Dagenham & Redbridge made it two wins in a week on Saturday with a stirring fight back against Rochdale at Victoria Road. Despite Dale taking the lead through Andrew Tutte's strike, the hosts rallied and equalised through Abu Ogogo before Medy Elito sealed the three points in the 92nd minute. Unfortunately on Daggers against Racism Day, it's something unsavoury that threatens to take the headlines with Dale's Bobby Grant accused of aiming racial remarks at Daggers right back Gavin Hoyte.
John Still's men were coming into this one on a mixed run of form. A victory at Accrington last week was followed up by a lacklustre defeat against Morecambe in midweek where the vast amount of travelling finally caught up with Daggers. Rochdale had only won two of their last six, but their away form speaks for itself with six victories on the road this campaign. They had however lost their last two which allowed for some optimism in the home camp.
Despite ticket prices being vastly reduced for Saturdays encounter, as I entered Victoria Road it didn't appear to be particularly full. Saying that though it was 20 minutes before kickoff and there was someone killing a Coldplay song over the tannoy. Although to be fair to the singer, having a live song played over the tannoy is always going to sound muffled. Things only got worse soon after when we alerted to the disastrous news that The Daggerettes had been held up in traffic.
To stop myself weeping into my burger at the thought of no Daggerettes, I immersed myself in the team news...
Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Hoyte, Doe, Wilkinson, Femi, Saunders, Ogogo, Howell, Elito, Williams, Woodall. Subs: Seabright, Bingham, Caprice, Scott, Reed, Spillane, Maher.
After being rested for the midweek trip to Lancashire Sam Williams was recalled to the starting line up which meant Josh Scott dropped to the bench. He was joined there by Mickey Spillane whose rumoured move to Southend United is seemingly keeping him out of the team. New signing Sean Shields wasn't in the 18, likewise with Gianluca Gracco.
Rochdale: Lillis, Pearson, Edwards, Bennett, McIntyre, Cavanagh, Tutte, Barry-Murphy, Grant, Grimes, Gornell. Subs: Smith, Donnelly, Kennedy, Putterill, Adebola, Minihan, Craney.
Dale boss John Coleman opted to make two changes for the trip to Victoria Road, with both Matty Patterson & Brian Barry-Murphy recalled to the starting line up. They replaced the suspended Joe Rafferty and Jason Kennedy who was amongst the substitutes. Terry Gornell had signed permanently at Spotland this week following a successful loan spell and remained up front for the Greater Manchester side.
With the ground slowly filling up, the sides emerged from the tunnel to muffled applause. They were joined by several flag bearers who unsurprisingly bore several flags as they were paraded onto the pitch. With the teams organised, huddles complete and a lovely pocket of space for me to sprawl in the Sieve, we began.
It was a frantic start with Daggers having the best of the early play. Scott Doe saw his effort saved whilst Lillis was again on hand minutes later to deny Brian Woodall's tame strike. After a lull where Sam Williams was forced to change his shirt, Rochdale managed their first meaningful attack. Unfortunately for them though, Luke Wilkinson in his debut Football League season slid in to deny newly signed Terry Gornell an effort at the target.
You could tell from a mile away that this was a mid table encounter by the way the game was being shaped in the midfield. It was very scrappy with few moments of quality. Matt Saunders' intricate through ball nearly opened a door for Sam Williams, but it was firmly shut again when McIntyre got across to block. Woodall then attempted an overhead kick which needless to say didn't find the back of the net.
With just under 25 minutes gone, we were treated to the first meaningful save of the match. Bobby Grant's precise free kick looked to be flying into the top corner, but Chris Lewington stretched his long arm across to deny the front man. Lewington was called into action once more five minutes later, this time to force Grant's dipping effort over the crossbar. The former Accrington forward was looking like the go to guy as Rochdale continued to assert pressure on the hosts.
Despite Dale having the better of the chances, Daggers really should have taken the lead with 34 minutes gone. Medy Elito's well weighted cross to the back post was met by an unmarked Brian Woodall who could only manage to blaze over from a good position. Similarly before the half time whistle Scott Doe spurned a gilt edge chance in the same position by firing over the bar.
It was a largely uneventful half so both sides would have been happy to go in level. Daggers had the best of the clear cut chances, yet Rochdale looked the more likely side to score. Having tested Lewington a couple of times they were looking the most dangerous. Both sides were finding it hard to establish a foothold on the game which accounted for the scrappy nature of the encounter.
The second half began in the same fashion with Dale looking the more dominant force. Bobby Grant saw another effort blocked whilst Ashley Grimes' curling effort beat Chris Lewington, but missed the target. Terry Gornell headed a shot narrowly wide of the post whilst Grant was once again denied by another superb block. Despite considerable Dale pressure, the breakaway was always an option for Daggers who had yet to implement a good attack in the second period.
The game remained tight going into the final 30 minutes, with Josh Lillis making a superb double stop to deny Medy Elito. With little over 20 minutes to go, Rochdale struck a seemingly decisive blow. Terry Gornell broke free before seeing his shot parried well by Lewington before Bobby Grant reclaimed the loose ball and laid it into the path of a grateful Andrew Tutte who slammed home into the top corner of the net. Luke Wilkinson's shared supporter’s frustration as despite having the better chances, we were behind.
Despite that setback, just two minutes after the goal Daggers were back on level terms. Matt Saunders' ball found Gavin Hoyte who in turn crossed for Williams to head at Lillis who once again made a superb stop. This time though he couldn't get to the rebound and Abu Ogogo was on hand to slam home the equaliser. It made a welcome change for Abu to find the net at the right end!
Even though the game was now wide open for the taking, neither side were able to capitalise and take advantage. Rochdale were looking the more likely, but despite testing Lewington earlier in the game were unable to do so now. Bobby Grant & Gavin Hoyte then received yellow cards for an altercation that took place off the ball - which we'll go into more later.
And then with just minutes remaining in the game, came a Daggers winner. Femi played it to Sam Williams who despite being urged to shoot, laid in Medy Elito who slotted a composed finish past Lillis and into the corner of the net. Andrew Tutte held his head in his hands as Daggers players and supporters alike enjoyed manic celebrations for the first last minute winner from open play in some time.
That last minute winner lifts Daggers up to 13th in the table, just three points off of the Play Off spots, which seems quite remarkable. The unfortunate altercation between Gavin Hoyte & Bobby Grant is currently being dealt with by the Met Police & the FA after Grant was accused of using a racial term against Hoyte. As much as I'd love to give a more detailed analysis, due to other work I'm a bit pushed for time, so hopefully the report itself will suffice! Normality will resume next week.
I won't delve into that as everything's alleged at the moment - although what I will say is to watch out for my SkySports Blog later in the week that'll have a brief overview of some positive events from the day.
Next week we travel to Adams Park to face Wycombe Wanderers and hopefully I'll be there! Until then, have a good week!
Remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickDRFCMurphy.