Dagenham & Redbridge crashed to a first home defeat since mid September as Southend United dismantled the hosts in this disappointing Essex Derby. The villain of the show was once again Gavin Tomlin who despite only scoring twice in 35 appearances for Daggers, managed two in 15 minutes for the Shrimpers to effectively kill the game off. Kevan Hurst added gloss early in the second half with an emphatic strike, but in truth John Still's men never got going.
Taking everything into account, this fixture looked like it would be a tight affair on paper. As previously alluded to the Daggers were unbeaten at home in 7 games and had won 5 of their last 7 overall. Southend on the other hand were on an impressive 13 game unbeaten streak, the longest in the division and hadn't lost to the hosts in 2012. Stats of course are completely meaningless depending what team turns up on the day.
Victoria Road was looking very much packed as I strolled in close to 12:45, and with all seats supposedly sold out it was looking like a terrific atmosphere as well. Just before the teams emerged, the line ups were announced...
Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Ogogo, Wilkinson, Doe, Femi, Howell, Saunders, Spillane, Elito, Williams, Reed. Subs: Seabright, Maher, Caprice, Scott, Hoyte, Woodall, Bingham.
Unsurprisingly John Still kept with the same team that defeated Barnet over a week ago which meant the partnership of Sam Williams & Jake Reed was maintained. New striker Gianluca Gracco wasn't included in the 18, whilst Dwight Gayle had completed a £470,000 deal to join Peterborough United in the week.
Southend United: Smith, Clohessy, Cresswell, Prosser, Barker, Mkandawire, Tomlin, Hurst, Laird, Assombalonga, Tomlin. Subs: Bentley, Straker, Phillips, Martin, Donnelly, Eastwood, Corr.
Paul Sturrock also opted for consistency which allowed the same 18 that defeated Chesterfield on Friday night to be named once more. The deadly pairing of Assombalonga and Tomlin remained meanwhile former O's star Tamika Mkandawire was set to marshal the midfield. Complete with the league's best defender in Ryan Cresswell, this was going to prove to be a stern test for Still's men.
Dagenham & Redbridge were immediately on the back foot as Southend piled on early pressure. Spurred on by 1300 vibrant visiting supporters, the Shrimpers took the lead within a minute. Luke Wilkinson misjudged a bouncing ball on the half way line which allowed Gavin Tomlin to advance forward into the box before lashing a finish that somehow found its way past Chris Lewington.
The game took a more leisurely approach for the ensuing ten minutes or so as both sides found their feet in the contest. The hosts who were recovering from the early setback nearly found a way back into the game just before the 10 minute mark. Timlin gave the ball away in the centre circle allowing Luke Howell to pick up and dart forward before shooting wide with his left foot.
With 15 minutes played Southend extended their lead. Assombalonga played a neat one two with Laird at the expense of Scott Doe before the former squared for Tomlin to once more fire home into the net. You could argue that Chris Lewington shouldn't have been so rash in closing Assombalonga down, but in truth it was a wonderful flowing move from the Blues who thoroughly deserved their 2-0 lead.
At this point it already looked like an impossible job for Daggers as Southend have proved to be astute in holding their lead this season. The home side never looked like scoring in the first half. A Matt Saunders free kick caused some panic but was eventually cleared; meanwhile Sam Williams' header didn't trouble Paul Smith in the slightest. Captain Chris Barker than flashed an effort wide of the upright as the Shrimpers looked intent on adding to their lead.
Just before half time Still's men nearly pulled one back. A wonderful flowing move on the left hand side culminated in Medy Elito tamely shooting at Smith which as you can guess caused no problems. It was an extremely disappointing half from Dagenham who looked as though they were still feeling the effects of the Christmas day sherry.
John Still's feathers were clearly ruffled as we approached the second half as the boss of 8 years made an uncharacteristic double change at half time. Brian Woodall was introduced for Jake Reed, whilst an unknown quantity in Jake Caprice replaced Mickey Spillane who had seemingly picked up a knock.
Before the Daggers were allowed to get going, Southend continued to knock on the door. The ball fell wonderfully for Tomlin 40 yards out and looking for his hat trick, volleyed a sporadic shot goalwards that forced a top draw save from the back peddling Lewington. Why couldn't you ever do that for us Gavin?
Almost 50 minutes after the game had begun; the Daggers finally looked dangerous going forward. Caprice was causing problems down the right hand side, whilst Luke Howell saw his volleyed effort rebound off of Prosser's backside. Nevertheless, Southend continued to look dangerous and added a third soon after. Kevan Hurst was set up by Tomlin and with a lack of pressure Hurst fired a wonderful strike into the top corner leaving Lewington with no chance whatsoever. 54 minutes played and you'd wager - game over.
From that point on Southend sat back as you would expect and allowed the home side to dominate. Unfortunately though, the Daggers were blunt and couldn't even muster a consolation. Luke Howell soon flashed another dipping volley wide of the upright, whilst left back Femi saw his looping header fall onto the roof of the net.
Josh Scott was later brought on for Medy Elito as the Daggers made their final change. And with that the hosts finally looked as though they'd managed to get going. Josh held up the ball well, dragged players away from their man and generally caused some degree of havoc. Alas it was too late, despite his impact there would be no chance of Daggers rescuing anything from this match.
In the final 80 minutes the 3500 strong crowd were nearly treated to a goal, but Sam Williams' header back across goal bounced off the bar and over for a goal kick. Michael Timlin continued to look menacing, first testing Chris Lewington with a strong right footed strike, and then flashing one wide of the post. Jake Caprice who looked lively after coming on squandered two late chances when really he should have found the target at the very least, which basically summed up the afternoon.
A real lack of urgency and just an off day in general for Daggers who were outclassed from start to finish by one of the main promotion candidates. Femi, Abu & Josh deserve some credit for at least creating some chances and remaining consistent - although it's becoming slightly worrying how Femi is our only source of creativity down the wings.
We move on to Port Vale on Saturday hoping to return to winning ways before the year is out. I'd quite like to see Josh Scott come in for Jake Reed, moreover Jake Caprice for Medy Elito who isn't providing many, if any crosses for the front pairing.
Thanks for reading and I'll be back with a more detailed report following the Port Vale match.