|Cheltenham Town welcomed to Victoria Road.|
Following a four week hiatus, The Daggers Scale is back! And what's more, we bring good tidings with news of an impressive Dagenham & Redbridge victory over Cheltenham Town on Saturday afternoon. Despite Sam Williams' penalty miss, Luke Howell had wrapped up the points and a 1-0 win with an emphatic strike top corner strike just ten minutes previous. The result leaves Daggers in a comfortable 13 place, whilst the Robins slip to 5th after a first defeat in six.
With our record against Cheltenham being decidedly awful, especially in the Football League - this wasn't a game where optimism was at its highest. In our 7 previous meetings with the Robins, we'd lost 6. That record also includes having lost both home games with a combined aggregate score of 0-7, as well as that 50 minute interlude of Dave Hogan. With big Dave nowhere near the teamsheet this afternoon, at least there was a slight glimmer of positivity.
Before the game though, we met up with Cheltenham fans Maxi & Alun to discuss the finer points of football. Namely, why can't Medy Elito perform consistently and how awful we seem to be away from home. Nevertheless it was a good laugh and set the tone for the afternoon; well, sort of. Whilst there we also gathered the team news which was as follows...
Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Hoyte, Doe, Wilkinson, Femi, Saunders, Howell, Ogogo, Elito, Williams, Strevens. Subs: Seabright, Maher, Caprice, Woodall, Reed, Gracco, Bingham.
John Still opted to make a single change from the side that drew 0-0 so valiantly at Plymouth Argyle a week ago with Billy Bingham making way for Gavin Hoyte. This allowed Abu Ogogo to push back up into midfield whilst Hoyte reverted to his natural right back position. Ben Strevens also started his second game upon his return in what was to be his second home debut. His first home debut was a 1-0 over Halifax Town in December 2006. A sign perhaps?
Cheltenham Town: Brown, Lowe, Jones, Elliott, Hector, McGlashan, Penn, Taylor, Harrad, Benson, Mohamed. Subs: Roberts, Jombati, Carter, Pack, Deering, Duffy, Harrison.
Mark Yates named a drastically altered squad from the one that faced us on the opening day, whilst he made just a single change from the 1-1 draw with Bristol Rovers in midweek. Billy Jones replaced the Robins very own version of Femi, Sido Jombati. The real test though would be on the wing where Femi himself would be coming up against the tricky McGlashan. The main story of the day however, was the return of Daggers legend Paul Benson who would be coming back and starting at Victoria Road for an opposition team for the first time.
The teams promptly came out and Benson received a rousing reception when his name was read out over the tannoy. He's a true Daggers legend and one day I hope he'll return to the club that he loves so dearly. For 90 minutes though, he would be the enemy and Ben Strevens would be the other returning hero. Following a quick coin toss where the sides changed ends, Mr Drysdale blew his whistle to signal the beginning of the match.
With minutes of kick off there was a goal. Unfortunately though it was Daggers forward Josh Scott who’s on loan at Ebbsfleet that scored it. Shaun Harrad who scored in the reverse fixture back in August was the first player to try his luck at our game; however Chris Lewington was equal to his drive and palmed it wide of the post.
After a dour opening 15 where neither side threatened, it was Paul Benson who was next to have a pop in front of goal. Benson latched onto Jason Taylor's perfectly weighted through ball on the right hand side before firing high into the Traditional Builders Stand after coming under good pressure from Luke Wilkinson. It almost went as high as that penalty he took at home to Bradford a few seasons ago!
Despite Cheltenham having the better of the play, it was now the turn of the hosts to have a period of dominance going forward. Matt Saunders saw his effort deflected wide for a corner whilst Billy Jones was justifying his selection by doing his utmost to deny Daggers with two fantastic blocks. Up the other end the battle continued to be Wilkinson vs Benson, with the current Daggers once again frustrating his predecessor with a decisive sliding tackle.
With half an hour gone came the first real chance of the afternoon. Luke Howell's lofted cross was met by Ben Strevens whose well placed header was saved confidently by Robins 'keeper Scott Brown. The Daggers were now making the home advantage count and came close once more just minutes later as Sam Williams curled a shot wide after good combination play from Matt Saunders & Ben Strevens.
|Lewy wasn't busy.|
The visitors never really looked like forcing a save out of Chris Lewington as the half wore on, with the ball being punted up towards Benson for the back for the majority of the time. Daggers were still looking the more likely to score as the half entered its closing stages. First Luke Wilkinson directed a header wide of the post before Matt Saunders forced another impressive stop from Brown who was by far the busier of the two goalkeepers.
With little to talk about during the half time interval, we head straight into the second half. After a lacklustre opening once again, Mark Yates rang the changes. The uninspiring and ineffectual Shaun Harrad & Jermaine McGlashan were withdrawn; in their place came Byron Harrison & Darren Carter. Within seconds of the changes, Daggers fashioned an opening. A well weighted ball over the top found Sam Williams who failed to control as it ran through into the clutches of Scott Brown.
