Sunday, 6 January 2013

Accrington Stanley 0-2 Daggers, Happy New Year!

Dagenham & Redbridge halted a run of three straight defeats thanks to a dominant 2-0 victory at The Crown Ground on Saturday afternoon against a poor Accrington Stanley side. The Daggers were in control throughout the game and goals from Matt Saunders and Luke Howell either side of the half time break sealed the win. The victory lifts the Victoria Road outfit up to 14th in the table, whilst their hosts sink to a worryingly low 18th. 

The journey to Accrington is rarely a joyous one, purely because you know you're going to end up in Accrington. Nevertheless we endeavoured to make the trip, hoping for a better result than the one that greeted us on New Year’s Day at Northampton. A good result would also allow for my incessant moaning and storytelling of last year’s defeat to Stanley to come to an end as well - something which would please everyone.

After meeting Bill & Chaz at Chadwell Heath, we began the daunting journey to deepest darkest Lancashire. Following a quick change at Liverpool Street we arrived at Kings Cross with just enough time to board our Grand Central Train where we'd change at Halifax. The journey passed in a flash, a long, two and a half hour flash. After surveying the mammoth rolling hills and the wonderful Flour Factory at Halifax, our train arrived just in time for us to survive death by boredom.

Upon arrival in Accrington, we encountered something strange. It wasn't raining and there was a rare glimpse of the Sun – unbelievable! In previous trips to Lancashire the weather has been awful so this was a welcome turn up for the books. After navigating the treacherous streets of Accrington with no green man on the traffic lights to help us, we arrived at The Crown Ground just before 14:30. 

After encountering many pot holes, we paid our money and entered into the ground itself. I like Accrington as they're a club similar to our own in stature, so the greeting and thanks for our support printed on an A4 piece of paper behind the stand was a nice touch from the club. After having a reasonably priced £2.50 hot dog, we headed up to the stand itself to reacquaint ourselves with the ground just over a year since our last visit.

The Crown Ground is quite a low stadium in stature and with three sides containing small sections of seating it has an odd feel. The metal structures on top of the main stand are also odd but add to give the ground a bit of character. As always we were located in the open terrace, furthermore we weren't even given the option of standing under cover this year! Something that brought marks off however, was that there wasn't a Saturday game available to watch on the field behind the stand.

As the ground began to fill up in the slowest way possible, the teams were announced as follows...

Accrington Stanley: Belford, Wilson, Winnard, Murphy, Molyneux, Lindfield, Miller, Joyce, Boco, Beattie, Amond. Subs: Dawber, Clark, Dixon, Gray, Liddle, Hatfield, Mingoia.

Stanley gaffer Leam Richardson was forced into a single change from the side that defeated Chesterfield 1-0 on New Year’s Day. Laurence Wilson, previously of Everton was brought into the side for Nicky Hunt who picked up an injury in training. The front three of Boco, Beattie & Amond were sure to cause threats as Stanley looked about increasing their winning run following a torrid winless run at the back end of 2012.

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

Despite having a fully fit squad to choose from, John Still made two changes to his side as Daggers looked to arrest a three game losing streak. Mickey Spillane was dropped to the bench which allowed Abu Ogogo to push up into centre midfield and Gavin Hoyte to come in at right back. Elsewhere Brian Woodall replaced Jake Reed to partner Sam Williams up top in an expected change. Gianluca Gracco was also giving a place on the bench for the first time.

Daggers Fans (@big_g1978)
Despite there being a seemingly low number of spectators inside the stadium, the teams were paraded onto the pitch. At this point I counted 27 Daggers on the terrace although a few more were coming in all the time. Rather annoyingly the teams decided to swap ends which meant the Daggers would be attacking us in the first half, whilst Stanley would be facing their own fans.

From the word go you wouldn't begrudge Leam Richardson for berating his Stanley side. Pockets of space were constantly appearing on the left which allowed Medy Elito to take full advantage and really cause problems for debutant full back Laurie Wilson. Despite the positive start it was the hosts who registered the first attempt. Some clever play between Boco & Padraig Amond down the left allowed the latter to advance into the box before skewing his fierce strike over Chris Lewington's bar.

As the game reached the 15 minute mark the visitors took advantage of poor Stanley play. Medy Elito caused real problems after breaking past one and then past two defenders before putting a cross into the box that evaded everyone. Seconds later Medy put another ball into the box, this time it was deflected behind for a corner. From the resultant Matt Saunders corner, Cameron Belford was tested for the first time by a tame Brian Woodall header.

After a largely uninspiring start to the season Elito was now coming into his own. The confidence of the winger was clear, so much so that when Daggers won a free kick on the edge of the box he forwarded himself to take it. Despite a confident run up, he fired it just over the bar to test Stanley's steel.

Magic Medy Elito
Following constant pressure on the left hand side from Medy Elito, Daggers finally got their reward. Elito beat makeshift full back Craig Lindfield before firing a deadly ball into the box that was glanced home by Matt Saunders after the winger had edged in front of his man. The 37 Daggers in attendance celebrated amongst themselves whilst Matt Saunders and Medy Elito wheeled off in delight. 

Still's men responded well to the minimal pressure exerted by Stanley as they attempted to get back into the game. Gavin Hoyte was justifying his selection whilst the centre half pairing of Scott Doe & Luke Wilkinson was looking as solid as ever. Just after the half hour mark Daggers nearly added another as Sam Williams speculative effort flew wide of the post and ended up with me in the terrace.

Romauld Boco who was looking like Stanley's only goal threat then saw his strike deflected into Lewington's path allowing for an easy save. Laurie Wilson was continuing to have a torrid half at right back with Elito & Femi giving the debutant very little respite from constant pressure. Good combination play from Howell, Williams and Elito saw the ball end up with Matt Saunders whose goalbound shot was blocked by a Stanley defender.

The front pairing of Sam Williams and Brian Woodall was also causing problems. Despite getting few shots away Woodall was looking more adept at partnering Williams than Jake Reed who had been dropped from the 18 altogether. Williams himself almost doubled the lead before half time when his 20 yard drive towards the bottom corner was palmed away by Cameron Belford. 

Happy Daggers! (@baldy984)
Padraid Amond was then forced off through injury which allowed Michael Liddle to replace the frontman. As the first half ended with Daggers in full control, Laurie Wilson nearly equalised for Stanley but his effort was stopped well by Lewington at the near post. The half time whistle blew and the 37 Daggers in attendance couldn't believe how well we were playing. Whilst the obvious ball over the top was still making an appearance, there was far more passing on the floor and our threat down the left hand side was becoming increasingly apparent.

In recent weeks half time has been a period of wondering if we can get back into the game, this week it was a period of wondering if we can build on our lead. Not many times have I been able to go away from home and say that this season! As the clouds conversed and darkness fell, the teams re-emerged for the second half. At this point we also learned that Chris Lewington's karaoke tune is "Teenage Dirtbag" by Wheatus. Fascinating stuff I’m sure you’ll agree.

The Daggers continued the second half in the ascendancy as they looked to build on their goal lead. A break forward allowed Abu Ogogo to get a shot away that was ultimately blocked, whilst Femi fired the rebound high over the bar. One day Femi will score and that day will be tremendous. Craig Lindfield then attempted to feed a ball into the box, but his attempts were thwarted by the safe hands of Chris Lewington.

The famous "Woodall at Accrington" snap makes a
welcome return.
With 7 minutes played in the second half, the visitors effectively killed the game off. Matt Saunders advanced before playing in Brian Woodall on the right hand side who crossed for Luke Howell to prod home a delicate left footed finish that went in off the far post. We celebrated once more as unbelievably we found ourselves deservedly two goals to the good away from home.

The game then became somewhat subdued as both sides almost accepted the fate of the match. Stanley were now looking far more dangerous down the right hand side, unfortunately for them though Femi was in superb form and quelled the danger immediately. After a double change by Richardson, Accrington came close to pulling one back. Lee Molyneux was allowed time and space before curling a shot goalwards that Lewington was equal to once again.

A poor training ground routine was then messed up by Stanley as a free kick in a dangerous looking position was cleared away by Luke Howell. Daggers were still having an odd break down the wings but it was all Stanley going forward at this point. Luke Howell was then put into the referee's book for making one cynical foul to many - although some would say he should have been booked earlier!

With 84 minutes played Stanley came incredibly close to nabbing one back. Craig Lindfield's dangerous strike was parried once more by Lewington but as Hoyte attempted to clear he could only manage to pass the ball back into the side netting. It was a moment that had everyone on edge as it looked extremely close to going in the back of the net. From the resulting corner the ball was cleared once more as the Daggers defence remained resilient.

