Saturday, 30 March 2013

Barnet 0-0 Daggers, Blunt Daggers Neutralise Bees Sting.

Picture from Arnu.
It may have been the last ever meeting of Barnet and Dagenham & Redbridge at Underhill before the Bees move to the Hive next season, but it certainly wasn't a classic. A game between two relegation candidates played on a tough surface failed to get going, with the anticipation in the build up failing to materialise. It meant that both sides took a valuable point for the second season running into the final month of the campaign.

Before the enthralling 90 minute encounter, we were faced with the exciting prospect of getting to Underhill. Thankfully with it being relatively local, it's a pretty simple journey. After meeting at Barking we caught the District Line to Embankment before changing onto the Northern Line for the final leg to High Barnet. Upon arrival we had a quick bite to eat before heading to the Old Red Lion Pub which was voluntarily designated as the away fans pub.

Whilst there we were given a brief insight into what it would be like if we took 600+ away every week. The supporters were in full voice as the pub was drowned out by a chorus of Daggers songs. But then the realisation hits that this isn't what it's like every week, and the majority of those singing, "I was there when Femi scored", probably weren't there when Femi scored. Following that we abruptly left and headed down the dark menacing alleyway towards the away turnstiles where the only thing that mugged us was the Barnet coffers.

After heading through the rustic building, we were greeted with the Underhill Stadium for the final time. Unsurprisingly it hadn't changed from our last visit - unless you count the several piles
Daggers players warm up.
of remaining snow around the pitch. Underhill is made up of seven different stands of varying size and nature, with six of those housing the home supporters.

Daggers fans were as usual given the choice of two stands. The majority chose the East Terrace North which is as the name suggests, is a covered standing terrace. We were to share it with the more vocal of the Bees fans that were to be separated from us by flimsy netting and several stewards. Daggers fans who wanted to be seated were allowed into the small North Family Stand which cost just a few pounds extra.

After finding our position towards the back of the terrace, the announcer who seemed to have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, announced the two teams:

Barnet: Stack, Fuller, Johnson, Stephens, Flanagan, Byrne, Weston, Oster, Davids, Nurse, Hyde. Subs: N'Toko, Ganbin, Yiadom, Barnes, Jenkins, De Silva, Beattie.

Dagenham & Redbridge: Miles, Femi, Wilkinson, Doe, Hoyte, Saunders, Howell, Ogogo, Silva, Elito, Strevens. Subs: Seabright, Fortune, Maher, Shariff, Bingham, Reed, Gracco. 

It was a busy loan deadline for Daggers with Toni Silva, Mo Sharif, Jonathan Fortune, Jonathan Miles and Peter Gilbert all signing. Wayne Burnett was forced to start two of the loan signings following last weekend's 2-1 defeat at Fleetwood. Chris Lewington, who picked up an injury and was forced off last weekend, was replaced by Spurs goalkeeper Jonathan Miles. Toni Silva was also given his debut in place of Josh Scott who missed out altogether with an apparent knock picked up in training on Thursday afternoon.

After that the ground began to gradually fill up, even the uncovered terrace behind the North end had a flock of supporters in. Daggers fans continued pouring into the ground to give an away attendance of 634 as the teams were introduced onto the pitch. After a quick turnaround, the referee blew his whistle to signal the beginning of this crucial fixture. 

From the off it was clear the game was going to be a hard fought battle. Opportunities were limited in the opening 10 minutes with both sides looking to establish a firm grip in proceedings. After a flurry of free kicks Daggers looked to get things moving down the left, but to no avail as Elito failed to beat his man for the umpteenth time this season. With little over 20 minutes gone the visitors began to look more threatening. Good interchange between Femi & Elito saw the latter cross for Strevens whose toed flick rolled neatly into Stack's arms.

Matt Saunders was then booked by the referee as the game threatened to have some degree of action. With the match already petering out, the hosts finally managed an effort on goal. Mark Byrne's whipped cross from the left hand side found Jake Hyde who could only manage to head the ball wide of the far post for a goal kick. 

The visitors were now beginning to look more inventive down the right hand side through Toni Silva, yet they were still unable to create any clear cut opportunities. Silva was stifled by the Barnet left back whilst Ogogo wasn't having any luck playing in a role higher up the pitch. Abu almost fashioned a chance for himself with 35 minutes gone, but the Barnet defender recovered well to clear the ball out for a throw.
Toni Silva backs into Edgar Davids

As the half drew to a close, the Bees turned up the pressure and were unlucky not to take the lead. A corner from the right found Jake Hyde whose header was cleared off the line by Ben Strevens, before seconds later Hyde was through again in what looked like an offside position. This time though the Barnet forward who found himself in acres of space could only direct his quickly taken shot over the crossbar to the relief of a shell-shocked Daggers defence.

That turned out to be the final chance in what was a hard fought first half with limited opportunities for either side. Barnet had looked the most likely to take the lead, whilst Daggers' new loan signing Toni Silva had failed to impress thanks to stringent Barnet defending. Luke Howell & Abu Ogogo were both playing well in the midfield as the sides went into the break at 0-0.

Into the second half and Daggers started the brighter. Wayne Burnett's men had marginally more possession and looked more dangerous going forward. It showed on 52 minutes as Silva was allowed time and space before curling his speculative left footed effort just over Graham Stack's crossbar. The visitors were now looking the more likely to open the scoring and continued to threaten down the flanks.

The game wasn't without its controversy though and soon both sides were up in arms about a mistimed Femi challenge on former Dagger Jon Nurse. It had both sets of supporters baying for blood and after Nurse rolled himself off the pitch, it was Graham Stack who found himself in the referee's little black book for racing half way up the pitch to take part in the ensuing fracas. Then came a wonderful moment as Daggers fans chanted the name of their idol, Femi, and the cult left back just looked up as if to suggest, "Yeah, I know, you love me." Oh Femi, you cheeky minx.

Despite Daggers pressure they were still open to a Barnet counter attack and on 65 minutes, the Bees managed their first shot of the second half. Neat play in the midfield allowed centre half Barry Fuller to overlap and test Jonathan Miles with a tame strike along the ground that the Spurs debutant gathered comfortably. Tom Flanagan then went into the book for a late challenge as the game threatened to boil over.

With just under 70 minutes played, Wayne Burnett made his first change of the afternoon. Toni Silva, who probably lacks match fitness, was withdrawn for QPR loanee Mo Sharif. Instantly Sharif was a hit and it's clear he could become a talismanic figure from now until the end of the
Burnett made his first change.
season. The winger took the ball, beat two men and passed out wide to Elito, who with the ball bobbling, unleashed a rasping 20 yard drive that was superbly tipped onto the bar by former Arsenal 'keeper, Stack to keep the scores level.

