Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Daggers in Focus, Mark Arber

In the second interview of this Daggers Scale feature, I got the chance to pose a series of questions submitted by supporters to former Dagenham & Redbridge captain Mark Arber. All the names of people who submitted questions have been removed, apart from one who Mark had a special message to.  A massive thanks goes to Mark for taking part, and without further ado, here's what he had to say.

1) Of the current crop of players, who do you think has the potential to play at a higher level? 

MA: I think most of the current squad have the “potential” but fulfilling that is the hardest thing for any player to do.

2) What would you class your greatest achievement as whilst at the Daggers and why?

MA: Winning the club player of the year award in our promotion season as captain, and knowing that I did it in a side which reached the highest level of football that the club has ever been too.

3) Did you enjoy playing in the Daggers style of play or would you rather have played in a more pass and move orientated approach? 

MA: I enjoyed the “winning” and being successful side of it, and having played against that style of play believe me it is very difficult to combat. But yes, I think we had the players to play a more passing game when I was at the club.

4) John is known for bringing through young players, but do you think there were any youngsters during your time at the club who you think could have made it, but were let go too early?

MA: Not really. I think the manager always encouraged the younger players to better themselves and gave them enough chances to express themselves on the pitch.

Mark signs for Dartford
5) You’re currently at Dartford and at the time of writing the Darts are 4th in the league following an impressive victory over Mansfield, how are you enjoying it at Princes Park and how are you combining it with your coaching role at Arsenal? 

MA: To be honest I was a little sceptical about continuing to play but when I decided to carry on playing on a part-time basis I had a number of offers and it made me realise I still have plenty to offer. This obviously allows me to continue to coach at Arsenal as much as I possibly can. I currently work with the Under 13’s within the Academy.

6) What coaching qualifications do you currently have and where do you see yourself in three years time with both your qualifications and role within a club?

MA: I am a Level 3 qualified coach with full FA Youth Modules. I am due to take my A Licence in the summer of 2013. I am going to play for as long as the body allows, so touch wood in 3 years I will still be playing somewhere.

7) Was your release a bit of a shock, or were you aware of it in advance? 

MA: It was probably the biggest shock of my footballing career. Due to the circumstances, I found it very difficult to swallow.

8) Can you tell us a story from the dressing room/training ground that no one will have heard before?

MA: Not many people know this but in all the time I was there we always had pictures of players on the walls of the dressing room who had got us to where we are now. 

9) You were captain for at least one of our 6-0 wins, what sort of game is that to be a part of? How did you feel as captain to win 6-0 in the Play off Semi Finals? (Auntie Merge from the forum)

Arbs celebrates the 2nd leg win vs Morecambe
MA: Pretty easy from a defensive point of view. I think the performance against Morecambe that day was the best Daggers one I have ever seen or played in. I recently watched the game again and honestly believe on that day we would have beat anyone (PS Hope your headaches are getting better xxx)

10) Who was your favourite centre back partner and favourite player to have played alongside whilst at the Daggers in general? 

MA: Anwar Uddin. I replaced him as Captain and he took it like a “Man” and a true professional. Tony Roberts as well, I only saw him on a Friday but he could still produce the goods on a Saturday.

11) Can you give us any names to look out for in the Arsenal Youth Set up that you coach that you believe will make it as professionals? 

MA: Have you got a crystal ball? Chuba Akpom is an Under 16 England international who I coached when he was a youngster. Reports are that he is doing very well.

Chuba Akpom
12) If you had a choice to play for either England or South Africa, who would you choose and why? 

MA: Realistically South Africa. I was in 3 World Cup squads while playing for Peterborough, and had issues with my passport that ultimately stopped me from playing for them. That was a major disappointment.

13) How do you compare the Conference and League Two in terms of standard, is there much of a gulf in class? 

MA: I think it varies. The Conference top 6 would easily cope in League 2 now, although the Stevenage team I played in would have won this year’s league by 20 points in my honest opinion.

14) How is your relationship with John Still now, and are you still in contact with any of the players you played with whilst here? 

MA: I owe him a lot. I worked under him for a large part of my career. I haven’t spoken to him since the day I left the club though. Yes, of course - I still speak to a number of players through the different era of each team.

15) Do you think Abu was the best choice to replace you as captain if so why, and what words of advice did you offer him? 

MA: Yes, I think he has the respect of all the players. I spoke to him on the phone, and simply told him to carry on in the traditions of the club and make sure the “team spirit” we had created continued under him.

