Sunday, 16 December 2012

Daggers 1-0 Barnet, Matt Puts The Gloss On It.

Dagenham & Redbridge vs Barnet
Not many people will be aware of this, but Dagenham & Redbridge's 1-0 victory over Barnet on Saturday bore a minor significance. Matt Saunders' strike ensured all three points, but it also means we eclipse the Football League point’s tally of Boston United in the same year we destroyed a team managed by Steve Evans. The victory itself lifts the Daggers to a season high 12th position in League Two, with just three games of 2012 remaining.

Traditionally the Daggers usually do well at home to Barnet. It's the fixture every year that usually provides a victory for the hosts. This year was looking like no different. We were unbeaten since mid September on our own patch, whilst Barnet were coming into this on the back of a five match winless streak. Just to stoke the already burning fire, former Daggers legend Jon Nurse would also be returning along with Ollie Lee.

After a brief stay in the clubhouse and with all bets placed, we headed inside the ground for what was sure to be a dull and frivolous encounter. The Sieve felt unusually packed, but not that packed. Barnet who may as well just give up playing away from home were only given a quarter of the Traditional Builders Stand and in all honestly they struggled to fill that. Just as the festive Christmas lights began to flicker at the teabar, the teams were announced...

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

John Still named an unchanged side for the umpteenth game in succession which meant the in form Sam Williams would once again start alongside Jake Reed. Dominic Green is still in hibernation which allowed Medy Elito to continue in a role somewhere between the midfielder and the forwards. 

Barnet: Stack, Fuller, Kamdjo, Johnson, Stephens, Pearce, Yiadom, Davids, Nurse, Holmes, Hyde. Subs: Cowler, Fortune, Iro, Lee, Abdulla, Edgar, Weston.

The Daggers 'B' side had three former players in their ranks, only one of which started. Jon Nurse who has legendary status at Victoria Road began the match, whilst the midfield pairing of Ollie Lee & Ahmed Abdulla would have to be content with a spot on the bench. Former Champions League winner Edgar Davids also started, meanwhile Clovis Kamdjo & Andrew Yiadom were also brought in following last week’s defeat.

After the pre match pleasantries and a rousing reception for Jon Nurse, we began. To some surprise, it was the Bees who started on the front foot. Almost immediately Nurse drove down the right hand side before crossing for an unmarked Kamdjo who fired his header over the bar. Jake Hyde and Andrew Yiadom both had efforts that forced Chris Lewington into action as the visitors started the match positively.

With the Daggers' first real attack of the game, they were ahead. Femi fed the ball into Sam Williams who laid it back perfectly for Matt Saunders to curl a first time strike into the top corner. A wonderfully flowing move that saw three of the Daggers key men this season involved to give the home side a perhaps undeserved lead. The finesse of which Saunders had stroked the ball home was truly something to behold.

From there, the hosts didn't look back. Michael Spillane wasted a good chance by heading over from close range, meanwhile tricky forward Jake Reed was also causing problems for a fragile Barnet defence. Soon after and Luke Wilkinson nearly doubled the lead as he saw his header rattle off of the crossbar following Matt Saunders' pin point delivery. The Daggers were in the ascendancy and Spillane came close once more before the half time whistle, however his strike went wide of the post
Barnet fans (Pre Match)

Upon reflection at half time, I think most would agree we deserved our lead. Apart from a spell of Barnet pressure at the beginning of the half where they probably should have scored, we had dominated. Edgar Davids wasn't as yet making much of an impact, and as alluded to by several others, Jon Nurse was playing a fine 12th man role for the hosts. Meanwhile in other scores, it was looking as though Mark McGhee's time as Bristol Rovers boss was over as his side trailed 4-1 at Bootham Crescent against York City.

As we began the second half, Medy Elito made his sole contribution to the game by crossing straight into the arms of Graham Stack. Matt Saunders was enjoying a terrific game and such was his confidence he attempted to add a second. The midfielder progressed forward before firing a shot over that didn't trouble Stack in the slightest. 

John Still's men continued to dominate despite there being very few chances in the contest. Jake Reed fired a terrific ball into the box from a difficult position that met Sam Williams whose looping header crashed against the crossbar to deny the Daggers once more. 

Barnet and Davids himself then briefly woke up. The Dutch maestro slalomed inbetween the Daggers defensive line before fizzing a wonderful ball across the six yard box that Lewington dealt with at the back post. Minutes later after a period of possession, Davids was released once again. This time however, his goal-bound strike was blocked by the backside of Luke Wilkinson.

The seemingly annual substitution of Brian Woodall on for Jake Reed then commenced as the Daggers began to sit back. The hosts were later denied a half hearted penalty appeal as Kamdjo appeared to handle inside the box - however the referee waved it away. Mark Robson then introduced Curtis Weston for Barry Fuller as the Bees looked to capitalise in the later stages. Minutes later Abu Ogogo spurned a fantastic opportunity as he went for power rather than placement, with his shot ultimately going narrowly over the bar. 

As Dagenham sat back, Barnet began to pour forward in search of an equaliser. Jon Nurse wasted a golden opportunity at the back post from Holmes' ball in, whilst a late free kick was fired directly into the wall. Try as they might, the visitors couldn't find that elusive goal to draw the scores level, despite the home side resting on their laurels somewhat. Following some late pressure from Still's men, the referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the encounter.

The victory extended the home unbeaten run to seven games since the mid September defeat to Northampton Town. It's also the third straight 1-0 home victory; moreover it's now been just over 6 & a half hours since the Daggers have conceded a home goal. That's a vital quality for a side that's pushing towards the Play Off places like us - defensive sturdiness and the ability to grind out results. 

As for the performance, apart from the opening 15 minutes and the final 5, we pretty much dominated a poor Barnet side. It wasn't a vintage display, but it was enough and that's what counts at the end of the day. Matt Saunders orchestrated it perfectly from the midfield, whilst the defensive line was resolute. Jake Reed also deserves some credit following his constant pestering, one moment in particular in the first half where he got down the left and kept the ball in sticks in my mind.

Barnet on the other hand, were largely poor. Despite attempting to knock the ball around, there was no real purpose to it. The strikers were blunt, with no real service going up to dangerman Ricky Holmes in particular. The defence was fragile and backed off far too much on many occasions. The midfield often went missing, however when they had prolonged periods of possession they felt dangerous, as though they could cause something. Unfortunately for them though, they lacked a killer ball.

Next week we travel to Morecambe for a 2pm kick off at the Globe Arena in our final away game of 2012. We started the year with a point at Southend, so hopefully we can do just as well, if not better in Lancashire. For the first time in some while I'll be travelling, so hopefully I'll have something to write home about!

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