Sunday, 29 April 2012

Shrewsbury Town 1-0 Daggers, League One Shrews

Shrewsbury Town clinched promotion at the Greenhous Meadow on Saturday Afternoon thanks to a 1-0 win over the Daggers whose unbeaten eight game run was finally broken in a match that will live in the memories of Shrewsbury fans for quite some time.

The day started at an early 8:45 after a bacon roll at Chadwell Heath Station in the steady rain as Billy & Chaz turned up late; Billy in a banana costume that would be a prominent feature of the day. After sorting all of the tickets out we headed to Liverpool Street where we then got the tube to Euston Square and eventually walked to the main Euston Station in good time to meet Chris, Matt, Joe, Jake & Michael.

Whilst at Euston we received several funny looks thanks to the Banana costume, however it proved a hit with some as one woman on her hen weekend requested a picture with Bill. I then done the same as it's not every day you get to say you travelled to Shrewsbury with a banana, as you may notice I was sporting some very nice shades.

At around 10:20 our train was called and we jumped aboard the plush service for the journey to Birmingham New Street where we'd change for Shrewsbury. The journey passed quickly and it was a laugh all the way which meant we arrived for the change just after 12:00. The new train was extremely old and dilapidated, much like the scenery of Wolverhampton that we passed on the way there; it made Dagenham look modern for god sake! After just over an hour on the sparsely populated train, going past places such as Telford; we arrived in Shrewsbury just after 13:00.

The first thing to do was to get something to eat so we headed towards the town centre that was bustling and rather old which made it quite nice where we eventually came across a McDonalds. Just as we walked in the banana costume once again proved a hit as one onlooker complimented Bill by saying, "I like your banana," which as you may guess had us in stitches. After just over half an hour eating and being recognised from Dagenham because we apparently sounded like Stacey Solomon, we went back up to the station to get a cab to the ground.

After a brief wait the cab was called and we arrived inside a packed Greenhous Meadow car park at 14:10. Whilst here we were pulled in by BBC Radio Shropshire and like the nice lad I am I allowed two others to take the spotlight this week in Chris & Bill following my BBC London exploits at Port Vale a few weeks previous. It all went off without a hitch so we headed inside the away turnstiles ready for the game.

First impressions of the stadium is that it's quite modern, obviously so as it was only opened in 2007 as a new home following the Shrews' vacation of The Gay Meadow after their 97 year tenure at the historic venue. We were housed in the corner of the North Stand that was very plush, plenty of leg room if it was wanted and enough seats for all of us. The rest of the North Stand was allocated to Shrews fans for obvious reasons.

The Roland Wycherley Stand
The other three stands are largely the same with each being 18 rows high in stature. The Roland Wycherley Stand is the main stand of the stadium having several press areas as well as containing the dugouts; this was located to the left of us and it held 2893 people. Opposite that was the West Stand where the more vocal of the home support are situated, it's also the largest stand holding 3302 people.

The final stand is where the lads in morph suits were placed, The Salop Leisure Stand behind the goal which holds 1900 people and was once again packed to the rafters. A little known fact about the stadium is that it's a UEFA Category Four stadium which means it can host a Europa League Tie or even a European Championship encounter such are the facilities of the ground.

Just as we found our seats, the teams were read out and they were as follows,

Shrewsbury Town: Neal, Grandison, Jacobson, Sharps, Cansdell-Sherriff, Wright, Wroe, Richards, Wildig, Collins, Gornell. Subs: Smith, Regan, McAllister, Taylor, Morgan.

Veteran manager Graham Turner named an unchanged side from the one that failed to clinch promotion last week by drawing 1-1 at Accrington Stanley meaning that top scorer James Collins would lead the frontline once more. Former Daggers striker Marvin Morgan was on the bench which meant if he was introduced he was sure to get a hostile reception from the visitors.

Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, McCrory, Baudry, Spillane, Doe, Elito, Howell, Ogogo, Bingham, Scott, Woodall. Subs: Hogan, Gain, Green, Rose, Abdulla.

John Still opted to make one change as his side looked to maintain their eight match unbeaten run by bringing in fit again Luke Howell for Mark Arber who would be alongside Stuart Smith in the commentary box. This change meant that Mickey Spillane would drop back into a more natural centre of defence role alongside Baudry. There was some more good news in the sense that Peter Gain was back on the bench after a long period out with an injury.

Then came possibly a moment that defined what our club stands for with John Still coming into the area where we were situated and shaking the supporters' hands, a simply superb gesture by Stilly. Whilst he didn't get through everyone it was still a great thing to do, showing his appreciation for our support throughout the season, moreover I doubt any other club or manager in the league would do such a thing; that's why I love my club.

The ground was filling up rapidly and the mood was only enhanced by a superb selection of tunes over the tannoy, including one of my favourites by "The Killers", cue the first karaoke episode of the day. As kick off approached the atmosphere began to intensify whilst a hoard balloons were released on to the pitch much to the annoyance of several stewards who were doing their level best to destroy them.

