Dagenham & Redbridge began 2013 with a whimper following yet another disappointing defeat to Northampton Town at Sixfields. Despite a late Scott Doe consolation strike, the damage had already been done with Cobblers goals coming courtesy of Kelvin Langmead, Chris Hackett and Abu Ogogo who contrived to put the ball into his own net. The victory for the hosts also continues their remarkable record over Still's men, having won every single game in which they've faced the Essex side.
Wary of our record against Northampton, it was perhaps foolish to even expect anything from this game. But with a new year, there was new hope - or at least there was for the 5 hours preceding kick off. With an early start, we went from Barking to Euston, via Fenchurch Street, Tower Hill & Bank. The not so plush London Midlands Service awaited us and after a quick stop in Bushey along with several other not so funny place names, we arrived at Northampton Station just a shade after 13:00.
Then yet more bad news greeted us. As New Years Day is a bank holiday, it was my worst fear...the cabbies were charging double fares! After stomaching the sickening blow, we arrived at Sixfields not too far short of 14:00. Instead of parading the team coach which had just arrived, we headed up a grassy knoll to the holy grail of fast food - KFC. After enduring a tricky time with the local accent which is indescribable, we headed towards the turnstiles (I’m only joking Cobblers fans.)
I've been to Sixfields before and the surrounding area is a novelty at first. With steep hills surrounding the stadium it's extremely unique. What does drag it down however is the fact that whilst there's a large leisure park around the ground, there's a severe lack of drinking facilities. Coming from Dagenham I'm hardly one to talk, but it felt extremely drab. After paying for my ticket and nearly walking away without it, we entered the freezing cold stadium for an afternoon of misery.
Sixfields hasn't changed much since my last visit, why would it have done? It retains the generic feel of four cold metal stands, all of which aren't attached to eachother. If you fancy freeloading, why not watch the entire game by sitting on top of the bus stop positioned on top of the hill behind the Dave Bowen Stand. The West Stand is the largest of the four and contains the majority of the noise with about 20 teenagers attempting to create an atmosphere.
As the announcer wasn't really up to much all afternoon, it was up to social networking to tell us the teams. They were as follows...
Northampton Town: Nicholls, Widdowson, Langmead, Charles, Tozer, Harding, Hackett, Hornby, Platt, Akinfenwa, Robinson. Subs: Snedker, Guttridge, Demontagnac, Turnbull, Dias, Moyo, Moult.
Following back to back postponements to end 2012, Cobblers chief Aidy Boothroyd rang the changes for the visit of Dagenham & Redbridge. The self accredited beast Adebayo Akinfenwa returned from suspension, as did Joe Widdowson who had recovered from injury. Jake Robinson also filled in for Emyr Huws, whilst with Clarke Carlisle absent it enabled Anthony Charles to partner Kelvin Langmead in the centre of defence. Another positive for the Cobblers faithful was the return of Luke Guttridge after injury; he had to be content with a spot on the bench.
Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Femi, Doe, Wilkinson, Ogogo, Saunders, Howell, Spillane, Elito, Williams, Reed. Subs: Seabright, Maher, Caprice, Bingham, Woodall, Scott, Hoyte.
Having failed miserably in the two home fixtures over Christmas, John Still was always likely to change his team around. It came as a surprise however, that Daggers supremo Still opted to revert to the seemingly default XI that faced Southend United on Boxing Day. Matt Saunders replaced Kevin Maher in midfield, meanwhile Josh Scott dropped to the bench which allowed Jake Reed to partner Sam Williams up front once again.
|West Stand, Main Stand|
As the supporters came flocking through the turnstiles in their tens of thousands, the Daggers were practicing their shooting. One of Sam Williams' strikes went through the gap in the stand, whilst Kevin Maher managed to sky one over the stand itself. You could tell this was going to be a long afternoon.
As the clock approached 15:00, several dance tunes played repetitively to ignite the football in the 2013 calendar year. The teams were paraded onto the pitch as, "The Liquidator", played in the background, which doesn't really work when there are only 4,000 fans singing along to it. The rituals continued until the teams were lined up and ready to go. Just as the random Northampton dragon mascot came out of the tunnel, the referee blew his whistle to signal the start of the match.
Almost instantly Northampton was on the attack and if it were not for Luke Wilkinson's goal line clearance following Chris Lewington's flap at the ball - Jake Robinson may have put the Cobblers ahead. Despite the opening 15 minutes being extremely scrappy, the hosts looked the more likely to break the deadlock. Chris Hackett, Kelvin Langmead and Jake Robinson all had shots blocked as the Daggers back line came under siege.
Despite constant attacking threats down the left hand side via the medium of Femi, it took the visitors 27 minutes to register an attempt at the goal. Some poor defending allowed Jake Reed to capitalise on a ball chipped in behind, unfortunately though Reed lacked conviction and blazed his uncontrolled effort over the crossbar. Matt Saunders' corner was later cleared whilst up the other end Ben Tozer’s speculative long range effort flew over the bar.
Just as it looked as though the half was fizzling out, disaster struck. A menacing ball into the Daggers box changed direction thanks to a Clive Platt flick on before striking Abu Ogogo's stomach and rolling agonisingly into the corner of the net. Despite both Abu & Chris Lewington's best efforts; it rolled over the line much to the disappointment of dejected players and fans alike. Northampton didn't mind though and I'm sure they weren't complaining over the 1-0 lead. Quite how the announcer had the cheek to award it to Chris Hackett however, I don't know.
Sam Williams then had a great chance to put Daggers back on level terms with their hosts. Femi’s fantastic run down the left hand side saw him deliver a pin point ball onto the head of the unmarked Sam Williams. Unfortunately, Williams was unable to jump high enough and contrived to head the ball over the bar from a fantastic position. We couldn't believe how he'd missed, although I imagine it was harder than it looked.