Determined to force the advantage, it was the same duo that combined minutes later with Elito this time firing a cross-cum-shot across the 18 yard box before it went out for a goal kick. Already it was clear the impact Sharif had made after combining with Elito twice in two minutes.

The game continued to be a fiercely fought midfield battle, although Matt Saunders was doing his best to give the ball away at every attempt. Edgar Davids whose ball control had been exceptional all afternoon withdrew himself from the action, to be replaced by Andy Yiadom, with Kyle De Silva also coming on for John Oster. The subs did little to change the tide with Daggers continuing to look the more likely scorers.

Ben Strevens continued to look out of depth up front, which prompted cries of, "Unlucky Strevs" amongst the 600+ strong away support. I almost feel a little sorry for Strevs. He tries his hardest and no one can fault his effort, but there's no spark in his play, nothing's clicking - and that
Daggers fans look on.
makes it all the more frustrating when watching the man who was lauded upon his return; fail.

The game looked to be fizzling out towards the latter stages, and but for a controversial challenge from sub De Silva, it may well have done. The midfielder went in late on a 50/50 challenge with Luke Wilkinson to win the ball which left the referee with no other option but to send the Crystal Palace loan star off. In all fairness to the lad, it was a harsh decision made worse by the noise his studs made when colliding with Wilkinson's own raised boot.

The red card meant Daggers had a man advantage for the final few minutes, but could they make it count? Of course they couldn't. In fact they somehow managed to finish the game on the back foot as Barnet exerted uncharacteristic pressure. Despite the late push by the hosts, they were unable to find a goal which meant the game ended in a 0-0 stalemate. It leaves Barnet 4 points clear of the drop zone, whilst Daggers now have a 7 point gap down to 23rd.

After the final whistle we also learnt that Barry Fuller was sent off after the final whistle for directing foul and abuse language at the referee. That was followed up by Edgar Davids’ post match interview where he stated that there was a conspiracy theory in the FA against Barnet. Oh Edgar, you’re really sticking your clogs in where it hurts.

In all truth it was a very poor game with few opportunities. I was of the opinion that a draw was a fair result, despite a dominant second half performance, and yet a Barnet fan disagreed with me - funny game football, eh! Still it's a vital point that lifts us onto 48 for the season with only five games to go, which should see us safe assuming we take at least one or two more from the remaining 15 available.

As for the performance, Abu Ogogo & Luke Howell were both terrific. Howell in particular impressed. His passing was accurate and he combined that well with both nimble footwork and some sublime challenges to break up the play. Abu, in a more forward role, also impressed and put in a real captain's shift. He took hold of the ball and looked calm and composed in possession, hopefully it's a role where he can continue to excel for the final five matches of the season.

The defence vastly improved on last week’s performance. The two full backs were far better, helped by the fact Gavin Hoyte reverted to a more familiar right back position. Their assured performance was accompanied by the continued sturdiness of Scott Doe and Luke Wilkinson in the centre of defence, with Wilkinson in particular putting in a dominant aerial performance to prevent any Barnet threat.

As for the front line - the less said the better regarding Strevens. As I alluded to earlier it's just not worked out since his highly anticipated return. A combination of isolation up top and just a lack of natural instinct made him look lost yesterday afternoon, even his hold up play looked poor. 

Medy on the other hand was given a new lease of life following Sharif's introduction, although prior to that he was poor. I've often had a go at him for not taking on his man and yesterday when he did, he failed miserably. My gripe with him now is that he seems to fail to make the right decision in crucial situations - there was several times when he should have played the ball but opted to take on the man before giving it away.

The three loan players all gave hints as to what they're capable of. Toni Silva was almost marked out of the game by the Barnet left back, but showed signs of what he's capable of. Mo Sharif on the other hand was superb when introduced. The ball virtually stuck to his boots and the QPR loanee looks like a real talismanic player when given possession - something that should help Daggers in the coming weeks. Goalkeeper Jonathan Miles enjoyed a stress free debut, making few saves from the blunt Barnet forwards. 

I wasn't particularly impressed by the Bees who turned in a poor performance. The talent of Edgar Davids however, is clear. The former Dutch International has obvious star player quality and controlled the ball excellently when given the opportunity. And also a word to the Barnet left back who loves that ball down the channels with the outside of his boot - very creative and it nearly worked on several occasions.

So that was our final visit to Underhill, and providing we both remain in the league next season we'll be travelling to the Hive in Edgeware. Until then, we'll just have to wait and see. Next up for Daggers is a home game against Bristol Rovers on Easter Monday, whilst Barnet travel to AFC Wimbledon.

Until then, have a good remainder of the Easter weekend and remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickMurphyDRFC.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Fleetwood Town 2-1 Daggers, Daggers Put In Their Plaice.

Trips to Lancashire are usually eventful when following Dagenham & Redbridge. With a postponement against Morecambe and a crucial win against Accrington, this season has brought a mixed bag. On Saturday though, Daggers left the North West empty handed as they fell to a 2-1 defeat at Fleetwood Town in bitterly cold conditions. The visitors failed to hold onto the lead given to them by Medy Elito early on from the spot, with David Evans & Junior Brown ensuring Fleetwood kept their Play Off push alive. 

Before all that though, came the arduous trek up to the land of Cod. With snow drifts bringing parts of the country to a standstill, rail travel through the Midlands and beyond was looking like a problem. The journey started at 8:45 at Chadwell Heath, where after battling through heavy snowfall we boarded our train to Liverpool Street before going on to Euston, via Euston Square. 

When there, we were forced into a tenuous wait to see whether our Glasgow bound train would be delayed. Luckily for us, it wasn't. And with unreserved seating we were treated to a table seat in the buffet car. Life doesn't get any better, does it? After flying through the picturesque scenery of the Midlands which was blanketed in snow, we arrived at a freezing cold Preston just shy of 13:20. With a quick dash over the footbridge, we boarded our luxury Northern Rail service to Blackpool North which would take little over 30 minutes.

We now had to endure the less picturesque scenery of Lancashire before our train arrived at Blackpool North just before 14:00. With wispy snow falling outside, we headed towards a taxi that would charge us £21 for the 7 mile ride along Blackpool seafront and into Fleetwood. Upon arrival our first port of call was the ticket office – where despite being 17 I was charged £17.

This griped on me. I firmly believe that in any division, there should be a concessions price for tickets along with Under 16 & Adult. The £17 was a hefty price to pay and wasn't helped by the fact I was unable to draw any money out. This is what happens when you mistakenly put your Savings Card in your wallet instead of your Credit Card - which put me in a bad mood. 

After that debacle we headed through the turnstiles and into a cold concrete concourse where a surprisingly large number of fans were situated. Before looking out onto the not so hallowed turf, I sampled the food. The hotdog was priced at just £2.10 and was of good quality, other reports of food were also complimentary. The concourse is also equipped with Sky TV such is its modern build which only enhances the stadiums already burgeoning reputation.

