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.
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.