Saturday, 29 September 2012

Daggers 3-0 Wycombe Wanderers, Winning Ways

Saturday was a day of returns at Victoria Road. The Daggers Scale returned to reporting action, a new group of hapless cheerleaders returned, Billy Bingham returned to midfield and Abu Ogogo returned to right back. The biggest return of all though, was Dagenham & Redbridge returning to winning ways thanks to a comfortable 3-0 victory over an extremely poor Wycombe side. It was the first Daggers league victory since the start of May, and boy was it deserved.

Remember Pulse?
Before the game I was quietly optimistic as per usual. The sheer fact we’d dominated so many games, coupled with Wycombe’s awful run of form surely spelt a win. However Wanderers have a decent record at Victoria Road and with caretaker manager Gareth Ainsworth taking the reins from Gary Waddock last weekend, there was sure to be a fightback.

I arrived at Victoria Road at the abnormally early time of 14:30, after buying my ticket for the JPT clash with Southend. Almost immediately I was greeted with a sight that I’d thought we’d never have to witness again. A new group of cheerleaders were to grace Victoria Road. This time though, it was not Pulse, but “The Honeys.” Much like Pulse though, their rhythmic walking was average at best, at most they were decent to look at. Following that we were treated to some team news.

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

Following last week’s stirring fightback for a 2-2 draw at Rochdale; John Still opted to make several changes to his side. Billy Bingham was brought back into central midfield which allowed Abu Ogogo to return to his familiar right back position. Unfortunately this meant Gavin Hoyte was forced onto the bench despite doing nothing wrong. Dwight Gayle was also restored up front in a change that saw Medy Elito finally dropped to the bench. It was my favourite eleven to start so far this season and with players back in their preferred positions, I was supremely confident.

Wycombe Wanderers: Archer, Foster, Johnson, Dunne, Doherty, Lewis, Spring, Scowen, Morgan, Kuffour, Taylor. Subs: Harrison, Winfield, Stewart, Grant, Kewley-Graham, McClure, Morias. 

Caretaker boss Gareth Ainsworth made three changes from the side that Gary Waddock named in his last game in charge. Tottenham Hotspur loan 'keeper Jordan Archer made his first start in place of Elliot Parish. The second change involved Ainsworth himself; due to his managing commitments he replaced himself with Josh Scowen in midfield. Richard Logan was also out of the side, he was replaced by ginger forward Olly Taylor. Former Daggers Stuart Lewis & Danny Foster also returned to Victoria Road for the first time.

With kick off approaching, Lee, Mike, Chaz & James finally joined us in the sieve as the teams came out to a warm ripple of applause. The Daggers fans were allowed some access to the TB Stand, although with the poor turnout you'd have been hard pushed to tell. After the pre match rituals were complete, we were ready for kick off in this 21st meets 22nd battle.

The game started slowly, although Josh Scott was the first to get a shot away, his tame effort being met well by Jordan Archer. The home side were enjoying the majority of the possession in the opening stages, but as yet were unable to do anything with it. Wycombe had started steadily and saw a combination of shots blocked well by the Daggers defence to deny them the lead.

Josh Scott
Despite a competent opening, the home side were given a scare 14 minutes into the match. Luke Wilkinson fouled Olly Taylor just outside the box which gave Dean Morgan a chance to test Chris Lewington. And test he did, forcing the 24 year old goalkeeper to tip his low effort onto the post before Femi cleared the danger.

Femi had started the game well and was once again looking like a threat down the left hand side. His gut busting runs have become a regular feature of his play this season and today was no different, except this time it had an end product. He put in a delightful ball that Gayle nodded back to Josh Scott who attempted a spectacular overhead kick that unsurprisingly went over the bar.

After a spot of basketball between Sam Williams & Charles Dunne, the game resumed a frantic nature as Dwight Gayle fired an effort over the bar. The Daggers weren't just looking good going forward; they were looking assured at the back as well. The centre half combination of Scott Doe & Luke Wilkinson was soaking up everything that was thrown at them, whilst Abu was playing well at right back.

With 25 minutes played the home side opened the scoring with a bit of a whimper. Howell's ball into the box from a free kick conceded by Danny Foster found the head of Doe who glanced goalwards. Jordan Archer palmed the ball to his left where Dwight Gayle was lurking with predatory instincts to tap in from close range. Despite suspicions of offside the goal stood, cue subdued celebrations in the Sieve.

At this point John Still's men were in the ascendency and it showed immediately as Gayle's flick was saved well by Archer following another Femi ball in. Abu Ogogo was next to try his luck, however the right back saw his scorching effort hit the side netting when it would have been smarter to cross into the box. Josh Scott was next to have an effort saved by Archer who was having a busy debut, whilst up the other end Lewington had to be athletic to tip Matt Spring's curling effort round the post.

The final goalmouth action of the half was courtesy of Mickey Spillane who saw his poor header saved comfortably once more by Archer. That was half time and Wycombe's only saving grace was Dean Morgan who was having a good game. Olly Taylor also looked decent up front; however he was replaced by McClure. You may remember him from such loan spells as Burnham, or Hayes & Yeading.

The Daggers on the other hand were looking good for the lead at half time, while not being outstanding; they were going about their business in admirable fashion. Femi & Luke Wilkinson were the cream of a very ripe crop of players. We were then treated to another dose of, "The Honeys", before the teams came back out for the second half of action.

