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.
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.