After all of that I headed out of the concourse and towards the field of play. Highbury is quite a small arena, with the main stand dominating its appearance. Despite the remnants dating back to 1937, the ground has undergone major ongoing redevelopments in recent years. This makes it look like one of the more modern stadia in the game, something further enhanced by the sparkling Parkside Stand which holds 2200. It serves as the main stand where press, executive boxes, dugouts and away fans (such as ourselves), are situated if they bring a low number of supporters.

The rest of the ground appears to be very new, but very low in stature. Opposite the main stand is a seated stand that goes half way along the pitch before ending abruptly for an aging clubhouse to take precedent. The Memorial Stand is a relatively new covered terrace that houses the noisier homes, whilst at the opposite end is the small Percy Ronson terrace that is given to away fans with a large support.

Following a quick look around and my hands nearly contracting frostbite, the teams were read out as follows...

Fleetwood Town: Davies. Beeley, Barry, Pond, Matt, Nicholson, Brown, Goodall, McGuire, Edwards, Evans. Subs: Michel Fontaine, Mangan, McLaughlin, Crowther, Ball, Lucas.

Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Femi, Wilkinson, Doe, Ogogo, Hoyte, Howell, Saunders, Elito, Strevens, Scott. Subs: Seabright, Maher, Reed, Gracco, Shields, Currie, Green.

Wayne Burnett decided to keep with the same team that drew 1-1 against Burton last weekend which meant Gavin Hoyte remained at right midfield with Abu Ogogo continuing at right back. Louis Dennis who made such a positive impact last weekend was frozen out of the 18 along with Billy Bingham thanks to a sickness bug that had "swept" the camp.

As the howling wind continuing to cause widespread frost on the faces of Daggers fans, the teams emerged from the tunnel to the applause of just over 2000 dedicated supporters. We were then joined by a clan of Ebbsfleet fans who decided to come to Highbury after their game away at Barrow was postponed. With the pre match pleasantries completed in double quick fashion, the teams lined up and the referee blew his whistle to signal the beginning of the match. 

The game itself got off to a lively started and within the opening 5 minutes Daggers had already hit the bar twice in quick succession through Josh Scott & Gavin Hoyte, before Shaun Beeley handled inside the box from Scott's second effort. This meant yet another penalty for Daggers who have now had 15 overall throughout the campaign. Nevertheless, Medy Elito stepped up once more and dispatched the spot kick high into the top right corner to give Daggers a deserved 1-0 lead.

A steward then decided to be a killjoy and asked several fans to sit down. After initially agreeing with him, we changed our minds following a quick glance at the seats which had pigeon excrement all over them. Shortly after that incident, Fleetwood drew level in indifferent fashion. The hosts had pressed since the goal, looking very handy down the wings at the expense of our full backs. With 7 minutes gone, Junior Brown beat Femi too easily before crossing into the box which Chris Lewington somehow contrived to palm into his own net at the near post. It was a terrible mistake from Lewington but one that I’m sure he’ll get over.

To really rub salt in the wound, possibly the worst goal music ever boomed over the PA system. This was accompanied by a dancing Cod on a big screen as supporters around the ground joined in to do a sailors jig. Such is my generosity, I've scoured the internet to find this God awful piece of music for you to listen to on this link.

With less than 10 minutes played, the scoreline stood at 1-1. Could this match go down as an absolute classic? No, of course it couldn't, don't be stupid. Daggers though did nearly retake the lead soon after. Matt Saunders' corner towards the near post was flicked goalwards by Strevens whose header was tipped onto the bar by Cod 'keeper Scott Davies. The game looked as though it was heating up now with Chris Lewington glossing over his mistake by saving well from Jamille Matt's long range effort. 

Despite that explosive start the match soon died down, although our endeavours to avoid a pigeon taking a dump on us continued throughout the half. Fleetwood were maintaining the majority of possession and they were nearly rewarded on 30 minutes when Jamie McGuire chipped the ball over Lewington and into the back of the net. Fortunately for Daggers, the referee had already blown for an earlier free kick which meant the scores remained at 1-1.

Since Burnett's appointment, set pieces have become a prominent feature of our efforts on goal. Saturday was no different with Daggers coming close on 43 minutes. Matt Saunders laid the ball into the box for Luke Howell who skied his effort way over the bar and out for a goal kick. Josh Scott then saw his shot deflected behind for another corner after a well worked move on the right hand side.
Fleetwood's Away Terrace

The corner was cleared by the 'Fleet defence and the referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the half. After an explosive opening 15 minutes, the game had become more subdued leading both sides to cancel eachother out in the middle of the park. Fleetwood were exploiting the wings impressively with Junior Brown and Jamille Matt causing severe problems. This was worrying for the Daggers full backs who have been largely solid for the majority of the campaign, yet were being found out here.

The game soon resumed with Fleetwood cranking up the pressure. Daggers were looking shaky at the back and not creating enough in the midfield. With 52 minutes gone none of that mattered as a superb piece of individual quality gave the hosts the lead. Gareth Evans received the ball before shifting it onto his left foot and unleashing an unstoppable curling effort from 25 yards that had Chris Lewington beaten all ends up.

All of a sudden the wind seemed to sweep in harder with Daggers now facing a serious uphill task. The cause wasn’t helped by Luke Wilkinson picking up a booking for hauling over Junior Brown after giving the ball away in his own half. In reality I think Wilko can consider himself lucky to get away with a booking. Town were now dominating proceedings and but for Scott Doe's superb last ditch block from Evans' strike, Daggers would have found themselves 3-1 behind.

Wayne Burnett was then forced into an unorthodox substitution. Chris Lewington appeared to be pointing towards his hip/groin area at the time which meant Jordan Seabright was thrust into action for only his 2nd ever appearance for Daggers.  After the change the visitors continued to lack going forward, with Josh Scott being forced to almost work single handedly in order to create any opportunities. 
Strevens Withdrawn

With little over 20 minutes remaining, Burnett made his final two substitutions. Strevens, who had played little part in the match, was replaced by Jake Reed, whilst Gavin Hoyte was withdrawn for Dominic Green. Within seconds Daggers were on the attack. Terrific play down the left released centre half Wilkinson inside the box, he weaved one way and then another before seeing his curling goalbound strike blocked by defender Ryan Edwards.

Dagenham were now looking far more creative, especially down the right where Dominic Green gave them a new outlet. Despite that option, the play still seemed to be going predominantly down the middle much to my frustration. Five minutes later Daggers came close once more. This time Jake Reed pick pocketed the Fleetwood centre half before having his curling strike towards the far post palmed away well by Scott Davies. 

