Sunday, 1 April 2012

Port Vale 0-1 Daggers, A Valiant Performance

Make sure you enjoy this!
Dagenham & Redbridge concluded March by taking all three points from Staffordshire as John Still's men edged away from the relegation zone following a 1-0 win at Vale Park. This result also saw a fantastic return of 10 points from the previous 12 available, a severe upturn in fortunes following the depression after the Northampton Town defeat over a month ago.

As this was an away game, my report will entail interesting and perhaps boring details and anecdotes from my day, starting with the over ground and tube to Euston where we eventually had an overpriced breakfast at 10:15. Joining me, Bill, Lee & Chaz for the trip up to Staffordshire would be James, completing a hat trick of Coves. My one pre match thought was having seen us win away just the once, I can't say I was particularly overjoyed with watching us play a team we've only managed to beat once in our five previous attempts.

At 10:46 our train departed and we were on our way up towards the North of the country. Whilst on the train we encountered some rather ignorant Northampton fans and a nice chap on his laptop who participated in conversation until he had to get off at the paradise that was Tamworth. Our journey continued and after passing the most boring name ever in, "Stone", we arrived at Stoke-On-Trent Station just after 13:00. We then got into a cab and headed towards the ground.

On our short sightseeing tour of Stoke, I can't say I was particularly impressed, I'm sorry to say that it looked like we were transported back to the 1970's. It was actually a scene from Coronation Street, you half expected to turn a corner and see a Roy's Rolls sign above a shop. After a £12.00 taxi bill split between five of us (you do the math), we arrived at Vale Park for around 13:30.

After getting out of the taxi we encountered BBC London's very own Stuart Smith who asked me and Bill to do an interview for the radio station. After next to no persuasion we gladly participated and our wise opinions were hopefully heard back down South. After this, we decided to celebrate our new found fame by going into the very welcoming Vale clubhouse that contained several bucket collections to raise money to save their club. I would have given some change, but I didn't have any coppers on me.

After a few more drinks, Lee and I proceeded to get our tickets and head on through the turnstiles and into the ground itself. As we were hungry we then decided to try out the Vale cuisine, with no burgers or chips on offer it was sure to be a poor affair. After sampling the cold hot dog in a small bun I was correct, absolutely dire. Once again they had sachets of sauce rather than bottle's. Absolutely shocking so far, so I was hoping the ground would boost my estimations of the place.

Our Away End.
You walked out of the concourse and were greeted with a somewhat enclosed away end thanks to the massive scoreboard blocking your view of the sky. We were situated in the rather large "SNEYD Stand" as it was advertised on the ticket. The 4500 capacity was just enough to contain the multitude of Daggers supporters, our numbers also meant we were only given the centre of the stand which was fair enough. I have to say as well that we had a very good view of the pitch with nothing blocking our way.

To the left of us was the Railway Stand where the more vocal of the home support would be situated. Once again this was all seated, but unsurprisingly it was nowhere near full despite the game being designated as a "fans day." Next to this was the Sentinel Family Stand located in the corner of the pitch, you could argue this was a somewhat pointless addition to the stadium itself.

Opposite us was the Bycars end which is almost a carbon copy of the away stand with its low downward pointing roof and the pointless multicoloured seats. This was a feature which annoyed me about the whole of the stadium, the pointless multicoloured seats. It made the stadium look chequered and in some cases a bit of a blur, this marked the whole experience down in my book.

The Lorne Stand is the very smart looking main stand which also contains a somewhat over the top 48 executive boxes. Although it is officially called, "The Lorne Stand", someone had comically taken off the "Lorne", so it just read as The Stand, how droll. Whilst the far side looked very impressive, the near side was a shambles as it wasn't completed. There were about eight seats bolted down into the grey concrete which looked ready to be finished off. Lack of funds obviously meant that concluding the building work is currently impossible.

As Bill, James & Charlie arrived to join us, the teams were read out over the loudest tannoy in The Football League.

Port Vale: Tomlinson, Yates, McCombe, McDonald, Griffith, Loft, Rigg, Morsy, Dodds, Richards, Williamson. Subs: Martin, Roe, Marshall, James, Pope.

