played their part in creating a fantastic atmosphere. From now on, we need good support away from home constantly, however we have the task of negotiating our way past Accrington Stanley at Victoria Road at the weekend first, so let’s try and get a good attendance for that one! Let's also hope that the weather is slightly more pleasant than it was in deepest, darkest Lancashire in the reverse fixture last November.

Remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy. Here are a selection of pictures from the evening.

North Family Stand, Underhill.

The Daggers' Terrace

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Daggers 2-0 Macclesfield Town, Akinde Magic

Dagenham & Redbridge recorded a valuable 2-0 win at home to Macclesfield Town on Saturday afternoon to end a run of three consecutive defeats, that scoreline also means we're six games unbeaten against the Silkmen, a run stretching back to December 2008.

Macclesfield's, "Robin Hood" supporters coach.
 Before the game I was pretty relaxed and mellow about the ensuing match, perhaps as I'd been drinking the night before and the cider had managed to numb my brain a bit. Either way, I was chilled and looking forward to it at the same time. I was also expecting a decent turnout from Macclesfield as they'd give the go ahead to pay for two of the supporters coaches down off of their own backs, a good initiative from a club that surely don't have too much money to spend.

As I arrived into Victoria Road, my first port of call was the toilets, (I promise I'm telling you this for a reason), where I found some inspiration. The "Akinde Magic" sign was still written on the door of one of the bogs, perhaps it was a sign of things to come as the striker had signed back on loan along with defender Charlie Wassmer, late Friday night. This took up our total of loans at this current period to six; I only thought we were allowed four at any one time!

As I moved over to the Sieve to have a burger and stand with Lee, the teams were read out over the tannoy.

Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Spillane, Arber, Baudry (Baldrick), McCrory, Elito, Ogogo, Howell, Parker, Nurse, Akinde. Subs: Bond, Bingham, Green, Woodall, Wassmer.

The big news on Friday night was the double signing of Charlie Wassmer, but more importantly former Dagger John Akinde on loan from Crawley Town. I'm sure this angered a few because of who we signed them from, but it was a fantastic move by Stilly, moreover Akinde started in place of Woodall in the only change from the midweek defeat against Northampton. Baldrick retained his place at centre half, whilst Nurse would partner Akinde up front.

Macclesfield Town: O'Donnell, Tremarco, Brown, Diagne, Connolly, Daniel, Mendy, Wedgebury, Hamshaw, Donnelly, Smith. Subs: Chalmers, Ball, Mukendi, Tomlinson, Bakare.

Gary Simpson brought in Matt Smith & Matthew Ball on loan from Oldham and Norwich respectively on Friday; however it was striker Smith that made his debut in place of Congolese front man Vinny Mukendi, whilst Ball had to be content with a place on the bench. The only other change was the return of Liverpudlian born defender Carl Tremarco for Marcus Marshall as Macc went more defensive.

It was nearing kick off and then came the rhythmic walkers, aka Pulse. The less said about their performance, the better. It lacked rhythm, consistency and cohesion; however unlike Dagenham this season, they kept all of their moves on the deck! Just after this, they went in and the teams came out onto the pitch to muted applause from all four sides. This may well have been a big game, but it didn't really have that feel about it for me.

It was Macclesfield that won the toss and they opted to change round, meaning the Daggers would be attacking the Bury Road End, whilst Macc would face their own fans in the Traditional Builders Stand. Just before kickoff Jon Nurse was given a special award from chairman Dave Andrews for clocking up 200 Dagenham & Redbridge appearances, in a stint that has also made him the longest serving Dagger still at the club.

We kicked off and the first chance of the match came courtesy of old new boy John Akinde, who hit a tame shot at O'Donnell following a neat flick forward by Jon Nurse. Within five minutes and Macclesfield made the opportunities count one apiece as former Sheffield United man Sam Wedgebury headed straight at Chris Lewington from close range following a delightful ball in from Colin Daniel. Just before the ten minute mark and the Daggers went close again, a Damien McCrory ball in found the head of Jon Nurse who could only manage to head wide of the mark.

The game was becoming increasingly open in the early stages meaning both sides had good chances. Macclesfield went close through Matt Hamshaw & Colin Daniel, but their shots were blocked by a combination of Mark Arber and Damien McCrory as the scores remained level. From one of these blocks came a neat Daggers counter attack. The ball was played to Josh Parker on the right hand side whose neat trickery saw him worm into the box before playing a good ball in that was headed away by the Macc defence.
On the 16 minute mark, the home side made that vital breakthrough via Medy Elito. He was given the ball on the right hand side and made a mazy run into the box, beating two defenders before slotting home a deflected finish to send the Daggers one up. A superb piece of play from the winger who has received his fair share of criticism this season from me and others. The scoreline was perhaps slightly harsh on Macclesfield who had looked dangerous whilst attacking.

Straight from the restart and the Daggers were looking to build on their slender advantage through the lively Josh Parker. His shot that was heading towards goal was blocked, meaning it fell beautifully for Luke Howell on the edge of the box; his strike was eventually deflected away for a corner.

We then had a bit of a lull in play as the game slowed down, enabling both teams to find their feet. Macclesfield hadn't tested Lewington once in the Daggers goal, and coming up to 32 minutes it was still the case as another Luke Howell effort was fired tamely at visiting goalkeeper O'Donnell. Minutes later and Gary Simpson’s men had their first opportunity of the match, if you could call it that. George Donnelly received the ball on the left hand side, but luckily Mark Arber asserted enough pressure to ensure the striker skewed his shot way off target to a chorus of “whey’s”, from the Sieve.

Medy Elito then came close to doubling the lead. He cut in once more and bent a shot towards the near post that struck Akinde on its way; unfortunately, the deflection took it just wide of the post much to my despair. Mickey Spillane then went close as well, Akinde's neat lay off saw the former Brentford defender hit it towards the roof of the net from 15 yards out, however O'Donnell made another good save to tip it over for a corner.

Just before the half time whistle and John Still's men had two more good opportunities to increase the scoreline. The first came from a Josh Parker throw which found the head of Jon Nurse who could only manage to head a superb opportunity onto the roof of the net when he really should have scored. The second chance came from a poor O'Donnell header from outside the box. It fell to Parker whose poor strike whilst the 'keeper was off his line fell to Akinde just outside the box. You just had that sense that Akinde wouldn't find the back of the net and so it proved as O'Donnell recovered to make another good stop.

World Famous, Pulse...........
 That was the end of the first half in which the Daggers dominated throughout, Macclesfield weren't given so much as a sniff of a chance. In truth we could have been three or four up with the opportunities we had, but our lack of finishing prowess was seemingly costing us once again. I was however impressed with every player on the pitch, in particular Parker & Akinde who were making things happen up top. Howell was also as impressive as ever, getting around the pitch whilst Jon Nurse was having a stormer on his 200th appearance.

The teams resumed for the second half just after 16:00 to decent applause, although the Macclesfield fans were slightly less unenthusiastic being 1-0 down. It was Macc who managed to get the first attempt of the second half away, however George Donnelly's shot was blocked well by McCrory and eventually Lewington. He was easily their main threat; furthermore it showed why the Daggers really needed a second goal to put the game beyond the fighting Silkmen.

Chris Lewington was then called into his first real action of the afternoon following a Matt Hamshaw corner. The ball came into the box where the unmarked Diagne was on hand to apply a firm head, directing the ball goalwards. Fortunately for Daggers, Lewy managed a superb fingertip save over the bar to deny the young French defender.

Dagenham then managed to form something that resembled a breakaway, resulting in a Mickey Spillane shot being deflected behind for a corner. From the resulting set piece, Medy Elito put in a corner to the front post where Baldrick made the Scott Doe run, unfortunately he couldn't get it on target.

Macclesfield then came dangerously close to getting a somewhat deserved equaliser. A free kick on the left hand side was directed towards debutant Matt Smith in the box. His pin point header went against the crossbar before bouncing back out to the onrushing Donnelly whose on target header was tipped over superbly by the scrambling Lewington. A real scare for Dagenham as those missed chances promised to come back and haunt them.

Akinde vs Carlisle last season.
 With 70 minutes played, John Akinde showed some good initiative inside the box, letting a Josh Parker ball in roll through his legs towards the perfectly placed Luke Howell. However, Howell was beaten to the ball by Connolly which averted the danger. Former Lincoln man Howell then had to undergo some treatment as it looked as though he'd injured himself; nonetheless he bravely carried on whilst appearing to be in some pain.

Then came a few changes for both sides. Firstly, Lewis Chalmers replaced the tiring Sam Wedgebury in a like for like swap in the midfield. Minutes later and Luke Howell couldn't continue any longer, even though he valiantly tried to defend a Macclesfield attack whilst others just strolled back. It was the end of his game, meaning Billy Bingham was introduced into the fold. Let’s just hope that his injury isn't bad, as he really has been a dynamic player in the midfield in the past two games. Macc then made their second change a few minutes later, defender Tremarco was off, meaning former Chelmsford midfielder Michael Bakare was given a chance to shine for the final 15 minutes.

With 13 minutes to go, the home sides lack of potency in front of goal was evident once again as Jon Nurse flashed a shot wide of the post from 15 yards out when he really should have tested the goalkeeper. That was thanks to some good work from "Akinde magic", he had reappeared for the second half with his name and number on the back of shirt; that’s really Akinde Magic! On a separate note, anyone else think, "Akinde Magic", sounds like a rubbish Basketball team?

Five minutes after that attempt and Josh Parker was released through once again, but his one on one effort against O'Donnell was clambered behind for a corner. The pacey Oldham loanee fluffing his lines when it mattered when it was probably easier to score. From the resulting corner, Spillane could only manage a poor volley that went over the bar.

Then came an anxious five minute period for John Still's men after Elito and Bingham conceded identical free kicks in threatening positions. Both of the dead ball situations were good opportunities, but luckily both strikes ended up being hammered against the wall; much to everyone's relief. In between the two failed strikes, Brian Woodall replaced the tiring John Akinde for Dagenham, whilst Ben Tomlinson replaced Matt Hamshaw as the Chesire side made their final change in an attempt to find that all important equaliser.

The fourth official indicated that there would be four minutes added on, just as it was announced, Macclesfield won a corner. This did of course mean that the 'keeper O'Donnell was up, causing a new vibe and a sense of anticipation all around the ground. The ball came in and it fell to Bakare who could only direct it over the bar.

Usually when Dagenham dominate a game, they drop points, but not today. With virtually the final play of the game, Medy Elito was released through on the left hand side; he escaped his marker before curling a tame shot at O'Donnell. A simple save you would think? Alas, the ball trickled over the despairing O'Donnell and into the back of the net to relieve all of the pressure we had felt in the previous 93 minutes at Victoria Road. This ensured a deserved Daggers 3 points, whilst Macclesfield would have to head home to Cheshire with nothing to show from our two encounters against them this season.

The referee called time on the match and everyone filed out of Victoria Road in a buoyant and happy mood. After a brief chat with Mike Jones after the game, I got my Barnet ticket and headed off home, safe in the knowledge that we'd kept ourselves in touch with everyone down at the bottom end of the table.

Overall, I was extremely pleased with the display. It was probably one of the most dominant performances all season from our point of view; however we had only managed to scrape the victory which tells its own story. The amount of missed opportunities we had was disastrous, I thoroughly hope we have shooting practice all day on Monday!

As for individual players, what a difference John Akinde made. He may not have been on top form and he may not have scored, but he caused the Macc defence no end of problems. His physical strength and awareness on the ball is second to none in our team at the moment, a very shrewd move from Stilly to get him back. Josh Parker was also sensational; his gut busting runs combined with his immense pace is a recipe for success. He is able to create plenty of chances and really hassle the full backs of the opposition, another good loan signing.

I can then look at the defence and think what a resolute display. Baldrick was immense throughout, making fantastic tackles and really being a force at the back positioned next to the equally solid Arber was played the real captain’s role yesterday afternoon. The midfield was probably the best it’s been all season, Howell was dynamic, Ogogo was feisty and Parker & Elito on either wing provided a superb threat. You'd imagine Macclesfield are getting sick of Elito, all three goals we've scored against Macc this season have come from him!

The man who deserves some real plaudits however, is Mr 200; Jon Nurse. He has had his fair share of criticism this season from everyone, including myself, but he really has come back with a bang in the last few games. Unfortunately amongst good team performances, he hasn't been recognised that much, but he looked like the Nurse of old. He had trickery, awareness, energy and an eye for goal (even if it was rather poor), let’s hope he can keep it up.

As for Macclesfield, a pretty poor display in all honesty, they're without a win in the whole of 2012 and you can see why. They looked blunt up front and left gaps at the back which we exploited half heartedly. It's now a real relegation battle, with upwards of five teams involved. It's anyone’s guess who will go down really, and I have a horrid feeling that it may go down to the final day of the season.

It's weird really. Four days ago I was virtually consigned to the face we would be playing Tamworth next season, now however I hold real hope of survival because of one win. This league is genuinely uncallable from now until the end of the season and I have to say, whoever goes down I will probably feel quite sorry for in a weird way.

Next up for us is our "derby of the season", against Barnet on Tuesday night, whilst Macclesfield face a trip to the wonderful Don Valley Stadium. Having been there, all I can see is... enjoy the view!

Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy. On a final note, I wish all the best to everyone related to Fabrice Muamba, furthermore I hope he managed to pull through. 

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Daggers 0-1 Northampton, Daggers Not Drawn.

All season long, I've said that our inability to draw games has cost us, and once again I was proved right as the Daggers lost 1-0 at home to relegation rivals Northampton Town, plunging us further into the Blue Square mire. I will say this now, unless we have a drastic upturn in fortunes over the next two weeks, I think we will be plying our trade in the Forest Green Rovers league next season.

There will be no in depth match report, simply because I am too gutted to outline it, this is the worst I've ever felt after a Daggers match. We started the game with a high tempo, looking to attack down the wings, looking to get Woodall into some good scoring opportunities, but we just couldn't find that all important breakthrough first, as has been the case countless times this season.

I should point out the team showed four changes from the one that was defeated in Kingston Upon Thames on Saturday afternoon. Jonathan Bond, Billy Bingham, Scott Doe and Ben Reeves were all out of the side for one reason or another. They were replaced by Chris Lewington, Matthieu Baudry, Josh Parker and somewhat surprisingly Luke Howell, who had made a miracle recovery from injury. Parker & Howell excited me in particular as they could possibly add some extra pace and urgency to the midfield, something that's desperately needed.

The first half was very slow paced, although Dagenham did start the brighter with a rather high tempo, getting the ball down the wings on several occasions. One particular storming run from loanee Josh Parker causing problems for the Cobblers back line before he was halted in his tracks. The closest the Daggers came in truth was a Mickey Spillane free kick that was a fair few yards away from testing former Premier League goalkeeper Matt Duke. However, it was a promising first forty five from our point of view, possibly because we had kept the scores at level pegging.

From a Northampton perspective, they may have been disappointed at not being a goal or two to the good. Michael Jacobs was providing a valiant threat from the back, forcing Mickey Spillane to make a vital block on more than one occasion. However, the away side’s biggest threat was right midfielder Toni Silva on loan from Liverpool. His pace was exploiting the right side of the pitch and causing numerous problems for McCrory and Arber. In one instance he ran from the half way line, fooled two of our defenders before cutting back into the box and forcing a superb save from Lewington to send the ball out for a corner.

The Daggers looked a bigger threat from set pieces as per usual; however the Scott Doe front post run wasn't in effect as the centre half was ill with something so unable to play. However, Spillane nearly got on the end of one, whilst a Medy Elito shot from outside the box after the ball had been cleared was also blocked, meaning the scores would remain level going into the break. That was probably a fair result in all honesty.

We had hoped that the half time interlude would encourage the Daggers to push forward as we so often do in the second half, but that wasn't the case. The second half started sluggishly, but was brought to life 62 minutes in when a superb run and shot from Michael Jacobs who has been a threat all evening, was tipped away superbly by Chris Lewington. Unfortunately for Lewy, he palmed it straight into the path of onrushing winger Toni Silva, by far the Cobblers' best player. With the quick swing of his foot it made the net bulge and the Daggers were 1-0 down. I personally don’t believe Lewington was at fault for the goal, the defence in front of him could be apportioned some of the blame.

This left an eerie silence around Victoria Road as three quarters of the ground were plunged into despair, meanwhile the Traditional Builders Stand was rocking with the hardly 660 or so Northampton supporters celebrating their massive goal. There's a reason we're down the bottom you know, we've conceded first on 23 occasions, whilst we have the worst record in the league against teams in the bottom half, picking up just 14 points from a possible 42 before this game.

John Still made a delayed substitution, bringing on big Rob Edmans for the somewhat ineffective Brian Woodall. If there's one criticism I have of John as a whole, it’s his substitutions, this one for example was made far too late in the game, especially when you consider Edmans was ready to go twenty minutes previous.

Aidy Boothroyd then went all defensive with just ten minutes left to play, bringing on Byron Webster for the tank Akinfenwa. This move made sure that the away side had defensive cover as several successions of crosses were headed away from the box, the Daggers simply couldn't break down the resolute back line. The one good chance the Daggers did have in the dying moments was massive, a ball came in and it found the head of the unmarked Parker, however his header was straight at Duke. Game over.

I cannot describe to you my own and several other fans' emotions after this game. Everyone was so downbeat as you may expect, such a massive defeat in the context of the season. I can now confirm that I, the eternal optimist will believe that we will be relegated. There is just no way of us getting out of it at the moment, we cannot beat the teams around us, it’s as simple as that.

The major thing for us this season is our lack of draws. If we converted just four or five of these twenty two or so defeats into draws, we'd have been in touching distance. The constant conceding from individual mistakes as well as the amount of late goals we let in has really done us up. If we are to go down, this is the thing that I will look at the most.

I think I'm going to end this Blog here, no pictures, no jokes, no real meaning, much like the Daggers performance, extremely bland. However, I will congratulate Howell & Parker who both look like playing a vital role in the coming games; Howell especially who looks like he will be driving the midfield.

One last thing to bear in mind is that this end of the season anything can happen. Games come thick and fast and teams go on winning and losing runs; we just have to hope we can manage to string some good results together.

I'll be back for a hopefully more cheery and lengthy report from the game against Macclesfield on Saturday.

Follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

AFC Wimbledon 2-1 Daggers, Dijilali Is No Joke.

Dagenham & Redbridge succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at Kingsmeadow against AFC Wimbledon on Saturday afternoon, to all but enhance our relegation credentials. At this rate, we'll be drawing up our plans for Tamworth & Braintree pretty soon, especially if we're defeated in the vital clash with Northampton Town on Tuesday night.

The day started at 12:15 where myself, Charlie, Andy & Matt enjoyed a nice breakfast in the cafe, before going on to meet Billy at Chadwell Heath Station for 13:00. With that, we hopped on the train to Stratford, before getting the tube to Bank where we eventually transferred to Waterloo after a mad dash. At Waterloo we found the platform for the South West Train to Norbiton, the closest train to Kingsmeadow and dually got on it, meaning that we would end up at the ground earlier than previously thought.

We arrived at Norbiton for about 14:20, we then headed down a small side road which joined onto the main road that led to the ground. We went past the home fans entrance before heading to our allocated turnstiles where our tickets were checked for the correct age. All was fine so we headed through, we were later joined by Andy & Bill who had looked for a pub, but mistakenly went into a strip club. An interesting start to the afternoon you may say.

First impressions of Kingsmeadow are that it's a non league ground, which it is; as it was primarily Kingstonian's home stadium. Three sides are terracing, with the main stand being rather small and seated, I imagine if they stay in the Football League they'll need to increase their seating capacity like we did with the Traditional Builders Stand. Either end behind the goals are closed terraces, where some noise came from. The far end was the most prominent; it was also the bigger of the two.

We were housed in the "John Smith Terrace", which had both a large covered section and a small uncovered section. This was satisfactory as it was a nice day, which makes a change as when we have open terraces away from home it usually pours down, (See Accrington & Bristol Rovers). We opted to go under cover as better noise would be generated, with about 20 minutes to go I'd make the estimation that there were over 300 Daggers in the ground. A good atmosphere was being created as the sun glared down upon us.

The teams were then read out by the over excited announcer.

AFC Wimbledon: Brown, Gwillim, Mitchell-King, Balkenstein, Hatton, Jolley, Moore, Yussuff, Knott, Midson, Harrison. Subs: Turner, Johnson, Kiernan, Dijilali, Luke Moore.

Don’s boss Terry Brown opted to make four changes from the side that were defeated by relegation rivals Plymouth on Tuesday night. Former Daggers man Gareth Gwillim replaced youngster Chris Bush at left back, whilst Callum McNaughton was also withdrawn for on loan Brentford defender Pim Balkenstein, as the Wombles looked to address their worryingly leaky defence. West Ham youngster George Moncur was also taken out for Sunderland loanee Billy Knott. Up front Jason Euell was out of the team, Wimbledon's record signing Byron Harrison coming in for him up front.

Dagenham & Redbridge: Bond, Doe, Spillane, Arber, McCrory, Nurse, Bingham, Ogogo, Reeves, Elito, Woodall. Subs: Lewington, Rose, Edmans, Green, Abdulla.

Josh Scott was banned, which meant Brian Woodall started for the first time since the victory over Rotherham in late January, as he's been carrying a slight knock. Jonathan Bond retained his place in goal, whilst Rob Edmans once again found himself on the bench. New loan signing Josh Parker wasn't included as he missed the team coach to Wimbledon, what a great way to make an impact at your new club eh?

At this point I probably should congratulate Wimbledon on their superb choice of pre game music, many of which were toe tappers. Although, "Hey Jude", by the Beatles, made the mood the slightly more sombre as kickoff approached. The teams then came out of the tunnel and on to the pitch just before 15:00; this was probably the only time in the game where I was able to see all 22 players at one time, due to the blocked view from The John Smith Terrace.

After some singing from us, and some clapping from John Still, we were ready to kick the game off, the Daggers would be attacking the Tempest End, whilst Wimbledon were heading towards The Kingston Road End. It was the Daggers to kick off as the nerves began to settle in.

The pace of the game was very slow at first, with Byron Harrison trying to nip in before Bond, but to no avail. The Daggers went on the attack twice, but both Nurse & Elito were called offside, much to my frustration. The first attempt of the match came in the form of Beavis, or Ben Reeves to you and I. A ball was crossed into the middle of the box, but the Southampton youngster leant back and got underneath the ball, putting it over the bar for a goal kick. Butthead wasn't particularly pleased I can assure you.

The game then slowed down once more as the intensity of the atmosphere increased, both sets of supporters were really up for this encounter. On 13 minutes, Damien McCrory headed back a poor ball to Jonathan Bond in the goal, meaning the on loan stopper had to move fast to avert the danger. Luckily he got there before Jolley to take control of the situation, a bit of a scare nonetheless.

The home side then had the first good opportunity of the match. Some neat play from a corner saw the ball played out to Yussuff on the edge of the box, the ex Gillingham midfielder played a superb dummy allowing the ball to flow through to Knott, who got his feet in a twist as he completely missed his shot. A really good chance and one that Knott really should have done better with.

The Daggers were enjoying a good spell in the Wimbledon half; however there was no real penetration when going forward. Jon Nurse looked to get on the inside of a defender, but his first touch let him down, whilst Brian Woodall wasn't particularly having any luck being the lone striker in a 4-4-1-1 formation. We looked a bigger threat from corners which have become our fortè this season, however early set pieces saw no goals. Not even the infamous Doe to the front post routine could yield that all important first strike.
After that good spell of pressure and some teasing Elito crosses from the byline, it was the turn of the Dons to form an attack. Christian Jolley who was playing for Surrey County Intermediate League Team Oxted & District just three years ago, then crossed the ball for Sammy Moore. The midfielder rose highest amongst a crowd of players, but could only head on to the roof of the net, much to the 3800 home fans' disappointment.

It then became increasingly scrappy, with neither side giving much away. Ben Reeves managed to prod a shot towards the body of Seb Brown, but he could only force a simple save. Whilst up the other end, Jonathan Bond was forced to rush out of his area to clear an oncoming ball, smart goalkeeping by the youngster from Watford. Minutes later and Sammy Moore picked the ball up about 35 yards out before going on a short dribble. He then unleashed a shot which went just over the bar and through the gap between the roof & the wall of the home fans' stand. Immense precision

On 40 minutes, Brian Woodall was handed a superb chance to give the Daggers the lead. Jon Nurse created some space for himself down the right hand side thanks to a great through ball. The Barbadian wormed his way around two defenders before laying the ball into Woodall who snatched at the strike, putting it high over the bar. Yet another really good opportunity that we could well live to regret later on in the afternoon.

It was Wimbledon who managed the last attack of the first half. Some good breakaway play saw Byron Harrison lose his marker before cutting into the box on the left hand side. The striker hadn't scored yet for the Dons, and so it remained as his fierce shot across goal was palmed away for a corner by Bond between the sticks. With that, the referee blew his whistle to end the half, meaning there was no time for the resulting corner.

I was fairly pleased with the first half, pretty average and if we're all honest, the draw was probably the deserved outcome. I was particularly impressed with the tracking back of our forward players, Elito & Nurse in particular, who were both seemingly putting in double shifts. Spillane & Arbs looked assured as a partnership at centre half, whilst Doey was having no problems in the right back position.

Abu Ogogo was my man of the half, it's a bit of a cliché to say he was the engine room in the middle, but he really was. His conversion to a central midfielder was a superb move by Stilly; he was breaking up the play, as well as going on short busting runs to create valuable opportunities. He's a real asset to the side, another string to his bow et al. We needed a change of formation though, as Woodall up front on his own wasn't bringing dividends, Nurse would need to push up or Edmans would have to be brought on for it to work as 4-4-2.

Enough about the football, it's now time for my food appraisal. The queue was relatively short, which is always a good thing, however the staff were rather rude which I didn't particularly like. It appears they didn't know that I am the author of The Daggers Scale. Prices were adequate; moreover I opted for the £3.00 rollover hot dog. Roll over hot dogs are extremely nice and I am very fond of them, however this one was absolutely dire. Not only was it in a rubbish package, it was small and wasn't even a nice sausage. I can hear you laughing! Not impressed with either of the food or your level of comedy.

As I got back to my standing position towards the end of the terrace, we watched the substitutes have some fun keeping the ball up on the pitch. It was quite nice to see that the team still have good spirit and camaraderie, despite being where we are in the league. It then also hit me that I should have had chips, for £2 you were given a massive portion. If I have a single regret about 2012, I'm sure that will be it. Absolutely crestfallen.

Terry Brown then made his first change of the afternoon, bringing of Brett Johnson for the Cambridge born midfielder, Mat Mitchell-King. The second half began with a fluster as Wimbledon came close to breaking the deadlock. Christian Jolley made space for himself down the left hand side and swung in a delightful ball that just missed the head of Harrison, if he'd have gambled on it he probably would have scored. Minutes later and Damien McCrory won a corner on the near side, he dually whipped a ball in, but it was gathered well by Seb Brown between the sticks.

The Wombles then began to assert some pressure on the game. Former Daggers striker Jack Midson was released through thanks to a header on from a Seb Brown free kick, his prod towards goal beat Bond, but it hammered back off of the inside of the post. The rebound fell to Rashid Yussuff, his sliced strike forced a good save from Bond who recovered well to clear the danger and prevent a near certain goal. I thought it was in, but some frantic defending from Dagenham just about kept the scores at level pegging.

John Still then decided it was time to make a change; the somewhat anonymous Ben Reeves was withdrawn, in place of Dominic Green. Minutes after the change and the Daggers nearly took the lead. Green's first touch saw him play it into Nurse on the near side, with a quick shimmy, Nursey hit a ball into the box where Billy Bingham rose highest, but could only manage to head harmlessly over the crossbar.

The side from Essex then began to look like the more dominant outfit, with Brian Woodall heading a half chance over the bar in the same fashion as Bingham did previously. On 62 minutes, Jon Nurse was released down the left hand side; some clever work saw him bearing down on goal at an acute angle. He did extremely well to get a decent shot away which tested Brown to force a corner, although I think we all knew that he had next to nope hope of finding the net from that position.

The Dons then made their second change of the afternoon, bringing on Kieran Dijilali (no relation to Omid), for the lively Byron Harrison. In the same, "phase of play", Jon Nurse was booked for a foul on Billy Knott, a challenge not to dissimilar to the one which saw Josh Scott sent off on Tuesday night. Dijilali was then at the centre of play, crossing in a ball towards the centre of the box witch Bond pounced on after flapping widely at it in mid air.

Brian Woodall then managed to get a volley away from outside of the box, but it was only troubling the steward in the car park, so the scores stayed level. John Still then made his second change of the afternoon; Medy Elito was replaced by giant Rob Edmans. I was excited at this change as Edmans promised to be a real nuisance from what I witnessed at Millwall earlier in the season, furthermore he can be a real threat from crosses and corners due to his massive height.

And then came the Daggers season summed up in a frantic two minutes of action. Jon Nurse received the ball on the right and crossed in a teasing ball towards the head of Edmans at the near post, all the big man had to do was get his nut on it unchallenged, but he failed to make contact as the ball rolled out for a goal kick. The best chance of the game and one that should have seen us take the lead. We were then straight up the other end as poor defending from Damien McCrory allowed Midson to get a shot away that looped over the diving Bond to send the Dons a goal up. From what could have been jubilation at one end, to despair at the other.

The Wombles fans were now overjoyed as you may expect, moreover they had their singing voices back and were creating a raucous atmosphere. Mickey Spillane was then booked for dissent as everything threatened to go all downhill. The Wombles were looking to double their lead, but a shaky save from Bond coupled with a simple save from a Dons' free kick, ensured the deficit remained the same.

After the 80 minute mark came a sustained period of Daggers pressure. Rob Edmans went on a Yaya Youre like run, with the ball glued to his feet from the half way line onwards. He created acres of space for himself and when presented with the chance to shoot, he played in Woodall who was perfectly placed for a first time shot across goal with his left foot. However, the high pitched striker decided to cut the ball back onto his right foot, enabling the home defence to recover to eventually see his shot deflected over the bar.

From the resulting corner, Jon Nurse tried his luck with a header from point blank range, but it was blocked on the line. The ball then fell to Brian Woodall who was standing on the penalty spot. The striker's fierce drive towards the roof of the net forced a fine save from Seb Brown, who probably has a broken wrist from palming it over the bar.

On the 82 minute mark however, the Daggers found that massively important equaliser. Dominic Green centred in a corner towards the centre of the goal, where it found the unmarked Spillane who was on hand to head the ball into the corner of the net to level the scores, despite the best efforts of an athletic Brown. Cue barmy celebrations from the 381 Daggers including, a Jose Mourinho like run down the walkway by Billy. Overjoyed. However, I then had a horrid gut feeling, we have in recent years, had a habit of conceding just after we've levelled the scores; and I thought that it would be the same case at Kingsmeadow.

Sure enough with just three minutes gone since we had levelled the scores, the Wombles were back in front. A cross eluded several players from both sides in the box, before falling to the feet of Dijilali at the back post, whose tame volley squirmed between Bond and the post to leave the Daggers down in the dumps. The AFC fans were once again extremely vocal with their very catchy, "A-F-C Wimbledon" chant as they looked to close out the game and take all three points rather selfishly for themselves.

Just before the fourth official indicated a minimum of four minutes added time, Mickey Spillane went close with a header at the near post; however he could only contrive to hit the stanchion behind the goal, much to my despair. Goalscorer Dijilali was then shown a late booking for time wasting.

The Daggers final chance of the game came two minutes into the original four added on. Jon Nurse who has been a menace all day down the wings, put in a ball from the far side which found Rob Edmans who made contact from a diving header, but it was pushed behind superbly by Brown to make sure the scoreline remained the same. It was game over and Wimbledon had taken a massive three points to leave us rock bottom, with a rather sick after taste of the afternoon.

The lads came over to applaud our support, but by this time at least half had already filed out of the stadium, ready to make their way home. This was probably one of the hardest defeats to take, especially when you consider we had the best of the chances throughout the game. Credit to Wimbledon though, they took theirs, so ultimately they deserved the three points to lift them further clear of the relegation zone.

There were however a couple of positives to take out of a demoralising defeat. Rob Edmans looked fantastic when introduced, he caused big problems for the Dons defence, even though he missed a golden opportunity; furthermore he could be vital in the run in. Jon Nurse also had a very good game for me, caused a real threat down the right and left hand side, hopefully we can see more of that in the coming weeks. Abu Ogogo was also an engine room once more, not only breaking up a lot of the play, but even going on surging runs forward.

As for Wimbledon, they have a great striker in Jack Midson, add to that Dijilali looks like a very vibrant character and Seb Brown was in magnificent form. I reckon they'll have enough to stay up. I really like their policy on youth as well, with the average age of their starting eleven yesterday being a very tidy 24.8. I wish them well for the rest of the season as I no longer believe they are a threat to us in our bid for survival.

If I am to look across the board at yesterday’s results, it just looks increasingly bleak. Barnet mustered a last gasp win, Hereford won, Northampton won, Macclesfield managed a superb 2-2 draw against Crawley after being 2-0 down. The only bright spot was Plymouth losing, which means they fill the relegation spots along with us. I'm going to make a rather rash call and say that if we lose on Tuesday night, I can't see us getting out of it; I'm really that demoralised.

What's done here is done, so we now have to look forward to our next three matches that are truly vital. Northampton at home. Macclesfield at home. Barnet away. I'd be looking to yield four points from those at the very least. If not, I fear that's the end. However, we have to all get behind the lads on Tuesday night, because at this current moment in time, we still face a possible task and I believe that we can still do it.

Overall, a disappointing day in terms of the result, but an enjoyable day in terms of it was a laugh, especially the journey home.

Just a last note if you want even more good news, it looks as though Matt Saunders' injury could be long term according to, @Post_Daggers on Twitter. With that, have a happy Sunday.

Thanks for reading, remember to give me a follow on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy.

The Kingston Road End

The Paul Strank Stand