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 Many believed that Medy Elito should have been replaced by Dominic Green; however we persisted with the same side to take on the Cobblers.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.

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