Minutes later there was nothing Brown could do as Daggers took the lead in emphatic fashion. Abu Ogogo won the ball on the left before playing it into Sam Williams, who despite some hesitation, laid it back into the path of Luke Howell who rifled home his effort into the top corner. Scott Brown left with no chance as a well crafted Daggers move sliced the Robins defence wide open. A lot of the credit has to go to Williams, who despite being urged to shoot, remained calm and used his excellent vision once more to pick out a teammate to take the honours.
The goal seemed to inject some life into the game as both sides continued to push forward for a goal. Darren Carter dragged a shot wide of the mark before Harrison had a contentious penalty appeal waved away. Up the other end Williams who was having a terrific game curled a shot narrowly wide of the mark following yet more excellent play from Matt Saunders.
Then with 20 minutes left on the clock, came a potential game changer. Matt Saunders weaved his way into the box before being brought down by Steve Elliot. The referee had no hesitation and appeased Daggers fans by pointing to the spot. Sam Williams who has a 100% record from the spot duly stepped up, and saw his penalty well saved by Scott Brown. The worry now was, would this outstanding piece of goalkeeping spur Cheltenham on to get an equaliser?
|Marlon Pack introduced.|
The short term answer, was no. Daggers continued to press for a second goal and but for another piece of superb goalkeeping from Scott Brown to deny Medy Elito, they would have found it. It was clear to all that Medy's new Bas Savage like haircut was forcing the oppositions defence into submission. A second former Dagger then joined the action as Marlon Pack replaced Russell Penn for the final 10 minutes.
The remaining 10 minutes were a frantic affair, with Sam Williams unable to extend himself enough to reach Medy Elito's well flighted ball into the box. Then the prophecy nearly came true. Paul Benson was laid in on the left hand side before seeing his looping lob drop onto the roof of the net to the relief of a worried Chris Lewington. Directly from the goal kick, the hosts came close once more. Femi's skillful run down the left hand side was halted just before the mesmeric full back could advance into the box and score what would have been the goal of the season.
As the fourth official announced there would be four minutes of added on time, Cheltenham finally managed a period of sustained pressure for the first time in the afternoon. The newly introduced Marlon Pack fired his effort over the bar, whilst Byron Harrison's low ball across the box evaded everyone before being partially cleared.
With time nearly up, the Robins launched their last attack. They won a corner and of course, that meant Scott Brown made his way up from the back. After some pinball in the box, the ball fell to Brown who nodded it on only for Michael Hector to somehow put the ball wide of the post from just yards out. Despite that almighty chance for the visitors, Daggers hung on to record their first ever victory over Cheltenham Town - and a deserved one at that.
Paul Benson, who never really received any decent service all afternoon, was then given a standing ovation by the fans who adored him for so many years. Seeing him in the kit of an opposition team still doesn't seem right, you wonder if one day we'll see him back at Victoria Road. Call it a hunch, but I think we will.
As for the performance, not the best you'll ever see but it was enough - which is what matters. Matt Saunders in particular had a superb game along with Abu Ogogo, the pair controlled the midfield alongside the ever present Luke Howell. Despite his dodgy haircut, even Medy Elito surpassed the ever increasingly low expectations we have of him to perform to a decent standard.
The thing I'm most excited about however is the potential partnership of Sam Williams & Ben Strevens. They already look as though they have a degree of camaraderie and had it not been for Scott Brown, Strevs would have had his second, first Daggers goal. Williams' hold up play was also exemplary once more, whilst at the back Luke Wilkinson's dominated Paul Benson all afternoon. To be quite honest, I really cannot fault anyone yesterday – apart from the people who sort out the advertisements around the ground, who still haven't corrected an upside down sign.
As for Cheltenham, I was quite disappointed with their display - although not with the result of course. They're a team I very much like due to their fans and just the club itself, as I've said before they're one of the few clubs I could imagine myself supporting other than Daggers in this league.
Their display was quite poor, especially going forward, so much so in fact that I don't remember Chris Lewington having to do anything of note all afternoon. Michael Hector didn't have a particularly good a game, whilst you'd be forgiven for forgetting that McGlashan was even playing. For me their best player was Byron Harrison, that despite him only playing 40 minutes of the game. He gave slightly more creativity, although I felt that Sam Deering could have been introduced at some point as he's a very tricky winger. On that performance you'd imagine we'll face them again next season, but we also have to remember they have a relatively new squad which may affect how they played.
Regardless of all of that, I wish them luck for the remainder of the campaign. Next up for us is a very tricky trip to second placed side Gillingham on Saturday, where we'll be trying to do Cheltenham a favour. Ben Strevens will also be returning to his previous club, so here's hoping we manage to do the dirty and come away with another 2-1 win like last season.
Until then, have a good week and I hope you've enjoyed reading! Remember, you can also follow me on Twitter, @NickMurphyDRFC.