Fleetwood were now coming under constant pressure as Daggers pushed for an equaliser. With little over 5 minutes to go the visitors were given a corner. The ball was swung in before falling to Elito. Rather than take the strike on, Medy decided to foolishly lay the ball back which resulted in it being cleared and the momentum being lost. With four minutes added time, hope remained that Daggers could find that elusive equaliser. Try as they might with a succession of corners, the Essex side couldn't find that second goal which ultimately saw them go home empty handed.

Personally I'm not sure whether we'd have deserved to take a share of the spoils had we scored a second. Despite having the more chances, they were few and far between thanks to Fleetwood having the majority of the possession. Daggers rarely exploited the full width of the pitch and as a result were limited to play down the middle that was ineffective and poor in general. It further emphasises the urgent need for an out and out winger.

This happened pre match, but you don't know that.

The introduction of Jake Reed improved things, but he was unable to find that spark in the 20 minutes he was on the pitch. One thing is for sure though; his time on the field of play was better spent than that of Ben Strevens who appeared out of his depth almost, frequently giving the ball away and misplacing passes.

Two positives from the afternoon however, were the performances of Scott Doe and Josh Scott. Doey was solid all afternoon, making a number of key last ditch challenges to deny the Cod forwards chances on goal. He rarely gets a lot of credit despite doing his job to a fantastic and consistent standard, so for Saturday he should be applauded. Josh Scott also continued his good run of form. Despite not getting on the scoresheet, he looked lively all afternoon and was involved in a number of attacks when going forward. 

We now have to look forward to the key Easter weekend, with two fixtures in quick succession away at Barnet and at home to Bristol Rovers. I’ll be at both of them and hopefully by this time next week, we’ll have assured our place in League Two for next season.

Until then however, have a good remainder of the week and remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickMurphyDRFC.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Daggers 1-1 Burton Albion, Scott's Got One Brewing.

Wayne Burnett will be happy with his side’s second half performance after Dagenham & Redbridge recovered from being 1-0 down to draw 1-1 with Burton Albion. A poor first half saw Burton take a deserved lead through Lee Bell, before a superb solo effort from Josh Scott early in the second period made sure Daggers retained a share of the spoils. It extends Daggers' unbeaten run to three games ahead of next weekend's trip to Fleetwood Town.

Before the game Daggers fans could be forgiven for being slightly pessimistic. Our opponents were second in the league and following our lacklustre second half performance on Tuesday night, few were expecting three points this afternoon. One thing that worked in our favour however, was the head to heads. Burton have only won three times in fifteenth meetings against Dagenham, although one of those did come in a 3-2 victory at the Pirelli earlier this season.

After walking into a damp and particularly sparse Victoria Road just before kick off, the teams were announced:

Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Ogogo, Doe, Wilkinson, Femi, Hoyte, Saunders, Howell, Elito, Strevens, Scott. Subs: Seabright, Green, Dennis, Reed, Shields, Maher, Bingham.

Wayne Burnett made a single change from the side that drew 2-2 against 10 man Torquay on Tuesday night, with Ben Strevens replacing Billy Bingham. This also triggered a change in formation. Abu Ogogo reverted to right back which would give Gavin Hoyte an opportunity to harness his crossing ability in right midfield. Matt Saunders & Luke Howell made up the midfield two with Medy Elito on the right along with Ben Strevens & Josh Scott up front.

Burton Albion: Tomlinson, Diamond, O'Connor, Sharps, Weir, McCrory, Maghoma, Bell, Zola, McDonald, Kee. Subs: Lyness, Corbett, Holness, Phillips, Dyer, Drury, Paterson.

February manager of the month Gary Rowett opted to make two changes from the midweek win at Aldershot. February play of the month Jacques Maghoma was restored in the midfield in place of Adam Drury, whilst up front the mesmeric Billy Kee came in for Michael Symes after passing a late fitness test. 

Slightly after 15:00 the two sides emerged from the tunnel to a cold ripple of applause. The wind swept through and the Daggerettes were nowhere to be seen. After a quick pre match handshake and team huddle, the two sides set themselves up for what would surely be an enthralling encounter.

After a slow opening few minutes, it was the visitors who were the first to get a shot away. The ball fell to Billy Kee on the edge of the area, but the forward failed to test Chris Lewington with his tame drive. Burton were seeing more of the ball and it showed as Calvin Zola headed straight at Lewington's mid-rift from close range. Daggers were unable to impose themselves as yet with the Brewers winning the majority of the key midfield battles early on.

The game continued in the same vain as we completed the first quarter. The ball fell to Robbie Weir but the Northern Irishman could only direct his fierce effort wide of the mark as Burton continued to press. Soon after that though, Daggers had their first chance of the afternoon. Elito's ball in from the left bypassed Strevens before being met by Josh Scott whose deflected strike went wide of the post for a Daggers corner.

Despite Daggers looking slightly more dangerous going forward, it was still the Brewers who looked the more likely to score with Alex McDonald seeing his header drift wide of the post. With little over 30 minutes gone Daggers had their first real chance of the match. Lee Bell fouled Josh Scott on the edge of the area which gave Matt Saunders a chance to test the 'keeper. Saunders looped his strike over the wall before seeing it tipped over the bar by the acrobatic Stuart Tomlinson.

Just as Daggers finally looked as though they might have some momentum, they found themselves a goal behind. After a scramble in the area, the ball fell for Maghoma who laid it back for Bell to unleash an unstoppable daisy-cutter strike along the floor and into the back of the net. The Burton players went off to celebrate as the Daggers defence looked at eachother bewildered, wondering why the man wasn't closed down quicker.

As the half wore on it was the visitors who looked the more likely to score the next goal and double their lead. They nearly did just that on 38 minutes, but luckily for Daggers Abu Ogogo was on the line to deny Calvin Zola his 14th goal of the season. Wayne Burnett's men never looked like finding a goal in the first half and once again found themselves lacking down the wings - the decision to move Gavin Hoyte to right midfield was not looking like a particularly smart one at this point. At the same time it could be argued that he was countering the threat posed by Damien McCrory and was thus doing his job.

Regardless of all that, the referee soon blew his whistle to indicate half time. To throw a meaningless stat in, this was only the fourth time all season Daggers had gone in behind at the break when playing at Victoria Road. There was no question about it; we needed an improved second half performance if we were to get something from this game. With that, Wayne Burnett continued the theme of making bold substitutions. This time Louis Dennis was introduced for Medy Elito who had done nothing wrong by any means. It would however give Dennis his biggest opportunity to shine, having played bit part roles at Wycombe and at home to Chesterfield a couple of weeks ago.

Following a slow start to the second half, Daggers soon burst into life just after the 50 minute mark. Josh Scott received the ball by turning his man and skipping past two Albion challenges before rounding it off by executing a superb right foot finish past a helpless Stuart Tomlinson. The significance of the goal was huge. It was a superb solo effort, but more importantly it was on his weaker foot which he's been reluctant to use in past years.

