The Daggers Diary team reflect on what might have been in the past week as well as a disappointing home game against the visitors from the North West.
Last weekend, our plan was to finally attend a game at the Dripping Pan, as we had been invited down to watch Lewes v Margate . Every time we had planned to make the trip, something had come along to scupper that plan, whether it be lack of funds, lack of transport, the weather or alien invasion. Whatever it was, it always stopped us actually getting to the game.
So, with the weather deteriorating in the days leading up to our next attempt, there was almost something inevitable about this one going by the wayside as well. With other games at various levels disappearing a lot quicker than the snow and ice, the alternatives weren’t that many.
There was the opportunity to stay in the warm and watch the opening game of the African Cup of Nations, but that would have to be watched with the volume turned down, lest those trumpet things start to really get on my nerves again. Anything in the local area was being called off, and for a while, I seriously contemplated staying and watching the game on tv, although doing that would have violated the natural order of things for a football fan on a Saturday afternoon. I suppose I could have put the tv in the window and stood outside, to get the “sort of” terrace atmosphere, but it wouldn’t really have worked. Plus I would probably have got some very strange looks from the neighbours.
Handily though, Wycombe were working hard to get their game with the Daggers on, and a posting appeared on their website on the Friday afternoon, saying that they were “optimistic” that it would go ahead. A couple of hours later, another message appeared, saying that the ticket office would be shutting early because of the snow. Now things didn’t look quite so good.
We need not have worried though. The good people at Wycombe rallied, and with the roads deserted as we made our way round to Buckinghamshire, we were at the ground just after mid-day. The anticipated crowd would, we were informed, be well down on what they would normally expect, but the pitch looked in good condition, and the car parks looked to be reasonably clear.
It was just a pity that, after all of the work that went on, the game wasn’t much to write home about. Both teams looked as though they would rather be anywhere else, which, judging by the even lower than anticipated attendance was precisely where most had gone to. In the end, one of the few coherent moves of the game resulted in the only goal after thirty five minutes, and although both teams looked as though they were trying, it just wasn’t really working out. Prior to the game, sitting in the warmth of the bar, the general consensus was that a point would be a good outcome for us. Ultimately though, we probably didn’t deserve that.
There was even a disagreement after the final whistle between John Still and Dean Morgan (after the Wycombe forward had punted the ball into the corner following a drop ball after an injury, meaning that we recovered possession a whole forty yards further back), although this only succeeded in delaying (for a about a minute) a few people from getting back to either the warm bar or their cars.
Saturday 26th January 2013, Dagenham & Redbridge v Morecambe, Victoria Road
It seems like only yesterday that the team were making their way up to Morecambe for the rearranged league game, although it was actually eighteen. Morecambe, like us haven’t had great attendances this season, and made the game a freebie, attracting a crowd in excess of over four thousand on the night. It will be interesting to see if a proportion of those who attended that night will be tempted back on a more regular basis.
We all stroll into the ground with about an hour to kick off, although we are already fairly certain it won’t be that busy. Talk is about the possibility of the crowd being less than a thousand, and with the visitors having sold just forty eight tickets prior to today, we might just struggle to get to four figures. With half an hour before kick off, there isn’t even a couple of hundred in the ground, which really doesn’t look good at all.
The first half, in keeping with recent games, is not the most exciting. There are no real clear cut chances for either side, and to sum up the half, even when Morecambe get the ball in they net, the small travelling support barely raise a cheer as it is disallowed. Normally there would a second or two delay before realization sets in, but today there appears to be none of that.
Kevin Ellison is the main target of the terrace dwellers today. When questioned as to whether he is bald because he is strawberry blonde, he replies that we would need to check with his wife. While the good spirits abound early on, they become slightly strained later in the half, as he starts to get annoyed at being penalized for a series of offences. To be fair, the referee is also doing the same to Sam Williams, so perhaps he is keen to keep both sets of forwards in more check than normal.
In midfield for Morecambe is the seemingly ever present Stuart Drummond. Having made his Morecambe debut in 1994, he is a player that has often caught the eye, whether we have played them in the Conference or Football League. Now manager of the club’s reserve team, Drummond is a steadying influence in the centre of the field.
The second half produces an upturn in the entertainment, although whether that is the right word, I’m not sure. The first fifteen minutes are marginally better, but the game starts to attract greater attention just after the hour. Matt Saunders is entrusted with a free kick on the Daggers left, and his deep free kick is headed home at the back post by Luke Wilkinson. This finally produces some noise from a crowd that has been very quiet up until now.
Prior to the game, Jim Bentley had claimed that Morecambe would have the psychological edge have won the reverse fixture two and a half weeks ago. For twenty minutes after the goal it doesn’t look like it, but then on eighty one minutes, Morecambe produce a move that covers the whole length of the pitch in about ten seconds to equalize. Medy Elito is trying to harass a defender into giving a corner away, but the challenge isn’t particularly forceful, leading to the ball being cleared, and it sets in motion a play that ends with Stuart Drummond sweeping the ball past Lewington.
Worse is to follow two minutes later, although this time our inability to clear the ball is our undoing, as it allows Ryan Williams to score what will turn out to be the winner. There hasn’t been much noise throughout the game, with the players clearly being audible at times, and as the sound of silence grips the home fans again, the first few start to leave. There are only just over 1300 in the ground, so the gaps just get ever so slightly bigger.
Clearly not content with 2-1, Morecambe narrowly miss the chance for a third, although somehow, Jordan Burrow puts the ball over the bar, in front of an almost open goal, from a couple of yards out. Normally, luck like that would suggest that we might still get something out of the game, but although four minutes of stoppage time is added, much of it is spent with Morecambe players shielding the ball in the corners. There is time for Luke Howell to hit the post with the last kick of the game, but at the final whistle though, there is no booing, and people just shuffle out of the ground in silence, with the quiet only disturbed by the final scores from other games being read out over the p.a. system.
Even the upstairs bar is half empty after the game. After the initial rush to get a drink, it gets quiet quickly, meaning those that waited have no problem in getting served. Any hopes if involvement in the play offs can probably be forgotten after this game, although securing our place in the league next year must remain the priority. It is a worry though that, at 1-0, we just seemed to be content with that. Morecambe hadn’t offered much up until that point, but it would be crazy to think that they would just let the game peter out. In the end, sloppy play cost us, certainly with the second goal, and arguably as well with the first. At the start of the season I would have settled for a mid table finish. It’s easy to feel down after a defeat, but the next few games are tough ones, and points will be very hard to come by, with games at Plymouth or Gillingham, to follow, plus a visit of Cheltenham in the middle of those two. Four or five more wins should be enough to keep our place in the League, but next week we visit Plymouth; a defeat there could still make it a nervy end to the season.