It may have been the inauguration of the newly christened; District Line Derby at Victoria Road on Saturday afternoon, but it was the same old story on the pitch as Daggers continue to look for an inaugural win against their South West London opponents. Kevin Sainte-Luce scored the solitary goal as all 3 points returned to Kingsmeadow for the second year on the bounce, leaving the hosts with the increasing possibility of being dragged into the relegation mire.
|The Sieve (NorthTerrace) before kick off.|
But before all of that woe and despair, there was some enjoyment to be had from the afternoon. After getting a bus to Victoria Road which contained Daggers forward Jake Reed, we headed for the clubhouse where friend of the club (well, us), Joe (@JoeBillGibbo) was waiting. Our Northern acquaintance was down to continue his pursuit of the completing the 92 football league grounds and we gave him a good reception in the clubhouse! Well, we had a couple of pints and he bought a cut price home top, what's not to love?
After that, we headed through the turnstiles and into the newly acclaimed Estadio De LBBD, where the teams were duly announced;
Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Hoyte, Doe, Wilkinson, Femi, Saunders, Ogogo, Howell, Elito, Williams, Strevens. Subs: Seabright, Maher, Reed, Bingham, Caprice, Green, Woodall.
Following two more than satisfactory performances against Cheltenham & Gillingham, unsurprisingly John Still named an unchanged side. This meant Abu Ogogo continued in central midfield whilst Gavin Hoyte remained at right back. Billy Bingham had to be content with a place on the bench once more as the midfield trio of Luke Howell, Abu Ogogo & Matt Saunders continued to impress.
AFC Wimbledon: Sullivan, Balkestein, Meades, Bennett, Hussey, Moore, Pell, Dickenson, Midson, L Moore, Alexander. Subs: Jaimez-Ruiz, Cummings, Mitchell-King, Long, Sainte-Luce, Yusseff, Darco.
Neal Ardley was made two changes from the side that drew with Northampton Town in midweek. The enforced change saw Peter Sweeney replaced by Sammy Moore in the midfield, whilst the tactical change concerned loan signing Brennan Dickenson making his full debut in place of Toby Ajala. Jack Midson & Gary Alexander continued up front, whilst on the bench the attack of the double barrelled surnames was primed and ready if needed.
And with that, the teams emerged to soft applause from the 2200 odd supporters inside Victoria Road. Rather annoyingly the Wimbledon captain then decided to switch ends to take away the possible second half emphasis/advantage that we may have had. The slightly stumpy referee then blew his whistle to signal the start of this cross-London derby.
As expected from two sides at the lower end of the table, the game started rather slowly. Ben Strevens tested Neil Sullivan after 30 seconds, but the Wimbledon stalwart was more than equal to his tame drive. Jack Midson was next to try his luck from close range. Midson, who previously had a loan spell at Daggers latched onto the end of a Sammy Moore lofted ball over the top before lashing into the side netting. A good opportunity - squandered.
The game continued in the same vain as the first half wore on, with both Scott Doe & Jack Midson taking turns to warm the gloves of the opposition 'keeper. The clever link up play of Alexander & Midson was causing problems, and the latter came close once again soon after with his off balance effort being skewed wide of the mark. The hosts on the other hand continued to be restricted to long range efforts that didn't really trouble the 67 year old Sullivan in the Wimbledon goal.
Despite it being a quiet opening quarter of the match, on the 30 minute mark it burst into life. Harry Pell burst down the left hand side before looping a ball to the back post where Gary Alexander crashed a volley goalwards. Chris Lewington produced a brilliant fingertip save to deny Alexander as the scores remained at 0-0. Only minutes later Lewington had to be alert once more. This time Scott Doe sold him short with an underweight back pass meaning Lewy had to race out of his goal to deny Midson a clear run into the 18 yard box.
Wimbledon were clearly looking like the better side through a combination of mistakes at the back from Daggers and good link up play from the midfield onward. Then, in a near carbon copy of the previous attempt, Harry Pell swung a ball into the box once more but this time Alexander could only fire at the side netting much to his frustration.
Reading the first half analysis tells a sordid story for Daggers who were stifled going forward and under pressure at the back. The Wimbledon defence was coping admirably with what we had to offer. Ben Strevens had the best of the chances if you can call them that, whilst Abu Ogogo continued the trend of tame shots just before the half time whistle.
Gary Alexander was looking like the most prominent threat as we went in for half time, whilst Jack Midson was also holding his own. The Wimbledon midfield appeared to be dominating the game whilst also winning the majority of the second balls and headers - a key aspect you need to master in League Two if you want to be victors over any team. The only solace as we went into the second half was that the Daggerettes had seemingly disappeared. Or maybe they were put into a findus lasagne, who knows? All I know is that my throat was hoarse after eating my burger before the game.
