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.
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.
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.
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.