Sunday, 26 August 2012

Daggers 1-2 Gillingham, A Stormy Start

Despite another decent enough performance that may well have warranted a draw, Dagenham & Redbridge's wait for a win in the 2012/2013 season goes on as they were defeated 2-1 at home by promotion chasing Gillingham. It was the same story for the Daggers as they were denied through a lack of luck, Gills' good defending and poor officiating.

I was perhaps overly optimistic of a win against the Gills given our recent record against them; however I felt that we had goals in our team that could overpower the away side. In reality though, all of Martin Allen's sides are hard to beat, and today would be no different. They've started the season well; with a 100% record in fact so we all knew it would be a tough task to earn so much as a draw yesterday afternoon.

Following a brief chat with Horan et Dawson, I resumed back to the usual Sieve standing position where the rain began to come down - wearing shorts did not look like a good idea anymore. Following a brief pause, the teams were read out as follows...

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

John Still opted to make a single change from the side that started the last two consecutive games. Brian Woodall was dropped to the bench as Sam Williams who impressed on Tuesday night came in. Dominic Green was restored to the bench after overcoming an injury which meant there was no place for youngster Louis Dennis. The home side would once again be lining up in that familiar 4-3-3 formation.

Gillingham: Nelson, Fish, Martin, Frampton, Davies, Whelpdale, Lee, Allen, Montrose, Weston, Burton. Subs: Forecast, Essam, Jackman, Payne, Dack, Kedwell, Strevens.

Martin Allen made no less than five changes to his side, with Andy Frampton, Charlie Allen, Lewis Montrose, Callum Davies & journeyman striker Dean Burton all returning to the starting XI. They replaced Danny Kedwell, Jack Payne & Bradley Dack who all dropped to the bench, whilst Tom Flanagan was suspended and Adam Barrett not even named in the squad. Former Daggers striker Ben Strevens who would come on later in the day, had to be content with a place on the bench.

After all of that, yet more rain came down as the sides came out for the pre match rituals. The 900+ Gills fans were creating a good atmosphere; meanwhile the home supporters were trying their best to liven the mood. There was no change in sides which meant the home side would be attacking the Traditional Builders Stand in the first half, whilst the Gills would be facing the rather sparse Bury Road Terrace.

The visitors were out of the blocks the fastest with Dean Burton having a goalbound effort denied by Chris Lewington who rushed off his line to thwart the danger well. The Gills continued to attack in the opening 5 minutes with both Charlie Lee & Myles Weston registering opportunities.

With just under 10 minutes played, the home side began to come back into the game. First Billy Bingham had a testing shot saved by Stuart Nelson, whilst minutes later Medy Elito drove a powerful strike over the crossbar. The Gills though came back once more, and if it were not for a Scott Doe block diverting Myles Weston's shot into the side netting, they could have taken the lead.

Martin Allen's men were continuing to dominate going forward, causing the home defence another hairy moment with 15 minutes played. Weston was proving to be the thorn in the defensive backside as Lewington forced him wide after the front-man raced clear. His pull back fell to Charlie Allen (full relation to Martin), at the backpost who knocked it down for Whelpdale, his deflected shot went for a corner amidst cries of handball from the travelling support.

Following an encouraging start, the game began to die down a bit as we entered the middle of the half. The awful weather became even more torrential, making conditions more difficult for both sides. Opportunities were becoming increasingly hard to come by, however Sam Williams should have done better from six yards out when provided with a good ball in from Luke Howell. Up the other end and Mickey Spillane was being given a torrid time in the air by the opposition forward line.

With 25 minutes played in the soggy conditions, the home side nearly took the lead. Dwight Gayle was fouled just outside the box which gave the Daggers a chance to test Nelson from a set piece situation. Billy Bingham stepped up to the plate and hammered a strike directly at Stuart Nelson that was palmed into a central position where Abu Ogogo couldn't sort his feet out in time to test the 'keeper once more.

With just under half-hour played at Victoria Road, Gillingham took a somewhat deserved lead. Matt Fish picked up the ball on the right hand side before curling in a perfectly plaiced ball in that found the head of Dean Burton whose header glanced into the bottom corner, giving Lewy no chance - (spot the pun in the sentence). Mickey Spillane could have done better to mark Burton who was plying his trade out in Azerbaijan last year, whilst Billy Bingham could have been quicker to close Fish down.

Not long after the opening goal, four minutes in fact, the Daggers were given the chance to make amends from the spot. Luke Howell sent through Dwight Gayle who was brought tumbling in the box by an outstretched Stuart Nelson. It was your classic penalty giveaway from the striker and Nelson fell for it. Despite calls for his sending off, the 'keeper was only booked and Gayle left with spot kick duties after fighting off Spillane. Within minutes the former BSN 42 goal marksman was off and running for the home side as he smashed his spot kick down the middle to level the scores.

The Daggers now had the advantage as first Gayle and then Williams both tested Nelson shortly after the penalty. Minutes before the half time whistle went and the home side came inches away from taking the lead. Billy Bingham's pin point cross was headed goalwards before being blocked on the line - cue goalmouth scramble. Try as we might, the Daggers just couldn't find a way through, having several efforts blocked by the resolute Gills backline.

Straight into the second half we went and Mad Dog's men nearly took the lead for the second time. A neat move between Lee, Whelpdale & Weston, saw the latter fire into the side netting for the second time in the contest. Chris Whelpdale was continuing to be Gillingham's architect and so it proved five minutes later when his back post cross was stabbed over by Weston.

As the game approached a crucial period, the weather overhead became even more intense with fork lightening clearly visible from the Sieve. The rain continued to lash down causing the game to be almost unwatchable at times. The referee though saw no reason to halt the game, a la Wycombe vs Bristol Rovers, so the action continued.

The home side were also pushing forward in search of that elusive second goal and it nearly came eight minutes into the second half. Gavin Hoyte got down the right hand side before firing in a low ball across goal that bypassed all in the vicinity - much like on Tuesday night vs Plymouth. Great work from Hoyte once again who looks to be a very good acquisition at right back.

The home side continued to look the more likely to score minutes later as Billy Bingham saw a thunderous effort cannon back off of Callum Davies' thigh. Martin Allen then made a double change as Danny Kedwell & Jack Payne were introduced for the labouring Dean Burton & Chris Whelpdale as the away side went in search of the lead.
Within minutes of the double change, Gillingham were back in front. Myles Weston beat Spillane to a header in the centre of the park before skipping past a Scott Doe challenge and slotting the ball between the legs of Chris Lewington. An exquisite goal from the former Brentford man, although being aided by lacklustre defending is always a great help.

Just minutes after the goal was scored, the home side were looking for a way back into the game once again. It nearly came on 64 minutes when Luke Howell was felled in the box, however, influenced by the previous penalty decision the referee waived away the appeals. We were then treated to another double change as Howell was replaced by DJ Green, whilst Strevens made his return to Victoria Road in place of Charlie Allen.

The action was becoming increasingly end to end, with Dwight Gayle flashing a shot over the bar in one minute & Myles Weston forcing a block out of Mickey Spillane the next. Sam Williams almost equalised five minutes later, but he didn't get a telling connection and his attempt grazed the post.

It was an onslaught now from the home side who were throwing everything at their counterparts from Kent. First Billy Bingham saw a strike go wide of the post, and then Femi was denied by Stuart Nelson. Abu Ogogo then saw two of his efforts thwarted by a courageous Nelson who was in the thick of the action. In between the dominance of the home side, Dwight Gayle was withdrawn for a rather skinny looking Josh Scott to try and draw us level.

Medy Elito was the latest player to fire an effort over the bar as the fourth official raised four minutes on his luminous board. The best chance of the lot came on 93 minutes. Elito's low corner was met by Abu Ogogo whose diving header was directed straight at Nelson who made yet another comfortable save - a yard either side and we were level.

That was the end of the game though and Gillingham had somehow held on to retain their 100% record in league & cup this season. Whilst I won't begrudge the Gills their win, I will say that we were dreadfully unlucky not to find a perhaps deserved equaliser, or be awarded another penalty at 2-1 down.

Once again though we showed that we are capable of creating the desired opportunities, we just lack the cutting edge to put them away. One bright spark is that Dwight Gayle got off the mark, albeit with a penalty - however that should lead to a streak of goals from him. Sam Williams also had a very good game and done what was asked of him, being a superb hold up player.

Couple of things I feel that I need to mention though as a fan or maybe just as a supporter who wants to moan. Please Billy Bingham, work on using your right foot. There were too many incidents yesterday where it was given away through fear of using the weaker foot. Lastly, I and some others feel that Mickey Spillane was being beaten far too much in the air - hopefully though that will rectify itself in the coming few games.

My final moan though isn’t directed at the players, it’s directed to the officials. Some of the decisions yesterday really were barbaric. The amount of pushing and shirt grabbing committed on Williams without a free kick truly was ridiculous. The standard of officiating at this level really isn’t up to the standard required and something needs to be done.

As for Gillingham, I was very impressed with their organisation and closing down, not to mention the energy and creativity of Myles Weston who was also their main threat in front of goal. The back line looked largely solid and bar one mistake, Stuart Nelson was faultless between the sticks.

Next up for us is AFC Wimbledon away next Saturday who have shipped an astonishing 11 goals in their last 2 games.

Remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy.

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