Monday, 29 April 2013

Daggers 0-1 York City, Survival Saturday.

And so after 45 games, it came down to a single 90 minutes. Aldershot Town, AFC Wimbledon, Barnet, Plymouth Argyle, Torquay United, York City and of course, Dagenham & Redbridge were all still in the mix come 15:00 Saturday afternoon. It would be 90 minutes of agony, 90 minutes of anxiousness and maybe, just maybe 90 minutes of ecstasy. But overall it would be an experience and one that no supporter of the above mentioned clubs will ever forget.

In the clubhouse before the match there was a mix of optimism and pessimism as you may expect. With so many permutations, the situation was almost impossible to predict. A win, a draw or a defeat could have seen us safe dependent on other results. The two crucial games beside our own were AFC Wimbledon vs Fleetwood and Northampton vs Barnet. The Wombles had to win such was there inferior goal difference, whilst a draw would do for Barnet providing Daggers were defeated at home to York.

After a quick cider we waded through the packed hall back into the light of the outside before heading through the turnstiles. It's a very unusual sight seeing queues outside the turnstiles, but a welcome one nonetheless. After heading through it was clear we would have a bumper attendance, with 20 minutes until kick off there was little room to manoeuvre in the Sieve, whilst the Bury Road End was packed to the non-existent rafters. 

At the other end the Traditional Builders Stand was full to the brim with 1200 passionate York fans roaring on their team to survival. Only an extreme set of results would see the Minstermen relegated and as such the travelling supporters were in a vibrant and cheerful mood. With several upbeat songs playing over the tannoy, the teams were soon announced.

Dagenham & Redbridge: Seabright, Ogogo, Doe, Wilkinson, Femi, Elito, Maher, Howell, Bingham, Ogogo, Scott, Woodall. Subs: Lewington, Fortune, Saunders, Reed, Strevens, Shariff, Hoyte.

Wayne Burnett continued with his chop and change philosophy by making three changes from the side that was so callously defeated last weekend at Aldershot. Jordan Seabright returned in place of the not fully fit Chris Lewington, whilst Medy Elito and Brian Woodall were restored to the side in place of Matt Saunders and Jake Reed. It meant that the ideal strike partnership of Brian Woodall and Josh Scott would get a chance to flourish in the most important game in Daggers history.

York City: Ingham, Oyebanjo, Smith, McGurk, Parslow, O'Connell, Blair, Platt, Reed, Walker, Chambers. Subs: Jameson, Fyfield, Challinor, McLaughlin, Allen, Reed, Coulson.

With the atmosphere and tension building, the teams emerged from the tunnel to be greeted by 3800 passionate supporters. Daggers fans had heeded the call to, "Pack the Vic" and as such one of the best atmospheres in quite some time was created in the Sieve. The players applauded the three sides of the ground for the final time this season before getting set up for York City to kick the game off.

With the clock at 15:02, the most important game in Dagenham & Redbridge's short history had begun. Almost instantly phones were being checked to find out the scores from around the grounds. The match at Victoria Road started slowly, with only the linesman's offside flag prevented York from taking an early lead through Ashley Chambers. Daggers soon claimed dominance and looked threatening on the break, only the covering York defender denying Josh Scott a clear run through on goal.

News then came through from Spotland that Plymouth defender Max Blanchard had seen red, something that could potentially help Daggers if Dale could take the lead. Back at Victoria Road and the hosts came close once more soon after, with Brian Woodall heading Medy Elito's whipped delivery wide of the post. 

Chances soon began to be few and far between, with both sides entangled in a battle in the middle of the park. Femi looked to be at his peak and but for an exaggerated touch would have been through into the box. As the game reached its quarter mark, it became more stretched allowing for opportunities for both sides. Luke Howell's free kick was dealt with well by the York defence before up the other end Ashley Chambers' driven delivery evaded everyone, including the York front line.

Meanwhile at Plainmoor, luck seemed to be in Daggers' favour as Bristol Rovers took the lead against Torquay United. With current results that would see Wayne Burnett's side up one place above the Gulls in the League Two table. Dagenham continued to look the more dangerous as the half wore on with Billy Bingham's goal-bound strike superbly blocked by David McGurk. 

With the first half coming to an end, there was a final chance for Daggers after Matty Blair fouled Medy Elito just outside the area. Brian Woodall was the sole man over the ball and his dipping strike bounced agonisingly off the post before going out for a goal kick. Cries of "ooh's" and "aah's" could be heard from supporters in the Sieve who thought the sweetly struck strike was in. 

That was the final action of a tense first half and it was a scoreline that coupled with other results, would have seen Daggers safe. With the only goal at the bottom of the table coming for Bristol Rovers against Torquay, it was essentially, "as you were" in the search for survival. Nevertheless it remained tense around Victoria Road with both sets of supporters knowing a single goal could change the whole complexion at the bottom of the table. That was coupled with anxiety and anger that the Barnet game had kicked off five minutes late for the second weekend running.

After the Daggerettes had finished their routine, the teams re-emerged onto the pitch. Daggers would be facing the Bury Road End whilst York would be firing towards their own fans in the Traditional Builders Stand. The second half began in much the same style as how the first had ended, with Daggers on the front foot. Luke Wilkinson's tame header was gathered well by Ingham before the Scotsman had to be at his best to deny Woodall's 25 yard effort minutes later.

From the resulting corner Woodall had the best chance of the game so far to put the hosts in front. With the ball bobbling in the box, it fell perfectly for the former Gresley man on the turn but he snatched at his shot, sending the ball wildly over the bar and out for a goal kick - much to the frustration of Daggers fans. 

Then in similar fashion to last weekend's defeat, the Daggers allowed their opponents more time and space on the ball to pressure the defence. That was coupled with potentially disastrous news from Kingesmeadow, where Gary Alexander had given AFC Wimbledon the lead. Agony soon turned into relief minutes later when it emerged that Fleetwood had found a quick equaliser through Andy Mangan. Meanwhile at Plainmoor the score was now 2-2 which would ensure safety for Torquay United.

Back at Victoria Road and York were becoming gradually more dominant. The Daggers midfield seemed to lack urgency and where everything clicked in the first half, it seemed far too disjointed now.

York City Fans
But with 68 minutes gone, Chris Smith put Football League survival on a knife edge. Michael Ingham's punted free kick found Smith in the box who after taking a second to steady himself slotted the ball through the legs of Jordan Seabright to the delight of the 1159 travelling supporters. The Traditional Builders stand roared whilst the Sieve stood silent, if ever there was a contrast to be made - that was it.

After seconds of staring blankly into the distance, several supporters shouted cries of encouragement as the Sieve got back on their feet to reunite and cheer on the team. That's what a relegation battle does to you; it releases emotion that wouldn't otherwise be there in other games this season. As it stood we were still safe, but only just.

Then came the news that we'd all been dreading. AFC Wimbledon had re-taken the lead through Jack Midson which meant Daggers slipped even closer to the relegation zone. People looked despairingly at their phones, hoping it was a mistake - but it wasn't. In a similar fashion to Aldershot last weekend, the atmosphere turned eerie. We all feared a situation like this, and now our hopes rested on Northampton finding a goal against Barnet.

As a result of Barnet kicking off late which I was rather dubious about, it distorted the relegation picture. Amongst cries of happiness in the Sieve we soon learned that Northampton had taken the lead at Sixfields which meant we moved out of the relegation zone at the expense of Bees. Jubilation followed, although with a slender one goal lead we were all aware that the picture could soon change.

The volume was soon cranked up a notch with the introduction of Jake Reed for Medy Elito as Daggers pushed forward in search of an equaliser. Cheers erupted once more as news came through that Northampton had doubled their lead against Barnet. It meant that for Daggers to go down, Barnet would have to find two goals against one of the meanest home defences in League Two.

Daggers continued to push forward and looked at their most threatening through Brian Woodall. First the rejuvenated frontman had his effort blocked before Billy Bingham's narrow drive was deflected wide for a corner following Woodall's pin point pass. With the game reaching its climax, even the players began to show nerves, with Billy Bingham asking one supporter for the score at Sixfields. 

With time running out at all of the grounds, Rochdale took the lead against Plymouth to leave Pilgrims fans on edge. Torquay were now 3-2 up as well which virtually guaranteed Alan Knill's side safety. With all the scores coming in it was even more frustrating that Daggers were unable to find an equaliser. The hosts were limited to long range efforts and really failed to exploit the wings enough, especially down the left where Femi had looked so dangerous in the first half.

Woodall's Effort Was Saved By Ingham
The clock ticked over and we went into injury time for the final time this season. With three minutes on the board, Daggers fans let out an almighty roar to drive the team forward. And it nearly worked. First the ball fell to Howell whose rocket shot was somehow palmed away by Ingham before the 'keeper got up to deny Brian Woodall's half volley on the follow up. It was spectacular stuff from Ingham who had cemented his man of the match award.

It was now corner after failed corner for the hosts who were unable to find an equaliser. The referee soon blew his whistle to the triumphant cheers of the York fans. But Daggers were left in purgatory - a state of not knowing. Even with Northampton's two goal lead, with Barnet you just never know. The most nervous five minutes of our lives ensued, with tension building, the first scream and the first cheer came through. We had done it. We had survived on the final day. Barnet were relegated into the Conference amidst manic celebrations in the Sieve.

A sense of relief swept around the supporters that remained in the ground. If you listened close enough, you could probably even hear the cheers from the dressing room. What's more is we had done it by just five goals - which is ridiculous. For relegation to be decided by five goals is unbelievably cruel, moreover it shows the importance of having a goalscorer for the first part of the season when we were at our best.

The players soon came back out to do their customary lap of the pitch, with Wayne Burnett high-fiving supporters and praising them for their support. When the team were near the dugouts and surrounded by the stewards, the club made the unusual step of allowing fans onto the pitch. It allowed for that community club atmosphere as the 500 or so remaining fans descended towards the other side of the pitch where the player of the season presentation was taking place.

Wayne Burnett's speech was then cut short as the microphone decided to stop working. Still, it was a nice touch from the club to allow supporters onto the pitch. No one tried to tear down the goalposts, although several attempted to re-enact goals from years gone by. With the Great Escape playing, we headed out of the turnstiles for the last time this season...and straight into the clubhouse. Well, what else are you going to do? 

With the upstairs bar understandably packed, we headed down to the hall to celebrate before the supporter’s club player of the season presentation. Unfortunately, I didn't make it that far. Drinking eight ciders when you've only had breakfast is not a healthy combination, and as a result I may have been slightly (very) drunk. I woke up back home this morning though, which was a result of sorts. Still, it was a terrific day and a terrific evening.

Upon reflection, I think it's fair to say we were rather lucky to stay up, by five goals - I really can't emphasise that enough. We desperately need our home form to improve next season, but we've got the best part of three months to improve on that. Not only that, but hopefully Wayne Burnett gets the job on a full time basis. Aside from being a top bloke off the pitch, he has the belief to "transform" us into a easier on the eye side for some of our supporters. You can't truly judge a manager on a squad they've inherited and two months work. The slate is now wiped clean and we begin again in August with fresh ideas, a new permanent manager and renewed optimism.

As for York, I'm glad they stayed up. Despite it being a more Northern league next year, they have fantastic supporters and a great ground which I'm looking forward to going back to next
season. From what I heard yesterday their supporters were friendly at the end of the game as well, so best of luck to them over the Summer and into next season!

With us there are some positives to take despite our finishing position. Several players have really shone this season, most notably Luke Howell and Luke Wilkinson amongst others. And again, surprisingly enough our defence has been a strong point this year. In only five games have we lost by two or more goals, but we desperately need to improve when we go behind. 

I for one cannot wait to report on our first game back and hopefully unlike a lot I've done this season, we start with a win. There will be several specials over the Summer including a player review, a season review and hopefully an interview with one or two connected with the club. Until my next post, enjoy yourself and never stop looking at that League Two table - because it's truly something to behold.

Remember you can follow my Summer musings on Twitter by following, @NickMurphyDRFC.


  1. Seems a decent article from the Daggers point of view.
    However this is incorrect:

    "It mirrored our meeting earlier in the season where despite a confident start, the Essex side failed to kick on and extend their early lead."

    D and R never led in the game at Bootham Crescent in October.

  2. just stumbled across this article- im a york fan who was at the game- and it was indeed a superb day from my point of view! this is a great article and will now keep looking at this blog, looks impressive!! if you find time, feel free to look at my football blog and give feedback if you can, it would be appreciated mate! its, but do excuse the title if/when you go on it!