Wycombe started the second half far better than they ended the first, dominating possession and goalbound efforts in the opening 10 minutes. Matt McClure had a good opportunity to equalise, but he failed to find the back of the net when put through by the influential Dean Morgan. 

Despite starting the better in the second half, it was Wycombe who were to concede once more 56 minutes in. Billy Bingham's corner on the far side was headed goalwards before being blocked on the line by Matt Spring. The linesman put his flag across his chest in frantic fashion to signal that Danny Foster had handled the ball in the build up. So in somewhat confusing and controversial circumstances, the Daggers were awarded a penalty. Mickey Spillane stepped up and hammered home his second penalty in successive games to give the home side a 2-0 lead.

Dwight Gayle continued to look threatening and he tested Archer once again minutes later, before Ainsworth made his second change. Joel Grant replaced Dean Morgan who I thought was Wycombe's best player - shows what I know! McClure was causing some problems for the Daggers defence, forcing Lewington into a smart save at his near post.

As we reached the three quarter mark in the game, Sam Williams saw his lob drift just wide of the post from a good position - luckily for him he was offside anyway's. Substitute Joel Grant then saw his first attempt since coming on go over the bar as the choirboys looked for a way to get back into the game. Wycombe then made their final throw of the dice, bringing on Junior Morias for Jo Kuffour.

Stilly's Subs.
This was Morias' professional debut, but you wouldn't have been able to tell as the 17 year old took the game in his stride. He put in several menacing crosses that forced Lewington to punch clear, whilst also testing Lewy with a tame strike. John Still then made his first change, bringing on Medy Elito for the impressive Josh Scott with 79 minutes played. This was followed shortly after by Dwight Gayle being replaced by Brian Woodall - applause all round.

Despite Wycombe's improved possession of the ball in the second half, they just couldn't find a goal. It was almost like watching Dagenham in the first few games of this season, but worse. Matt McClure narrowly missed out on reducing the deficit, before Billy Bingham put the home side out of sight with a rasping effort that found the top corner, leaving Archer with no chance.

That was full time and the Daggers claimed a 100% deserved first victory of the season over a poor Wycombe side. John Still's men looked good this afternoon, with a special nod going to Femi, Howell & Luke Wilkinson in particular who all had superb games. Wilkinson really is a commanding and dominant player; the defensive partnership he's forming with Scott Doe could be special.

As for the rest of the squad, no complaints whatsoever, everyone played their part. Dwight Gayle got on the scoresheet once again Spillane was composed along with Bingham in midfield, whilst Ogogo got on with the job at right back. Josh Scott & Sam Williams also had good games and put forward their application for a permanent forward role.

As for Wycombe, it was just poor really. They lack fight in the midfield and were very poor at the back. I lost count of how many times Femi beat Danny Foster, whilst we were equally as damaging on the other flank. One plus point must be the performance of Dean Morgan who looked the most likely to score, Junior Morias was also impressive when introduced. Olly Taylor didn't do too badly in the first half; however he lacked opportunities, something that’s down to the midfield.

It's nice being able to report on a win again, and hopefully we can add to it on Tuesday night when we visit Port Vale who defeated Bradford this afternoon. I won't be there, but I will be back for the Bradford home game next week. 

My final word goes to the 323 Chairboys in the crowd this afternoon - a massive well done to you. I know it's only a short trip, but when your team are in a slump it can feel like forever - believe me, we know! Unless it involves us in a relegation scrap, I also wish the best of luck to you for the rest of the season.

Remember to follow me on Twitter; @NickDRFCMurphy is what you'll need. 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Daggers 0-1 Northampton Town, Still Waiting

Dagenham & Redbridge continued their awful record against Northampton Town and the league this season, with a 1-0 defeat at home to Aidy Boothroyd's men. In truth it was the worst performance of the season from the Daggers, and probably doesn't even warrant that overused phrase, "we deserved a point." We genuinely were pretty awful, although there were one or two bright spots to take from a disappointing evening overall.

You'll be amazed to know that before the game I was totally pessimistic and not at all in an anticipant mood for the fixtures. Having lost in our four previous games against the Cobblers, three of which had been 1-0 defeats, you can understand why I was in this frame of mind. A cold Tuesday night with Bayo up front for the opposition and with us in a poor run of form just spelled trouble. Not to mention we were on an alternating run of a draw and then a defeat.

After walking through the turnstiles and purchasing a tea, I had a brief chat with the Horan's before heading into the Sieve to meet Mike & Lee. When there, we were greeted with the team news which was as follows...

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

John Still had opted to name an unchanged 18 from the side that drew 1-1 with Accrington Stanley at the weekend. Many believed that Medy Elito should have been replaced by Dominic Green; however we persisted with the same side to take on the Cobblers.

Northampton Town: Nicholls, Johnson, Widdowson, Langmead, Artel, Guttridge, Demontagnac, Harding, Hackett, Akinfenwa, Nicholls. Subs: Snedker, Tozer, Turnbull, Platt, Mukendi, Wilson, Moult.

Cobblers boss Aidy Boothroyd made four changes from the side that was defeated so narrowly at the weekend by Fleetwood Town. Danny East on loan from Hull was banned which meant John Johnson was drafted into the defence. Clive Platt, Louis Moult & Ben Tozer were also no longer in the starting eleven, meaning former Blackpool star Ishmael Demontagnac & Luke Guttridge were brought back in. Most important of all though was the return of Bayo Akinfenwa up front who would be sure to scare the Daggers defence, or simply flatten them.