Daggers continued to push forward in search of a third goal but it came at a cost with Sam Williams booked for an apparent dive late on. Forward Williams was seemingly brought down in the box but ultimately the referee decided against it and gave Williams a yellow card. There did appear to be a challenge so a look at a replay would be beneficial in making a stonewall judgement.

There was one final chance for Stanley in the closing moments when Molyneux's treacherous cross was volleyed goalwards by Beattie, but the referee decided Chris Lewington was fouled when attempting to gather the ball and a free kick was given. Just enough time remained for Medy Elito to complete his best performance of the season by breaking into the box and firing his low shot into the side netting.

My second half description may sound as though Daggers were hanging on for dear life at some points – but it wasn’t like that at all. Whilst Accrington exerted a degree of pressure it remained comfortable for the visitors. The backline snuffed out the majority of attacks and the commanding presence of Scott Doe really shone through.

The referee then blew his whistle to signal the end of the game. I’ll give credit to Stanley supporters as well because they didn't boo at the final whistle like some sets of supporters would have done. I very much like Stanley and wish them well for the rest of the season in their battle against the drop.

So, our first victory or 2013 and it came away from home! Not only that, it was my first away victory following the team this season - so I'm no longer a jinx! The players came over and applauded the 37 on the terrace who made the trip before huddling for a team talk. 

I have to say it was a delightful performance. From start to finish we were in complete control and never really looked like conceding. The main threat came down the left hand side where Femi and Medy in particular were dangerous all afternoon. This was by far Medy's best performance of the season; furthermore his remit as "winger" finally came to be as he tested the full back numerous times whilst also getting in his fair share of crosses.

Scott Doe & Luke Wilkinson were solid all afternoon, not giving the Stanley forwards an inch of space to work with. They were both dominant in the air and commanding on the ground, making important challenges when they were needed. Gavin Hoyte also asserted himself well and continued the good form of Ogogo in the right back position. Femi also put in a good shift, managing to balance both his attacking and defensive side of the game admirably.

In the midfield we can have no complaints really. The vastly underrated Matt Saunders was sensational once more. As I constantly say he was the creative spark on the right side and troubled the Stanley defenders with some terrific through balls and marvellous crosses. Luke Howell played his part and made some important challenges whilst Abu continued his consistency into the midfield, playing the ball and getting around the park.

Sam Williams & Brian Woodall - this partnership needs to remain. They complimented eachother superbly well and created numerous opportunities thanks to their camaraderie. Jake Reed has bundles of energy, but Brian Woodall has that little bit more that gets the supporters excited and the players motivated. Medy was just superb, he caused many problems down the left hand side as well as enjoying a great bond with Femi.

Something that shouldn't be ignored however is the performance of Chris Lewington. He's come under some criticism in recent weeks but he barely put a foot wrong yesterday afternoon. He commanded the game from the goalmouth and really asserted his authority on the game. Anyone who says he doesn't talk either needs their hearing checked or really needs to listen harder! Well done Lewy, I salute you!

What's more is that we played well as a unit. Everyone seemed to know what was going on, when it was going on and how it was going on. The slick triangles of passing made a reappearance with neat one two's predominantly down the left. It allowed the forwards and Elito especially to get down the wing and advance into the box causing substantial problems for the Stanley back line. If we can play the ball like that against Accrington, I’d like to think we can do it against other sides in this league as well.

To put it simply - it was a combination of one of Daggers' best performances of the season and one of Stanley's worst. The complete away performance I guess you could say. As for Stanley, I fear for them. They're currently experiencing "The Macclesfield effect", whereby a team goes from mid table into freefall. Unless they can get their defence up to scratch and look more threatening going forward they could be in trouble.

Saying that however, I think they have the players that can get them out of it. Whilst James Beattie wasn't effective yesterday afternoon, he's the kind of character that has the spark to ignite the team. Boco can also inspire the supporters I feel, moreover they need some steel in the middle of the park because that's where Daggers dominated. If you dominate in the midfield, that's 2/3 of the game won for me.

I also salute me fellow 36 Daggers on the terrace and the apparent 8 who were in the seats. You did the team proud yesterday and hopefully some of you will be able to make it to Morecambe on Tuesday night! 

We return to Lancashire on Tuesday night in the rearranged fixture at The Globe Arena against Morecambe. This game also has FREE ENTRY for all supporters, so if you can, make sure you get yourself to that one! My next report will be against Rochdale next Saturday, meanwhile the jury's still out if I can make Wycombe away the following week.

As always, many thanks for reading and remember to follow me on Twitter - @NickdrfcMurphy.

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