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.

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