The game began shortly afterwards and despite Chris Hackett firing a shot wide of the post early on, it was an ankle injury to Ben Harding that dominated the early exchanges. After around four minutes of treatment, the stricken Harding limped off the pitch with the help of Northampton & Dagenham staff alike. He was replaced straight away by Ben Tozer as the game looked to find a steady rhythm.

In truth it never got going until about 15 minutes in when Luke Wilkinson headed just wide of the post from a corner. Shortly after, the mesmeric Brian Woodall tried his luck with a speculative effort. Whilst the lob may have had Lee Nicholls beat, it landed on the roof of the net much to everyone's frustration. Medy Elito was next to try his luck, however Nicholls was equal to the effort once again to preserve the 0-0 scoreline.

The game was now becoming more open and it showed as Femi burst down the left before firing a good ball into the box that found the head of an unmarked Dwight Gayle. Unfortunately for the prodigy, his tame header went straight at Nicholls, giving the 'keeper no real problems. It's quite demoralising when your most creative player is your left back, but at the moment he was the only real source of anything promising.

As we approached the 30 minute mark in the encounter, the Cobblers suddenly came alive and created a string of good chances. First Akinfenwa ballooned a header over the bar, whilst Demontagnac was unlucky when his surging run just didn't have the finish to match. Akinfenwa was then the key figure once more as he blazed a shot wide of the post from close range.

The final effort of the half was from the boot of Mickey Spillane who had really been quite anonymous so far in the game. He created some space for himself before curling a low shot towards goal that was easily saved by Nicholls. Neither goalkeeper was really tested in the first half, and as a result, we went in at the back level, 0-0. In truth it was an uninspiring, drab and completely pointless half.

We returned for the second half after a brief interlude and Brian Woodall was trying to pick up from where he left off. The front man found some space, turned, and fired a low half volley wide of the post to get pulses racing. He was at least attempting to find the back of the net, something which no one else was.

It tells a pretty dire story when your opposition only manage a single shot on target and they score from it. On 50 minutes though, it happened as Akinfenwa rose highest from a deep corner to head home to give the away side the lead. Once again another headed goal conceded. It's simply not good enough and is becoming increasingly frustrating.

In truth we were awful and despite another Woodall attempt, we couldn't even find the target let alone a goal. Despite looking like the most creative player Woodall was withdrawn on 60 minutes, replaced by fans favourite Sam Williams up front. Medy Elito was bearing the brunt of much frustration at the moment and he didn't help himself when with 67 minutes played he fired a poor shot wide of the post. That probably sums up his season to date as well.

We were then treated to a double change that had supporters both elated and confused in equal measure. Josh Scott was brought on for Dwight Gayle, something that drew a great cheer from the crowd - not because Dwight had done anything wrong, everyone just loves Josh. Minutes later Medy Elito was replaced by Billy Bingham, a substitution that no one could understand. If we're chasing the game, surely Dominic Green should be brought on?

Josh Scott
At least Josh Scott was getting the pulses racing. Within minutes of entering the field of play, he picked up the ball on the left, drove forward and unleashed a rasping strike that was heading for the top corner before being pushed away by Lee Nicholls. Akinfenwa then went close up the other end, but his headed effort just missed the target to leave the Daggers still in with a fighting chance.

Despite a glut of late corners, one of which Chris Lewington was called up for, the home side couldn't find that all important equaliser. With four minutes of injury time played, we were put out of our misery as the final whistle blew to indicate a Northampton Town victory. It's almost unprecedented that out of the five times we've met, we've lost 1-0. We were nearly treated to some after game fireworks, but a fight between the two sides was sorted out by the referee.

The three main individuals who continue to impress are Femi, who has been superb at left back this season. Luke Wilkinson who is already looking like an accomplished central defender and Luke Howell who continues to be the engine room in midfield. Brian Woodall also deserves a mention for being the only one looking like scoring all night, whilst Josh Scott also looked dangerous when introduced.

It's just incredibly frustrating really, whilst this was by far our worst performance of the season, we weren't a million miles off of Northampton. You get the feeling that if we win, we'll go on a run - the problem is, where will that first win come from? With fixtures against Rochdale, Wycombe & Chesterfield in succession, it's hard to fathom that we'll score a single point, let alone 5/6.

As for Northampton, I can have no complaints with their victory. Adebayo Akinfenwa is just ridiculous, such a good player for this league and someone who knows where the net is as well - as the fast food restaurants. Well done to the 272 Cobblers fans who made the trip down on Tuesday night and I'll see you all again on News Year Day. I look forward to another 1-0 defeat.

As for us, it's Rochdale at the weekend. I'm taking a break this weekend so my next Blog will be on the defeat game against Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday week. Until then, I wish you all well!

Remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Daggers 1-1 Accrington Stanley, Murphy's Law

Despite yet another dominant performance, we're all sat scratching our heads once more as Dagenham & Redbridge are still without a league win following a 1-1 draw with Accrington Stanley. Once again the Daggers probably deserved the victory, but that familiar combination of sloppy defending and lack of clinical finishing leaves us winless once more.

Considering we have a decent home record against Accrington in recent years, I was mildly confident before the game. Stanley though had started well in the league, picking up 10 points from 15 available, whilst they had defeated both Southend & Cheltenham away from home. This would prove to be a stern test, but going on previous performances and the phrase that we were simply “due a win”, I opted for a 3-1 prediction.

After going through the turnstiles and into the beaming sun, I met up with Mike & Lee in anticipation for the start of the game. The teams were then read out as follows...

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

Following the defeat at Southend last weekend, John Still opted to make a single change. Brian Woodall was brought in following some impressive substitute appearances, which meant Sam Williams was forced to make way. Luke Wilkinson's red card was rescinded which meant Spillane was allowed to continue in central midfield in what would be a 4-3-3 formation.

Accrington Stanley: Dunbavin, Murphy, Liddle, Nsiala, Winnard, Molyneux, Joyce, Hatfield, Miller, Amond, Boco. Subs: Dawber, Chippendale, Clark, Eckersley, Schofield, Lindfield, Sheppard.

Paul Cook kept exactly the same side that drew 1-1 with Bradford City last week for the trip to Essex, with midweek loan signing Danny Schofield forced to sit on the bench. Dangerman Padraig Amond would also be starting up front in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

It was Accrington who were immediately out of the blocks, testing Chris Lewington from the off. First Romauld Boco saw his shot go for a corner; whilst Amond's looping header minutes later forced Lewington into a superb tip over the bar. From the resulting corner, Lewy spilled the ball which caused a scramble in the box, fortunately though Boco was unable to find the target when presented with a shooting opportunity.

The Daggers then began to come into the game. Neat play between Woodall & Gayle saw the latter have his testing shot saved well by the diving Dunbavin. After a slow start the home side were now looking like the dominant force, Elito & Femi taking turns to test the Accrington full backs. Elito's continued pressure nearly told with 16 minutes played, but his far post cross was just too high for the outstretched head of Gayle.

Gavin Hoyte was then booked rather harshly for a challenge on Lee Molyneux. Accrington and Amond in particular were continuing to look a threat when coming forward. The former Shamrock front man latched onto a difficult ball inside the box before turning and firing just over the ball. Superb work from the Irishman who just couldn't quite keep his shot down.

Lee Molyneux
Just before the 30 minute mark in the game and Lee Molyneux came within inches of scoring a fabulous goal. The defender picked up the ball inside the Daggers half before skipping past two players and firing a superb shot goalwards that cannoned back off of the bar, much to my relief. Such was the quality of the strike, that it drew applause from the Sieve; a superb effort.

John Still's men were still looking threatening, although Dwight Gayle's wayward free kick on 30 minutes doesn't really back up that statement. With 34 minutes played, Mickey Spillane was presented with the Daggers' best chance of the game so far. Clever player from Elito down the right saw the wide man manage to put the ball into the danger area, Spillane however could only manage to head onto the bar.

Democratic Republic of Congo International Aristote Nsiala was then booked for a poor challenge on the far side. Abu Ogogo was the next to try his luck with a poor effort that dragged wide of the post. The final chance of the half came from the head of Mickey Spillane, once again though he failed to hit the target and the scores remained level going into half time.

There's no need for any of that half time nonsense, so we'll move straight into the second half of the match. The first chance fell to Mickey Spillane; however his speculative free kick flew over the bar and into the Bury Road terrace.

The Victoria Road faithful were then nearly treated to a moment of magic from Brian Woodall. The loveable forward plucked the ball out of the air superbly, before turning his man to face the goal. With a single swing of the outside of his boot everyone though Brian had scored, unfortunately though Dunbavin just about got a hand to the ball to push it wide. Poxy goalkeepers eh, always ruining things!

The Daggers were continuining to look like the better side as Ogogo headed Elito's ball in directly at the busy Dunbavin. Gavin Hoyte & Luke Howell then both took turns to test the stern Accrington defence, however both of their attempts were blocked. It was beginning to look like another, "one of those days" for the home side.

With 54 minutes played, Medy Elito blew the best chance of the game by far. Mickey Spillane drove down the left hand side before cutting the ball back superbly for the onrushing Elito whose side foot shot flew wide of the post. Everyone in the ground thought it was in, which is why it was extra disappointing to see it fly past the post.

With 35 minutes to play Paul Cook made his first change, replacing George Miller to allow Danny Schofield to make his debut. Almost immediately it made a difference as Lewington tipped another Amond header over the bar. From the resulting corner Joyce's shot was blocked which allowed a quickfire Daggers breakaway. Unfortunately though, not everyone was on the same page which meant the breakaway - broke down.

Daggers fans in the TBS given something to cheer.
Dean Winnard was then replaced by Craig Lindfield who rather surprisingly went into a right-wing back position. I was always under the impression that Lindfield was a striker. It didn't matter though because with 60 minutes played, the Daggers took a deserved lead. A low, driven ball into the box found Luke Howell waiting at the far post to prod home for a 1-0 advantage.

As is so often the case when a side takes the lead, they were immediately put on the back foot. The substitution of Lindfield was making a real difference as he began to make some impressive runs down the right. After playing a neat one-two with Schofield, Lindfield attempted to lob Lewington. Rather unsurprisingly though his effort went over the bar - a good chance for Accrington.

Paul Cook was then forced to show his hand, bringing off Will Hatfield for Karl Sheppard as the Lancashire club reverted into a more familiar 4-4-2 formation. The away side then saw a penalty appeal waved away as substitute Sheppard was brought down in the box under a Lewington challenge. I'm not sure whether he had control of the ball, so I'll reframe from commenting on whether I thought it should have been a spot kick.

Accrington really should have equalised on 72 minutes. Lee Molyneux created space for himself on the left before hitting an enticing low ball into the box. Somehow no Accrington player was able to get on the end of it, so it rolled out agonisingly for a goal kick to the home side. Dwight Gayle's effort inside the box was then cleared minutes later as the game became more end to end.

With some superb work from Brian Woodall on 78 minutes, the Daggers could and perhaps should have doubled their lead. The frontman back heeled the ball wonderfully for Dwight Gayle whose strike went straight at Ian Dunbavin. From the rebound neither Gayle nor Woodall could find the net, with the ball eventually going out for a corner. We were then back up the other end as Sheppard headed Boco's corner just wide of the post - Accrington were coming closer.

Despite the dominance of the Daggers, yet again we allowed the away side to nip in and get an equaliser. Molyneux who had been dangerous all afternoon, whipped in another ball towards the back post where my namesake Murphy was on hand to head home into the bottom corner. It was just typical, following all of our chances we weren't going to get the result that our performance had warranted.

John Still then made his first change of the game on 87 minutes, with Danny J Green replacing Medy Elito. As we made our way into injury time, DJ nearly gave us all three points. A superb ball towards the back stick reached Green who could only fire his header over the bar when he should have really been looking to keep it down.

The final chance of the game though fell rather fittingly to Molyneux - a free kick just outside the box following an Abu Ogogo foul. It would have been crushing had Molyneux found the net here. He looked at it, he stepped up and he fired it about an inch wide of the post. It was so close that I honest to god thought it was in the back of the net. That was the full time whistle and the spoils were shared.

This result leaves the Daggers on 3 points, still without a win, whilst Stanley are on 11 points in the Play Off places. It was a good performance from the home side though who simply couldn't put away their chances once more. It's a problem that needs sorting out pretty soon, along with our sloppy defensive mistakes.

Man of the Match without a doubt for me this afternoon would be Brian Woodall. He was just fantastic, his touch couldn't be faulted, his willingness was second to none and his involvement in opportunities going forward was superb. I'm beginning to agree with John Still that Femi is one of the best left backs in the league as well.

As for Accrington, firstly a massive well done to the 56 supporters that made the trip down to Essex. Having done the reverse trip last season I know how awful it is! Lee Molyneux was superb for Stanley; he was the creator of so many opportunities and really stood out for me. Craig Lindfield also looked menacing when brought on, whilst you know what you're going to get with Amond.

I kind of look forward to travelling to Accrington in January, providing neither of us are involved in the FA Cup 3rd Round. I'd also like to wish good luck to Accrington as they're a very good, well run club!

Next up for us though is one of our bogey teams, Northampton Town at Victoria Road on Tuesday night. Let's hope we can finally get that long awaited victory. A note to leave you all on...we're still above Barnet!

Remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Southend United 3-1 Daggers, Seaside Diving.

Dagenham & Redbridge's wait for a first league win of the season continued yesterday as they suffered a 3-1 defeat to Southend United at Roots Hall. The 10 men Daggers put up a valiant fight and probably deserved a point out of the match, once again though, it just wasn't to be as we went home empty handed.

The day started with a rush as Lee, James & myself boarded the train at Barking with just seconds to spare to begin the journey to Southend. Within 45 minutes we arrived at the seaside in considerably better weather than our last visit, a freezing cold trip in early January. We proceeded down Southend high street before going into one of the various pubs for about 20 minutes or so. Following that we headed to the ground for the first Essex derby of the season.

We headed straight in to find our seats...only there were no seats left available. Once again Southend had completely cocked up the seating arrangements, leaving about 50 of us standing in the aisle pre match - what's more, there were no signs of more seats being made available. The teams were then announced...

Southend United: Smith, Clohessy, Cresswell, Phillips, Barker, Timlin, Martin, Hurst, Spicer, Assombalonga, Tomlin. Subs: Belford, Straker, Woodyard, Harris, Benyon, Njie.

Paul Sturrock made three changes from the side that defeated Wycombe 1-0 at Roots Hall last weekend, with Cameron Belford, Luke Prosser & Ryan Leonard all making way. They were replaced by Paul Smith in goal, captain Chris Barker & midfielder Dave Martin. The home side also had on loan Watford striker Britt Assombalonga starting alongside former Dagger Gavin Tomlin who would be looking to score against his former club.

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

John Still made a single change from the side that drew at Wimbledon last weekend; however it was a significant one. Billy Bingham dropped out of the side which enabled Mickey Spillane to push into midfield, whilst Luke Wilkinson was brought in to make his full debut in the heart of defence. This may have been due to the aerial presence of Wilkinson, who has far greater in stature than either of the other central defenders.

The teams came out and completed the usual pre match rituals before they lined up for kick off. In a flash we were go and the Daggers looked to attack straight away as Medy Elito's dangerous ball in was cleared away by Cresswell. The away side continued in the same vain minutes later as Dwight Gayle's header from Elito's corned was palmed away well by Smith.

Just as things were looking rosy for John Still's men, a thorn from the past returned to firmly kick them in the crown jewels. Not for the first time, Scott Doe played a poor unsighted ball back to Chris Lewington that left Luke Wilkinson facing a battle to get to the ball with Gavin Tomlin. As Tomlin reached the ball, he went down under minimal pressure from debutant Wilkinson; we all knew what that meant.

The referee dually pulled a red card from his pocket and sent Wilkinson off in his first start for the Essex side. I can tell you now; there was no way on earth that it was a foul, let alone a sending off. Tomlin wasn't exactly revered in his time at Victoria Road, now though he was a hated man. The start had promised so much, now however we were forced to play 83 minutes of football in intense heat, if ever there was a definition of "uphill task", this was it.

"Where do we go?"
Kevan Hurst stepped up to take the resultant free kick which was saved easily by Lewington. At the same time we were finally given a couple of extra rows which meant we were no longer blocking the views of people who wanted to sit down. The game was very end to end with Elito supplying several crosses without an end product, whilst up the other end Tomlin saw his shot blocked by Ogogo.

John Spicer was next to try his luck, however his strike went wide of Lewington's post. The away side then went on the attack down the left hand side with Sam Williams forging a good opportunity for Gayle. Williams drove to the by-line before hammering a low ball in for Gayle who was just beaten to it by Hurst who somehow managed to clear it over the bar.

After one fantastic chance, the Daggers found themselves behind just a minute later. Sean Clohessy was given time on the right hand side and his ball into the box picked out loan striker Britt Assombalonga whose powerful header flew past Lewington into the roof of the net. Yet more poor defending from Dagenham, although why Assombalonga felt the need to anger the away support with a "shh" motion for his celebration, I will never know.

Southend soon attempted to extend their lead as David Martin fired over from long range. The game became scrappier towards the midpoint in the first half as both sides were trying to establish themselves more in the game. Southend were continuing to make the man advantage count and should have doubled their lead as Tomlin skewed a fantastic heading opportunity wide of the post from close range.

One of Dagenham’s very few forays into the box in the first half was Luke Howell's shot saved by Smith who was being tested whenever the Daggers came forward. Southend’s second goal came when I was getting a bottle of water, so I only heard the cheer I'm afraid. Hurst's shot was parried well by Lewington, however Assombalonga got to the loose ball before Ogogo to slot it home, sending the Shrimpers 2-0 up.

The game became even more strung out now as Gayle fired another shot over the bar to give the away side hope. Lewington was then forced to head the ball away for the umpteenth time outside the box as he was sold short once again. David Martin was looking threatening for Southend as he cut inside before having his shot blocked well by Ogogo.

Just as the half time whistle looked as though it was going to sound, Dwight Gayle gave the Daggers a vital lifeline. The striker cut in from the right hand side and fired a low strike that somehow squeezed between the legs of Smith and into the back of the net. No one quite knew that he had scored, so cue delayed celebrations as we went into the half time break at 2-1 down.

One bright spot during the interval is that Southend now have a music license so they can play something over the tannoy. The downside to this was that it was accompanied by cheerleading. We were then treated to a Paralympian showing his medal to the crowd which received good applause from all four sides. As soon as that was finished, the sides were back out for what was sure to be a pulsating second half.

Almost immediately Dagenham were on the front foot as Eltio saw his cross headed away by Hurst, whilst Howell's close range header flew over the bar. Southend were also looking to add to their lead, however Kevan Hurst's crosses weren't finding their intended target. The Daggers then made a change as the out of form Medy Elito was replaced by Dominic Green who impressed on Tuesday night.

With 57 minutes played the away side missed their first gilt edge chance in the contest. Sam Williams who had impressed all afternoon won a free kick out on the left hand side after Mark Phillips had fouled him. The ball was delivered into the box where an unmarked Scott Doe really should have equalised, unfortunately though the ball came off of his shoulder allowing the 'keeper to collect with ease.

Daggers Fans
Then came a moment that really had me annoyed. A good piece of interchange between Gayle & Williams resulted in the latter not reading the final ball, with the move ultimately going to waste. That didn't anger me though; it was the constant lambasting of Williams by certain members of the crowd, something that prompted me to shout "Shut Up" at a particular husky voice.

Just after that incident, Williams was in fact brought off for the prodigal son, Brian Woodall, who received a good round of applause. Minutes after the change and the away side really should have found that elusive equaliser. Brian Woodall made a fantastic run to the by-line before cutting the ball back for an unmarked Abu Ogogo. Surely he couldn't miss from just 6 yards out? Unfortunately he did, somehow half toe poking the ball wide of the post when it was easier to score.

As is the way with these things, Southend quickly went up the other end and made it 3-1 to rule out any chance of a Daggers fight back. Another unsure defensive display allowed Ryan Cresswell to volley into the back of the net after the away side failed to clear the ball. A rather sickly feeling Daggers Scale author was left cursing what might have been once more.

The Daggers didn't really offer much in the final 20 minutes, Abu Ogogo firing wide from a good position was the only real opportunity. Luke Howell who was trying shots from all angles could only manage to hammer the ball to the left of the target to compound the 617 away supporters' misery.

Southend were always looking the more likely to extend their lead with Lewington forced to save a couple more Assombalonga efforts. Lewington was also called into action when Tomlin followed up with two rebounds, fortunately though the 'keeper kept Tomlin at bay. Even when Tomlin was released through one on one, he showed those predatory instincts once more to fire wide of the post.

That was game over really and the home side had probably come away with a deserved win, although I felt even if we had stolen a point it wouldn't have been unjust. Luke Wilkinson being wrongly sent off at the start ruined what could have been an absolute classic of a game, yet more shoddy refereeing at fault for that.

We shouldn't rule out Gavin Tomlin's role though, the classless individual getting a player sent off as well as criticising John Still in the matchday programme. Good 'ole John was still his professional self though and shook Tomlin's as he was substituted to a chorus of boos. I also don't understand how our budget affects Tomlin's performance as he so wonderfully puts it in the programme either.

