Daggers put some perspective back into football

The Daggers Diary team head north to renew their encounters with York City on a day when the fortunes of smaller clubs are put in perspective.

This week has seen the BBC release the results of their survey of clubs in the Premier and Football Leagues, as well as the Conference and Scottish leagues, about the cost of going to a game. It made interesting reading, as we were allowed to compare the cost of season tickets throughout ten leagues in England, Wales and Scotland. If the cost of a pie or a cup of tea is important (and when isn’t it?), then we could find that out as well. Interestingly (and perhaps surprisingly) the most expensive programme is in the Championship at Leeds United, while the most expensive cup (or polystyrene) cup of tea can be found in Manchester.

Not only did we get loads of data about cost, but there were several other articles, all relating to the results. One of them included the MD of the Daggers, Steve Thompson. For those that have been attending Victoria Road for a while, Steve is a familiar figure. Often at home games, he will be seen strolling round the ground, extolling people to make noise as he makes his way along the sieve.

Tommo was featured in an article about how the Daggers survive on a budget. While a fair bit of this was already known, it was nonetheless interesting to read about how the club is basically run by five people, two of which are students from Bournemouth University on work placements.

One of the ways that costs are kept down is the way that the team makes its way to away games. Steve mentioned that we were off to York this weekend, and that they would be travelling up on the day of the game by train from Kings Cross, as well as travelling back less than two hours after the game finished. There would be no overnight stay, and there isn’t even transport from the station, as the manager thinks it would be good for the players to walk to the ground and stretch their legs. Try to imagine a Premier League team doing that, and then wake up, as it would have all been a dream. (ED – you mean like Arsenal flying from Luton to Norwich for their game on Saturday?)

Our last visit to York, in November 2006 was done in exactly the same way. Except that as the team left Kings Cross on the journey north, there was a fatality on the line ahead. As far as we knew at the time (and this still applies), someone decided to end it by jumping in front of a train. This meant that the line was closed for a while, and train services suspended.

We first got wind of this as we left the services on our way up, and with the weather having been quite bad, this was just in addition to the possibility of the game being called off. We arrived at the ground at 1.30pm, but the team (as it transpired) were still two hours away. An announcement was made as the home team warmed up, that the kick off would be delayed. Eventually, the Daggers made their way onto the pitch at 3.30pm, and started their preparations.

For any that attended, this is one of those days that live long in the memory, or certainly for those who made the trip from Essex. As we went one down, we were already preparing the excuses about the journey, but then we equalized, scored again, and although York then equalized, Craig Mackail Smith scored a winner late in the second half. Suddenly the journey was forgotten as three valuable points were secured with one of the finest Daggers performances I have seen.

To keep up with their schedule, the team basically were allowed to get changed before heading out into the York night bound for the train station, to catch their transport back to London, which included an injured Cliff Akurang who was last seen limping into the York evening. Myself and a few other fans had to collect the kit from the changing room and load it onto the supporters coach, before we could begin our own journey home.

Of course, as we were doing this, we were unaware of the storm brewing, particularly with the home manager. Billy McEwen called the situation unworthy of a pub team, and that no one should be travelling on the day of a game. This bought about the “Pub team from Essex” chant that was heard at Daggers games for some time after, and even lead to one D&R player putting a “Dog & Duck FC” sign on the home changing room door when City visited Victoria Road later in the season. Just for good measure, we won that one as well.

Hopefully the journey this time won’t be as eventful. It is a misty morning as we set out from our assigned meeting place but everyone has come attired for another cold day in the north of Yorkshire.

Saturday 20th October 2012, York City v Dagenham & Redbridge, Bootham Crescent

Our last visit was the previously mentioned trip in late 2006. Back then, the ground was sponsored, and was the “Kit-Kat Crescent” thanks to a tie-in with the confectionary company. Nowadays, it’s reverted back to its proper name, although the club might not be playing here for much longer.

There are plans to move to a new stadium at Monks Cross, which is already home to a shopping centre. Part of the blurb on the stadium development website mentions that York loses many potential shoppers, in particular to Leeds and Sheffield, and that this is their way of trying to keep people shopping local. On the outskirts of the centre would be a 6,000 capacity stadium, which would be home to both York City and the York City Knights rugby league club. The site doesn’t mention if this has been approved just yet, so it’s still all a bit up in the air.

Bootham Crescent is what could be called, a proper ground, although my opinion is not shared by everyone. Away fans are housed on a larger terrace behind the goal, which is completely open to the elements. This also applied to the toilets a few years ago, but at least they have a roof on those now.

