Sunday, 11 November 2012

Daggers 5-0 Rotherham United, A Not So Taxing Affair

2002 Runners Up

It has taken 10 years, but the Dagenham & Redbridge class of 2012 have avenged the Daggers class of 2002, with a fine 5-0 win over Steve Evans' Rotherham United. The game was not just about the result, but the context behind it with Evans having effectively cheated the 2002 Daggers out of promotion to the Football League. This result was not just for the current, but for the past and the likes of Janners & Vickers et al.

Before the game, my gut feeling was actually that we'd come away with the win. We were also joint top in the form table along with a host of other clubs including Rotherham, so it looked as though a tight affair was in order (how wrong was I?) Our record against the Millers has also been improving season by season, with a 3-2 victory at Victoria Road last year being the solitary Daggers victory, bar the Play Off final. 

There were also reports of some supporters "ambushing" the Rotherham team coach as it arrived, but thankfully there was no violence. With Rotherham unbeaten in five games, four of which have been victories it was certainly going to be a tough afternoon. And with that, the teams were announced...

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

The Daggers were forced into two changes from the impressive midweek victory over Oxford United. Kevin Maher served his one game ban which meant Mickey Spillane was reintroduced following injury at Bournemouth a week previous. Sam Williams was also ruled out of contention late on with a mystery injury and rather surprisingly John Still's choice to replace him was Jake Reed. Reed has impressed before for Daggers, but the majority would have expected the more experienced Brian Woodall to start.

Rotherham United: Warrington, Sharps, Morgan, O'Connor, Bradley, Pringle, Morris, Frecklington, Rooney, Revell, Odejayi. Subs: Thompson, Wilson, Hunt, Denton, Taylor, Evans, Nardiello.

Steve Evans was forced into two taxing changes, with Kari Arnason & Jamie Devitt both being ruled out through injury. That meant loan signing Luke Rooney & Michael O'Connor were brought in as replacements. The Millers side was packed full of higher league experience which would pose a threat to the Daggers, whilst only Sharps & Warrington remained from the 3-2 Play Off final defeat. Perennial thorn in the Daggers backside Alex Revell also started up front.

Just as the atmosphere was getting going the two teams came out to good applause. Then as you may expect the pantomime villain Steve Evans graced the holy turf where a chorus of boos greeted him. What was even more laughable was the fact a selection of stewards were placed in the sponsors seats - where's Bob Crow when you need him? A minutes silence was respectfully observed before Premier League referee Roger East made the signal to start the game.

Almost immediately the Daggers were on the front foot with Matt Saunders & Dwight Gayle both directing shots just wide of the target. With five minutes gone it was the home side that took a deserved early lead. Jake Reed got down the right hand side and beat his man to the ball before getting to the byline and pulling it back to a delighted Gayle who was more than happy to slot past Warrington. The Sieve was in full voice and the Evans abuse was flowing.

Rotherham then began to feel themselves back into the game, although Mickey Spillane went close for the home side soon after as he curled a shot round the post. With 12 minutes played Ian Sharps spurned a gilt edge chance as his header went sailing over the crossbar. Matt Saunders nearly made it two directly after, but Warrington pushed his central free kick onto the roof of the net. 

Lee Frecklington was looking like a threat for the visitors as his superb volley was well saved by Lewington as Rotherham notched their first shot on target. Some frantic blocking from the Daggers defence prevented the Millers from netting an equaliser much to everyone's relief. Gayle was looking like a threat for the Daggers and on 20 minutes his lob over Warrington was cleared off the line by the recovering Sharps.

The away side were then forced into an early change through injury, with former Bolton defender Nicky Hunt replacing Craig Morgan. The rock in the Daggers defence Luke Wilkinson then had to undergo some treatment for a head injury which saw him retreat down the tunnel for 5 minutes. With his head bandaged up, the original ironman returned to the field of play to rapturous applause as the home side returned to have 11 men.

Despite the best efforts of Michael O'Connor who tested Lewington with a free kick, it was John Still's men who doubled their lead just after the half hour mark. Femi skipped past a Millers defender and burst down the left wing before squaring the ball to Luke Howell who fired coolly underneath Warrington who may feel he could have done better. Whilst Howell scored the goal, the build up play was amongst some of the best I've ever seen - Femi you are God. It was now 2-0 and the Evans abuse was getting louder!

Minutes later and it was almost even better as Matt Saunders flashed a superb shot wide of the post that had everyone celebrating as we thought it was in. The only slight blip was a yellow card for Luke Howell for persistent moaning which means he'll miss the trip to Burton Albion next week. The half time whistle went to a crescendo of applause, meanwhile Steve Evans, aka The Penguin, aka Fat Bastard was left to mope into his half time bovril.
Evans in his Crawley days
Courtesy of FMD

The half time break was spent in reflection of how good our first half performance was - and Femi's immense run down the left. It then emerged through @Post_Daggers on Twitter, that Evans was considering not bringing out his players for the second half after complains of referee Roger East swearing at them. Meanwhile in a nearby kitchen, there were reports of the pot calling the kettle black. 

Unsurprisingly the two teams did emerge for the second half as darkness set in over Victoria Road. Evans opted to make a single change, bringing on Gareth Evans for Gillingham loanee Luke Rooney. The second half started how the first had ended, with the Daggers dominating. The ball fell to Elito in a good position, but the former Colchester winger could only contrive to curl his shot over the bar from a good position.