From our point of view, we have to be sharper in the air, something that is really letting us down at the back. If we do that and manage to cut out the silly mistakes that have led to the majority of opposition goals this season, we'll be fine. We also need to be more clinical; Abu Ogogo's awful miss highlighted that yesterday.

On the positive side of things, we have the players to make winning become a habit in the future. We're not playing bad as such, we're just not getting the results that our performances deserve. Next week against Accrington will be a fantastic chance to put that right and nab that elusive league win.

My one final moan goes towards the shouters in the crowd who constantly annoy me. Firstly, why moan at Chris Lewington for heading the ball out of play? Would you rather he handles it outside the box? I thought not. Secondly, stop moaning at Sam Williams. The sooner you realise his job in the team the better, he’s not a natural goal scorer, but he’s fantastic when providing opportunities for others.

We shall also reconvene with Southend United at Roots Hall on the 9th October unless TV dictates otherwise for the JPT 2nd Round. We'll see you again then Southend supporters!

And trust me; a pigeon taking a dump on your shoulder is not lucky. I should know.

Remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy.

Monday, 3 September 2012

AFC Wimbledon 2-2 Daggers, No Defence

Despite a dominant second half performance, the Daggers' search for a first win of the season continues following a pulsating 2-2 draw against AFC Wimbledon at Kingsmeadow on Saturday.

The day started with the somewhat annoying journey to Wimbledon's ground, which as you will gather, isn't actually based in Wimbledon. After several changes on the tube, I arrived at Waterloo at 14:12 to catch the train to Shepperton (via Norbiton). A packed train arrived at Norbiton just after 14:30 where there was a police car waiting just in case that infamous AFC vs Daggers rivalry broke out. One of my least favourite walks to a football ground then ensued as I arrived at Kingsmeadow, just before kick off to stand with Lee & Mike.

This was my second visit to Kingsmeadow so I won't bore you with one of my infamous ground descriptions. What I will say though, is that the new stand that's almost completed will make the ground look a lot nicer and bring it up to league regulation for seating. Like last season, we were allocated The John Smith's Terrace along one side of the pitch, which gives a largely fantastic view of the match - bar the near side.

One final thing I have to mention is how great it is being directly behind the dugout, being able to hear exactly what the management say. I may be alone in this, but I find it really fascinating to listen to what instructions are given during the game. Enough with that though and onto the teams...

AFC Wimbledon: Brown, Balkestein, Fenlon, Francomb, Bennett, Harris, Long, Moore, Jolley, Harrison, Midson. Subs: Jamiez-Ruiz, Cummings, MacDonald, Johnson, Kiernan, Merrifield, Stratton.

Terry Brown opted to make two changes from the side that were crushed 5-1 at Valley Parade last weekend, with Mat Mitchell-King & Curtis Haynes-Brown both making way. They were replaced by two loanee’s, in George Francomb from Norwich & Dale Bennett from Watford as the Wombles attempted to tighten their defence. Perennial thorn in the Daggers' backside Jack Midson, was also starting for the hosts.

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

The Daggers were completely unchanged once again as John Still stuck with the same line up that lost against Gillingham last weekend. Dwight Gayle netted his first goal in that game, and everyone was hoping he could add to that tally as he faced up against a fragile Dons defence.

The game started with a fast tempo albeit with few chances being created. Luke Howell got the first shot away on the right hand side, however it flew wide of the post leaving Seb Brown to breathe a sigh of relief. Byron Harrison then narrowly missed for Wombles after being set into space by Jolley, Chris Lewington must have been wondering where his defence had disappeared too.

The Wombles were having a dominant spell in the game and they came even closer just before the ten minute mark. Jim Fenlon advanced forward into the Daggers half before letting rip with a rasping 25 yard effort that had Lewington scrambling. Despite everyone assuming it was a goal kick, the referee gave a corner that ultimately came to nothing.

With 15 minutes played though, and the away side continually edging into the game, Dwight Gayle broke into the box and was brought down by Sammy Moore. The referee had no hesitation and pointed to the spot to give the Daggers, and Gayle in particular their second spot kick in a week. You don't get one in a year and then two come in a week - typical.

I have to admit at first it looked stonewall, but on reflection (FLS), it did look rather soft, but we'll take what we get! Just as everyone was expecting the back of the net to bulge, Seb Brown gone down to his right to make a fantastic save from Gayle's initial penalty. Brown then spread himself to deny Gayle's follow up before the ball was eventually cleared away for a corner. Superb 'keeping from Brown who redeemed himself following a shocking error at Bradford last weekend.

Wimbledon now had the bit between their teeth and wanted to punish the away side for their wastefulness. They nearly took the lead as well, however Lewington was on hand to get down low and deny Louis Harris his first Wimbledon goal. The game was becoming intense, and the away side were making the hosts defend under pressure from several deep corners.

Mickey Last season...
With 27 minutes played, the Daggers made one of the corners count as Bingham's delivery was met with the flying head of Spillane who glanced the ball home. It sent us all wild as we witnessed our side take the lead for the first time this season. Incidentally it was also Spillane's second goal against Wimbledon in 2012 and rather ironically it was thanks to his aerial presence, something he's been lacking recently. Terry Brown will undoubtedly be disappointed with the goal as good marking would have prevented the opportunity arising.