Just as 15:00 approached the teams came out of the tunnel and the decibel meter went through the roof as all four sides produced a raucous arena. The Daggers would be free to play football under no pressure for the first time this season, whilst the Shrews would be going for that all important win that would take them up to the third tier which meant an enjoyable atmosphere was created.

The teams lined up and we were all set with vast anticipation from the record 9294 home supporters who wanted to witness a day of history at The Meadow. With the pre match rituals complete, Mr Jock Waugh kicked the game off just after 15:00 much to the delight of the crowd.

The first opportunity of a lively opening fell to Woodall who has scored twice already this month, this time however he could only screw the ball into the chest of a thankful Chris Neal. The Shrews then advanced forward for the first time in the match which only helped to intensify the already vibrant atmosphere, however the Daggers defence stood up to the test well and snuffed out the danger.

The Daggers continued to have the better of the play early on, Abu Ogogo in particular dominating the midfield and putting in some no holds barred challenges to show that the visitors meant business. Damien McCrory then hit a half chance over the bar following a defensive header outside the box from Scott Doe's ball in, encouraging signs from John Still's men.

With just over 10 minutes played in the contest Shrewsbury thought they had an early lead when James Collins headed Mark Wright's cross goalwards, however Damien McCrory was on hand to clear the ball over from underneath his own bar to keep the scores level. From the resulting corner Luke Howell & Mathieu Baudry made sure that the Shrews were denied thanks to two good clearances from inside their own area.

The Shrews most vocal support.
Shrewsbury then continued to come close as skipper Ian Sharps curled a delightful shot just wide of the far post to once again raise the noise level inside of Greenhous Meadow which was surely encouraging the home side to take the lead. Jermaine Grandison whose name was being sung by the home support then had another attempt hacked off the line from a corner as the Shrews edged closer and closer to the opening goal.

The game then calmed down slightly in the attacking sense with both sides fighting for possession in the middle of the park. The Daggers were playing some neat football on the deck but that was nearly undone when a lofted ball over the top forced Lewington to come out and punch the ball clear under pressure; more good goalkeeping from the somewhat lightweight 'stopper.

The visitors then nearly flipped the script on the hosts by coming close via the boot of Medy Elito. A good breakaway saw Medy go free down the right hand side before cutting in and unleashing a fierce shot that drifted just wide of the uncertain Neal's post much to the angst of Shrews supporters. Minutes later and the Daggers looked as though they may create another opportunity however Bingham's cross drifted out of play for a goal kick much to my frustration.

Going into the half hour mark and the Shrews began to dominate once more with only some astute defending from the Daggers defence denying them. Firstly Terry Gornell looked to be in on goal down the right hand side; however Captain Scott Doe came in from nowhere and launched into a superb sliding challenge to win the ball. Damien McCrory was also having his best game in quite a while, looking composed on the ball as well as making a few top quality interceptions.

With just 7 minutes to go until the half time interval, Town made the breakthrough in not so emphatic style. Former Torquay man Nicky Wroe found space on the left hand side and crossed in a ball that found the head of Collins who directed the ball home past a helpless Lewington. That goal was his second against the Daggers this season and it sent 9,000 home supporters into overdrive including two who thought it would be apt to run on the pitch.

Following the run onto the pitch and the brief signage towards Lewington, they took it upon themselves to walk back off the pitch as the stewards just watched. This did of course end not so prettily as the trespassers and a few others got into a fight with the police which resulted in a beer bottle being thrown by a Shrews fan in the North Stand before several were ejected from the ground for good.

As for the goal it was a well placed header but the visitors will be disappointed with the lack of marking which enabled Collins to head home with no pressure; a trait that is gradually creeping back into the squad after it was eradicated in the March period of games.

The atmosphere at the Greenhous Meadow was something special and the Shrews would have doubled their lead had it not have been for Lewington making a tremendous block from Collins' shot towards the end of the half. That was the end of the action in a first half where Shrewsbury did perhaps edge the best of the play and ultimately probably did deserve their lead; much to the delight of their supporters.

Woodall needed to see more of the ball
The Daggers however had played one of their best 45 minutes in terms of on the floor football of the season. We were playing a fluent passing game and at times that cut the Shrews open; however the ball wasn't going through to the anonymous Woodall enough as he was our main threat. The defence and midfield were looking solid as they have been in the previous eight games so there was reason to be confident ahead of the second half.

It was then that time of the match to sample the cuisine at Shrewsbury. It was set out as the kind of food you'd receive at a party with a single table separating the customers from the staff and to be quite honest that's what the burger tasted like, absolutely horrible. I have no hesitation in saying that it's the worst food I've had away from home this season and I paid £3 for the privilege.

