Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Daggers 0-1 Coventry City, Cursed.

Another League Cup first round tie and another defeat - you have to admit six defeats in six attempts is quite an impressive record by anyone’s standard. This season though the defeat came courtesy of Coventry City and in particular, Kevin Kilbane who slotted home a dubious 90th minute penalty to give Andy Thorn's men a perhaps undeserved victory.

Before the match and I was cautiously optimistic considering our record in the competition and the side we were facing. Coventry wouldn't be easy opposition by any means, but facing a club that was relegated the previous season will always mean you have a chance as they may still be a little low on confidence. I have to admit as well, there's nothing better than pulling on your clubs shirt and walking through the turnstiles after a three month break - it just feels right!

After going into the ground where I found the programmes had not been delivered yet, I went to stand with my fellow Daggers ready for the game to start. Just previous to that though and the teams were read out as follows...

Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Hoyte, Doe, Spillane, Femi, Howell, Bingham, Ogogo, Elito, Woodall, Scott. Subs: Davies, Wilkinson, DJ Green, Green, Reed, Williams, Dennis.

Gavin Hoyte came in to make his first Daggers appearance, whilst Cain Davies & Louis Dennis appeared on the team-sheet for the first time as substitutes. John Still would be employing a now customary 4-3-3 formation with Elito joining Josh Scott & Brian Woodall up top.

Coventry City: Murphy, Clarke, Hussey, Wood, Brown, Baker, Kilbane, McDonald, McSheffrey, Ball, Daniels. Subs: Dunn, Malaga, Edjenguele, Garner, Elliot, Jeffers, O'Donovan.

Despite playing at a World Cup, Kevin Kilbane came in to make his second appearance at Victoria Road whilst former Birmingham City striker Gary McSheffrey would be leading the line alongside Callum Ball. Midfield playmaker John Fleck was missing through injury for the visitors.

The fans continued to pour through the turnstiles like a slow dripping tap as the teams took to the field for the first time this season. The songs started, the toss took place and soon enough we were ready to begin another fruitless League Cup campaign against higher league opposition.

Despite a low key opening ten minutes, the tempo was good and both sides were challenging well for the ball with one incident between Kilbane & Howell sticking in my mind. With ten minutes gone in the contest though, Coventry were presented with their first chance of the evening. Cody McDonald latched on to a neat cross field ball before advancing into the penalty area and firing his shot directly at Chris Lewington who palmed it away well for a corner.

Despite good Coventry pressure, the Daggers continued to look for pathways into the game - in particular with Femi who was looking menacing down the left. Minutes later and Josh Scott whipped in a good looking ball that was claimed well by Murphy (my less talented footballing brother), before Brian Woodall could get his head to it. Josh Scott continued to look like a threat when he glanced a header goalwards without testing Murphy.

Coventry though were getting the better of the play as you may expect, furthermore they should really have gone ahead with just over twenty minutes played. A wonderful ball in from the right hand side fell perfectly for Cody McDonald who spurned his chance by glancing his header wide of the near post - much to my relief.

Following that attack it was the Daggers' turn to bomb forward - on the breakaway to be specific. Some fantastic midfield work from Luke Howell saw the ball end up with Brian Woodall who was unable to pick out an unmarked Medy Elito on the far side much to my disappointment. Ten minutes later and the closest either side had came as Gavin Hoyte's deep cross found Scott Doe who took it down on his chest before volleying onto the top of the bar, an attempt which drew "OOO's" from the Sieve.

The final chance of the opening 45 minutes came the way of Josh Scott, who with a full pre season behind him was looking sharp. He cut in from the right hand side on his left foot before curling an effort just wide of Murphy's post which drew anxious gasps from all four sides of the ground.

Going into half time then and the game was pretty even as the score suggested - whilst the Daggers may have had the better of the chances, Coventry had the better of the play. The one thing we needed to improve on in the second half was the crosses from our full backs finding a man in the box.

The teams re-emerged for the second half rather quickly which meant we were able to get the somewhat drab contest back underway, almost straightaway. Coventry came out of the blocks the quicker as on loan Callum Ball saw two shots blocked well, by Gavin Hoyte to prevent Lewington having to be called into action. With little goal mouth action to talk about, John Still soon made his first substitution with Brian Woodall making way for Sam Williams to make his first appearance since the 1st October 2011.

The Daggers continued to look to press forward whilst playing some impressive football along the floor. Medy Elito was given the chance to test the Coventry defence as he won two free kicks, unfortunately though both were cleared well by the defensive unit. Jake Reed was then brought on for Josh Scott whilst Gary McSheffrey was booed off from the Sieve as he was replaced by Stephen Elliot.

Despite only being on the pitch for a matter of minutes, Stephen Elliot (no relation to Fred), was booked for a poor challenge on a Daggers midfielder. Both sides were continuing to threaten down the wings, however the final ball wasn't up to scratch and as a result it was looking as though we were heading to a stalemate and as a result, extra time that nobody wanted.

Just as it looked as though we would be going to another 30 minutes of "action", Mickey Spillane apparently "dragged down" Stephen Elliot and the referee awarded a penalty. From my position I didn't get a clear view, but from what I’m told it did seem rather soft. Captain Kevin Kilbane dually stepped up and hammered it down the middle, much to the 580 travelling Coventry fans' delight.

With a remarkably low three minutes of added time still to be played, there was still a chance of a late equaliser. It wasn't to be though and Coventry went through to the second round where they would draw local rivals Birmingham City, whilst the Daggers League Cup hoodoo continued as they were dumped out at the first hurdle for the sixth consecutive year.

Some positives to take from it though are that Billy Bingham, Scott Doe & Mickey Spillane in particular had impressive games, whilst the whole team performed well as a unit which is encouraging. We knocked it around well at times, however the only concern was the standard of crossing from the full backs and the lack of width in our game when it comes to wingers - Medy Elito wasn’t involved nearly enough.

As for Coventry, a far from convincing performance as I'm sure their fans would agree. If they're to mount a significant challenge for promotion this season they'll need to vastly improve and I'm sure they will. A couple of plus points for them is that their defence coped admirably, in particular Chris Hussey at left back, whilst Derby loanee Callum Ball looks to be a very good acquisition up front. I wish good luck to Cov for the remainder of their season.

Next up for us though is the first league game of the season against one of our bogey teams - Cheltenham Town. Let's hope we can come away from that with an impressive point or three!

Remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy.

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