The fat lady loses her voice at the right moment


The final day of a league season brings a mix of emotions. There could be the heady excitement of promotion or even a league title, or a comfortable mid-table finish. There might be the chance to relax on the final day, having escaped from a tense season, or the disappointment of a season that hasn’t quite finished in the way that supporters would have liked.  Dagger’s Diary’s Brian Parish tells us of the story at Victoria Road, where relegation back to the non leagues was very much on the agenda.

Of course, you could be in our position, of going into the final day with the chance of being relegated. Last weekends defeat at Aldershot has prolonged the agony, and also meant that, combined with other results, that two teams will lose their league status on the final day. With nothing yet decided, the last week has not been great, and although work has been there to take the mind off of the impeding agony of the last day, the nerves have been slowing building.

After the game 270413 pt2 - CopySimply put, Aldershot’s win, coupled with other results meant that, as we head towards 3pm on the last day of the campaign, there are still seven teams that could fill the two relegation places. While our visitors today, York City, are still in with a chance of going down (along with Torquay and Plymouth), it’s generally reckoned that any two from four will be the most likely to go.

Aldershot start the day in last place, and with forty eight points, need to win at Rotherham to have a chance of staying up. Wimbledon, just above them with fifty, are at home to Fleetwood, whose chances of the play offs disappeared last week. Then we get to Barnet. Having won their last game at Underhill (saving a last minute penalty, which darkened the mood on our coach ride home from Aldershot last weekend just that little bit more), they travel to Wycombe. Continue reading

Call the Shots


Every season one team in each division falls like a stone towards relegation in the last third of the season.  Dagger’s Diary’s Brian Parish knows that feeling all too well at the moment as Dagenham and Redbridge slowly sink towards a life outside of the Football League.

We’ve reached the last two weeks of the season, and unlike last year, when we produced a championship style run of form to save ourselves with two games left, this time season we enter the last couple of matches with our status for next season not yet confirmed.

Last weekend’s game against Oxford was not good, but it did confirm that, if we need to try to provide the attacking impetus in a game (especially at home), then we tend to struggle. Whether that is down to a lack of experience, or just lack of ability, it’s hard to tell. Under the (presently interim) management of Wayne Burnett, the only two wins of his time in charge have both come away from home. While they have both been at teams chasing a play off spot (Rotherham United and Exeter City), the home form has produced just two points in the last two months. At least today, we are away.

But it’s not going to be an easy one this. Tuesday’s night 0-2 defeat to Southend meant that Aldershot are six points away from safety with just two games to go.

100_6049Defeat for Aldershot will mean relegation back to the Conference, five years after promotion with a points tally in three figures. A draw might be enough, although that would mean that they would need results to go their way in other games involving teams at the bottom of the table. A win, and they could go into their last game of the season with a chance of staying up.

A win for us would put us safe, although I’ve looked at the league table so often since Tuesday that I’m not sure anymore. A draw would probably be enough, although defeat would mean that the agony would be prolonged for another week. And the problem is that it’s not going to get any easier next Saturday, as we play York City. Continue reading

Daggers start to look over their shoulder


All of the cheer seems to be fast disappearing down the A13 for Dagenham and Redbridge at the moment as the Daggers Diary team explain after Saturday’s result.

Two weeks ago, Easter arrived with all the seasonal feel of Winter. Not only did some of us get four days off (if we were lucky), a mountain of chocolate to scoff over the course of the weekend, but also two games to (hopefully) enjoy as well. For the Daggers, that meant a trip to North London for our last visit to Underhill to play Barnet, before an Easter Monday home game against an improving Bristol Rovers.

Victoria RoadIn the run up to Easter, the club went nuts with the loan signings, making five in the last few desperate hours before the time for last minute reinforcements run out. Not only was there another goalkeeper signed, but a couple of wingers, a left back and another centre back, which meant that when the team took to the field in Barnet, there was two debutants, plus another on the bench.

Obviously the new players needed time to get used to the rest of the team, but given that it was a local derby, the all round “meh” factor was almost overwhelming, as the teams played out a tepid 0-0 draw, only enlivened by a late sending off. In truth, not even that distracted from what had been a dull game. As we stood on the terraces, with clumps of snow still visible along the sides of the pitch, at least the team had managed to look relatively organized, which was about the only positive from our trip to the end of the Northern Line. Continue reading

Fleetwood Macintosh


Fancy a 250 mile each way trip to the North West?  On a day when temperatures barely touch zero?  Nope – neither did I.  But the Daggers Diary team set off on the long trek up to Fleetwood with the wind and snow battering the TBIR sponsored Ford Transit.

It’s been almost a month now since the departure of John Still from the club, and the first five games under the leadership of Wayne Burnett has been in parts encouraging, and in parts frustrating. The win at Rotherham a fortnight ago was a classic snatch and grab raid, in that we were under the cosh for most of the game, but somehow emerged with the win. The encouragement has come from the different style of play that has been used, where we have tried to keep the ball on the ground a lot more. That’s not to say that the previous regime was a long ball one; I would never go against the management of John Still, simply because although we were labelled as long ball merchants, we still had some creative midfielders who would never have thrived had they been bypassed as much as suggested.

