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.
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.