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


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