Success came in the form of promotion to the league, and then to league one, but it may well have run its course. The change of style has meant that the ball has disappeared from view at home games less than before. However, there are times, and this is the frustrating bit, when we have tried to pass it too much, instead of getting a short away. I guess that it takes time to switch from one style of play to another, and perhaps the middle of the season is not the place to do it. But they have, they are and it’s not going too bad. Burnett’s five games in charge have bought just one defeat, which is definitely an encouraging start.

Despite this, we just don’t seem to be able to pull away from the teams that currently occupy the bottom few positions in the division. Just when we think we have produced a result that will get us that little bit of extra breathing space, those trying to stay up close the gap again, and we are left looking over our shoulders again. Over the last few weeks the gap has never been much more than half a dozen points, which is the gap as we go into today’s game between us and York in twenty-third place. All have seven games left, and so while we are still in a decent position in terms of the points gap between us and the rest, it will only take a couple of bad results (whether they be ours or wins for those around us), to set us back in the relegation mix again.

Saturday 23rd March 2013, Fleetwood Town v Dagenham & Redbridge, Highbury Stadium

fleetwood main standThe weather this last week obviously hasn’t been good, and is more like the middle of December, than the middle of March. Leaving Dagenham at half past seven in the morning, the snow has been falling, but luckily it is not settling. However, as we get closer to the appointed pit stop at Norton Caines, the snow is much deeper, and there are several inches of the stuff in the car park at the services. Everyone heads straight inside, while the snow continues to fall, and we all only venture out once the coach is opened up again, as we prepare to depart. Continue reading

All change please at Victoria Road


No club likes losing a popular manager, but in the sign of the times, Dagenham have just lost their long serving boss to the Non Leagues.  Was anyone bothered?  We sent the Daggers Diary team to investigate.

Towards the end of the 2003-04 season, Garry Hill resigned as manager of Dagenham & Redbridge. After a particularly tepid 0-0 at Scarborough, he boarded the supporter’s club coach and announced his decision to those that had travelled, saying that he needed a rest but would see out the rest of the season.

One week later, the home game against Gravesend was anything but tepid, as arguably the most lack lustre Daggers performance in years (and that included the 0-9 humiliation at home to Hereford a few weeks earlier) saw us beaten 0-4 at home, and with the manager sitting in the dugout at half time with his hands in his pockets. A few hours after the game, he was gone, still needing that rest. It was a shame that a successful period for the club, which had included winning the Isthmian League, three straight appearances in the third round of the FA Cup (which included one trip to round four), and a conference play off final should end with such an image as that.

The club turned to the first manager it had appointed after the merger in 1992, John Still. Ten years after leaving for Peterborough, he had returned to steady the ship. While our performances in the FA Cup haven’t been anything to write home about (we’ve reached the third round just twice while he was in charge), it has been onwards and upwards since in terms of our league position. Two mid-table finishes preceded the conference title in 2007, which was followed by a near miss at the League Two play offs in 2009, although twelve months later was the crowning glory in the win at Wembley and a day that no Daggers fan will ever forget.

stillOn Tuesday, it was announced that John Still had left the club, to take over at Luton Town. In charge for just under nine years, Still has left the club in a much better position league wise than when he arrived. While some would have not quite admired some of the football played in that spell, it has undeniably been successful. And to regard the teams that we have had in that time as purely playing long ball team is not quite right. We had players like Craig Mackail Smith in that time, who has certainly gone on to bigger and better things. There have also been some decent central midfield players who have been here, such as Glen Southam, Matt Saunders, and Luke Howell, who may not have been so influential if that area of the field had been completely bypassed. Continue reading

Annual Pilgrimage


It’s been a few years since we made the long pilgrimage to see the, erm, Pilgrims but it was always a great day out. Fortunately, The Daggers Diary team did the trip for us yesterday.

Having left the clubhouse during the closing stages of the Manchester United v Fulham cup tie, it was hard not to feel a bit down side following our defeat at home to Morecambe last Saturday. There may have been a touch of admiration for the results of both Luton and Bradford (oh for the days when that was us), but although we are in a relatively comfortable league position at the moment, we are all very aware that it can change all too quickly.

100_5751Today is an away game, and we venture to the most southerly and westerly ground in the football league; Plymouth Argyle. During my early formative years watching football, I can remember Plymouth reaching the semi finals of the FA Cup, with the nation’s media eager that the plucky underdogs from Division Three produce an upset against top flight Watford. In the end, a goal from George Reilly sent Watford to their first FA Cup final, while Plymouth had to try and secure their future in the third division, which they did, although nineteenth place doesn’t immediately suggest a team reaching the last four of the cup.

The other memory I have of Plymouth is Daggers related. Since promotion, I haven’t made the trip to Devon, but the one time I have visited was back in January 2003. On that occasion, we had been drawn away to Argyle in the third round of the FA Cup, and although there were two divisions between us at the time, we travelled back to Essex with a fantastic 2-2 draw. The replay at Victoria Road went down in club folklore, as we secured a 2-0 win, with the second goal being a header from Junior McDougald after a cross from Mark Janney which was described as “Beckham-esque” on the highlights that night.

Since our first league meeting in 2010, our league record against Plymouth is fairly awful, with just two goal-less draws to show for five meetings between the two clubs. There have been times in the past few years when we have wondered if we would be playing; with financial problems meaning that Peter Reid had to sell a Cup Final medal, Plymouth have been up against it in a financial sense. Continue reading

Daggers undone by the Shrimps net


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

IMAG0589It 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. Continue reading