16) From a personal point of view, what is your favourite Daggers performance and what was your favourite game to be a part of?
Arbs celebrates the Play Off Final victory with Jon Nurse.
MA: The Wembley win will never leave me. To Captain a winning team there is the stuff dreams are made of. On Opposite side of the coin our 3-2 win at Darlington in our inaugural Football League campaign to guarantee survival was immense in it’s own right.

17) And finally, can you sum up what it means to be a Dagger in 3 words.

MA: A great honour. 

Once again, a massive thanks to Mark for taking part and answering the questions. You can follow him on Twitter where his username is, @1Arbs.

Next up for the Blog is AFC Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon, whilst you can also see me writing in the LBBD Newspaper, "The News", next Monday. As for this feature, I'll be attempting to get an interview with another former Daggers star over the course of the next few weeks!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Daggers 0-0 Aldershot Town, Uninspiring.

Following a dull and uninspiring draw between Dagenham & Redbridge and Aldershot Town on Saturday afternoon, both sets of fans would have been forgiven for wanting the clocks to go forward 10 minutes into the game, rather than going back on Sunday morning. The majority of the 1700 people in attendance would agree it was the drabbest game ever witnessed at Victoria Road - not helped by the freezing cold conditions and intermittent rain.
The Daggerettes

Despite Aldershot's impressive victory over Southend United in midweek, I was optimistic of a victory considering their position in the table, and I'm sure they felt the same regarding us. It was however going to be a difficult game, with wispy rain and freezing cold temperatures to contend with - and that's just for the supporters. As the time approached 14:40, I entered the ground and took up my position for the ensuing two hours of pain.

Somewhat unusually, there were no changes for either side yesterday afternoon, which saves me the hassle of going through the teams. Michael Rankine & Peter Vincenti who scored in the 2-5 win at Victoria Road almost a year to the day would both start, whilst only three who played in that game last season, remained in the Daggers starting line up. With the time coming up to 15:00, both sides entered onto the pitch with the help of the Daggerettes, whom I were beginning to feel sorry for.

The most polite thing to say about the first half was that it was uninspiring. Sam Williams fired a shot wide of the post early on; meanwhile Adam Mekki was unlucky not to earn a penalty after being brought down inside the box. The game continued to be fought largely in the midfield, with very little being offered in forward positions. Aldershot began to get slightly on top, with Sonny Bradley directing a header wide of the post, and Peter Vincenti also drifting a shot past the post.

The Daggers were looking very blunt and short of ideas, as Dwight Gayle forced the hulking Jamie Young into a comfortable save. The closest either side came though, was with about 37 minutes in. The ball fell nicely for Matt Saunders outside the box and the midfielder volleyed a rasping strike onto the bar to cause Young some concern. The first piece of genuine action and the first strike to draw a reaction from a subdued Victoria Road crowd.

Lewington made a good save
Despite Matt Saunders' effort, it was nearly Aldershot who went in at half time with the lead. Luke Howell brought down Peter Vincenti on the edge of the box which allowed youngster Adam Mekki a chance to make his mark. The 20 year olds strike looked as though it was destined for the corner, but Chris Lewington got across superbly to palm the ball away for a throw in. 

That was the last action of the half and what an awful half it was. Not only was there very little to shout about in terms of football, but it was freezing cold and I'd finished my tea. Could things get any worse? 

Although the second half wasn't setting the world alight, it was a slight improvement on the first. Both sides had chances straight away, Luke Howell firing over the bar for the Daggers, whilst Danny Hylton's looping lob bounced agonisingly wide of the post for the 331 travelling supporters. Aldershot then began to bombard the home side with balls into the box, some of which forced Lewington to punch clear - much to some of our supporter’s distress. To be quite honest, if Lewy deals with the ball effectively, I really don't care how he does it, whether it be catching it, or punching.

Triple change from Stilly
John Still opted to make three changes in the second half, including a switch of formation to 4-4-2 when Kevin Maher was introduced. Whilst none of the changes heralded a goal, we did look slightly improved with Maher controlling the midfield, whilst I wouldn't be opposed to Dominic Green starting over Medy Elito. 

There were a couple more chances before the final whistle, with Dwight Gayle firing a shot just wide of the post. The best opportunity however, fell to Michael Rankine, who terrorised the Daggers in the same fixture last season. A superb ball across found the physical forward at the back post, his powerful volley was blocked well by the body of Chris Lewington to deny the Shots the lead. 

The final opportunity of the afternoon fell to Dwight Gayle, but his speculative effort from outside the box was driven over the bar. A triumphant cheer went up when two minutes of added time were illuminated on the fourth official's board, although this was still too long. With 92 minutes of purely awful football in the freezing cold played, the referee finally ended the nightmare to signal a pitiful 0-0 draw. A very apt way to describe the game would be to say, "You can't polish a turd." 

This will be a game many want to forget rather quickly, with very little goalmouth action and yet another poor refereeing display contributing to the drab affair. Scott Doe, Luke Wilkinson & Femi continue to look impressive, whilst Sam Williams had what can be considered as a "decent" game. All in all though, no one really shone, with Kevin Maher's reappearance to first team affairs late in the second half probably being the highlight.

As for Aldershot, whilst they were pretty awful as well, if I was asked to pick a side that deserved it more, it would have been them. Danny Hylton & Michael Rankine looked on the ball, whilst Adam Mekki is a very dangerous youngster who will cause problems for opposition teams this season.

The only thing to take from this is the fact that we didn't lose 2-5. That and it'll probably be a better result than the one against Bournemouth next weekend in the FA Cup. Luckily for you, I'm testing my resilience and will be in attendance at Dean Court. Let's hope it's slightly warmer than it was yesterday!

Thanks for reading, and remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Daggers 1-1 Exeter, Paying The Penalty

Despite a battling performance, Dagenham & Redbridge couldn't quite put Saturday's defeat against York behind them after being held 1-1 by an ardent Exeter City at Victoria Road. The main talking point however will be Mickey Spillane's penalty miss after Medy Elito put the home side 1-0 up, had that have gone in, who knows what the final score may or may not have been.

Before the match I was optimistic of a victory, although more realistically I was looking at the draw due to Exeter's impressive away form. Saying that, the Grecians had lost three on the bounce coming into this which opened the door for the Daggers should we turn in an impressive performance, (something that doesn't seem to happen very often on Tuesday nights.)

Victoria Road had sort of a subdued atmosphere, almost as though no one was looking forward to it. The mist continued to descend as the teams were announced...

Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Ogogo, Doe, Wilkinson, Femi, Howell, Spillane, Saunders, Elito, Williams, Gayle. Subs: Seabright, Reed, Woodall, Green, Currie, Hoyte, Maher.

Somewhat unsurprisingly John Still named a completely unchanged side from the one that was defeated at the weekend in a performance Still called, "our worst of the season." With the Daggers only having won twice in this fixture in their fourteen prior attempts, a combination of class and maybe a bit of luck would be needed here.

Exeter City: Krysiak, Tully, Woodman, Bennett, Coles, Amankwaah, Sercombe, Oakley, Davies, Keohane, Cureton. Subs: Evans, Baldwin, Moore-Taylor, Doherty, Dawson, Gow, O'Flynn.

Paul Tisdale, who was sporting the most un-manager like outfit imaginable on the touch line, also opted not to make a single change to his side. This meant the club's top goalscorer Jamie Cureton (9) and journeyman defender Kevin Amankwaah would both be starting. Meanwhile youngster Jordan Moore-Taylor who had recently signed a new contract with the Grecians was also available on the bench.

The teams duly came out of the tunnel to moderate applause as the ground slowly began to fill up - I don't think anyone anticipates Tuesday night games anymore. The pre match rituals were then completed, a tracksuit laden Still & the claret trousers wearing Tisdale took their seats in their respective dugouts, and the game began.

Unfortunately though, the game didn't really begin with much of a flurry, Liam Sercombe having a speculative effort blocked well by the Daggers defence early on. Chris Lewington was given a scare minutes afterwards though as Matt Oakley's deflected effort crept wide of the far post for a corner. Everyone's favourite referee then needlessly booked Sam Williams for booting the ball away...with just four minutes gone.

Exeter continued to look like the more threatening side going forward as we reached 10 minutes on the clock. Jamie Cureton was the next man to try his luck, but the prolific forward's glancing strike was gathered well by Lewington to clear the danger. The game became increasingly scrappy from the 10th minute mark onwards, a trait that is creeping into more and more of the Daggers' games this season.

Following some speculative efforts from both sides, one from Cureton and one from Femi - it was the Daggers who broke the deadlock on 37 minutes. Quite how the ball went in from Medy Elito's cross-cum-shot I haven't a clue, nor does anyone else for that matter, let alone the man himself. Somehow though, just inside the box Elito raced to the by-line and hammered home his first of the season to give the home side what some may say was an undeserved lead.

The Daggers were now buoyed by opening the scoring and might have had a second had Femi not over-cooked his touch when screeching down the left wing. Exeter were offering some opposition though and Keohane tested Lewington once again to give the 217 Grecian supporters something to cheer. 

As the half time whistle approached, the home side really should have doubled their lead after being awarded a penalty. Some excellent counter attacking saw Spillane play a delightful cross field ball to Elito who sprinted into the box before being brought down after taking the ball around Krysiak. Gavin Ward instantly pointed to the spot, however he only cautioned Krysiak, presumably because there were two defenders back covering and Medy had taken a heavy touch. 

Spot kick duties were left to Mickey Spillane who has been impressive from 12 yards so far this season, so the majority were expecting him to dispatch this one with ease. Spillane however squandered the chance by blasting the ball over the bar and into the Marcus James Stand. The referee blew his whistle and the sides went in at halftime - Exeter with considerable relief, whilst the Daggers would have been wondering what might have been. 

The teams emerged for the second half and it was immediately clear that the Grecians had a second wind, a kick up the backside if you will. A superb ball forward from Bennett found the aging Cureton in time and space. After beating his marker he lifted the ball over Lewington and it rolled into the back of the net. Cureton had made the Daggers pay for that penalty miss and now we were beginning to wonder if Exeter could inflict even more misery on the home side.

Paul Tisdale's side now had the momentum and nearly took the lead for the first time minutes later. Jimmy Keohane was given the ball inside the box and it looked as though he would make it two in two minutes for the Grecians, however a superb last gasp Abu Ogogo block denied the frontman. That sort of defending is why everyone loves Abu at right back, although Keohane must have been left asking himself why he didn't pull the trigger sooner.

The 217 away supporters were now in good voice as their team advanced forward, Keohane forcing Lewington into another decent save with 55 minutes gone. It was Cureton again who should have doubled both his and Exeter's tally for the evening with 60 minutes played. The lackadaisical Daggers defence failed to clear the ball inside the box and it fell to Cureton. You'd stake your mortgage on the striker to find the back of the net; however he could only manage to blaze the ball high over the bar.

Despite a lacklustre start to the second half the home side then came back into the game slightly; with Mickey Spillane seeing an unmarked header pushed away well by Krysiak. Minutes later Sam Williams who had been impressive with his hold up play all evening attempted a shot of his own, however his half volley was poor and dragged wide of the near post. 

John Still then tried out his new tactic in the game, whereby a midfielder (in this case Matt Saunders) is brought off for Gavin Hoyte. Hoyte then goes to right back which means Abu Ogogo reverts to his auxiliary midfield position - and I have to admit it is a move I rather like at this point in the game. 

There were then two very good shouts for penalties within a five minute period. First an Exeter corner came into the box and Femi appeared to lower his arm in order to stop the ball. Despite appeals, Mr Ward waved it away much to my relief as I believed it was almost a stonewall spot kick. Then up the other end, Dwight Gayle advanced into the box before being encroached and ultimately felled to the floor, once again though the referee was having nothing of it and waved play on. This surely begs the question that if the referee feels Gayle hasn't been fouled, then he should be booked for diving.

The final 10 minutes were very frantic, as Gayle flashed another effort wide of the post. The closest the Daggers came though was through left back Femi, who was and is still searching for his first Dagenham goal. The open mouthed cult hero cut back onto his favoured left foot before drilling a shot goalwards that hit the side netting, much to everyone's frustrations.

Exeter ended the game the stronger as Jamie Cureton had two shots blocked well by Daggers defenders as the home side looked to ride out four minutes of added on time. Despite their best efforts, neither side could find that elusive winner; making the missed penalty at the end of the first half seem even more important. In truth though the 1-1 draw was what both sides deserved from a poor night's football.

The turning point was without doubt Mickey Spillane's penalty miss, but that happens in football, everyone makes mistakes. The thing to focus on is that we took a point from the match, despite not playing our best - something that has to be a good sign (results wise.) With a big chance to make amends on Saturday against a fast improving Aldershot, I'm sure everyone will be hoping to get back to winning ways.

Seeing as though there's not really much to comment on, I'll reserve my judgement of anything specifically and wrap it up there. As previously stated Aldershot await on Saturday. Our last two home games against the Shots have an aggregate scoreline of 4-10, so we're guaranteed some goals!

Thanks for reading and remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

York City 3-2 Daggers, Wilko Is Not Enough

York is a historic city.

Bootham Crescent had proved to be a happy hunting ground for the Daggers before this game, with the away side being undefeated at the home of York. Unfortunately though, that streak ended yesterday afternoon as Dagenham & Redbridge slumped to a disappointing 3-2 defeat, to hand the Minstermen a first victory in four matches, and a deserved one at that.

The 2006 clash with York at Bootham Crescent is actually one of my earliest Daggers memories, listening to us turn up an hour late on the radio, only to come away with a 3-2 win, so I'd been looking forward to this game since the fixtures were released. The travelling started early as you may expect, meeting at Chadwell Heath for 8:15 before journeying to Kings Cross where our 10am train to Aberdeen (via York) was waiting. 

Following a quiet two hour journey up, we arrived in York dead on 12pm. We then decided to head for the ground and more specifically the clubhouse to watch the Spurs vs Chelsea game. A good two hours or so were spent in there, and I can confirm that York probably have the cheapest clubhouse in the world, only charging 80p for a good sized sausage roll! As the clubhouse got busier and busier we headed towards the turnstiles that looked reminiscent of the outside of a prison. 
Grosvenor Road Terrace

After heading through we were greeted with an old fashioned sort of a ground that I quite liked. With half of the stadium being seated and the other half as terracing, it had a good mix. We were allocated the Grosvenor Road end which is uncovered terracing that was quite nice considering it wasn't raining. As a result of the ground, York is one of the few clubs that I could imagine myself supporting as it's not too dissimilar to our own - although it does have a larger capacity.

As the stadium began to fill up, the teams were announced as follows...

York City: Ingham, Smith, Parslow, Fyfield, Carlisle, Kerr, Blair, Kearns, Walker, Chambers, Coulson. Subs: Musselwhite, Blanchett, McGurk, Smith, Challinor, McLaughlin, Reed.

Gary Mills opted to make two changes from the side that drew at Bradford City last weekend, with Daniel Parslow and the clubs top scorer, Michael Coulson both returning to the starting line up. They replaced Jon Challinor and Jamie Reed who were both dropped to the bench; they were joined by Danny Blanchett who made a return to the 18. 

Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Ogogo, Doe, Wilkinson, Femi, Howell, Saunders, Spillane, Elito, Gayle, Williams. Subs: Seabright, Currie, Reed, Hoyte, Green, Maher, Woodall.

The Daggers named an unchanged side from the one that defeated Chesterfield so impressively last weekend, whilst Billy Bingham remained sidelined. A familiar face in Darren Currie was also present on the bench for the first time in a good year and a half - something that is potentially worrying where squad depth is concerned.

The teams duly came out to a good round of applause whilst I attempted to have my second sausage roll of the day without getting the crumbs everywhere. The pre match rituals were complete and, rather annoyingly the sides swapped ends. This meant that Daggers would be attacking us in the first half, whilst York would be facing the David Longhurst terrace. The referee finally blew his whistle and we were underway.

The game began as a scrappy affair, with Luke Wilkinson's header wide of the post the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock in the opening minutes of the match. The game continued in the same fashion for the ensuing quarter of an hour, with neither side able to establish a foothold in the encounter. Ashley Chambers had the home side's first, half chance, but Lewington came out well to smother the danger.

Lewington forced into action
Minutes later and it was Lewington against Chambers once more, this time though the latter got the better of the former. The ball was played to Chambers on the edge of the box before he advanced inside, tricked Luke Wilkinson and curled a well placed right footed shot beyond Lewington and into the far corner. An unhappy Lewington was left berating his defence as Chambers wheeled off in celebration.

Within minutes of the York goal, Dagenham & Redbridge were back on level terms. Matt Saunders whipped in a delightful corner that found the head of Luke Wilkinson who was on hand to thunder home his second headed goal of the season. There was almost a sense of disbelief amongst the 125 Daggers fans at how quick we had broken back - after a poor opening we couldn't afford to fall behind once more following the equaliser.

Ingham was tested.
The game continued to frustrate both sets of supporters, with the majority of the action taking place in the middle of the park. The Daggers tested Ingham for the first time with half an hour played, Dwight Gayle's floating header saved easily by the Scotsman. York were looking threatening down the wings, as yet though they were unable to find a second goal - Daniel Kearns over hitting a poor cross.

It wasn't long though before York did restore their lead with the help of some poor Daggers defending. Jamal Fyfield was given too much space down the left and as a result was able to swing in a delightful cross where a poorly marked Chambers was on hand to glance home his second of the game. Extremely frustrating from our point of view as the goal, like a bunch of others this season, was very much avoidable.

With only five minutes to go until half time there wasn't really any more attempts that troubled either ‘keeper. Dwight Gayle tried a speculative bicycle kick, whilst the follow up was blazed wide of the post. Both sides were attempting to utilise the wings, but to little effect. Medy Elito was trying his best without any end result; meanwhile Matty Blair was looking like the creative player for the home side.

The referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the half and in truth, we couldn't really have any complaints. To put it bluntly, we had been pretty awful in the opening half. The defence were not tight enough, the midfield went missing (I'm still looking for Spillane), and the front men had little if anything to work with. All this was topped off by York's tea bar prices bordering on the ridiculous - at least it wasn't raining I suppose.

The start of the second half saw more attacking prowess from York, as Daniel Kearns headed wide of the post, had it been on target Lewington would have been struggling. The Minstermen continued in the same vain minutes later with Matty Blair testing Lewington after dispossessing Femi. The Daggers almost equalised on the 60 minute mark, however Wilkinson's glancing header from a Saunders free kick drifted agonisingly wide of the post.

We were then treated to a flurry of substitutions, with Medy Elito being hauled off unusually early for the quick feet and trickery of Dominic Green. Michael Coulson was taken off for York; he was replaced by Jonathan Smith in his second spell with the club. 

Just two minutes after the double change, York extended their lead to make it 3-1. Daniel Kearns took matters into his own hands down the left hand side, showing good pace before cutting the ball back into the box. Despite no one being in a central position, the ball was allowed to drift through to Matty Blair at the back post who slammed home into the roof of the net - leaving Lewington with no chance once again.

The Daggers didn't give up though and despite putting in what John Still called, "our worst performance of the season", Scott Doe narrowly headed over from another Saunders corner. The nonexistent Mickey Spillane was then replaced by Gavin Hoyte in a tactical change for Still's men. Jason Walker should have put the game beyond doubt with 15 minutes to go after latching on to a short Dwight Gayle back pass, Lewington however was out of his blocks to deny  the prolific forward – spreading himself well.

The away side continued to press in hope of a second goal, with Wilkinson going close twice more - first with another header, whilst he also blasted a speculative strike over the bar. As we approached injury time, substitute Jake Reed came menacingly close, and Dwight Gayle also had claims for a penalty waved away.

Daggers Players Applaud the Support
The final score however was 3-2, a reverse of that famous day 6 years ago where Craig-Mackail Smith & Glen Southam netted for the Essex side. It was Luke Wilkinson once again who netted the consolation, hammering home a tremendous half volley from 25 yards out that left Ingham frozen to his mark. Despite this, the away side couldn't quite find that elusive equaliser in the remaining two minutes, and as a result went home with nothing to show from their travels.

In truth, nothing was just about what we deserved. Whilst York were poor, we were considerably worse and never really offered anything going forward. It's funny how you can contrast in a week from the best performance of the season to the worst. As I have previously said the defence wasn't tight enough, the midfield went missing and the forwards just weren't given the service. Luke Wilkinson had a decent game, although even he should have done better for the second goal. 

Mickey Spillane in particular was a ghost in the middle of the park, you could probably count the amount of touches he had on one hand. Luke Howell never really established himself, while Matt Saunders was only really present when taking the set pieces. Lewington didn't really have any chances with the goals, although he needs to be more decisive and commanding in his penalty area.

As for York, despite not being at their best, it was good enough to beat the lacklustre Daggers. Danny Kearns looked menacing, whilst you know what you're getting with Matty Blair. The York defence wasn't particularly impressive; however it was enough to deal with our blunt forward line. I look forward to reconvening with them on the final day of the season; hopefully it doesn't have too much at stake.

All in all, a poor day at the office for the Daggers who will be hoping for a considerably better display at home to Exeter City in midweek.

Remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy. Here are some images from the day...

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Daggers 4-3 Bradford City, The Daggers Of Old.

If Bradford City were sick of playing the Daggers before this afternoon, they’ll be even sicker after it. Before this clash the home side were unbeaten in seven games against the Bantams; and a deserved 4-3 victory extended that run to eight games and condemned the visitors to only a fourth defeat of the season. Goals from Mickey Spillane, Billy Bingham & Luke Wilkinson saw the Daggers take control, before a Nahki Wells double made it nervy for the home side. Dwight Gayle extended the lead to 4-2; however Bradford pulled another back through Alan Connell to really get everyone sweating.

Due to our recent record over the Bantams I was extremely optimistic of a Daggers victory – add to that Phil Parkinson has a poor record when managing at Victoria Road and you have a recipe for success. We were boosted additionally by Bradford missing key midfielder Gary Jones who has been superb so far this season. As I walked into the ground I was greeted by the wonderful new Daggers cheerleaders, "The Honeys", who continue to frustrate me with their rhythmic walking.

Due to my phone scroller completely packing up on me, I was forced to wait a while for the teams, but when they were announced I wasn't particularly surprised...

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

John Still made a single change from the side that drew so valiantly with Port Vale in midweek, bringing in Dwight Gayle for Josh Scott who was forced onto the bench. This appears to be a new thing from Stilly this season, with Gayle often starting at home, but being on the bench when we play away. Billy Bingham was in line to make his 50th appearance, whilst Medy Elito was sporting a new Mo Farahesque haircut in a 4-3-3 formation.

Bradford City: McLaughlin, Meredith, Davies, Oliver, McArdle, Ravenhill, Atkinson, Doyle, Hanson, Hines, Wells. Subs: Duke, Darby, McHugh, Jones, Thompson, Connell, Baker.

Gary Jones was still unavailable for Phil Parkinson which was a massive boost for us; meanwhile he made a single change from the midweek draw with Rochdale. Former West Ham youngster Kyel Reid was missing through injury which meant another former West Ham youth product, Zavon Hines replaced him. City's bench also had former Swindon frontman Alan Connell who would be a danger if brought on, whilst main threat Nahki Wells was given a starting role.

The teams duly came out from the tunnel, the referee completed the pleasantries and we were soon underway. It was Bradford who had the first attack, but it came to nothing. With six minutes played though it was the Daggers who opened the scoring unusually early on. A terrific pass was played to Sam Williams whose strike was parried back out to Billy Bingham who was on hand to thunder home with a composed finish just inside the box to cap his 50th appearance. The first home attack of the game and it led to a goal, you can't say fairer than that!

It took until 12 minutes for Bradford to have their first meaningful attack; however Nahki Wells' drive was blocked well by Abu Ogogo. Minutes later and Wells again tried his luck, this time though his speculative overhead kick cleared the crossbar. With his confidence flowing from netting the opener, Bingham then tried to double both his and the Daggers' afternoon tally. His curling shot however went wide of the post. Luke Howell then went close, but his cross-cum-shot went straight across the 6 yard box and out for a goal kick.

With almost half of the opening 45 played, Dwight Gayle went into the referee's book for a bit of a late challenge on Rory McArdle - the Bradford bench doing their best to get the front man sent off. Minutes later and Gayle's Bradford parody Nahki Wells also found himself in the book for catching Luke Wilkinson with a stray boot. James Hanson was the player that tested Chris Lewington for the first time on the 30 minute mark; however his deflected strike caused no problems for the stopper.

With 30 minutes on the clock Mickey Spillane doubled the Daggers lead with a low strike towards the centre of the goal. A superb run by Medy Elito down the right (my right), saw the winger cut a ball back to Mickey Spillane on the edge of the box that was delightfully dummied by Dwight Gayle. With his first touch Mickey guided the ball towards the centre of the goal and underneath McLaughlin who may feel as though he could have done better.

The game continued its attacking vibe throughout the rest of the first half. The Daggers were given a real scare on 32 minutes when a Bantams corner was only partially cleared, nearly allowing McArdle in to capitalise. Will Atkinson then sliced a volley over the bar from a difficult position and minutes later he was at it again, this time though Lewington got down comfortably to deny the 23 year old. 

With minimal pressure from the visitors, it was unsurprisingly the home side who were finishing the half on top and with a deserved 2-0 lead. First Scott Doe saw his glancing header go narrowly wide of the post. Then Billy Bingham came even closer, however his curling left footed strike bent just round the outside of the post, much to our frustration. Dwight Gayle was the next to try his luck, this time though McLaughlin gathered comfortably.

The half time whistle blew and the Daggers went in 2-0 up, and no one in the ground could begrudge them of the lead. It was one of the best half performances we've ever produced according to John Still at the final whistle. Everyone knows that 2-0 isn't a safe scoreline though, so we were all hoping that we could tighten our grip on the lead in the second half.

As the teams returned for the second half, Phil Parkinson made his first change of the afternoon. Zavon Hines was replaced by Alan Connell, and almost the sub made an impact, forcing Lewington into a fine save at his near post.

Whilst it was clear that Phil Parkinson had said something at half time, it was in fact the home side that continued to build on their seemingly unassailable lead. Medy Elito swung in a corner from the far side that was met with the powerful head of Luke Wilkinson who "nodded" home for his first Daggers goal and the 3rd of the afternoon in total. 

Bingham opened
the scoring.
It was now time to relax, three goals up, nothing could go wrong from here, could it? Surely not even Dagenham could cock this one up? Nahki Wells was intent on reducing the deficit, so much so that he went over in the box under the challenge of absolutely nobody. A poor dive from such a promising youngster, luckily though the referee didn't fall for it and Chris Lewington was able to take the goal kick.

