Monday, 26 August 2013

Daggers 1-1 Newport County, Hines Means Beans!

Dagenham & Redbridge extended their unbeaten league run to three matches on Saturday afternoon courtesy of a 1-1 draw with newly promoted Newport County. Abu Ogogo's strike midway through the second half cancelled out Chris Zebroski's early effort as both sides left Victoria Road with a point a piece. 

Pre-match there was a good level of optimism following on from last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Scunthorpe. The second half performance at Glanford Park was one of the best Daggers have produced under Wayne Burnett, if that could be translated into a full 90 at home then we stood a good chance of picking up 3 points. Nevertheless Newport couldn't be underestimated. With momentum still carrying on from last year’s promotion, the Exiles had taken 6 points from a possible 9 available, with their attack forming the basis of their current good form.

With the rain drizzling down overhead, there was no stop in the clubhouse this week, only time to meet up in the pie & mash shop and head down to Victoria Road. As we entered, the rain grew heavier which was made increasingly evident by the sparse nature of the Bury Road End. Well would you be mad enough to stand out in it? Then again, we're all mad enough to be here in the first place.

Just as we found our spot in the Sieve, the teams emerged from the tunnel to warm applause from all four sides of the stadium. The pre-match rituals were completed with haste whilst the line ups rang out from overhead.

Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Femi, Saah, Doe, Hoyte, Ogogo, Howell, Elito, Scott, Murphy, Woodall. Subs: Seabright, Bingham, Obafemi, Wilkinson, Dennis, Connors, Hines.

Despite the availability of fit again centre half Luke Wilkinson; Wayne Burnett persevered with the same side that picked up a point last weekend against Scunthorpe. The front three of Murphy, Scott and Woodall continued with Medy Elito supporting them from just behind. Zavon Hines, who signed on a one year deal during the week, had to be content with a spot on the home bench.

Newport County: Pidgeley, Pipe, Hughes, Sandell, Naylor, Worley, Chapman, Minshull, Willmott, Zebroski, Jolley. Subs: Stephens, James, Jackson, Flynn, Crow, Washington.

With the teams lined up and ready to go, the referee blew his whistle to get the contest underway. Within minutes of the start, County 'keeper Lenny Pidgeley was called into action. Medy Elito drove down the middle of the pitch before releasing Josh Scott on the right who after taking a touch, shot straight at Pidgeley, allowing the former Chelsea 'stopper to make a comfortable save. 

The hosts continued their early pressure soon after with Rhys Murphy firing over from just outside the box. With little over 5 minutes played, Chris Lewington was forced into a brilliant diving stop to deny Christian Jolley's goalbound volley from Chris Zebroski's pin point cross. A terrific piece of goalkeeping from Lewington who continues to cement himself as one of the division’s best shot stoppers.

Newport soon began to clasp a foothold in the game and should have taken the lead when Jolley crossed for Zebroski, only for the ex-Torquay forward to fire over from close range. Despite their dangerous looking attack, the visitors were looking decidedly shaky at the back. And it showed once more 20 minutes in, when Rhys Murphy found space on the left and shot just wide of Lenny Pidgeley's goal from a tight angle. 

Doe was at fault, amongst others.
Thanks to the open nature of the game, it wasn't long before we saw the first goal of the afternoon. Josh Scott was caught in possession going forward and after neat play in the middle of the park, Chris Zebroski skipped past Femi, Brian Saah and Scott Doe before unleashing an assured finish past Chris Lewington and into the corner of the net. It sent the Exiles into a somewhat deserved 1-0 lead as the rain continued to lash down on Victoria Road.

Daggers and in particular Josh Scott, looking to avenge his earlier mistake, sprung back into action following the goal. Josh picked up the ball just outside the box, dropped his shoulder to beat a defender before turning and striking a shot which Pidgeley gathered at the second attempt. Newport were quickly up the other end and but for a timely deflection, would have found themselves two goals ahead. 

With half-time approaching, a goal looking increasingly unlikely and the rain coming down to such an extent that the pitch was barely visible - most were clamouring for the half-time whistle. There was time for one more opportunity, a cross-cum-shot on the left hand side whistling wide of the far post much to the relief of Pidgeley. Nevertheless the referee soon ended everyone's misery and brought an end to a dismal first half. 

The half time break was uneventful at best, with the rain continuing to teem down on the metal roof of the Sieve. The situation was made even worse with the news that once again, my Saturday afternoon bet was failing to materialise into cold, hard cash. One day I'll win, one day.

Before the second half could begin, Wayne Burnett opted to make a striking double substitution. The average Medy Elito and Josh Scott (presumably taken off as punishment for his mistake), were replaced by Billy Bingham in centre midfield and new signing Zavon Hines in order to add a more creative edge. 

Despite the second half subs, it was Newport that looked the more likely to score as the half began. Andy Sandell saw his first effort blocked behind by Gavin Hoyte, whilst Chris Lewington was soon on hand to palm away Tom Naylor's close range header. The two sides then traded blows, Lee Minshull firing a strike past the post before Luke Howell saw his effort from the edge of the box parried away by Pidgeley. 

With the half wearing on it becoming increasingly likely that the visitors would double their lead, rather than Daggers finding an equaliser. On 56 minutes Adam Chapman's volley fell for Andy Sandell who could only fire agonisingly over the bar from close range. 

But just two minutes later, Daggers found their equaliser. Gavin Hoyte's far post delivery was met by Abu Ogogo who bundled the ball home to make it 1-1. Newport boss Justin Edinburgh acted quickly and in a surprise move replaced standout performer Christian Jolley, with forward Conor Washington, who once trialled with Daggers. 

With the game now at level pegging, both sides felt as though three points were there for the taking. First Robbie Willmott had an effort blocked by goalscorer Ogogo, whilst up the other end Zavon Hines' mazy run resulted in a lazy shot that was easily blocked by former Aldershot man, Sandell. The introduction of Hines at half time acted as a catalyst for Daggers who now had a creative spark in the side willing to take players on and crucially get down the wings.

On 73 minutes Justin Edinburgh opted to make his second change of the afternoon, replacing Robbie Willmott with Michael Flynn, now in his third spell with the Exiles. Despite the change, Daggers continued to pressure in the same way that Newport had late in the first half. The mercurial Zavon Hines unlocked the fragile County defence once more, advancing forward before firing a deflected shot into the body of Pidgeley who was on hand to deny Daggers once more.

As we headed into the final 10 minutes of the match, the visitors thought they had snatched all three points. Directly from Rhys Murphy's cross, County broke upfield, but from a tight angle with minimal home defending, Lee Minshull could only manage to find the side netting. The break in play following the missed chance saw Edinburgh make his final substitution, bringing on Danny Crow for the impressive Chris Zebroski.

Perennial thorn in the Daggers side, Minshull continued to look like the most likely scorer after the substitution. Particularly adept in the air, he first managed to glance a header wide of the post before minutes later he came even closer, directing the ball just inches the wrong side of the near post after being left completely unmarked. 

After Newport's near miss, it was the turn of the hosts to come agonisingly close to finding a winner themselves. The talismanic Hines who had been a danger ever since being introduced skipped past several defenders before curling another effort just a yard or so wide of Pidgeley's post. 

And then minutes later a change by Wayne Burnett, Afolabi Obafemi being brought on for Rhys Murphy, nearly heralded a goal. The pacey forward beat Derby loanee Tom Naylor to the byline, before cutting inside and hitting a shot that beat Pidgeley, but not Andy Hughes on the line whose last gasp clearance denied Daggers a near certain victory.

Into stoppage time and back up the other end Newport were awarded a late, late corner. These days at Victoria Road, corners are bemoaned as much as penalties, such is our inferior defending from set-pieces. Luckily though, Andy Sandell's corner was headed over the bar which ultimately wrapped up proceedings. A point a-piece for Edinburgh and Burnett, with both sides remaining in the top half of the table.

The game itself was very end to end and for both sides to come away with a point is the right outcome. Daggers looked much improved following the introduction of Zavon Hines, with the winger providing an injection of pace and creativity as mentioned above. Luke Howell meanwhile ran the show in the middle of the park and alongside Billy Bingham in the second half, an effective pairing was formed. Bingham's calm nature on the ball accompanied Howell's engine-room like qualities magnificently.

Newport on the other hand have some impressive qualities of their own. Despite looking decidedly shaky at the back, going forward they're not to be messed with. The goal threat of Zebroski alongside Christian Jolley is clear, not to mention the added potency of Conor Washington who came off the bench. It accompanied a strong aerial threat from Minshull in particular. Even with their defensive frailties and their tendency to allow opponents too much time on the ball, I've seen enough to suggest Newport will finish in the top half.

The league this year seems to be full of sides who are dangerous going forward, but suspect at the back. Home form will be key for both Newport and Daggers this year, with the former having already picked up 6 points from 6 at Rodney Parade. Wayne Burnett's side relied heavily on away performances last season, but this year we look like a far tougher outfit at Victoria Road, whilst remaining more than competent on the road.

Next week Daggers travel to Mansfield Town in a game that for one reason or another has been designated all ticket. This means you cannot buy your matchday ticket on the day, it must be bought in advance. Newport meanwhile face West Bromwich Albion in the League Cup tomorrow evening, and for that match I wish them the best of luck! I won't be at Field Mill next week, so we'll reconvene in a week or so after either the Colchester or Exeter City match.

Remember you can follow me on Twitter, @NickMurphyDRFC. Enjoy your week and here's hoping for a Daggers victory on Saturday!

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