After two successive defeats to open the season, Dagenham & Redbridge finally got their league campaign up and running yesterday with an assured 2-0 victory over York City. Rhys Murphy and Brian Woodall bagged the goals for the Daggers who pick up their first three point haul at Victoria Road since last February's encounter against Cheltenham Town. More importantly it was also Wayne Burnett's first home victory as Daggers boss, marking the end of his home hoodoo as manager.
Ahead of the game I have to admit I wasn't particularly optimistic. To be more accurate, I assumed that like last season’s home meeting with York, we would lose by the odd goal in a tight affair. But still, if we were to perform as we had done against Brentford on Tuesday night, we stood more than a fighting chance of taking not just one, but three points from the travelling Minstermen.
Having had a quick couple of ciders in the clubhouse, we headed down, out and through the turnstiles to be greeted by the evergreen Victoria Road pitch for the first time this season. The foxholes that had been exposed scandalously on "92 Live" had been covered for the opening game, and we were ready to go. The teams emerged from the tunnel and were announced over the tannoy as follows...
Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Femi, Doe, Saah, Hoyte, Howell, Ogogo, Elito, Scott, Murphy, Woodall. Subs: Seabright, Connors, Afolabi, Bingham, Reed, Shields, Dennis.
Wayne Burnett made a single change from the Tuesday night league cup defeat at Brentford, bringing in Brian Woodall up front for Jake Reed. It ensured Daggers lined up with a front three packed with vibrancy, and hopefully with goals.
York City: Ingham, Oyebanjo, Davies, Smith, McGurk, Coulson, Chambers, Montrose, Platt, Jarvis, Cresswell.
With the teams announced and everyone in place, the pre-match pleasantries completed the referee blew his whistle to get the contest underway.
After an initial slow start, Daggers slowly imposed their authority on proceedings ten minutes in. First Josh Scott skewed a tame shot wide of the post, whilst Medy Elito was soon stopped in his tracks down the left hand side. The hosts failed to make their early advantage count, allowing their opponents back into the game with a string of crosses that were defended well by the Daggers defence.
York continued their assault on the Daggers goal as we reached the twenty minute mark, with Abu Ogogo's goalline clearance the only barrier denying the visitors from taking the lead. Scott Doe and Brian Saah had to be at their sharpest to deny Richard Cresswell going forward as Nigel Worthington's side sought reward for their hard work. Chris Lewington was soon on guard to deny an Oyebanjo header, whilst another strike from Cresswell was dealt with well by the home defence.
Despite the fervent York pressure, it was the hosts who came closest as the half wore on. Brian Woodall in particular got pulses racing with two spectacular efforts. The first drifted tamely wide of the post, but the second was mesmeric. After receiving the ball on the left hand side, Woodall took a single touch before turning and firing a rasping effort over Michael Ingham and onto the roof of the net. Had it gone in, it would have been real Van Basten stuff.
But Daggers did take the lead soon after. A hopeful punt downfield by Gavin Hoyte was met by Brian Woodall, who, after a smart turn laid the ball through to the onrushing Rhys Murphy. The Irishman who netted last week at Fleetwood rounded Michael Ingham before slotting home coolly into the back of the net. That's how you do it Daggers! It all seems so simple when you give the ball to a Murphy, doesn't it?
The half ended in much the same way as it had begun, with a midfield tussle cancelling out both sides' creative input. Medy Elito offered a significant threat for the hosts, while Chris Lewington had to remain vigilant to deny David McGurk's goalbound effort on the stroke of half time. But sure enough after a minute of additional play, the referee drew a close to the first half with Daggers leading by a goal to nil.
After an uneventful half time period, the action was soon back underway with Michael Coulson firing a shot inches wide of the post for the visitors. Despite early pressure from York, it was the hosts who forced the first save of the second period. After good play down the left Medy Elito cut in and drew an assured stop from Ingham, before Femi predictably sliced the follow up strike into the advertising hoardings.
With it becoming evident his York side were lacking going forward, Nigel Worthington acted to make a change on 60 minutes. It was a like for like swap in midfield, with Craig Clay replacing Lewis Montrose as the Minstermen went in search of the creative input they dearly lacked. Unfortunately it only worked to fire the Daggers up even more, with Brian Woodall going close soon after with another shapshot on the edge of the box.
Wes Fletcher was then introduced for Ashley Chambers as York continued to hunt down that elusive equaliser. Again it only served to give Daggers the initiative, this time Medy Elito curled a shot just wide of the post. The York pressure soon subsided, giving the hosts the chance to put the game out of sight. And but for Scotsman, Michael Ingham tipping Rhys Murphy's effort wide of the post they would have done just that.
Daggers then made a change of their own, with Billy Bingham replacing Luke Howell in midfield. Directly after the change, Daggers extended their lead. Medy Elito took control on the left before picking out Brian Woodall with a sublime ball across the park. Upon receiving the pass, Woodall took a single touch to beat his man before toe-poking home the finish off of the post and into the back of the net. Cue celebrations in the Sieve and a somersault from an exuberant Woodall, his first goal since January.
The goal from Woodall effectively sealed the contest, yet there was still time for substitute Afolabi Obafemi to blast over from five yards out – a gilt edge chance for the youngster. Nevertheless it's a much needed win for Daggers, and a win that has ended Wayne Burnett's home jinx in the process. The victory lifts the Essex outfit up to 12th in the standings after two games, whisper it quietly but we're only a point from the play-offs (too soon for optimism, eh?)
Still, there were plenty of positives to take from the victory. The most poignant perhaps was the performance of Medy Elito. It's a new season with a relatively new manager and he seems like a new player. He took players on, got past them and managed to get opposition players booked - as a winger that's what he should be doing. He looks rejuvenated under Burnett, long may it continue.
The front three performed very well, it seems clear they already have that sort of striking bond you need if a team is to be successful. Rhys Murphy in particular looks like a terrific signing; meanwhile it's evident that Brian Woodall has his confidence back.
So after that victory we now move on to Saturday, where we make our first ever trip to Glanford Park in our first ever meeting with Scunthorpe United. I shall be there to witness this no doubt historic occasion, so make sure you read my musings on Monday! Until then, have a great week and remember to follow me on Twitter, @NickMurphyDRFC.