Dagenham & Redbridge continued their mediocre start to the new season on Saturday with a 1-1 draw against promotion chasing Exeter City. Despite a tough opening to the match, Daggers took the lead in the first half through Josh Scott, before Sam Parkin equalised for the visitors late in the second half with a controlled header.
Before the match there was cautious optimism ahead of the clash with Exeter. Despite our notoriously poor record against the Grecians, we claimed all three points at St James Park last year when we needed it most. Not only that but our impressive 4-1 victory over Colchester United in midweek was also encouraging, retaining our unbeaten home start to the season.
There was to be no pre-match pints this week, as upon arrival we sought shelter from the arctic winds in the warm alcove that is, the Sieve. Soon after our entrance the teams were announced, but not without one or two surprise selections.
Daggers boss Wayne Burnett made three changes to the side that was defeated in convincing fashion at Mansfield last week. After his debut in the Johnstones Paint Trophy in midweek, left back Jack Connors was handed his full league debut at the expense of Femi who dropped to the bench. Medy Elito and Luke Wilkinson were also replaced by Josh Scott and Gavin Hoyte, allowing Scott Doe to revert to his more familiar centre back position alongside Brian Saah.
Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Connors, Doe, Saah, Hoyte, Howell, Bingham, Ogogo, Hines, Scott, Murphy. Subs: Seabright, Wilkinson, Saunders, Woodall, Elito, Obafemi, Femi.
Exeter City: Krysiak, Woodman, Bennett, Baldwin, Coles, Sercombe, Oakley, Davies, Grimes, Gow, Parkin.
With the Daggerettes having completed their "routine", the teams soon emerged from the tunnel to be greeted by warm applause from the 2000 or so supporters inside the ground. After the pre-match pleasantries were adhered to and the two most stylish managers in the division had shaken hands, we began.
| Exeter City fans|
From the off the visitors came within a lick of paint of taking the lead. Jack Connors, on his Football League debut, gave the ball away on the left, allowing Exeter to attack. A swift move saw the ball played to Arron Davies who took a touch before curling a terrific effort goalwards that glanced off the post before going out for a goal kick. It was a nervous start for Connors, who understandably was feeling the pressure early on.
Despite that early chance, neither side could establish a real foothold on proceedings during the opening stages. Zavon Hines shot wide for the hosts from long range, while defender Danny Coles was on hand to deal with the early threat down the Daggers' right hand side. With few chances for either side, it was perhaps appropriate that Wayne Burnett's men should take the lead in slightly fortuitous circumstances.
A hopeful punt upfield from Brian Saah was raced onto by Josh Scott, who, after Exeter goalkeeper Artur Krysiak fluffed his clearance, volleyed home from a difficult position outside the box to give Daggers a 1-0 lead. The moment of madness from Krysiak seemed to take an age to happen, leaving Daggers fans on tenterhooks as to whether the ball had in fact gone in. Nonetheless we were now 1-0 up through Josh Scott's first league goal of the season.
That goal gave the hosts momentum to push forward in search of a second. The onus was on Hines in particular, who was giving his full back a torrid time as we edged closer to half time. The dynamic winger flashed down the right before firing in a cross that evaded both sets of players before going out of play for a throw in. Chances for Exeter were few and far between, but top scorer Alan Gow managed to test Chris Lewington 30 minutes in with a long range effort.
Liam Sercombe and Luke Howell then both traded strikes on goal, but in truth it was a half of few chances. Neither side had been able to establish a real foothold on the game, and as a result, few clear cut chances had been created. The referee soon blew his whistle for half time, bringing to a close a satisfactory half for Daggers fans.
During half time we were treated to another rendition of the Daggerettes, who as I'm sure you know by now, are my favourite Barking & Dagenham based dance troupe. Soon after their three minutes of fame was over, the teams re-emerged for the second half, with the visitors having made two changes.
Jimmy Keohane was introduced for Arron Davies, with David Wheeler replacing midfielder Matt Grimes. Despite the change, it was Daggers who opened the half the stronger. Once again it was Hines who looked the most menacing, forcing a shot from close range out of Krysiak after he weaved his way round the Exeter defence. From the resulting corner he went close again, this time firing just over the bar.
Exeter then began to grow into the game, forcing successive corners that were dealt with by the resolute Daggers defence. Up the other end Rhys Murphy headed narrowly wide, while the newly introduced Keohane forced a quick double stop from Chris Lewington. It was the same pair who came closest as the half wore on, Murphy sliding another effort wide before Keohane flashed a shot just the wrong side of the post.
With just over 25 minutes left both teams continued to push for a goal - Daggers to make the game safe and Exeter to draw things level. Yet it was the hosts who continued to create the better of the opportunities. Jack Connors who was growing into the game more and more as it progressed skipped past his man before playing the ball to Zavon Hines. Hines, the architect of so much of Daggers' best work all afternoon, turned on his brilliance once again, forcing his way to the byline before cutting back for Josh Scott whose left footed shot was superbly stopped by the diving Artur Krysiak.
That terrific save seemingly acted as the catalyst for an Exeter revival. But before they could truly kickstart their push for a point, Daggers made a double change. First Brian Woodall came on for Rhys Murphy, then five minutes later Medy Elito was introduced for Josh Scott. The substitutions seemed to disrupt Daggers' play, allowing Exeter back into the game to create several opportunities.
First the home defence were forced to clear away a tricky Pat Baldwin delivery, and then Alan Gow fired another speculative effort wide of the post.
But the Grecians finally found their leveller on 80 minutes. Former Leicester City maestro Matt Oakley delivered a ball in from the left that found Sam Parkin who was on hand to convert superbly with a glancing header that tied things up at 1-1.
With the game there for the taking, both sides pushed following the equaliser. Good work on the left was wasted by Brian Woodall, who fired high and wide after working himself into a good position thanks to yet more neat play from Zavon Hines. Keohane aimed a late effort wide of the post, while Medy Elito found the scoreboard behind the goal during the three minutes of injury time.
Ultimately 1-1 was how it stayed. Daggers were punished for failing to capitalise on their chances against a strong Exeter City side that will be there or there about’s come the end of the season. Their lack of goal threat could be an issue however, with Alan Gow the only real problem bar Parkin's header for the goal.
Daggers meanwhile will be disappointed to have let three points slip from their grasp through abject finishing. Still, it was good to have Josh Scott score on his 100th appearance with a well taken finish. Hopefully alongside Murphy, Josh will thrive in a similar way to when he played alongside Paul Benson. Elsewhere Jack Connors did well after a nervous start, while Zavon Hines continued to prove why League One clubs were looking at him through the summer.
Next up for Daggers is Bristol Rovers at home on Saturday, while Exeter City are on their travels again at Northampton Town. Have a good week and remember you can follow me on Twitter at @NickMurphyDRFC. Thanks for reading!
Oh and sorry for the lack of pictures from the game, only my Blackberry decided to stop working for the afternoon.