Daggers were now the side in the ascendancy following Dennis' introduction and Scott's fantastic strike. Femi then abused his power as cult hero by taking on a speculative effort from the left when passing out wide would have been the better option. Needless to say Tomlinson gathered with ease whilst Louis Dennis was left with his hands on his hips in frustration. 

The game continued to be fought in the midfield, with chances few and far between for both sides. Daggers were now enjoying the majority of the possession and looked most threatening down the left without creating any clear cut chances. But on 73 minutes, the hosts nearly remedied their lack of creativity. Good interchange between Dennis & Femi saw the latter cross into the box where an Albion defender took the ball from Josh Scott after the frontman, clearly brimming with confidence, brought the ball down in expert fashion.

Both sides were struggling to create any clear cut chances. Substitute Paterson flashed his shot inches wide of the mark after combining well with Drury, before in the dying stages Jacques Maghoma's goalbound effort was blocked superbly by Luke Wilkinson. Despite three minutes of additional time, neither side could find another goal which meant the scores remained locked at 1-1. The referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the contest which left both sides with a share of the spoils.

Taking into account the two halves, no one could disagree that both sides deserved a point. Burton largely dominated the first 45, whilst Daggers kicked on and were on top in the second half. The introduction of Louis Dennis was a turning point with the young winger constantly looking to take on his man, giving Daggers a different outlet to what's usually available. It also highlights the bold management of Burnett who’s seemingly not afraid to make a change if the system isn't working.

Josh Scott.
Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the afternoon was Josh Scott. His excellent solo effort made sure we took an important point, but his performance was much more than that. He continued to work around the park, hustling the Burton defence before taking his chance extremely well. We also shouldn't underestimate the work Ben Strevens put in once again. Whilst he failed to create any chances, he gave 110% all over the pitch.

As for Burton, it's a crucial point for them. Victoria Road is a place where several sides pushing towards the top have slipped up this season - so they should see it as a valuable point in their quest for promotion. They're a well organised side and with the strike force available to them, I can definitely see them going up. I wish them good luck for the remainder of the season!

Our next game is one of the longest away trips of the season where we'll take on Fleetwood Town at Highbury. Unless there's a torrential downpour that calls the game off, you'll have a report from that one to read here on The Daggers Scale. Until then, have a good week and remember you can follow me on Twitter, @NickMurphyDRFC.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Daggers 2-2 Torquay, Rene Gives Pain Relief For Gulls.

Even with lady luck on our side, Dagenham & Redbridge boss Wayne Burnett is still searching for his first home win as manager after a disappointing 2-2 draw against Torquay. Daggers will feel as though they should have taken all 3 points having had the extra man for 87 minutes following Aaron Downes' mistimed challenge on Abu Ogogo early on. The converted spot kick from Medy Elito was cancelled out by Joss Labadie before Josh Scott restored the lead minutes before the end. Battling Torquay never gave up though and Rene Howe rewarded the 114 travelling diehards by dispatching his 89th minute spot kick in confident style to give the Gulls a share of the spoils.

Given our awful home record on Tuesday nights at Victoria Road, this wasn't a game I was confident about. That was despite Torquay's torrid run of form that had seen them lose seven of the last eight, a point at Accrington being their only solace. Almost significantly this match marked nearly a whole year since that encounter at home to Northampton on a Tuesday night where relegation seemed unavoidable. Move on a year and we're under new leadership and came into this off the back of a fantastic 2-1 win at promotion chasing Rotherham at the weekend.

After a quick pre match stop in the clubhouse which now has a pinball machine don't you know, we headed into the ground where the teams were announced as follows...

Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Hoyte, Doe, Wilkinson, Femi, Bingham, Saunders, Howell, Ogogo, Elito, Scott. Subs: Seabright, Gracco, Green, Maher, Dennis, Reed, Strevens.

Wayne Burnett opted to make a single change from the Daggers side that defeated Rotherham United at the weekend. Kevin Maher, who was withdrawn after 45 minutes in that game, was replaced by Billy Bingham in midfield as Daggers lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation once more. News earlier in the day also indicated that fan favourite Brian Woodall wouldn't be seen at Victoria Road for a while after agreeing to a loan spell at BSN side Bishops Stortford.

Torquay United: Poke, Oastler, Downes, Saah, Cruise, Mansell, Bodin, Labadie, Jarvis, Howe, Benyon. Subs: Rice, Nicholson, MacDonald, Lathrope, Stevens, Craig, Macklin.

Torquay Interim manager Alan Knill also chose to make a single change from the weekend's fixture against Oxford. Kevin Nicholson dropped to the bench which allowed former Arsenal defender Thomas Cruise to slot in at left back in a like for like change. The Gulls were looking for only a second win of 2013 and with a good recent record against the Daggers, they'd be hoping to find it here. 

With that we took our positions and the teams emerged from the tunnel to be greeted by the under-strength crowd on a cold Tuesday night. After completing the pleasantries which involved both captains deciding to remain as they were, the match kicked off.

Usually the opening of a match is quite uneventful and spectacularly un-dramatic. Yesterday though, it was anything but. Within minutes Abu Ogogo burst through down the left hand side thanks to a well weighted through ball before being hauled down inside the box by Aaron Downes. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and sending the unfortunate Downes off after just 3 minutes of play.

The crowd couldn't quite believe it - especially when you take into account exactly the same thing happened at the weekend away at Rotherham. The anticipation as Elito stepped up to take the penalty was high, but like at the weekend he slotted it away in calm fashion to give the Daggers a 1-0 lead. You began to feel a little sorry for Torquay at this point with all their rotten luck, however there was still considerable time for the visitors to make amends.

Despite the early goal, Daggers failed to kick on straight away. It took until 16 minutes to register their first real shot of the evening. Neat play on the right hand side resulted in Medy Elito curling a fine cross towards Josh Scott whose header was expertly tipped over the bar by Michael Poke. The hosts were now getting into their stride with Billy Bingham next to try his luck. 

One thing that has become abundantly clear under the short reign of Wayne Burnett so far is the precision and work taken on set pieces. After scoring with one at the weekend, Daggers came close with the same routine on 27 minutes. This time the ball was played into Luke Howell and but for the outstretched leg of a Torquay defender to divert the ball wide of the goal, Daggers would have found themselves two up.

The Daggers performance then took something of a plunge as the hosts failed to assert their man advantage going forward. We looked to play down the middle far too often which resulted in the Gulls breaking down the attack with the danger being cleared. Not enough play was going down the wing which was a shame as the combination of Josh Scott & Medy Elito was looking like a prominent one.

Torquay were lacking in confidence and with a man disadvantage it showed even more. Despite frequently challenging down the right, there was no one willing to take a gamble by getting into the box which meant the Gulls were restricted going forward. It nearly got even worse before half time for the visitors as Daggers came close from another corner. Matt Saunders' delivery was met by Scott Doe at the near post who could only flash his header into the side netting. 

With near enough the last kick (well, head) of the first half, Torquay registered their first opportunity of the match. Following the Daggers corner, the visitors broke down the right hand side. The ball was played to Joe Oastler who whipped in a delightful cross to the back post that found Rene Howe whose looping header just cleared the crossbar. With that, the referee blew his whistle and somewhat disappointingly considering how the half had started, Daggers went in 1-0 ahead.

Straight into the second half and Daggers opened on the front foot, creating two good opportunities in a matter of minutes. The first saw Josh Scott cross for Medy Elito who could only manage to divert the ball over the bar from several yards out when it seemed easier to score. Then seconds later, good combination play down the left from Femi allowed Elito another bite at the cherry. This time Elito defeated his man before cutting inside and curling a shot inches wide of the far post.

As the snow started falling from the Sky (As it generally does), the atmosphere over Victoria Road turned decidedly frosty as Torquay began to get on top in the game. Joss Labadie and Joe Oastler continued to menace the Daggers defence as the pair looked to evade their respective full backs on each side. Oastler was the more successful, sending in a succession of dangerous crosses into the box. 

Wayne Burnett then made a bold decision with 69 minutes played. Usually the "star player" remains on the field of play no matter how he is performing. Burnett though decided otherwise, withdrawing the ineffective Luke Howell for striker Ben Strevens. This decision especially pleased me as it's not something that's done enough when a "star player" is in the side - and for what it's worth he deserved to be replaced as well.
No longer Mission Impossible

After that, Torquay had the bit between their teeth as they looked to capitalise on a torrid Daggers display. Directly after the substitution the visitors came closer than they had done all evening. Tom Cruise's well timed free kick found the head of Brian Saah who forced Chris Lewington into a finger-tip save over the top to keep the scores level. From the resulting corner Torquay got the leveller they deserved. Lee Mansell's ball in was touched home by Joss Labadie to make it 1-1 and it was a goal that the visitors completely deserved. It wasn't Mission Impossible anymore for Alan Knill's men.

The home crowd were now on the back of the Daggers players. Had the Gulls made it 2-1 like they should have done straight after the equaliser, Victoria Road would have sounded more like Stamford Bridge. Intricate play between Rene Howe & Billy Bodin saw the former superbly intercepted by Scott Doe before the latter directed his free header into the arms of a grateful Chris Lewington. 

Dominic Green was then introduced for Billy Bingham as Daggers reverted to a 4-4-2 formation. Coincidentally it was also the first time Daggers have played with two wingers, (loosely described as), since 1963. There was no initial change though as Torquay continued to pile forward. Luke Macklin's effort was deflected wide of the mark whilst Joss Labadie's powerful free kick curled just wide of the near post to the relief of the Daggers crowd.

Just as all seemed lost for Daggers fans and the prospect of 3 points was slipping away, somehow we took the lead. Josh Scott's poacher like instincts sprung into action following Matt Saunders' cross-cum-shot on the right hand side. With the crowd roaring him on, Josh connected with the ball and turned it goalwards – the ball bouncing off of the underside of the bar before nestling in the back of the net.

The Sieve breathed a huge sigh of relief as Daggers had seemingly rescued a completely undeserved win. More to the point, everyone was delighted for Josh Scott. He needs goals to get his confidence back and I firmly believe that he can kick on from that strike and become the main forward that we so badly need. 

Back to the game though and with minutes left the Gulls had no other choice but to throw players forward in search of an equaliser. Having dominated for large parts of the second half with 10 men, it would have been nothing less than they deserved if they found the back of the net. 

Daggers were looking more resilient at the back now and were combating Gulls pressure well. That was until the 89th minute. A ball cleared out wide was played to Femi who tried to advance forward before being stopped in his tracks. The mercurial left back was forced to pass backwards to Dominic Green who was standing just yards away. His attempted clearance ricocheted off of a Torquay midfield before landing in the box. Luke Wilkinson attempted to clear the ball, but his high boot caught Luke Macklin and Keith Stroud rightly awarded the second penalty of the game.

Rene Howe stepped up to the spot to take the penalty to guarantee what would surely be a share of the spoils. He ran up and calmly slotted the ball beyond Chris Lewington sending the travelling supporters into raptures at the prospect of a well deserved, yet unlikely point. Despite minimal pressure towards the end, that's how the match finished which meant Torquay took a fantastic point away from Victoria Road.

Daggers didn't deserve the win, so a draw was a fair result. They'll be disappointed having had 10 men for 87 minutes that they didn't make the advantage count - and rightfully so. Against 10 men for the majority of the game, any side should win. But Daggers failed to show a lack of urgency and tempo in their game and allowed Torquay back into the contest in the second half. 

The real positive to take from the match was the performance of Josh Scott. The forward continued his impressive work from the weekend and transferred it back to Victoria Road and got a goal for his rewards. It seems like 4-1-4-1 is a system that favours him, rather than the 4-3-3 that we've persisted with for the past couple of years. Hopefully his performances will continue to improve and soon enough he'll be back to the Josh that we all know and love.

As for Torquay, I have to say - very impressed. From the moment after Downes was sent off, their team spirit was tremendous. Despite having a quiet first half, they dominated the second and no one can begrudge them the point. With the players they have and the team spirit that seemed evident, they should be able to avoid the drop. First things first though, they desperately need to get that monkey off their back of not having won in 10 games.

You also have to say that this result could act as a catalyst. Last year we were defeated nearly a year to the day all hope was gone. But we turned it around. You almost get the feeling this performance could act as a motivator for Torquay - a fresh start until the end of the season. I for one hope it does. 

Next up for Daggers is 2nd placed Burton Albion at home on Saturday. The games just get easier and easier don't they? You can read my report from that encounter here on Sunday, until then - have a good Friday and let’s hope we can come away with the win!

Remember, you can amuse yourself with my Tweets on Twitter, just follow @NickMurphyDRFC.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Rotherham United 1-2 Daggers, Wayne's World.

For any Dagenham & Redbridge supporters at the New York Stadium on Saturday afternoon, it's an afternoon they're unlikely to forget in a hurry. Goals from Medy Elito and Luke Wilkinson secured an important victory over the 10 man Millers who may feel slightly hard done by with the result. The real reason this victory means so much though comes in the form of Steve Evans. The Victoria Road outfit have now exacted double revenge over the pie eater extraordinaire having defeated the Millers by a 7-1 aggregate scoreline over the two meetings in this campaign.

Should you have asked Daggers fans before the game, the likelihood is that they'd have been expecting defeat. Rotherham were unbeaten in six and came into this off the back of a 4-0 away victory at Oxford in midweek. Dagenham meanwhile had won twice in their last ten outings with Wayne Burnett still looking for his first success as Interim manager following a draw and a defeat so far. The reverse fixture saw the Daggers win 5-0, but there wasn’t much hope of that this time around.

The journey to the deepest, darkest corner of Yorkshire began at 8:30am at Chadwell Heath Station. From there we travelled to Liverpool Street before jumping on the Metropolitan Line to Kings Cross. After a brief wait we boarded our train to Doncaster, where we arrived just shy of midday. The Northern Rail service from Doncaster to Rotherham was surprisingly well kept and bar a three minute delay all went according to plan, meaning we arrived in Rotherham just before 12:30.

After an unsurprising wait, we headed to the Bridge Inn. A good hour or so was spent in there, mainly in disbelief that Wigan had gone 3-0 up at Everton. An omen perhaps? I'm not too sure how it would be, but you have to grasp at anything when you support Daggers. After that we headed towards New York, where dreams are made of, by following the crumbling, narrow Yorkshire streets.

Upon arrival you see that Rotherham's new home is a gleaming, state of the art modern complex. It's probably one of the most impressive structures from the outside and it's instantly evident as to why it has been nominated for the prize of, "Best New Stadium", in the world. The fans gathered and entered through the turnstiles as we walked 3/4 of the way around the ground to find our entrance. Unsurprisingly there wasn't many Daggers fans queuing. Still, at least we know in the future we can get the cheapest possible tickets as they have barcode ticket scanners. 

We headed through to be greeted by a concrete structure that felt considerably warmer than the outside. With impressive facilities such as Sky TV and a well equipped tea-bar there was to be no complaints from any of our travelling faithful. As you walk up the steps you're met with one of the best interiors in the league. You wonder if the inside can meet the superb external of the stadium. But it can. If anything the four stands looked even better from the inside and you can really see why it's been nominated for such a prestigious award.

All four of the stands are different sizes and get gradually larger in stature if you go in a clockwise direction from the East Stand. The East & North Stands were the smallest two, but looked as though they would create the most noise as they were filling up fast. The West Stand is the main stand and it contains the dugouts, tunnel and the press boxes. They are all completed with metal and glass roofs that give a unique and modern feel to the stadium whilst allowing whatever light there was available, onto the pitch.

We however, we housed in the Morrison Stand which holds 2000 and unsurprisingly was all seated. We were given a section half the size of the stand which was more than enough. It offered an excellent unrestricted view of the proceedings despite being bloody cold thanks to a strong gusting wind throughout the afternoon. 

Just as we absorbed the features of the stadium, the teams were read out by the announcer as follows...

Rotherham United: Warrington, Davis, Mullins, Ridehalgh, Arnason, O'Connor, Pringle, Noble, Frecklington, Revell, Nardiello. Subs: Shearer, Tonge, Morgan, Rowe, Bradley, Odejayi, Agard.

Steve Evans remained with the starting XI that defeated Oxford United convincingly in midweek for the visit of Daggers. That meant the potent strike partnership of Alex Revell and Daniel Nardiello remained intact whilst midfield playmaker Ben Pringle continued to have a dominant role. Century old goalkeeper Andy Warrington continued to defy the retirement demands by coming out for the day once more.

Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Hoyte, Doe, Wilkinson, Femi, Saunders, Ogogo, Howell, Maher, Elito, Scott. Subs: Seabright, Green, Bingham, Strevens, Reed, Dennis, Gracco. 

Wayne Burnett sprung a surprise by making three changes from last Saturday's defeat to Chesterfield. Sam Williams, Dominic Green and Ben Strevens were all taken out of the side and replaced by Medy Elito, Kevin Maher and Josh Scott who had recently returned from a loan spell at Ebbsfleet. It also meant Daggers would be lining up in a more resilient 4-5-1 formation as we continued to build upon Burnett's unbeaten away record of one game.

With that the teams were paraded onto the pitch by the Millerettes, which sounds more like a musical instrument than football cheerleaders. After avoiding the money spider above our heads, we applauded the side and the very dapper looking Wayne Burnett as we hoped to witness a first win under the new manager. Annoyingly the sides then switched ends which meant Daggers would be attacking the Morrison End in the first half and Millers the North End.

The referee blew his whistle and we were off. Almost immediately Daggers were put under pressure. Luke Wilkinson fouled Alex Revell which allowed Michael O'Connor to get a shot away from the free kick. He stepped over the ball but luckily for Daggers he could only manage to direct it wide of the goal. 

After that early attempt, the game took a more subdued tempo for the next 10 minutes. Both sides looked to find their feet in the contest which saw a lot of misplaced passes in the midfield area. The visitors nearly created a chance when Josh Scott linked up well with Luke Howell, but the former just played his pass too short which allowed the tight Millers defence to clear the danger.

With little under 15 minutes played, Burnett's side squandered their first real chance of the afternoon. Matt Saunders delivered a corner deep into the back post where Medy Elito knocked it down for an unmarked Abu Ogogo who could only stab the ball over the bar from close range. A good chance that Abu probably should have done better with given the circumstances. 

Despite having the larger share of possession, Rotherham were unable to create any clear cut opportunities. Poor communication from Scott Doe & Chris Lewington nearly let them in on the 20 minute mark, but luckily Luke Wilkinson was on hand to clear behind for a corner. The corner came to nothing and Daggers were able to break. The visitors went straight up the other end and after a good passage of play on the left hand side Luke Howell saw his fierce effort plucked out of the air well by Andy Warrington between the posts.

With 27 minutes played the hosts nearly opened the scoring. Following sustained pressure, Michael O'Connor had the chance to try his luck from a free kick once more. Again he curled the ball around the wall but once again it bent just wide of Chris Lewington's near post with the majority of Millers fans believing it had crept it. Not long after, Frecklington had the home fans at it again, but his deflected strike was gathered well by Chris Lewington.

Alex Revell has been the thorn in Daggers side before, and he nearly returned to haunt the Essex club again. The former Orient striker made a fantastic run down the left hand side before having his shot blocked superbly by a recovering Scott Doe. Even though the Millers looked the more likely to break the deadlock, the Daggers defence were coping admirably so far.

The half time whistle edged ever closer but the Millers were relentless in their pursuit of the lead. In particular they were looking menacing down the wings, however full backs Femi and Gavin Hoyte remained sturdy in their positions. That was of course, until the 46th minute. Hoyte lost possession just outside his own area which allowed Rotherham a chance to break the deadlock. With Lee Frecklington bearing down on goal Chris Lewington spread himself and made a superb save to deny the Millers the lead.

That piece of action just about concluded the first half with the sides going in level at 0-0. Rotherham may have felt as though they deserved to go in with the lead, but ultimately they failed to take their chance’s which is what matters most. Daggers were holding their own, even if they weren’t creating many chances going forward.