Arriving just after the Spurs v Chelsea game had kicked off, we tried in vain to find a parking place in a hurry; it wasn’t until the fourth lap that we finally found enough of a gap to park up, and then head towards the club-house to watch at least the first half of the televised game. The lapse though did give us the opportunity to register that the team had made the journey safely, as we spotted them heading towards the stadium following their walk from the station.

As the teams emerge for their warm up, the teams are without balls at first. Not in any smutty way you understand, but they are not allowed to kick a ball in anger until 2pm, an hour before kick off. Does anyone know if that is a Football League rule, or not?

York begin the game the better team. There is an early handball against Wilkinson on the edge of the area, but the free kick is wasted. There is a glimpse of a chance for the visitors, but the header from Sam Williams is wide.

City aren’t just quick out of the blocks in terms of the first chance, but they are clearly in a rush to take all free kicks and throw ins. In fact, while we are sometimes guilty of taking our throws and free kicks, York seem to be able to take quickly, and also have a player available.

Ashley Chambers is causing problems for the Daggers; his first run at the defence, picking up on a poor pass from Scott Doe, is only ended when he over-runs the ball and it is collected by a diving Chris Lewington.

Eight minutes later, and he has become a major pain in the backside. Doe has been dragged wide from his centre back position, and the ball is played into Chambers. He turns inside Wilkinson, and places the ball beyond Lewington into the corner of the net.

The lead though doesn’t last long. The half is about to hit the half way point, when Matt Saunders takes a corner from the Daggers left. The ball is met at the near post by Wilkinson, and his header is powerful enough to go past Ingham.

For a while, the Daggers match the home team, but as the half wears on, York get the upper hand again, and it is Chambers who once again is the scorer. This time, a cross from the left wing by Jamal Fyfield is met with an unchallenged header in the middle by Chambers and it’s in the corner of the net again.

Lewington hasn’t had much of a chance with either goal, although he can (from my angle at least) possibly count himself lucky to still be on the pitch. With the score at 1-1, he and one of our defence get in a right old state with an attacked bearing down on them. As we have seen before, Lewington rushed from his area, and looks to handle the ball outside of the box. The home fans behind the goal howl for a red card, the home players appeal to the linesman, but there is nothing doing. It appears to be a lucky escape.

The second half resumes with the home team still 2-1 up. The Daggers midfield looks sluggish (perhaps the walk from the station has tired them out), and this is backed up by an incident in the early stages of the half. York have a free kick awarded around half way, and despite the fact that the kick has to be retaken, our lot look to still be out of position when the re-take is done.

That is not to say that York are mistake free. There is one occasion when Ingham throws the ball out to his defence, only to see them not paying attention, as well as misplaced passes in potentially threatening situations. With the Daggers being so lethargic though, nothing is being capitalized on.

With just over twenty minutes to go, York look as though they have now managed to kill the game off, with a third goal. The ball is fed to the left, where Danny Kearns is lurking. His low cross evades all in the middle of the six yard box, except Matty Blair at the back post. His shot is on target, and it has just about finished the game off.

The game by now can’t end soon enough. It’s been a poor performance, and to be absolutely honest, I can’t wait to get to the chippie outside the ground, and get in the car to go home. As if to try to finish the day off, Dwight Gayle then tries a back pass from just inside the daggers half back to Chris Lewington. In fairness, it’s a great through ball to Jason Walker, and as he advances on goal, it looks as though it should be a fourth home goal. Lewington though stands up and denies the goal, and Gayle is let off the hook.

With the attendance confirmed at 3391 (with 125 away fans included), the game is drifting to its conclusion, and not a moment too soon either. There seems little point in adding three minutes stoppage time, as it is not going to change the result. Then there is a bit more excitement. First Dwight Gayle hits the deck in the York penalty area. Was it a spot kick? Well, it looked possible, but the referee gives nothing. The ball breaks to Jake Reed who hits the post with his shot, which is from a narrow angle. It’s cleared, and it falls to Luke Wilkinson; the centre back, who had hit a shot from distance several yards wide about ten minutes earlier, smashes the ball home from twenty five yards out, and reduces the gap to 3-2. There is another Daggers attack, but to gain a point from this one would be a travesty, and it peters out. A free kick awarded to York finished off any faint hopes, and with the final whistle the away fans wait to applaud the team before they head back to the station.

John Still lays into the team at the post-match huddle, which is heard by the waiting Daggers fans. To be fair, there are no excuses given after the huddle. It’s been a poor performance, and yet, somehow we almost got something from the game. The trip home is much quieter than that in the morning, and there is much to digest from the performance. Too many seemed to be off their game today, and it’s possibly a good thing that we have our next game so soon. Tuesday night sees Exeter City visit Victoria Road, and while that won’t be easy, we can hope that the performance will be better than today’s.

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