Micky Adams made three changes from the side that started at Shrewsbury on Tuesday night but failed to finish due to safety concerns. Sean Rigg and former Dagger Doug Loft were restored to the starting line up after recovering from an illness that has besieged the camp. Striker Ben Williamson was also recalled by the financially stricken outfit, meaning that former Crewe man Tom Pope would have to be content with watching from the bench.

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

John Still decided to make two changes from the side that started in last weekend’s late smash and grab victory over Accrington Stanley. Brian Woodall was given his first start since the defeat against Northampton, whilst Billy Bingham made his 26th appearance of the campaign. This meant that John Akinde dropped to the bench whilst Josh Parker was out of the squad altogether due to an assumed injury. This also saw the Daggers line up in a more rigid 4-5-1 formation, something we became accustomed to last season when playing away from home.

(Yes I'm well aware my camera is rubbish)
The teams came out just after 15:00 with the music over the tannoy so loud that you could barely hear yourself think. After the pre match rituals and so forth, we were off at Vale Park and within 60 seconds of the match there was a talking point. Anthony Griffin made a rash sliding challenge on Abu Ogogo which resulted in a few minutes of treatment for the former Arsenal youngster whilst Griffin received one of the fastest yellow cards of the season.

After this incident, Vale decided to try and get an early goal, forcing Lewington to head clear outside of his box, whilst Richards tested Lewy with another tame shot. Minutes later and the home side had a good opportunity to open the scoring once again following a misplaced Damien McCrory pass, luckily Louis Dodds couldn't capitalise and hit his shot straight at the body of Lewington.

The Daggers then broke away down the left hand side with Medy Elito, after some neat footwork the winger laid the ball to Bingham on the outside of the box, his low strike was saved well on the floor by the diving Tomlinson. The game then became increasingly scrappy as Spillane & Woodall were crowded out just outside of the Vale box; both were unable to get the shot away.

The game became rather flat as neither side could successfully exploit the widest pitch dimensions in the league. Vale were getting the best of their play down the right hand side, upsetting the bumbling McCrory, whilst the Daggers couldn't get the ball enough to playmaker Elito meaning it was becoming a bit of a stalemate between Ogogo & Griffith in the middle of the park who continued to clash.

The Railway End Stand.
The home fans located in the Railway End were becoming increasingly agitated by the referee's superb decision making. One incident that I remember in particular being when Marc Richards cut inside and was "taken down" just outside the box. The referee waved play on which in my opinion was the correct call as Richards had clearly been shot by the imaginary sniper in the crowd. Poor play from the clubs most senior player.

The game once again began to have more impetus and it was the Daggers who nearly took the lead as Spillane headed just wide from a McCrory corner, the former Brentford man really should have managed to get his attempt on target. From the resulting goal kick, Morsy & Baudry clashed which caused the Frenchman to have to undergo some treatment on his head from John Gowens. This incident also saw Morsy get a yellow card for his troubles.

Both sides made one final hurrah before the half time whistle, the Valiant’s' two strikers Marc Richards & Ben Williamson could only poke two half chances at Lewington before Mark Arber made a smart clearance. At the other end Medy Elito bent a curling shot towards the far corner from 20 yards out which hit the inside of the post and trickled agonisingly across the goalmouth before being cleared to safety as the scores remained level.

The half time whistle blew and the sides went in at the interval deservedly level, even though the Daggers had come by far the closer to breaking the deadlock. After getting another headache from the booming tannoy, I decided to try the tea at Vale as I was becoming cold thanks to the decreasing temperatures. It was the sorriest excuse for a cuppa I have ever seen and tasted. It could be described at best as murky water and to be perfectly frank, that's what it tasted like as well. Absolutely horrific.

As I continued to drink what was loosely described as tea, the sides emerged from the tunnel to another booming serenade from the speakers. Neither side had made a change during the break meaning it was as you were for kick off. The Essex side began the second half the better, seeing a Bingham shot deflected wide for a corner, whereas Woodall's overhead kick was only endangering a low flying bird as it cleared the stand. From Bingham's shot came a McCrory corner which was aimed towards the front post. Scott Doe made the infamous run and got his nut on the ball, unfortunately though Tomlinson was equal to the attempt and saved with ease.

Port Vale then mustered their first attack of the second period much to the delight of their supporters; however Williamson could only manage to flick his shot wide of the mark. Williamson was then withdrawn to my surprise as I thought he looked threatening, however Tom Pope who is always a threat was brought on in his place. Sam Morsy was also withdrawn on 60 minutes, meaning former Man City youngster Ben Marshall would get a chance to shine for the remainder of the match.

At this point I would also like to express how cringey it was that Port Vale has sponsored substitutions. Whilst this may be a way of getting extra income, it just doesn't work for me; it almost felt as though every possible channel was being exploited for extra money. It may be to some peoples' tastes, but not to mine; cringe.

Mickey Spillane warming up earlier in the season.
(Once again I am aware my camera is rubbish)
With 65 minutes played, the away side took a bit of a shock lead in the fixture. Jon Nurse put his head in bravely on the right hand side to win a free kick for a high boot by a Vale player. The free kick was located in a very dangerous position, meaning that an enticing ball was surely imminent. After several minutes of hold up, Damien McCrory eventually hit a pinpoint ball onto the head of Mickey Spillane who rose highest to head home between the hands of Tomlinson. He ran off in celebration as we could scarcely believe we had the lead, Dagenham & Redbridge taking the lead twice away from home in as many games? Who'd have thought it! With 25 minutes to play, the question was could we hold on or possibly even extend the scoreline.

As news filtered through that we were sitting in 19th position as it all stood, Mark Arber continued his fantastic afternoon by clearing the ball up field from a menacing Richards free kick. Port Vale were urging their team forward to get that equaliser, but the Daggers back line was resilient, in particular Baudry who took another knock to the head for his troubles. Somewhat unusually for a Frenchman, he wasn't shying away from battle.

After some persistent attacking from the home side, Dagenham managed to force a breakaway down the right hand side. Elito & McCrory exchanged passes before the ball was given to Bingham in the middle. The midfield maestro picked out a sublime cross field ball which found McCrory running into the box. The pass was taken into his stride in a somewhat lackadaisical fashion by McCrory who managed to prod the ball into the centre of the box where no Daggers man was able to latch onto the end of it. The danger was eventually cleared by Vale.

Crawley loan player Charlie Wassmer
There was then a substitution apiece for both sides. Firstly Baudry was forced off for the Daggers with an apparent cramp, meaning Charlie Wassmer was thrust into his Daggers debut at the back. Micky Adams also made his final throw of the dice, taking off the underperforming Louis Dodds for Chelmsford born defender Phil Roe. This change also enabled Doug Loft to push forward into his more natural midfield position.

Then came a frantic five minutes of action. Firstly Sean Rigg hit a shot that flashed wide of the post which worried me slightly. However, in the next move I really thought it was all level. A free kick from inside the Vale half found its way into the box where it was headed into the path of bulky defender Clayton McDonald. A single touch set the unmarked man up, and with his second he rifled a shot towards the roof of the net which was tipped over superbly by the acrobatic Lewington.

From the resulting corner, Scott Doe headed the ball clear to Adam Yates who crossed the ball back in towards Pope. Charlie Wassmer went over the top to head the ball clear which he done successfully, but climbed over Pope in the process causing the midfielder to fall to the floor and the referee to point to the spot. Wassmer was not booked, but it certainly wasn't the way he would have liked to have marked his debut. I personally thought it was rather harsh, but I can see why it's been given.

It was now a straight shootout, Marc Richards vs. Chris Lewington. I made a silent prayer to myself, the whistle blew, the ball went to our right and Lewington’s left. Lewington went to the left and saved the penalty! I jumped up in the air prematurely as I realised that the danger was not clear. Lewington followed his save up with two more fantastic blocks before Mark Arber smashed the ball up in the air as a sort of half hearted clearance. It was danger over for now, a fantastic save from Lewington who has come in for all kinds of stick in the past few weeks.

Woodall was withdrawn. (Thanks to Arnu from the
forum for the picture which was taken away at
Southend earlier in the season.
John Still then decided to make his second change of the game following the penalty; Brian Woodall who worked tirelessly all afternoon was taken off for Josh Scott who would hopefully run himself into the ground for the final ten minutes. The final ten were all about Medy, Nursey & Josh making sure the ball didn't find its way out of the corner of the pitch and they done that superbly, a professional show of time wasting. Vale threatened with several throw in’s in dangerous positions, but never really looked like scoring.

With 94 minutes played, the referee finally blew his whistle to signal the end of the game and a first Daggers Saturday away league win since August. An absolutely tremendous result for all involved, everyone headed down the front of the stand as Fireflies by Owl City blared over the tannoy once more. We applauded the players and the players applauded us, everyone was beaming at such an important and unexpected win.

I can give you the names of four of five players that I feel deserve extra credit following the win.

Mark Arber & Mathieu Baudry, a simply superb and resolute performance by the pair at the back. They've really steadied the defence and were once again superb yesterday; it's no mean feat stopping a team that has Marc Richards in.

Chris Lewington, he's come in for a lot of flak recently and he silenced his doubters yesterday afternoon. He made a string of superb saves to deny Vale from scoring, the first time that's happened in 14 games, a run stemming back to early January. Even more impressive is the fact that it's the first time since November that Vale have failed to score at home.

Mickey Spillane, I advise you now to lump money on him being our top scorer next season at this rate! Not only was his goal well taken, he created opportunities and his fancy footwork caused all kinds of trouble for the Valiants.

Billy Bingham, a fantastic performance from the youngster in the middle of the park. He got around well and his cross field ball to McCrory in the second half displayed immaculate vision, I really hope he gets a run now until the end of the season.

Medy Elito & Brian Woodall, they both ran themselves into the ground once again and provided a real nuisance factor in their own right. I was very sceptical about both early in the season, but I'm extremely happy to say that they're proving me wrong. Take nothing away from the team though, because they performed together and everyone played well as individuals.

The Daggers players clap us supporters
As for Port Vale though, they just need to create more opportunities and put away their chances. They played some excellent balls to change the emphasis of the play, furthermore their defence was relatively resolute, especially the man mountain himself Clayton McDonald. Another win or a draw in fact should see them safe; I wish them the best of luck for the rest of the season.

I also need to congratulate our supporters as we made a fantastic noise (or so it seemed), when we went a goal up. It spurred the team on and we need to replicate that for the final three away games of the season as well as the three home matches. All of the 114 that made the trip should be proud.

We eventually headed out of the ground where we were approached by a weird individual who gave us a kind of salute and a handshake as well as wishing us the best for the rest of the season. It was kind of him, but the manner in which he did it was rather disturbing. We were then subject to chants of "you're going down" by some Wolves fans who clearly hadn’t looked at The Premier League Table.

Our taxi eventually arrived and we were back at the station just before 17:45, James even managed to barter the cabbie down to a fare of £2 each. What a nice chap! The buoyant Daggers contingent got on the train and took up a whole carriage, as well as our group we also had Joe, Matt & Chris, I was also informed that The Upminster Daggers were somewhere on the train.

Arrival back at Euston at 19:30 where after several tube trains and an over ground from Liverpool Street to Chadwell Heath, we found ourselves at home in good time after a nice long day of travelling and picking up three points. It was only the second time in twenty-six attempts that I've seen us win away from home which made it all the more sweeter. We're also now four games unbeaten, two of which came away from home.

Next up is Burton Albion at home on Good Friday, whilst on Easter Monday we face the trip to Gillingham's scaffolding. If we can get six points from now until the end of the season, I think we'll be capable of staying up. We're currently 19th, the highest we've been since September...I hope you don't suffer from vertigo!

Thanks for reading and remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy. I would also be extremely thankful if you could either, "uptweet" this Blog or share it on Twitter or Facebook.

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