It’s been an uneasy few days since the last home game against Oxford. There has been a lot of criticism of the team, and in particular, team captain Mark Arber. Voted the League 2 player of the month for August, he seems to have been singled out for some of the more vitriolic comments that have been posted on various online forums. This has got so bad that John Still used his interview on the Daggers Player service to defend his captain;
The problem is that the defensive side of the team hasn’t been too bad, with eight conceded in eight games. Ok, all players have games where they don’t play their best, and although there have been moments this season already where Arber has misjudged things, he was still good enough to win the vote from an independent panel regarding the player of the month. Normally we would celebrate the fact that the club is being recognised in this way (like we did when John Still won his manager of the month awards), but for whatever reason, this award has not been greeted in the same way. Although some may not agree with it, it is not an excuse for some of the stuff that has been written on either twitter or facebook, and those should be totally ashamed of themselves. As the saying goes, it is better to keep quiet and have the world think you are a fool, than to open your mouth and confirm it.
There have been articles in the press this week about online forums and the idea that people can hide behind relative anonymity to post and say what they like, however distasteful some might find it. This is a game for heavens sake, and while it has been whipped up over the last few years to become (in the minds of some) more important that it actually is, we should not forget that “banter” (as this one person described this whole incident) is defined as “friendly teasing between people”, not outright abuse involving several uses of words that frankly don’t need to be mentioned. From what I gather, the manager has spoken to the player, and the captain has issued a statement; the matter for them at least, seems to be closed,
After the game with Oxford, the whole thing blew up on the main Daggers forum, and to be fair, almost all that posted on the topic were united in their condemnation of the person/people who had dished out the abuse. We shall see what happens at the game today,
Moving this aside, today we entertain Morecambe. The relationship between the two sets of supporters has been good in the past. When we played in the final game at the old Christie Park ground in may 2010, at the final whistle, many of the home support ran towards the away end. Fearful of what may happen next, many stayed on the terrace, but we need not have worried, as the home support displayed remarkable sportsmanship, and wished us well for the play off final that we had just qualified for. It had been the same a few years earlier, when we had won on penalties in the Conference play off semi final at the same stadium, so whenever we play at Morecambe, we are generally guaranteed a good reception.
Recent history between the two teams seems to revolve around those two semi-final encounters. In 2003, the conference instituted a play off competition, having been finally granted a second promotion place into the Football League. We were paired with Morecambe, and after we had won 2-1 at Victoria Road, we travelled up on the May Day holiday for the return leg. We were 2-0 down with about five minutes to go, when Paul (brother of John) Terry scored with a shot that almost all daggers fans will claim took about a week from leaving his foot to entering the goal net. This meant extra time, and then the dreaded penalty shoot-out. Held at the end accommodating most of the home fans, we were 2-0 up after two penalties each, only for us to miss the next two, and Morecambe to score their two. We netted our fifth, but the last home penalty was saved, and we were on our way to Stoke for the final. Dagenham Dan was half way down the pitch to celebrate with the players barely as the ball had been saved, closely pursued by most of the away support that day.
The next semi-final encounter was that 2010 League 2 play off; a play off record 6-0 win had rendered the second leg all but meaningless, although I was in my pessimistic mood. If we could do it to them, they could do it to us. By half time of the second game, I had relaxed a bit, and even I gave in to start celebrating a trip to Wembley, although I didn’t join in with the conga shown on the tv coverage, lead by a tellytubbie and the marshmallow man from Ghostbusters.
Saturday 17th September, Dagenham & Redbridge v Morecambe, Victoria Road
The game starts with an attendance that is less than Tuesday night against Oxford. Given that Morecambe have a travelling support that is fairly close to ours (in that at times it’s not much), it’s not much of a surprise, but the sight of ever decreasing crowds is not one to raise the spirits.
The first half isn’t much to write home about. There are a couple of chances for the visitors early on, and both are shots from the left hand side of the defence. First up is Izak Reid, who is wide open just to the left of the “D” of the area, but his shot is deflected away for a corner. The second is only a few minutes later, although this time it falls to Andy Parrish; his shot though is horribly wide, and results in nothing more than a Daggers goal kick. The worry is though that the defence, decent up until now, is starting to have the shakes, which is the last thing we can afford at the moment.
The rest of the half is not worth noting though. Nothing really exciting happens, although there is a summer downpour about half way through, which results in those on the only uncovered bit of the ground making a beeline for the sanctuary of the North Stand, or as it’s more commonly known the sieve. At times, we can barely make out our own goalkeeper, who is only just fifty yards away.
The second half has barely started when we go one down. Once again, the goal comes through the inside left channel, between Arber and Femi. Danny Carlton is the goalscorer with a neat finish past Lewington, and immediately any half time optimism is immediately gone. The general feeling is that we need to score first if we are to have any chance of getting something from the game, and this is backed up by the fact that in the four league games where have got a result this season, we have scored first in every one.
A few minutes after the goal is scored, the attendance is announced as 1728, of which 47 are away fans. These are given a round of applause by some home supporters, who know just how long it takes to get up to Morecambe for our games up there. There is some kind of mutual respect for the amount of time that the journey will have taken, just to get here.
Less than ten minutes into the half, the lead is doubled. Stewart Drummond, a consistent performer in the Morecambe midfield for what seems like years, gets the second. Drummond has always been a player that even in the conference, I admired, because he never seemed to have a bad game. His goal (well, it looked more like a flick to prod the ball back goalwards) has, for some ended the game, and there are a few that are already heading for the clubhouse.
Oliver Lee, on loan from West Ham, has our first meaningful shot at goal just before the hour, but it’s at the other end that we continue to have problems, with Carlton again through on goal, only for Lewington to deny him. The man of the match award seems nailed on when Lewington saves again a few minutes later.
With fifteen minutes to go, the game suddenly changes. Damien McCrory is bought on to replace Gavin Tomlin, and within seconds, Oliver Lee scores direct from a free kick which seems to loop over Barry Roche. Now it’s game on, and suddenly the confidence levels are rising again.
For the next ten minutes or so, we are on top, and have a chance cleared off the line, while Oliver Lee, clearly buoyed by his goal, tries his luck from outside the area, only for Roche to save this time. However, as we approach the end of the game, the hopes of getting a point dwindle, until the added time is announced; four minutes are to be played. It’s no use though, and the by the time the final whistle is blown on another disappointing home defeat, the rain has returned, summing up the mood of the remaining crowd quite nicely.
The display is much better than Tuesday night against Oxford, but the problems up front are still there for all to see. The effort is there, but ultimately there is no reward for it because we just don’t seem to be able to score. The league table shows us now in 19th place, which is better than some thought, but we are going to remain in trouble at the wrong end of the division until we can find a player who will score for us.