Monday, 19 August 2013

Scunthorpe United 1-1 Daggers, Howell's About That!

After a defeat and a victory from their opening two games, Dagenham & Redbridge completed the set on Saturday with a creditable 1-1 draw against Scunthorpe United at Glanford Park. In what was a tight affair, all of the action came in the final 20 minutes of the contest. Late goals from Chris Mirfin and Luke Howell ensured both sides took a share of the spoils in the first ever meeting between the two clubs. 

Ahead of the game there was cause for optimism. Despite an opening day defeat at Fleetwood, last weekend's 2-0 victory over York left many believing that we had a chance against the Iron. Our forward play in the first two matches had been admirable, with only the defence, and in particular our defending from set-pieces letting us down. Against a powerful Scunthorpe side, that was inevitably going to cause problems.

With all of the afternoon to look forward to, we set off from Chadwell Heath at around 8:20 before arriving at Kings Cross just over an hour later. We soon boarded our "Hull Trains" connection to Doncaster where we changed onto the TransPennine Express, arriving at the quaint Scunthorpe station just after 12:30. We quickly found a cab company and departed for Glanford Park where upon arrival, we were denied access to the Iron Bar. Apparently there's not enough room for away fans, although it was only half empty when we arrived.

That setback aside, we soon found a pub/restaurant willing to take us in for the afternoon. After hiding Harry's Bombardier's in a hedge outside (No, really), we went in for some pre-match drinks. After a good couple of hours inside the Farmhouse, which is neither a farm nor a house, we exited and headed for the stadium as kick-off approached.

Upon entering the stadium, you're greeted with a narrow concrete pathway and a tunnel which leads out into the remainder of the four stands. Glanford Park is quite a small arena, but one that can probably generate a terrific atmosphere when full up. Three parts seating and one part terrace, it has a traditional feel despite being a relatively modern build. The stadium itself is quite a simple one, with all stands the same in height and adjoining onto one another to create a bowl like shape. 
The South Stand.

Due to the anticipated low number of travelling supporters, Scunthorpe fans were given use of all four stands within the stadium meaning Daggers were housed in the Clugston overspill area in the East Stand. Usually visiting supporters are given the 1678 capacity South Stand, but on our visit that was reserved for families and those with promotional tickets. 

Soon after we arrived, "Hi Ho Silver Lining" rung out over the PA system as the atmosphere began to build ahead of kick off. With 3500 supporters inside the ground ready and waiting, the teams emerged from the tunnel to a ripple of applause.

Scunthorpe United: Slocombe, Dawson, Mirfin, Canavan, Nolan, McAllister, Hawkridge, Sparrow, Collins, Burton, Winnall. 

Daggers: Lewington, Femi, Doe, Saah, Hoyte, Ogogo, Howell, Elito, Scott, Murphy, Woodall. Subs: Seabright, Connors, Bingham, Reed, Gayle, Obafemi, Dennis.

Unsurprisingly Wayne Burnett kept with the same eleven that won convincingly at home to York City last weekend, with the front three of Brian Woodall, Rhys Murphy and Josh Scott continuing to lead the line. Elsewhere both Sean Shields and Gianluca Gracco were missing from the bench, allowing defender Ian Gayle to give Daggers more defensive cover if needed.

With the pre-match pleasantries completed and the rain petering out overhead, referee Darren Deadman blew his whistle to signal the beginning of the match. And for the first quarter of an hour or so, we were all left wishing he hadn't. An uninspiring start from both sides saw a midfield battle engulf proceedings, with few opportunities for either side. The well travelled Dean Burton tested Chris Lewington with a tame header, whilst Sam Winnall shot well over for the hosts.

As the half wore on the hosts became increasingly dominant, first new signing Terry Hawkridge flashed a shot wide of the post before Craig Dawson guided an effort over Lewington's bar. Daggers were finding it difficult to establish a foothold in the match, although Femi and Medy Elito were offering a degree of solace on the left hand side. 

With just over half an hour gone, Daggers finally registered their first shot on the Iron goal. Following a Scunthorpe attack, the ball was played out to Femi who after striding forward laid it to Medy Elito in the centre of the park. Elito advanced forward, skipping past several challenges on his root to goal before firing a misplaced shot wide of Slocombe's goal to the delight of the home supporters.

Elito's effort was a mere blip in the first half for Scunthorpe who continued to look the more likely scorers. Chris Lewington was called into action once more to deny the impressive Terry Hawkridge after Abu Ogogo's mistake, whilst Eddie Nolan headed over from a corner when he really should have found the target. That miss brought an end to a poor first half showing from both sides, even if Scunny looked the more likely to break the deadlock.

The visitors were being undone by their inability to stay onside in the opposition half. This trait links directly to Rhys Murphy, who must have been offside at least five times in the first half for failing to hold his run. Murphy clearly knows where to be on the pitch when his team-mates have the ball; he just needs to be a little less eager when latching onto any ball through. After sitting through one of the better half-time entertainments in League Two, the teams re-emerged onto the pitch for the second half. 

As we started the second half Daggers looked rejuvenated, causing serious problems to the hosts from the outset. Femi immediately posed a threat down the left hand side, with Slocombe at full stretch to deny his cross reaching a Daggers forward. Seconds later Brian Woodall was released through on goal, but his low strike was tipped round the post superbly by the diving Slocombe.

From the resulting corner Daggers came even closer, Medy Elito's near post delivery was met by Josh Scott who glanced his header onto the woodwork. The rebound was scrambled away to Abu Ogogo who crossed tamely into the box for a Scunthorpe defender to clear away before Rhys Murphy could latch onto the end of it.

The danger wasn't over yet for the Iron though who conceded another corner minutes later. This time it was a Burnett special, with Elito drilling the ball towards Murphy in the middle of the box, only to see his shot blocked by the Scunny defender on the line. The clearance fell to Ogogo who after steadying himself drilled a half-volley just wide of the near post. Two brilliant pieces of play from Daggers that on another day, may have heralded two goals. 

Daggers continued to push forward, with Luke Howell driving another effort over the bar soon after. The two teams then traded blows, with Scunthorpe's main threat, Hawkridge, drilling wide of the mark before Elito drove forward past several defenders before firing a left footed strike just over Slocombe's crossbar. 
Och Aye the D'OH!

Scunthorpe soon made their second change of the afternoon, with Chris "Remember that miss for Scotland" Iwelumo, replacing former Gills man Deon Burton. Regardless of Iwelumo's blunder-some reputation, he was sure to cause problems at League Two level. With Burnett busy in the background readying a substitution of his own, Abu Ogogo flashed another effort yards wide of the post.

With 66 minutes played, Louis Dennis was introduced for the tireless Josh Scott with the hope of heightened creativity going forward. But directly after the change, it all went downhill for the visitors. Terry Hawkridge's difficult delivery from the right was misjudged by Daggers left back Femi, who appeared to handle the ball from inside the box. The referee took the same view and appeased the cries for a penalty from the 3400 home supporters by pointing to the spot.

Upon the award, Chris Iwelumo quickly grabbed the ball, showing his confidence and intentions for the penalty. The Scotland International placed the ball on the spot and stepped three yards back before turning to face Chris Lewington. Deadman blew his whistle, Iwelumo stepped up, but the Daggers 'stopper guessed correctly, diving low down to his left to push the ball out of harm’s way and wide of the post. Groans quickly emanated from the Iron terrace as Daggers fans jumped for joy as the scoreline remained locked at 0-0.

The visitors were quickly breaking up the other end and were given a terrific opportunity to take the lead when Eddie Nolan brought down Femi on the left hand side. Brian Woodall took the set-piece, but Sam Slocombe was equal to the forwards effort once more. Soon Scunthorpe were back on top and really should have taken the lead 80 minutes in. Craig Dawson's free kick from the left hand side was met by Iwelumo who could only direct his free header wide of the post from six yards out.

It looked easier to score for Iwelumo, but somehow the languishing forward managed to miss the best chance of the afternoon. It was yet another reprieve for Daggers who were really riding their luck by this point. Both sides then made a change in an attempt to bring on fresh legs. The Iron introduced Jamie Wootton for tiring striker Sam Winnall, whilst Daggers replaced the all action Rhys Murphy with Jake Reed. 

With the game seemingly heading for a draw, Scunthorpe broke the Daggers resistance from yet another set piece. Terry Hawkridge's delivery on the right hand side was met by Chris Mirfin who rose highest to head home powerfully, despite the best efforts of 'keeper Chris Lewington. It was that familiar sinking feeling for Daggers fans who have now conceded three out of four goals in the league from set-piece situations.

Despite the late goal, there was still hope as the fourth official raised the board to signal a minimum of four minutes of injury time. And within minutes of going behind, Daggers were back level in dramatic fashion. After neat play in the midfield, Brian Woodall played a well weighted ball through two Iron defenders and into the path of Luke Howell who slotted home coolly underneath Sam Slocombe to make it 1-1.

The celebrations in the away end quickly turned to fear as immediately after the restart, Scunthorpe were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position. Matt Sparrow struck the ball, but thankfully his effort was blocked by the Daggers wall and cleared away upfield. Before Brian Laws' men had a chance to pump the ball back into the Daggers box once more, the referee called a halt to proceedings which ensured a deserved point apiece for both sides. 

Wayne Burnett brought the players over to applaud the 107 travelling fans that had made the trip to Lincolnshire, before what I can only foresee as congratulating his team on a hard earned point. In hindsight a point is a terrific result against a team that will probably be challenging for promotion this season, however you can't help but feel if we'd have taken our chances in the opening 20 minutes of the second half, it could have been a lot different. 

The only qualm I have with the display is once again conceding from a set-piece. It's something that needs to be worked upon because at the moment, it's the one vital flaw in our game. Going forward we look sound, the performances of the marauding Medy Elito are proving to be a particular unexpected highlight. If we can keep up the sort of displays that have seen us pick up a point on Saturday and a win against York City, we should have no doubts over survival.

Scunthorpe meanwhile will have better days. There's no doubt that in the long run they will be a force to be reckoned with in this league. They struggled for creativity without Etienne Esajas, but the youngster Terry Hawkridge, signed from Gainsborough Trinity in the summer looks like a brilliant transfer. The less said about Chris Iwelumo however, the better.

Saturday's point moves us up a place to 11th in the League Two table, meanwhile Scunthorpe drop to 8th. Next week we're back at Victoria Road to face newly promoted Newport County who will undoubtedly provide a stern test for Wayne Burnett. Until then, have a safe week and we'll reconvene next Monday! Remember you can follow me on Twitter using @NickMurphyDRFC.

Oh, and if you're wondering, yes, Harry's Bombardier's were still in the hedge 6 hours later. A successful day all round. 

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