Michael O'Connor found himself in the referee's book as the Daggers continued to push forward for a third goal. Before the home side could get on the attack, Abu Ogogo made a superb block to deny Lee Frecklington a near certain goal for the Millers. Matt Saunders was now making much more of an impact and his superb run should have ended with a goal, however Luke Howell could only fire the cutback over the bar.

There was only one team in the game, and Gayle nearly made it three just minutes later. Some superb persistence from the pint size forward saw him come face to face with Warrington where the aging stopper denied Gayle his second of the afternoon. Soon after some good play down the left hand side saw Saunders cut the ball back for Spillane, unfortunately for the Daggers his leisurely shot was saved well by Warrington.

Chris Lewington was then forced into action for the first time in the second half as Gareth Evans threatened to pull one back for Rotherham. Steve Evans who was clearly agitated judging by his hand movements then provided some entertainment for us all. As he continued to wave his hands in a passionate fashion, the guests and sponsors behind mimicked him in Stoke/Wenger style - much to my amusement.

It wasn't long before Dagenham & Redbridge made it 3-0 to wrap up the match and the three points. Femi went on another fantastic run before squaring the ball back for Luke Howell who finished in emphatic style for his sixth of the season. We were in dreamland by now and could barely believe the scoreline.

Despite the best efforts of Daniel Nardiello and Michael O'Connor, who forced Lewington to race out of his goal to beat away the danger - the Daggers were still in a comfortable position. Dwight Gayle's header from a pin point corner was saved well by Warrington, but Medy Elito made amends by finishing in Jon Nurse slow motion fashion to make it 4-0. The Rotherham fans had now had enough and a small minority began to head for the exits.

The final 10 minutes went by in a flash. The Millers sought a consolation goal, but Abu Ogogo was on hand to block Mark Bradley's header on the line and deny the 297 travelling supporters something to cheer about. The result was compounded with three minutes remaining as Brian Woodall sprinted down the right and laid a wonderful ball across the six yard box where Gayle couldn't miss. The whole game was rounded off perfectly by a well timed firework behind the Carling Stand - the term poetic justice has never been so apt.

Final score, Dagenham & Redbridge 5-0 Rotherham United/Steve Evans. Doesn't that sound wonderful?

Courtesy of @AmyVincentSays on Twitter

As we exited the ground, it felt like a party or a promotion atmosphere amongst the supporters. Even Abu Ogogo done a little kick and a fist pump in celebration as the singing continued towards the exits. The atmosphere really was superb from start to finish and all credit for that goes to the supporters. Yesterday was a special occasion of sorts, and we certainly got our revenge on Evans, but let’s try and get the atmosphere like that on a weekly basis!

As for Rotherham, Evans is correct when he says he deserves all of the blame. Both full backs were completely torn apart, the midfield went missing and whilst the forwards were feeding on scraps, and they didn't really put a lot of effort in to boot. Ben Pringle attempted to cover some ground, but the real star for Millers fans was Andy Warrington. Even at the ripe old age of 103, he still turned in an exquisite performance and prevented the scoreline from being double figures.

Dagenham & Redbridge - that was marvellous. From start to finish we bossed that game and it was like watching the Daggers of old. It was completely attack, attack, attack from start to finish - so much so that we're now the 3rd highest scorers in League Two. Jake Reed deserves a lot of credit for coming into the side which was a bit of a shock, he made the first goal and for that he should be applauded.

Femi was sensational, there's no other way to describe it. His run down the left to set up the second goal was just immense; probably one of the best assists I've ever seen (granted I don't remember many assists.) He fully deserved man of the match and seems to improve on a weekly basis, both defensively and offensively. Femi, never leave.

Luke Wilkinson & Scott Doe were both rock solid. You can see why Premiership scouts were watching Luke at Oxford on Tuesday night. He has such a commanding presence at the back which compliments Doey superbly. Scott himself has had a pretty rock solid season and goes into the Ogogo group of doing his job competently and rarely putting himself in trouble. I reckon we have one of the soundest back fours in the league.

In the middle of the park, Luke Howell was the engine room. Previously I've compared him to Romain Vincelot, but I think that's doing him something of a disservice. He's his own man and he has his own style, and yesterday he was superb. He's the engine room, he breaks up play and he has an unparalleled amount of energy. To top all of that off he knows where the net is as well, his two yesterday take him to six for the season.

Matt Saunders is coming back to form as well, he looked very creative yesterday afternoon and is great value for a couple of assists. I cannot fault him or Mickey Spillane who both played their part admirably along with Medy Elito who also grabbed a goal. It was also a good performance from Dwight Gayle who nabbed a couple of goals to extend his tally to six for the season and add a couple more £££'s onto his price tag.

Overall, it was a superb team performance which is key. They were playing as a team, not individuals like they have done in recent weeks. What's also important is that you get the feeling they want to wear the shirt, they're not just there for the sake of being there and a week’s pay. I'd rank it as one of my top three Daggers matches for both performance and atmosphere - if we can play as good as that for the rest of the season, we'll do very alright for ourselves.

So in conclusion, Janners, Heffers et al that result was for you. Finally that ghost has been laid to rest somewhat.

Next up for us is a trip to Burton Albion next week, a team against whom the Daggers haven't lost since 2003. Here's hoping we can extend the unbeaten run in the league and our winning streak. I'll be there as well, so hopefully I'll be able to report on another Daggers win!

My final word however, goes to the Daggers Supporters Club. The Programme shop was burned down during the night which means a large part of club history has been lost. I’m sure you’re all with me when I say if there were a collection to try and raise funds or something of that ilk, you’ll donate. Hopefully the culprits will be found and prosecuted.

Remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy.

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