Salop Leisure Stand (Pre Match)
As I resumed back for the second half of play, the teams did as well with Shrewsbury only needing to hold out 45 minutes to secure their promotion back to the third tier. In this second period of the match the Daggers would be attacking us in the North Stand whilst Shrewsbury would be heading towards The Salop Leisure Stand.

The game resumed shortly afterwards and it was midfielder Ogogo who got the first shot away of the second half, firing a 40 yard strike towards goal that Chris Neal had to gather twice after fumbling it the first time around. The visitors continued their good early pressure as a ball in from a corner trickled across the area, begging for a Daggers player to hammer it into the back of the net, no one did though and it was cleared.

The noise level rose once again with 55 minutes gone as Terry Gornell spurned a wonderful chance at the near post by putting the ball wide following a delightfully weighted ball in by Grandison. Gornell came close once more just five minutes later when he fired a speculative 30 yard effort straight at Lewington who was more than happy to claim it under no apparent pressure.

The Daggers weren't really offering much in the second half in terms of open play, however several set pieces including a couple of corners were proving a nuisance for the Shrews defence. Scott Doe was once again on hand to attempt to score via his infamous front post run however the home side were clearly aware of this tactic and as a result their marking of Doey was very stringent, not allowing the former Weymouth defender any leeway.

The North Stand Shrews
John Still's men continued to be limited to shots from distance as the Salop defence was proving to be extremely resilient, a trait which has seen them go 37 games unbeaten at home. Medy Elito saw an effort from outside of the box deflected wide whilst Luke Howell's looping effort gave Neal a scare in goal as the home side began to look slightly shaky.

News then filtered through that Hereford had taken a shock lead at Crawley which meant that regardless of the score here Shrewsbury would be going up. Then came an old Daggers "foe", as Marvin Morgan who has never been forgiven for that miss at Orient last season replaced the tiring Gornell. Not so marvellous Marvin was quickly in the thick of the action as he won two corners, further increasing the crescendo of noise inside the ground.

With 15 minutes left John Still opted to bring on Peter Gain for his first appearance since Boxing Day meaning Medy Elito would be replaced. In the same minute Billy Bingham was also withdrawn which gave Dominic Green a chance to shine for the final quarter of an hour and possibly open up the Shrewsbury full backs. 

If anyone was going to score now it was looking like the dominant Shrews who simply had too much for the Daggers up front, Mark Wright being denied by inches after curling his shot wide of the post. With five minutes to go the final change was made as Brian Woodall was taken off for Ahmed Abdulla in a sub that left quite a few travellers rather bemused.

With just minutes left to play the Daggers were given a golden chance to get the equaliser that would have silenced the home crowd. Luke Howell broke free down the right hand side and delivered a pin point cross that was met by Josh Scott, however his diving header went just over the bar when he probably should have got it on target from inside the box.

Shrewsbury then made their final change of the match, bringing on Jon Taylor for Aaron Wildig as the fourth official announced three minutes of injury time would be played. This coupled with the 3-0 scoreline coming in from the Broadfield was too much for the Shrews fans who were now stood on the perimeter of the pitch, nearly encroaching the field of play in fact. Several hoardings were booted down in the excitement and eventually, the final whistle sounded meaning that Shrewsbury Town would be in League One next season.

I have to say watching the joy of over 9,000 Shrews including a mammoth amount who ran on the pitch congratulating their heroes was something to behold. The sheer elation showed by them was fantastic and I for one would like to offer my congratulations to them, especially in the way several of their fans shook hands with our supporters and our players in a very nice gesture.

The result lifted the Shrews up to a deserved place in the third tier and in doing so saw them become the only club in the Football League this season to go unbeaten at home this season, a tremendous achievement.

As for the Daggers, a pretty good performance considering there was nothing left to play for, just the lack of sharpness up front costing us. An enjoyable afternoon for all 147 Daggers in attendance as we witnessed the final ever outing of the green away kit. No player really shone for me today, however Abu Ogogo would probably pick up my man of the match award for another tireless display in the middle of the park.

The day though belonged to Shrewsbury and seeing their fans on the pitch made me smile, even if one of them felt it was appropriate to urinate on the corner flag. After exiting the stadium to escape the traffic, we waited for our cab where we had a few friendly exchanges with some Shrews fans whom wished us luck for next season and we done vice versa with them.

A good journey which included a karaoke session saw us arrive back at a wet Euston station just after 21:00 where the singing of several Daggers songs continued. After a few tube trains and the over ground home I arrived back just after 22:00 to end the final away day of the season.

I have to say it was one of my favourite ones of the season as well, mainly because there was no worry about the afternoon; we were free to enjoy it. The people of Shrewsbury were very nice and the town was quite unique as well, whilst the game and the stadium was just a bonus on top. Well done to Shrewsbury I wish you luck next season!

I’d also like to congratulate everyone who has followed the Daggers away from home this season as our away support has been terrific. We have taken an overall total of 4226 away in the league this season whilst that average’s out at 183.7 over the entire league season; that’s over 10% of our core home support which is a very good figure if you ask me.

Last up for us is the visit of Bristol Rovers on Saturday where we could see the introduction of a future Daggers star in Dwight Gayle. Until then though I hope you have a good week and enjoy my picture gallery of the day below.

Remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy.

Roland Wycherley Stand Pre Match

The Daggers Warm Up.

John Still amongst the travelling supporters.

The West Stand

Pitch Invasion

Pitch Invasion

Three Daggers players brave the masses.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Daggers 1-1 Crawley Town, Survival Assured

Dagenham & Redbridge officially confirmed their place in League Two next season thanks to a resilient performance against promotion chasing Crawley Town. A goal apiece from Charlie Wassmer and Billy Bingham saw the game end 1-1 and extend both sides' unbeaten runs to eight and thirteen respectively going into the final two games of the season.

After putting in a Messi-like performance in a training session this morning, I headed to Victoria Road where we would be given The Traditional Builders Stand for the final time this season, hopefully creating a fantastic atmosphere to spur the lads on. I arrived at around 14:20 and headed round the car park and through the turnstiles near Pondfield Park before advancing through and up the stairs where I had a brief chat with the Horans.

Whilst up the top, "Do the Twist" was played which inevitably drew a response from the Daggers fans towards the Crawley team. With just over 10 minutes until kick off I headed down and towards the centre where I stood with Chaz & Bill amongst others, whilst here the teams were read out and they were as follows,

Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Doe, Baudry, Arber, McCrory, Elito, Spillane, Bingham, Ogogo, Scott, Woodall. Subs: Hogan, Parker, Green, Howell, Reed.

The home side made a single change from the one that drew against Aldershot last weekend with Josh Scott replacing Dominic Green meaning a 4-4-2/ 4-3-3 formation would be in effect. Mathieu Baudry also extended his loan until the end of the season whilst Dave Hogan's dancing on Soccer AM saw him earn a place on the bench.

Crawley Town: Kuipers, Howell, McFadzean, Wassmer, Davis, Davies, Clarke, Simpson, Bullman, Neilson, Alexander. Subs: Shearer, Dempster, Hunt, Watt, Akinde.

Crawley fans in The Sieve
Caretaker manager Craig Brewster named an unchanged side meaning that ex Dagger Charlie Wassmer would line up against the side he was on loan against earlier in the month whilst John Akinde got a place on the bench. Midfielder David Hunt also returned to the bench following a two month absence after injuring himself in the cup tie with Stoke over two months ago.

The ground began to fill up quite rapidly with Crawley fans enjoying the majority of our Sieve! I'm sure they treated it well. The Traditional Builders Stand was packed to the rafters whilst the part of the Sieve which we occupied was pretty crammed as well; everything was set for an enthralling and particularly important encounter.

After a brief wait the teams entered the field of play just after the scheduled time, they were led out by captains Mark Arber and Dannie Bullman. After the pre match rituals etc we were all ready to finally begin in the mild conditions with the Daggers attacking the Bury Road End and the Red Devils facing us in the Traditional Builders Stand. The atmosphere was just beginning and referee Major Danny McDermid started the game off.

The game began with an opportunity in the opening five minutes from the boot of Billy Clarke, however his shot was blocked by Baudry much to the Crawley fans' frustration. The away side continued to dominate in the early stages with Mark Arber forced to clear a near post cross whilst Lewington had to rush off his line to extinguish the danger several times. With 7 minutes gone, Scott Neilson looked to be through on goal; however the orchestrator of the now infamous "Do the Twist" was ruled offside.

Despite all of the pressure from the away side it was the Daggers that nearly opened the scoring with 10 minutes on the clock. Medy Elito took a corner on the right hand side which went towards the back post where Woodall was waiting. The striker took a single touch before hitting a strike that went into the side netting, drawing several "oo's" and "ahh's" from the home support, even though it would have been impossible for him to score into that corner from the angle at which he shot.

The home side continued to look the more likely to take the lead minutes later when Mickey Spillane broke free of his marker and headed a pin point McCrory free kick over the near post. A very good opportunity for Spillane who you would have expected to hit the target following his fine goal scoring form of late.

Just before the 20 minute mark though and Crawley Town scored the opening goal, courtesy of former Dagger Charlie Wassmer. A wrongfully awarded corner was put into the box by Scott Davies where it was cleared back out to the Irish youngster. He took a touch and hit a low cross towards the front post where Wassmer, whose sole contribution whilst at Victoria Road was giving away a penalty, was on hand to poke home past the helpless Lewington. Poor defending from the Daggers who allowed Wassmer a free run on the near post; at least Crawley celebrated with another rendition of “The Twist.”

Crawley could smell blood and only smart reactions from Lewington prevented Brewsters men from doubling their lead. A neat back heel from Neilson inside the box fed in Alexander who saw his attempt smothered by Lewington not once but twice; simply superb goalkeeping from the youngster who has endured a sterling first season in The Football League. Not long afterwards and he was in the wars once again, getting an elbow in the ribs which required treatment from John Gowens.

The game was becoming increasingly end to end as the home side didn't trouble Kuipers from a succession of well earned corners; meanwhile Doe's long throws were being soaked up by the resilient Crawley defence. Poor play from Woodall up field then gave the Red Devils a chance to attack, the lackadaisical efforts of McCrory to get back enabled Alexander to fire a shot towards the near post that Lewington palmed away well as the away side looked to turn up the heat.

The Daggers buoyed on by the increasing noise from the TB Stand went about finding an equaliser once more, however a ball in from Elito and then another flick on from Woodall were dealt with well by the Broadfield outfit. Winger Elito was then given another good chance after latching onto a Lewington punt forward but he lofted his shot over the bar and into Bury Road as half time approached.

Crawleys main threat came in the guise of former Brentford forward Gary Alexander and he had another opportunity as half time ebbed even closer. Damien McCrory gave away possession once more which let Davies in, his cross found Alexander at the back post who couldn't quite divert the ball goalwards leaving a thankful Lewington to take the goal kick.

As the fourth official put up his board though, the home side equalised thanks to a simply sensational strike from midfield maestro Billy Bingham. The former Crystal Palace youngster picked up a loose ball before advancing forward and unleashing an unstoppable 30 yard left footed strike which flew across goal and into the top corner, stinging the fingertips of Kuipers as it lashed into the net. A simply amazing strike from Bingham that had the whole of Victoria Road rocking.

That was the end of the first half in which Crawley probably dominated, however you couldn't argue that with Bingham's speculative effort we deserved to be level. The teams went in to good applause and a barrage of singing from Daggers fans that were now even more jubilant considering the scoreline.

At this point I will detail to you how I rate the food in the TB Stand; it was terrible. The burger looked as though it had been run over and that's how it tasted as well. It was all priced fairly though so no complaints on that front. It was also nice being able to see Soccer Saturday whilst walking through, I can fully appreciate how nice that stand actually is now! The remainder of half time was spent reading the programme as my phone decided to not allow me access to anything.

Steino was needed to treat a Crawley Player
The teams emerged for the second half with expectations to win the game, especially the away side who were gunning for automatic promotion. Crawley were looking to catch the hosts out at the start of the second half as Howell hit a well struck volley over the bar to scare the 1880+ home supporters in the ground. Dagenham then forged a good chance with Woodall taking the ball down in the box and eventually hitting a fierce strike on the left side that didn't challenge Kuipers in the slightest.

The momentum was swinging either way making the game finely poised; Alexander fired a shot over the bar for the visitors from a good position, meanwhile Spillane adjusted himself to head the ball over the bar from a corner as the scores remained level and the crowd on tenterhooks. The main man for the Devils was Alexander and for the umpteenth time in the match he showed why as he flashed a shot wide of the post following a clever dummy from Davies, a very good opportunity squandered.

You could see from the play why Crawley were up near the top of the table, however the Daggers were matching them and nearly took the lead after an Arber ball in found Woodall whose low strike at the near post was pushed away by Kuipers once more for a corner. From the resulting corner Josh Scott got a run on his defender and met the ball first but he could only manage to glance it at Kuipers who saved comfortably.

Goalscorer Charlie Wassmer then picked up a deserved booking for a cynical foul on Elito as John Akinde prepared to make an entrance. Before that though highly rated defender Kyle McFadzean glanced a header over the bar, proving that his services could be crucial at both ends of the pitch if need be; a quality that could be highly rated by potential suitors from higher up divisions.

Former Dagger Akinde.
With just over 20 minutes on the clock John Akinde was brought on for Scott Neilson in a change which nearly heralded an instant goal for the promotion chasers. The main protagonist Alexander flicked a ball into the box where Akinde latched onto it as the Daggers defence stood still. An absolutely dreadful slow motion attempt at a lob over Lewington failed and the ball was punched clear by the 'stopper. The best chance of the game so far and it fell to the man who has fired more blanks than Boycie this season.

The Daggers then turned on the style with ten minutes left to play. A cross to the far post was retrieved by Spillane who played a defence cutting ball to McCrory inside the box, Irish then used great vision to find the unmarked Ogogo outside the box, however Abu took a rash strike and sliced the ball wide of the mark to end a very good move by John Still's men. It just shows that we can play very slick and precise football at times.

With not long left to play the Daggers were forcing the visitors into last gasp defending with several crosses being cleared for various corners as well as a Spillane header being flicked over the bar when it looked to be on target. Let's not forget the calls of Bingham to shoot every time he had the ball about 30 yards out as the crowd wanted him to emulate his immaculate strike earlier in the match.

There was only two minutes of added time and neither side could find a winner in that period meaning the points were shared between the two former Conference outfits. This now means the Daggers continue to extend their Football League record unbeaten run to eight games, whilst we haven't lost at home in over a month. The 16 points taken in our 10 game season so far have kept us up whilst Hereford, Macclesfield & Barnet have continued to languish.

At this point I probably should announce that we are officially safe from relegation, meaning we can enjoy a trip to Shrewsbury next week and have a party against Bristol Rovers on the final day. We can now also look forward to what next season has to bring, another rain soaked trip to Accrington and yet another League Cup Run that entails just one game in which we lose to higher league opposition.

You have to say though it's been a magnificent effort by everyone to keep us up after the predicament we found ourselves in following the Northampton defeat; we really have done this against the odds. It just shows how imperative it is to have an unbeaten run of games towards the end of the season.

From today’s game though, Abu & Billy were both very good, once again getting around the park; Abu in particular who put in a mindboggling challenge in the first half to win the ball. Mathieu Baudry also played very well as he continued to impress, whilst Arbs showed once again why he still has a lot left to offer furthermore Scott Doe has been impressive whilst playing out of position, a highly thought of trait at the Daggers.

As for Crawley, a very resilient performance and they look like they have plenty going forward especially with Alexander leading the line. I'll be very surprised if they don't get promoted after today’s game, whilst Rotherham have a new stadium I think Evans was a bit of a fool leaving Crawley.

My final word has to go to the Daggers fans that made a sensational atmosphere in the TB Stand, especially in the second half when the game was level. One supporter described it as the best noise they'd heard from Daggers fans in 32 years of seeing us play which speaks for itself, whether we get the stand on a full time basis though remains to be seen. 

Next up is a trip to Shrewsbury who will be looking to get the points to achieve their promotion, so let’s see if we can dent that party and continue our own unbeaten run away from home.

Thanks for reading and emember to follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Aldershot Town 1-1 Daggers, Mid Table Mediocrity

Dagenham & Redbridge made it a club record seven games unbeaten in The Football League thanks to a 1-1 draw away at Aldershot Town with a result which further confirms the Daggers' place amongst the League Two elite next season. It was a game that won't live long in anyone's memories with Scott Doe and Troy Brown getting the only goals in a lacklustre contest between two teams with nothing left to play for.

The day began at Chadwell Heath Station at a pretty late 11:15 where I met Bill, Matt & Chaz for the journey to Aldershot. We took the overground to Stratford before getting to Waterloo via Bank for about 12:30 where we learned we would have to change at Guildford before getting a straight route to Aldershot. An enjoyable journey on a very sparse South West Train Service saw us arrive in, "The Home of The British Military", for just after 14:00.

My first impressions of the area was that it was a very nice place, looking pretty quiet and having some character to it. We then decided to go and find a Bookies where several bets were placed including my tip for The National, Postmaster; no prizes for guessing if I won that or not. At this point I should say my tips for the day were a Norwich win, a draw between West Ham vs Brighton & a draw between Leeds vs Peterborough, I hope none of you take betting tips from me.

The Best Turnstiles In The Football League
With that all sorted and several pounds lost forever, we headed towards the away end located up a steep hill and through a not so enchanted forest. Whilst it may not be to everyone's liking, I quite like a ground with something unique to it, and I have to say walking through a mini forest before reaching the turnstiles is the most unique thing I've seen all season. Following a brief wait to get in due to the massive amount of Daggers fans wanting tickets, I showed my ticket and went through into the open area before advancing into our stand.

The first thing that hit me to be honest is how different it looked from the pictures you see on TV, something I always love when travelling to new grounds. We were allocated half of the undercover East Bank terracing which extends round into open terracing, as well as a small selection of seats in 1390 capacity South Stand.

My first impressions of the terracing were that it was quite old fashioned and the roof was akin to that found on the body of a silo. It did however look as though it created good noise and I was proved right as the Aldershot fans sang continuously through the first half. In terms of facilities it's quite poor, but its old fashioned which is what I like. One thing that marked it down however were the several poles which got in the way of the action, as it’s slightly old fashioned though, I suppose it can’t be helped.

The ground is completed by the South Stand which was opened in the 1920's and the North Stand which runs along the opposite side of the pitch; a main feature of this is the long brick wall which runs across the bottom. It combines a mixture of seating and terracing, furthermore it has a massive factory situated behind it which dwarfs that stand itself. The North Stand holds 1540 and was largely full up for our visit.

The final stand is one that isn't actually in use do to Football League regulations, the High Street End. With this being closed off and only used for advertisements the stadium effectively only has three sides creating another unique and with no disrespect to Aldershot supporters, quite a Conference feel to the ground. I view this as a good thing as the stadium has raw passion and grass roots embedded within it which can only be viewed as a good thing in my opinion.

I then stepped outside and opted to try some of Aldershot's infamous cuisine, choosing the burger that was priced at £3. It was pretty decent, however I'm sure it would have tasted even better if I hadn't put chilli sauce on it instead of tomato; only realising when I took a bite and realising how hot it was. That’s a lesson for all of you people who don’t read labels.

We were then read the teams by the excruciatingly loud tannoy announcer:

Aldershot Town: Young, Herd, Straker, Jones, Morris, Vicenti, Brown, Mekki, Roberts, Hylton, Risser. Subs: Clement, Berqvrst, Molesley, Connolly, Madjo.

Aldershot manager Dean Holdsworth made one change from the side that were defeated by Plymouth last week by introducing youngster Jordan Roberts in place of Ben Smith who was recalled by parent club Crawley Town in the week. 

Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Doe, Arber, Baudry, McCrory, Green, Ogogo, Bingham, Spillane, Elito, Woodall. Subs: Hogan, Scott, Rose, Howell, Parker.

John Still made a single change following the victory against Gillingham on Easter Monday with goalscorer Dominic Green replacing Josh Parker on the wing. John Akinde & Charlie Wassmer also returned to Crawley in the week meaning that there were places on the bench for Richard Rose & Luke Howell as the Daggers hoped to avenge a 2-5 home defeat to the Shots earlier in the season.

As the time approached 15:00, the pre match music blared out and both sets of fans got ready for the ensuing kickoff. Within a few minutes the teams came out onto the pitch to good applause from all three sides of the stadium. It was the Shots to kick off attacking the empty High Street End whilst the Daggers would be facing The East Bank where a selection of home and away supporters were situated.

The referee blew his whistle and we began albeit very slowly. The first cross of the match from Jordan Roberts was claimed well by Lewington despite heavy pressure from Wilko Risser who broke clear of his marker. The ball was booted up the other end where Brian Woodall showed fantastic never say die attitude by keeping the ball in play when it looked as though it was going to be a goal kick; however the Shots did earn a throw.

With just over five minutes gone, Woodall really should have tested Shots' Australian 'keeper Jamie Young. Mickey Spillane played a fine ball over the top that Woodall brought down with a deft touch, a quick shimmy saw him get round the defender and advance into the box. With another cut back Woodall had the chance to shoot and curl the ball into the bottom corner, however the former Gresley man showed signs of naivety by taking too long and eventually being crowded out as Aldershot cleared the danger much to the frustration of the 196 travelling Daggers.

The match continued to be very open in the opening quarter of an hour as we were then straight up the other end with youngster Roberts blazing a shot over following good play from Danny Hylton. As Aldershot continued to have the bulk of the possession, neither side could really get a foothold in the game going forward, creating a bit of a stalemate. With just over 20 minutes gone Scott Doe worked some space for himself before letting rip with a not so impressive 30 yard strike that bounced off the corner flag and out for a throw in. My advice to Doey would be to stick to headers.

The home side were looking to make it seven straight home victories and they would have taken the lead if Risser made a better connection with a volley that was confidently palmed over the bar by Lewington. The Daggers were only threatening from set pieces with two Elito deliveries being headed away by the Shots back line at various stages in the opening half hour.

The game was lacking any real quality with both teams cancelling eachother out, however it was Aldershot that were looking the more likely scorers. Adam Mekki headed just wide following good pressure from McCrory whilst minutes later Ben Herd crossed for an unmarked Peter Vincenti who could only head the ball onto the roof of Lewington's net.

The Daggers weren't really offering much, however they were playing some pretty good football with Elito & Green getting down the wings on several occasions. Mickey Spillane played a ball through to Woodall once more but Young came out to claim it well to deny the away side the first goal of the afternoon as the first half petered out in a slow and painful fashion.

Customary Woodall Picture.
That was the end of a very lacklustre and uninspiring first 45 minutes where the best chance came in the form of Woodall being crowded out; says as much for the quality of the game really. Despite the lack of goalmouth action, both sides were unusually (for Dagenham at least), playing pretty neat football on the floor. This meant as previously expressed that the main outlet were the wingers for either side, however both teams' defences were proving very difficult to break down.

The half time entertainment consisted of several children attempting to hit the crossbar from the penalty spot, of which one child with particularly distinguishing red hair done so about three times. That was about it really, the rest of the time was spent trying to work out the half time scores over the tannoy and praying that my horse would win the National - more on that later.

The teams came back out for the second half to a small ripple of applause; I think after the first half the supporters of both sides weren't really expecting rip roaring talent and end to end action. The second half began much as the first had ended with lots of promise that was ultimately undone by sloppy possession from both sides.

It was the Daggers though who got the first shot of the half away, good battling from Ogogo and Dominic Green saw Mickey Spillane fashion a chance, however Young was equal to his effort from just inside the box and he palmed it away for a corner. The away side began to dominate the game and with 10 minutes gone, Baudry had a poke at goal pushed wide once more by Young who looked to be in inspired form yesterday afternoon.

The home side, shooting towards the East Bank then brought themselves back into the game with a succession of good chances. Firstly a free kick into the box was only partially cleared by Lewington, the ball fell to Vincenti who chipped goalwards before it was cleared once more, this time to Troy Brown. Attacker Brown got a shot away that was blocked on the line by McCrory, before the ball was eventually kneed over the bar from close range by Risser. Cue chants of "You missed from two yards", by the Daggers away faithful.

The Shots weren't finished there though and from Lewington's goal kick they won the ball and broke down the right hand side where a cross was put into the box. The ball found the head of Danny Hylton who could only contrive to head the chance wide of the post when he should have really hit the target.

Despite all of the pressure from the home side, it was in fact the Daggers who took the lead in the contest. It was the infamous Scott Doe front post run that had heralded the goal once more as he met McCrory's corner at the front stick to glance a header past Young and into the far corner to send the travelling fans into delirium. That was Doe's sixth goal of the season, making him the third top scorer for the away side in the current campaign.

Dean Holdsworth would have wanted an instant response from his play off chasing outfit; however he didn't get it with Hylton getting down the left before slicing a cross over the East Bank and into the forest. Then came some superb unorthodox defending from Ogogo by effectively sliding across the floor head first to deny a Shots player a chance on goal; however the referee unbelievably saw this as an infringement and gave a free kick!

The home side then made a double change in an attempt to exploit the tiring Daggers back line with fresh legs. Guy Madjo who has scored against the Daggers this season already for Port Vale was brought on in place of Risser, furthermore Reece Connolly was introduced for the impressive Jordan Roberts.

At this point in time the result for the Grand National came through and there was immense anticipation as everyone was more interested in this than the languishing football. Unfortunately for me, Neptune Collonges was the winner meaning that my 100/1 shot "Postmaster", had probably fallen. Oh well, there's always next year.....

Back to the football and the Daggers midfield were putting in a very impressive shift, especially Ogogo who was getting around the whole of the park with energy left in the tank, immense from the makeshift midfielder. Mickey Spillane then nearly wrapped the game up, dodging and ducking past Straker & Brown before taking too heavy a touch when advancing in the box meaning Young was on hand to gather.

Aldershot had the perfect opportunity to level the scores with just six minutes left to play but a simply superb low, diving stop from Lewington following a Vincenti touch at the back post turned the ball round for a corner. That's probably one of the best saves I've seen from Lewington this season and he has made some absolutely stunning saves this year.

The game then had a vibe about it; almost as though Aldershot would inevitably get the equaliser. Sure enough with just four minutes remaining an Adam Mekki cross went straight through the box and onto the head of Troy Brown who headed home unmarked to level the scores; it was also the Rotherham United loan players second goal for the Shots in his loan spell.

The final chance of the game was a Morris shot from outside of the box which only tested the reflexes of the fans in The East Bank, clearly causing Lewington no problems. Josh Parker came on for Dominic Green with minutes to go, but that was it. The final score from probably the most dull and uninteresting game of the season so far was 1-1.

Results from around the grounds mean that we're now 9 points clear of the relegation zone with 9 points left to play for, in simple terms - we're safe. This game was a typical match between teams not really having anything to play for, whilst there was good football, there were no really good opportunities and the match lacked a degree of tempo and urgency throughout.

I can't really fault any Daggers players, all of whom had pretty good games. Brian Woodall was very fast paced, whereas the midfield five each contributed an individual skill to extend the unbeaten run to a league equalling seven for us. The back line was solid once more, only slack marking allowing the Shots to deservedly equalise. As for Lewington, a few superb stops which have epitomised his season, on the whole a very successful opening campaign for him.

Ogogo was also solid.
Aldershot looked as though their season had ended; no real desire up front meant that when crosses were put into the box there was no one to get on the end of them. Jordan Roberts particularly impressed me however and it looks as though he has a pretty decent future ahead of him in the game, whilst Jamie Young looked equally as talented between the sticks.

Well done to the 196 Daggers in attendance and the Shots fans located in The East Bank who attempted to make an atmosphere, even if their repetitive singing got on my nerves quite a bit. It was also nice to see Aldershot employing a Youth scheme to get youngsters to the game, hopefully something which works to boost attendances in the long run.

This result extends the unbeaten run to seven matches and it also sees the Daggers go four games unbeaten on the road in the League for the first time since March 2010. The players have really turned it around in our "ten game season", picking up 15 points from a possible 21 so far; that run of form has kept us up so well done to everyone involved with the club.

We now move on to Crawley Town at home next Saturday where we'll be hoping to enjoy the game and create a good noise in the TB Stand.

On a final note I'd like to say thank you to some Aldershot fans who complimented our management team and the club as a whole following yesterday's game. Praise doesn't go unnoticed and I'd like to offer my thanks to them for that.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading, feel free to follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy.

How you had to get to the away end.

Daggers Fans in the Open Terrace