Almost immediately though, Bradford did restore the two goal parity. The Bantams had won a free kick on the edge of the box thanks to a poor challenge from Billy Bingham - Nahki Wells stood over the ball. With a short run up, Wells curled the ball over the wall and landed it superbly in the corner of the net, leaving Lewington with no chance. A stark contrast, from pure talent here to artificial penalty claims a minute earlier.

Bradford now had the bit between their teeth and could smell blood amongst an inexperienced Daggers side. James Hanson forced Lewington into a good save whilst from a resulting corner Lewington had to make an unorthodox punch to clear the danger. With 60 minutes gone though Lewington showed his lack of experience by bundling over Nahki Wells inside the box for a genuine penalty. There was no complaints from anyone, Lewington was booked and Wells converted to make the score 3-2. Only half an hour to hold on eh?

The game was all Bradford now as they were pushing for an almost undeserved equaliser. This phase highlighted the Daggers' inexperience and maturity in equal measure. There was no way that we should be at 3-2 realistically, whilst we composed ourselves to drive through the phase of the game where the opposition were on top. Nathan Doyle's free kick was then well saved by Lewy as the Bantams continued to push forward.

The game was taking a tone of frustration now as Bradford continued to get down the wings and load the ball into the box. The frustrating part was the clearances, with no one up field to chase them down. This allowed Bradford to continue to press and come forward, much to the annoyance of some of our supporters. The Daggers were however showing glimpses on the breakaway, with Dwight Gayle glancing a fantastic chance wide of the post. Garry Thompson then replaced Will Atkinson as the away side went for a more attacking approach.

Just as everything was pointing towards a Bradford equaliser, Dagenham seemingly killed off the game with a terrific Dwight Gayle goal. A wonderful ball through found Gayle on the half way line where he duly put the afterburners on to outpace McArdle & Davies. After escaping the two he provided a wonderful right footed finish to stroke the ball past McLaughlin and into the bottom corner of the net. Cue delirium in the Sieve and probably the most celebrated goal of the season so far.

Lewy had no chance. (Picture vs Millwall)
Bradford though were not content at being 4-2 down and went about making amends immediately. Femi was twice forced to make a goal line clearance from Davies, whilst Nahki Wells dragged a shot just wide of the post to get pulses racing. Sure enough though on 84 minutes Alan Connell nipped in to head home from a long throw after poor defending allowed him time and space. It was now 4-3 with 10 minutes on the clock; the nerves began to kick in once again!

John Still then made a change, bringing on Brian Woodall for Medy Elito as the fourth official somehow stuck five minutes on the board. The Bantams through everything forward in search of the elusive equaliser, first Davies headed on the roof of the net (I honestly thought it was in), and then goalscorer Connell fired a volley over the bar that also looked extremely close.

The final moment though nearly belonged to cult hero Femi. He got the ball out on the left hand side, cut in, went past the 'keeper and then when it all looked set for him to score his first Daggers goal - he fluffed his shot. It was relief though as the referee blew his whistle to signal the end of one of the best contests seen at Victoria Road in quite some time. Another three points (against Bradford) saw us lift up into the lofty heights of 18th.

The one thing that really spoke to me about the game was the fact that it was like watching the Daggers of old. The Daggers of the Saunders, Ritchie & Benno era. There was plenty of action, lots of goals, defensive mistakes and it got the emotions flowing. It felt right. We don't just come to football to see our team win, we come to football to be entertained, and that is exactly what we got today (Saturday afternoon).

Well done to the 349 supporters that made the trip down, I thought you may have brought more personally, but well done all the same. To be put through that this afternoon and come away with nothing must be really disappointing, but hopefully you'll be in and around the Play Off positions come the end of the season. Nahki Wells looks like a real talent, and I'm sure with Gary Jones back shortly you'll be even more of a threat.

As for us, that was probably one of the most complete first half performances we've had, and bar a few errors and a bit of superb quality from Wells, the second half wasn't bad either. Luke Wilkinson is superb at the back, and Sam Williams also excelled up front today. Mickey Spillane had a decent enough game, whilst Abu Ogogo is getting on with the job at right back like we all know he can. Dwight Gayle was also impressive as was Femi who has become one of our most consistent performers. Billy Bingham & Luke Howell also deserve some credit, just no more passing to no one please Luke!

Next up for us is Southend United in the JPT on Tuesday night - whilst I will be there, I won't be doing a report for it. After that we travel to Chesterfield on Saturday, another game I'm missing due to watching England the night previous. My next report will be from York City on the 20th, a game I'm very much looking forward too!

Remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy.