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.
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.