Daggers fail to put the knife into Stanley

It’s not been a good start to the season for Dagenham & Redridge and so the Daggers Diary team were in fine spirits as they headed down to the Vic for the visit of Accrington Stanley.

After the encouraging performance against Coventry in the league cup, hopes were raised for the long trip to Cheltenham. It’s never been a lucky ground for us, so a 2-0 defeat was not entirely unexpected.  Three days later, we welcomed Plymouth to the Vic, and despite more near misses than you could shake a stick at, as well as an outstanding display from the visiting keeper, we were unable to score and settled for a 0-0.

Next up was another home game, this time against Gillingham; another defeat (this time by 2-1) was played out in a thunder storm and lightning show that bought more “ooh” noises than a day long marathon of “play your cards right” where the winning couple have a chance to go for the car.

A lead was squandered at Wimbledon, although an equalizer by Luke Howell rescued a point. This took us (in a league sense) to last weekend, and a trip to the Essex coast to play Southend. Luke Wilkinson’s eighth minute red card meant that the task became that little bit more difficult. Although we did get the game back to 2-1, the third killed the game off.

It has been a feature of the season so far that while the performances have (by and large) of an encouraging nature, the results haven’t followed. We seem to be waiting for a perfect opportunity to occur before shooting.

The one game so far where things have worked put was against Stevenage in the JPT first round. A 3-2 win, with both of our strikers scoring, gave a bit of a confidence boost, especially as it was against a club in league one.

Which brings us right up to date. Despite not winning a game yet, we are third from bottom in the division, staying above the dotted line thanks to Bristol Rovers and Barnet being either just as bad or worse.

Saturday 15 September, Dagenham & Redbridge v Accrington Stanley, Victoria Road
Today brings Accrington Stanley back to Victoria Road, which also means that Dagenham Dan’s dad, Accrington Pete is in attendance. During Stanley’s conference winning season of 2005/06, Pete travelled on the Daggers supporters coach to the Crown Ground, and after being welcomed by both John Coleman and Paul Mullin, was the only happy traveller on the journey home as they won 1-0. The photographs took pride of place in the shop he runs in Elm Park Station for some time. As far as I can work out, the last meeting between the teams in March was the first time Pete had seen his team lose to the Daggers.

Accrington visit in fifth place in the division, and to underline how tough this might turn out to be, Stanley have won both away league games so far and without conceding a goal.

Of course, none of this has any bearing on how some will view the game, and it takes only a couple of minutes before the first complaints are heard as Accrington force a couple of early corners. Accrington rarely bring too many supporters with them on their trips to Victoria Road (we don’t exactly take too many there either), but the small band of visitors are fairly well spread out in the away end. Half the stand is given over to the various Daggers kids teams, and the fifty or so that have made the trip south are all in the part of the stand nearest to the Daggers covered terrace.

Like Burton, the Accrington fans clearly love a flag or ten at home games. There are a couple of them on display here as well, but the area where they have been put up isn’t quite long enough for the flag. So the one that announces that Stanley are the “Pride of Lancashire” has most of the slogan on view, except for the “P” of “Pride”. Above that there is an England flag with “We Love” in the bottom right corner. From our vantage point in the Sieve, it appears to suggest that they love the ride of Lancashire, which is probably not the meaning that they were trying to convey.

Innuendos aside, the game going on in front of us is not the most exciting. We play nearly half an hour before the first bit of excitement, although we are lucky to get away with a shot by Lee Molyneux hitting the cross bar and rebounding away from goal. It’s a fine effort, and there is a huge sigh of relief that we don’t find ourselves a goal down.

Five minutes later, Michael Spillane responds with a header, although his effort also hits the cross bar. This comes about after a foul on Dwight Gayle in the corner of the blind; so called because we can’t actually see what happens in this corner of the pitch.

The rest of the half slips back to what had gone before, and it ends 0-0. The only other thing to report on a mediocre half is an incident that knocks one of our group onto the floor. Prior to the game Kerry and Ivan had had their thirtieth wedding anniversary announced to the crowd, to which many congratulations were added. However, during the half, a clearance flies into the crowd, and knocks Kerry off her feet and onto the floor. There are ways to celebrate your wedding anniversary, but the possibility of sitting in A&E for a few hours trying to explain why you are there is not one of them.

We would normally get the attendance announced mid way through the second half, but today was not a large crowd, and we are only a few minutes into the second half when it is announced that the fifty four away fans have boosted our attendance to a whopping 1,529. Take the away support out, and that is less than fifteen hundred home fans. Not good.

At least those in the ground soon have something to cheer. Firstly Brian Woodall, who has been a bit quiet of late, has a thirty yards volley well saved by Ian Dunbavin. Then there are chances for, amongst others, Abu Ogogo and Medy Elito, but all are either saved or off target. It looks like we are going to be frustrated in front of goal once again, but just after the hour comes the breakthrough. Just as we start speculating how much longer Luke Howell will be on the pitch before being replaced, a cross from the right (possibly by Gavin Hoyte) finds the onrushing Howell, whose shot is past Dunbavin and into the net in the blink of an eye. The start of the half has been good for the Daggers and at last, we have a goal to show for it.

Six minutes to go, and the hopes go out of the window. Concentration lapses in the centre of defence allow Peter Murphy to head home an equaliser that, it can be argued, was coming.

The added time is announced and it appears that a draw is going to be the likely outcome, which wouldn’t be too bad a result for us. However, in the last moments, we concede a free kick, around thirty yards out. It’s a foul all day long, although some are prepared to argue the point. The shot though is much, much closer than anyone of us would have liked, and relief does not even come close to describe the feeling as we see the ball clatter into the advertising boards just to the right of the Daggers goal.

Even before Chris Lewington has the chance to take the goal kick, the referee signals the end of the game, and there is a moments pause to realise just how close we came to losing the game before we start the long walk round to the exit. There is appreciation for the teams effort, and it is a point gained, although there are a few who reckon that it is two points lost than a point gained.

The small attendance means that leaving the ground is even less problematic than normal, although we congregate just outside the exit to make sure that Kerry is ok given her attempt to head the ball earlier in the day. The bar is less crowded than normal afterwards, and there is some reflection on the events of the previous few hours, before we turn to Tuesday night, and another home game. Our league results read lost, drawn, lost drawn, lost, drawn. With Northampton visiting next, our luck has to change some time. Doesn’t it?

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