An inspired changed by Wayne Burnett?
(Picture thanks to @dcdagger)
As the biting wind continued to bellow through the stadium, the teams soon re-emerged for the second half. Wayne Burnett also made first change of the afternoon. The lacklustre Kevin Maher was replaced by the far younger Billy Bingham as Daggers looked to inject some urgency into their play. The referee blew his whistle and we began once more.

After a brief stoppage for Luke Wilkinson's accidental on purpose kick towards the head of Alex Revell, the match came alive. First Luke Howell & Josh Scott both fluffed their lines inside the penalty area as Rotherham managed to clear the danger. And then, O'Connor who had been a persistent thorn going forward all afternoon, saw his long range volley fly way over the bar.

But after that, came the real drama. Medy Elito raced onto a speculative punt forward from Luke Wilkinson before being brought down just inside the box by defender Kari Arnason. The referee had no hesitation in sending Arnason off and pointing to the spot to give the Daggers a penalty. After the dramatics at Bradford City around 10 days ago, the question was, who would be taking the penalty?

Medy Elito scores it.
Thanks to @dcdagger once again for the picture.
It was Medy Elito. The man who had caused the drama at Bradford late last month would be taking the spot pick. The man who had bore the brunt of criticism from Daggers fans this season. The man who had scored against Rotherham in the 5-0 drubbing earlier in this season. He stepped up, and he directed his penalty straight down the middle, leaving Warrington with no chance. GOAL!  Cue delirious celebrations from the travelling supporters who were left in disbelief that their side had taken the lead. Up the other end though there were some unsavoury scenes as the Daggers players were pelted with bottles whilst enjoying their goal celebrations.

So with 30 minutes to go we were leading 1-0 at the home of Evans and we had the extra man! Surely nothing could go wrong from here? Well of course it could, we're Dagenham & Redbridge - we don't make things easy. And in a near repeat of Wembley, Rotherham went straight up the other end and levelled the scores. A corner from the left hand side found the unmarked Claude Davis who got to the ball first and headed home past a helpless Chris Lewington. Cue goal music and a look of resignation and despair upon the faces of Daggers fans in an expectant fashion.

The hosts now had the bit between their teeth and roared on by 7800 home supporters they began searching for the winner. Daniel Nardiello broke down the right hand side after getting past a persistent Femi before seeing his drilled cross go straight across the face of goal for a throw in. Then Alex Revell cut inside on the right and fired a fierce effort across goal that forced Chris Lewington into a full stretch save to divert the ball away from goal.

Medy Elito who was bearing the brunt of the home fans booing then came close to giving the Daggers a 2-1 lead. Good interchange between Elito and Josh Scott allowed Medy to break inside the box before blazing his close range effort over the bar. With little over 10 minutes left now in the contest you began to wonder if anyone would be able to find a winner.

The 124 Dagenham & Redbridge Fans.
But someone did. And once again Medy Elito was the architect. Elito who enjoyed his space down the wings all afternoon got down the right before being bundled over by Millers defender Claude Davis. The free kick was in a dangerous position, inches from the penalty area and inches from the by-line. Matt Saunders whose deliveries had been delivered with pin point accuracy all afternoon stepped up to take it.

After some scuffling in the box, Saunders fooled everyone by pulling the ball back to the onrushing Luke Wilkinson who calmly slotted the ball into the top corner of the net with an accurate finish. The goal may have been calmly scored, but the celebrations were most certainly not. More delirium in the away end and another sense of disbelief as now held a fantastic 2-1 lead over Steve Evans men with little over 5 minutes remaining in the match.

The New York Stadium was silenced as the songs rang out from the Morrison Stand once more. Medy Elito received a standing ovation upon his exit from the playing proceedings, making way for the loftier and stronger Ben Strevens to come on.

Rotherham continued to come forward in search of another equaliser. With 87 minutes played, they came within inches of finding it. Lee Frecklington was fouled on the edge of the box which gave Ben Pringle the chance to secure a draw for the Millers. It looked for the world that his crisp strike was heading into the top corner, but at the last second it thundered off of the bar and out for a goal kick. Relief, massive relief for Daggers fans.

At this point I had a crick in my neck thanks to persistent turning to the scoreboard to check if it was 90 minutes yet. It was, and the fourth official stuck a warranted 5 minutes of injury time onto his board. Rotherham continued to pour forward in search of a leveller, but it just wouldn't come. In scenes reminiscent of the Play Off final, Andy Warrington came forward for a corner in the dying embers of the game - but no one connected and it went out for a throw.

With the overload of Rotherham attackers it left lots of space at the back for Daggers to exploit should they get the ball. With 90 seconds left they did just that and Luke Howell will feel as though he should have scored. A neat flick on from Billy Bingham allowed Howell through on goal and the Daggers top scorer chipped the ball wide of the mark when it would have been easier to score. Soon after the goal kick, the referee blew the final whistle to signal the end of the match and allow Daggers fans to let out a triumphant cheer. We had beaten Steve Evans - not once; but twice.

Savour It. 

The real hero of the day however, despite the performances on the pitch - was the lucky money spider that continued to hover overhead from 2:30pm until the end of the match. If he wasn't there, you have to cast serious doubt over whether we'd have won that match. Sadly now though he's probably in the belly of big fat Steve - but he gave a vital service when it was needed. We salute you!

In all seriousness though, all Dagenham & Redbridge players played a part on Saturday afternoon. I was happy for Josh Scott in particular. He may have only had once chance from a Bingham cross, but he made his presence felt and done a lot more than our other strikers have done recently. At the moment I think he'd definitely be in my side that starts against Torquay.

What should also be applauded is the decision making of Wayne Burnett. At half time he made the superb decision to replace the ineffective Kevin Maher with the energetic Billy Bingham - a decision that proved to be something of a game changer. He had a superb second half and along with Matt Saunders & Luke Howell looked even better as the game progressed.

Medy Elito didn't have his best game despite my lauding him, but his work for the two goals is what we need to see more of. He caused problems, serious problems that led to the two goals. If he can do that every week, he'll gain the support of the whole of Victoria Road. The defence was exemplary throughout, Femi in particular let nobody past him whilst I'd say the centre half pairing of Luke Wilkinson & Scott Doe is one of the strongest in the league.

As for the result as a whole, we probably didn't deserve the three points. But that doesn't matter at the end of the day because we took our chances. And that's something that we haven't done enough in the past 3 years or so let alone the past 7 months. It makes a pleasant change for us to be the victors in that sort of situation and let's be honest; it couldn't have come on a better day could it?

With those 3 points we should have near enough secured our survival in League Two for another year. We're not there yet, but we should be able to garner another 5 points before the end of the season. Hopefully we can get back to back wins when we take on Torquay United on Tuesday night who are currently enduring a torrid run of form. Let's cheer on the boys and make it certain!

Remember you can follow me on Twitter, @NickMurphyDRFC.