Straight from the goal kick, Daggers and in particular Sam Williams were made to rue that miss. Chris Hackett caught Femi out of position before sprinting down the right hand side and drilling a low shot past Chris Lewington that clipped the post and nestled in the back of the net. It was now 2-0 Northampton and that jinx we have against the Cobblers was rearing its ugly head once again.
From being completely in the game at the 30 minute mark, we had somehow managed to throw it all away. Not only that but for the third successive game we had conceded two before the break which simply isn't good enough. The first goal was simply unlucky on Ogogo's part, but you feel Femi could have done more for the second. I haven't seen the replays yet so perhaps my comments are a little harsh.
On the bright side the Northampton Town mascot wasn't enjoying the performance despite his side being two goals to the good. The dragon stood there with his arms folded for the entire half - at least he was warmer than we were! Half time passed in a frenzy of, "I don't have a bloody clue what is going on", as a supporter attempted to win money on the pitch. Despite not knowing what he had to do, it's safe to say he failed miserably.
Brian Woodall was introduced for the lagging Jake Reed as we entered the second half. John Still's team talk looked to have rustled a few feathers as the visitors were dominant from the off. Sam Williams' shot was blocked, whilst Medy Elito missed a fantastic opportunity after being put through on the left by Luke Howell. Daggers nearly pulled one back on 50 minutes as Elito's cross was met by Matt Saunders whose header cannoned back off of the post to our despair.
|Not so magic Medy|
You just knew that having wasted three extremely good chances, Northampton would go up the other end and extend the lead. And so they did seconds later. Ben Harding's corner caused confusion in the Daggers box before eventually being turned in by Kelvin Langmead. The roar of 4,000 Cobblers was heard once more as the Sixfields outfit now seemingly had an unassailable lead.
With a despondent set of fans, the team set about making amends and continued to push forward in search of a goal. With Medy Elito not causing any problems, it was down to Matt Saunders to try and find that creative spark down the right hand side. On 60 minutes he nearly did just that as his delivery was met by Scott Doe at the back post who could only manage to glance the ball wide of the post. Angst was the expression of the day as Daggers continued to waste good chances.
Luke Guttridge then replaced Lewis Hornby which received a warm round of applause from all Cobblers alike. Luke Howell later had an effort that only troubled the advertising hoardings, whilst Matt Saunders' crossing was causing serious problems for the Northampton centre halves.
With 70 minutes played, Scott Doe made amends for his earlier miss by firing in a wonderful 20 yard strike from the edge of the area. That was also Doey's second goal in two games which prompted cries of "Put him up front Stilly", from the travelling supporters. Now we had an ounce of belief that we could do this, maybe, just maybe, we could perform a miracle. Sam Williams was doing his bit, after being put through by Spillane he could only fire his shot straight at Nicholls much to our frustration.
Jake Caprice was then introduced for Matt Saunders as Daggers opted for pace down the right hand side. Almost instantly he was involved, but unfortunately his cross went miles over the bar and out of play for a goal kick. Despite the attacking change, it was Northampton who pushed forward in the closing stages. Jake Robinson saw his shot go narrowly over the bar whilst Hackett's late ball into the box caused few problems.
|Daggers Fans. (@romseycobbler on Twitter)|
There was just enough time for Mickey Spillane to try his luck from the half way line before the referee finally signalled the end of the match. 172 Daggers were left despondent and disappointed as we suffered yet another defeat at Sixfields to the hands of Northampton Town.
The two goals before half time really killed us, up until then it was largely equal. We didn't defend well enough and the victory was sealed with the goal early in the second half. Ultimately we failed to take our chances once more against a surprisingly direct side. Then again, with Akinfenwa in your team, who wouldn't be? The sheer strength of the man is enough to shift any central defender and whilst he didn't cause many problems, his presence was always felt.
Medy Elito for the large part had a nightmare. He doesn't deliver the goods consistently enough and several times in the second half he should have done better with the positions he was in. The fans eventually got on his back and if he remains in the side for Saturday's trip to Accrington Stanley I will be very surprised. A winger's remit is to provide balls into the box and Jake Caprice done that more in 15 minutes than Medy did for the entire 90.
Many also think it's about time we gave Brian Woodall his starting berth up front this season. He's been knocking on the door with his substitute appearances and following the poor display of Jake Reed surely it's only a matter of time. When he was introduced we looked like a different side and with some game time and a little confidence, Brian could strike up a fruitful partnership with Sam Williams.
The midfield I can't have that many complaints about yesterday afternoon. Mickey Spillane put in a good shift, whilst Matt Saunders provided the creative spark that we so dearly lack. Luke Howell was slightly underwhelming but with the way he's played this season that can be forgiven. Chris Lewington just needs to work on his decision making and his kicking, other than that he didn't have much to do all afternoon.
There wasn't much in the game but with a slice of luck and some precise finishing, Northampton took all three points. I didn't want to say this, but if we had a proven goalscorer like Dwight Gayle I wonder if the score would have been different. Probably, but I shouldn't dwell on it.
The Cobblers will more than likely end up in a mid table position, mind you a push for the Play Offs is well within their reach. I'm sure there fans would also agree that it was by far not their best performance yesterday afternoon and improvements can be made. Good luck to them though, if they manage to keep their impressive home record up then there's no reason why they can't push on. At least we don't have to play them again for another seven months at the very least!
As for us, we now move on to the glamorous away fixture with Accrington Stanley at the weekend before travelling to Morecambe the Tuesday after. Our players will hopefully be in love with Lancashire by that point. I'll be travelling up for the Saturday fixture so let’s hope we can get back to winning ways and take 3 points from the Crown Ground!
Thanks for reading and remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickdrfcMurphy