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

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