The second half began with more impetus from the hosts. On 49 minutes Matt Saunders picked up the ball on the edge of the box before firing a rasping strike just wide of the post that had Neil Sullivan beaten all ends up. Wimbledon were then forced into a change when Jonathan Meades limped off injured. He was replaced by Mat Mitchell-King who nearly scored within 10 minutes of coming on, however his goalbound header from a corner was blocked inside the box amidst appeals for a penalty.
Neal Ardley then opted to throw all of his eggs in one basket, using up his full quota of substitutes before the 65 minute mark. Jesso Darko & Kevin Sainte-Luce came on in place of Gary Alexander and Brendan Dickenson. A bold move you might say, but would it pay off? Well, it almost backfired instantly as the subs failed to acquaint themselves into the game, allowing Luke Howell time and space to flash a shot over the crossbar.
John Still then made his first change of the afternoon as Daggers looked to freshen up their attack. Jake Reed, who scored in a development game during the week was brought on for Matt Saunders which effectively triggered the end of any creative influence we may have had going forward. In fairness though, Matt didn't have the best of games and his set piece delivery in particular really wasn't up to scratch during the whole afternoon.
As the game reached a crucial point, it looked as though Wimbledon had scored a decisive goal. A quick throw into the box caught Daggers off guard which allowed Luke Moore to slip in and fire into the side of the net. Fortunately for us and unbeknown to the travelling supporters, it had hit the outside of the net. Cue ironic cheers from the Sieve as Wimbledon fans celebrated their side taking a false 1-0 lead. A minor plus point in a drab afternoon.
Minutes later though, there was no joking as Wimbledon did take the lead. A ball in from a corner was hammered towards goal and initially blocked not once, but twice. The Daggers defence could only partially clear before it fell beautifully for Kevin Sainte-Luce who volleyed home past a crowd of players and a helpless Chris Lewington. How quickly your career can change in a month. From, escaping jail for assaulting one female and punching another to scoring a possibly decisive goal at Victoria Road, who'd have thought it?
From that moment on, it was a daunting task for Daggers to get back into the game. The introduction of Dominic Green for Medy Elito improved spirits though; hopefully the tricky winger could cause more problems than the ineffective Elito. Luke Howell & Sammy Moore then had something of a falling out, with one clipping the others heels before a degree of verbal before it ultimately coming to nothing. Sam Williams then came close, but his powerful volley was blocked superbly by the head of a Wimbledon defender to preserve the away sides lead.
A flurry of late penalty appeals was then waved away as the hosts were looking increasingly devoid of options going forward. So much so that as the fourth official raised his board to announce the injury time, Chris Lewington was thrust forward for a corner. The ball came in and Lewington connected with a glancing header but it was cleared agonisingly off of the line by Chris Hussey as Wimbledon held on for both a crucial and deserved victory.
And that my friends, is the tale of the tape. I wish I could bring you a Daggers win with a performance of any kind, but it just didn't come! It's disappointing as we played very well against Gillingham last week and lost, moreover you feel that sort of performance this week would have seen us take a point at the least.
A good indicator of how well we've played in the game is the performance of Femi. Even the cult left back had a bit of an off day yesterday afternoon which just about typified the whole day. Matt Saunders never really looked like imposing himself, whilst talking about Medy has just become a pointless and fruitless cause. Sam & Ben up front received little service and what they did get they weren't able to do particularly much with.
We all know where we want the season to go from here. With the Play Offs out of the question; a comfortable mid table finish would suffice. Unfortunately, there's still that niggling feeling that we're yet to shake off the threat of relegation. On 41 points you'd imagine we'll be ok. Surely we can find at least another 6/7 points which should see us home? You wonder though. Our toothless nature in front of goal since the departure of Gayle is worrying and looks as though it's going to get worse before it gets better.
|Wimbledon supporters pre-match|
As for Wimbledon though. What more can you say other than they probably deserved the victory courtesy of our woeful performance. That and their fans were sublime; a credit to their club such was the noise they created throughout the match. Their defence was rock solid, something which was lacking in the early part of the season for the Wombles. With the front two of Alexander & Midson I imagine they'll stay up now - and provided we do I hope they do as well. We don't need this league becoming increasingly more Northern. I wish them good luck for the remainder of the season!
Next up on Wednesday night are [League Cup Winners]/[Perennial League Two strugglers] (Delete where appropriate), Bradford City. Our recent record against them would suggest we have a fantastic chance, with us being unbeaten at Valley Parade since we joined the Football League. Hopefully we can bounce back from two straight defeats with a win over a side that will hopefully be feeling the effects of a big day out on Sunday! (Today)
Thanks for reading and remember that you can follow me on Twitter, @NickMurphyDRFC
|Daggers Supporters vacate the ground at Full Time.|