Just as soon as Dagenham took the lead and we were finished celebrating, the scores were level. A poor clearance allowed Christian Jolley to get a shot away that was heading into the far corner until Lewington outstretched his right hand to push it away. Unfortunately though, it was Jack Midson who reached the rebound before the Daggers defenders to level the scores. Much like Spillane, Midson scored in the corresponding fixture last season at Kingsmeadow.

John Still will not have been pleased
That goal gave Terry Brown's men the edge and they continued to pour forward in search of the lead. On 35 minutes, they got exactly that following defending that would put a Sunday League team to shame. First we witnessed Luke Howell's air shot that allowed Sammy Moore to pump the ball back into the box. Then Dwight Gayle completely ignored the man he was marking, allowing Harrison to take time to pick his spot and volley home into the far corner, leaving Lewington no chance.

I don't think I, or any other Dagenham & Redbridge supporter can emphasise how awful that defending truly was. I bet I know someone who did though, in the dressing room at half time, his name is John Still. I can tell you now he wasn't very pleased about it in front of us at the time. It really was disappointing, and from in a leading position ten minutes prior, we were now chasing the game. Football, it's a funny old game eh?

Sophie Hosking
Neither side was really able to create another opportunity as the half petered out somewhat which meant we went into the half time break 2-1 down. One bright spot though was Team GB Gold medal winner Sophie Hosking's parading her medal around the pitch at half time which drew applause from all sides of the ground - even the singular workman in the uncompleted stand.

At half time I also decided to go and get some food. My experience of Wimbledon last year taught me to not get the Hot Dog, so I didn't. I opted for the chips at the rather high up counter and they were average, a bit greasy but edible. The Dons' catering will not be getting The Daggers Scale Michelin award for catering this year I'm afraid.

As soon as I had finished moaning, the teams re-emerged for the second half where there would almost certainly be more goals. Almost immediately the Dons were on the back foot as Dwight Gayle flashed a volley just wide of the post that left Seb Brown as a mere onlooker. The game continued to be end to end as first Byron Harrison headed the ball inches wide from a good position, whilst Gayle's close range effort also fell wide of the mark.

Femi at Crewe last year...
With 55 minutes played though, the away side did get that deserved equaliser. Femi's gut busting run down the left hand side was completed with a cross that was cleared to Luke Howell on the edge of the box. Directly as the former MK man stepped up to the rolling ball, I knew it was going into the top corner - and so it did. The scores were level thanks to a well placed strike that had the away support jubilant once again.

Terry Brown then opted to change his side, bringing off Stacy Long for Frank Merrifield. The game opened up even more so now as Ogogo's speculative effort cannoned back off of Balkenstein. Byron Harrison then attempted to give the home side the lead; however his shot from just inside the box hit the side netting. In the Dons' final spell of prolonged pressure, Jack Midson saw his shot drift wide of the near post after yet more poor defending.

We were then treated to a double change as first Huw Johnson replaced the tiring Louis Harris for Wombles, and then Williams was withdrawn for Woodall. The away side continued to press down the channels with Femi & Medy Elito showing good interchange without an end product.

We then witnessed a clash inside the box and it was instantly clear that Mickey Spillane's head was the same colour as John Gowen's crimson red towel. As a result, Mickey was withdrawn which meant Luke Wilkinson was thrust into the fray for the final 15 minutes - his Football League debut. Brendan Kiernan was then brought on for the tiring Byron Harrison who hadn't really had much service up front all afternoon.

With ten minutes to play, the 246 Daggers thought it was the moment that everyone had been waiting for. Femi picked up the ball just inside his own half and went on a superb run into the box, with his mouth agape he let fire and Seb Brown just tipped the ball round the post. A superb piece of play by the young left back who has been one of the best performing players so far this season.

The Daggers then went increasingly more attacking as Dominic Green was brought on for midfield anchor Billy Bingham. With 89 minutes played it nearly paid a dividend as a ball was swung over to Woodall inside the box whose outstretched head could only nod it into the side netting. A superb chance to wrap up the three points, alas it wasn't to be.

Wimbledon did come on the attack once more in the encounter in injury time as Huw Johnson fired an effort just wide of the goal. I can tell you now that it got me nervous! That was full time though and whilst I was satisfied with a point, I can't help but feel we deserved all three. The annoying thing is, this was the worst we've played so far this season yet it's the game we've been most dominant in.

On the bright side, Gavin Hoyte & Femi had superb games, their tackling was spot on and Femi in particular looked extremely dangerous going forward. Mickey Spillane has improved in the air which is a great boost and Dwight Gayle continues to look like a serious threat up top. Despite several moans from some people, Sam Williams once again done what was asked of him extremely well, he's a hold up player, not a goalscorer!

As for Wimbledon, the only player that really created something was Christian Jolley. He ran the show for the Wombles all afternoon, very rarely in fact did last season’s top goalscorer Jack Midson trouble our defence. Both sides though need to drastically improve at the back and cut the silly errors out of their games - then maybe they'll start to move up the league.

For Dagenham though, we have to be patient as we only have a young team. The oldest player on the pitch on Saturday was Luke Howell at 25, which tells its own story. Just give the side time and the results will come, I’m sure of it. I would also have a moan at the officials, but it's just become too repetitive and tedious now in this division.

Next up for us is Stevenage on Tuesday night, a game that is so low profile that I won't even be doing a Blog on it. Next up for me is the trip to Southend United on Saturday...did someone say, Essex Derby?

Remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy

The new North Stand