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


  1. Great performance at least we are creating chances now.Poor old Lewy,I could have run on the pitch and chased him for that mistake but hes young,certainly didnt mean it and made one or two decent saves in the last few games.His confidence will be low now,should we put Bond back in? Great game though,how did we not score when we hit the bar twice? Did we have an ejection last night,it looked that way to me.Does goal was Antwi-esque by the way LOL!!Arnu.

  2. If you had a forward line that could score goals any mistakes made by Lewington would be soon forgotten