Daggers welcome the Football League new boys

On a day when the rain didn’t stop falling, the storm clouds kept away from Dagenham & Redbridge for a couple of hours, reports the Dagenham Diary team.

The Daggers had been reasonably active in the transfer market over the summer. Not on the scale of £90+ million for one player, but there had definitely been a reasonable turnover of the playing staff. Gone were the older, more experienced (but also some would argue, more injury prone) players, and in came some that we had heard of, but like always, bought in on a small budget. While we may have got some cash as a result of a sell on clause for Dwight Gayle’s transfer from Peterborough to Cystal Palace, all those who have been watching the club for any length of time weren’t expecting much to be spent on the team.

Brian Saah has been excellent at centre back so far, and is forming a very good partnership already with the almost always reliable Scott Doe. Getting a central defender was important, especially as Like Wilkinson continues to struggle with injury. After a very good year last time out, Wilko will have to go some to get back in the team. Competition though is definitely a good thing, and to have three decent central defenders going for two places should mean that they will be kept on their toes.Similarly, up front, the signing of Rhys Murphy has been a good move so far. Taking the number of ex-Arsenal academy players in the squad to three, Murphy has settled in very well, scoring twice already. The front three (Murphy, Brian Woodall and Josh Scott) have been excellent in the games that I have seen, and as mentioned previously, this is a make or break year for the last two. So far, things have gone well.

One player I think that we didn’t believe we would see back though was Zavon Hines. Having played in the two home friendly games against Palace and Charlton, the news that he had gone to Coventry meant that we all thought that he was a player that we had missed out on. The news on Friday then that he had signed for us for a year was a total surprise, but a very welcome one. Not only do we welcome our new player, but also newly promoted Newport County. Promoted at Wembley in May via the play offs, the Exiles have started the season very well. Not only have they won their two home games so far, but have also won at Brighton in the first round of the league cup. The reward for this is a trip to West Bromwich Albion this coming week. When the club folded in 1989 (the original having reached the quarter finals of the Cup Winners Cup as recently as 1981), the newly formed club were forced to play in England, eighty-odd miles from home. A nomadic exiseance followed, but by the mid nineties, they were playing at the new Newport Stadium. The club’s current stadium at Rodney Park is the club’s fifth home ground since formation, twenty four years ago. Given the progress of the club in that time, it is to be hoped that there are good times ahead for the Exiles.

Saturday 24 August 2013, Dagenham & Redbridge v Newport County, Victoria Road

The day starts for four of us with pie & mash next to the Eastbrook pub. While it is quiet when we go in, it is much busier when we leave thirty minutes or so later. Whether 11am on a Saturday morning is too early to be stuffing your face with pie and mash (with a large dollop of liquer) is a matter of personal opinion, but it was certainly a good call by who ever it was that came up with the idea.

IMAG1017The rain that will remove any chance of play at the fifth test at the Oval is also falling at Dagenham as we leave the pie & mash shop for the walk to Victoria Road. By the time I have got to the club house, I am soaked, and the dryness of the upstairs bar is most welcome. The lunchtime kick off at Bolton is on the screens, which will soon be replaced by the Fulham v Arsenal game. At half time, Dan goes to retrieve the remote control to switch channels so that he can watch part of the qualifying session for the Belgian Grand Prix. The rain is seemingly everywhere, with this affected as well.

All of this means that for a game that will probably not get a great crowd, the attendance will more than likely to be lower than anticipated. On the way into the game, I hear a couple of different figures concerning the number of pre-sold tickets for the away sections, and it’s not good.

Although he was signed only twenty four hours earlier, Zavon Hines starts the game on the bench, alongside a returning Luke Wilkinson. However, it is the same team that started against Scunthorpe last weekend. This means a three man midfield, which contains Medy Elito. Now, I like Elito; on his day, he can be a player that causes all kinds of havoc for an opposition defence. But if he is played as part of a three man midfield, I just feel that it makes us a bit light in that department. Ogogo and Howell then have to hold a bit more than probably both would like, and it means that it just throws the shape of the team out. If he was played up front, then it could work, but in midfield?

The first half contains the downpour that ruins the game at Charlton, and for Newport their forward line contains the ever dangerous Chris Zebroski. He first came to the attention of the Daggers as part of their Conference side of 2006/07, and always seems to play well against us. His first involvement comes after just eight minutes; he wins the ball from Gavin Hoyte, and his cut back is met by a shot by the also dangerous Christian Jolley. The shot though is well saved by Chris Lewington, and the half is not particularly good from a home point of view. Just past the mid-way point, the away side score. Once again, it is Jolley and Zebroski that cause the damage.

Zebroski receives the ball on the Daggers left, and as Saah backs off, he advances into the penalty area, where his shot is beyond the dive of Lewington. The terrace behind the goal is almost deserted, as those standing there have moved into the covered terrace along the side. All that remains are a few hardy souls that defy the weather, and those who bought a brolly with them.

The half ends with Newport still one up, and arguably deservedly so. The rain continues to fall, and the mood is as bright as the weather. The substitutes emerge to warm up, but almost immediately, Billy Bingham is removed from this, suggesting that he is about to enter the fray. Pubfinder Graham wonders who is going to be replaced, but I offer the opinion that it is going to be Elito that will be sacrificed.

As it turns out, Elito is removed, but also is Josh Scott, in favour of Hines. With some venturing back out onto the Bury Road terrace, the introduction of both Bingham and Hines breathes new life into the Daggers. The midfield looks more solid, and the introduction of Bingham allows Howell to get forward in to his preferred attacking role. Fifteen minutes into the half, the home side equalize. Hines is involved, but it is a cross by Gavin Hoyte that is met by Abu Ogogo for the goal. Later viewing on the Football League show will reveal that it wasn’t entirely cleanly met, but it doesn’t matter. However it goes in, it all counts as the same.

The conditions don’t impede the teams as other games will later show, and while playing to the conditions, the teams both go to try and win the game. Towards the end of the ninety minutes, the Daggers have a chance through Hines, but his shot although past the goalkeeper, doesn’t beat the covering Andrew Hughes, who hacks the ball away. At the other end, a minute into the added three, Newport win a corner. After all the work, it looks like all of the effort put in to getting back into the game could be lost; the corner from the Newport right is swung over and met by the head of Lee Minshull. His effort though is over the ball, and the home fans can breathe a huge sigh of relief.

It finishes 1-1, and the result is probably fair. The rain has left several large puddles on the terracing, and while we wait (presumably for the tide to go out), the point won extends our unbeaten league run to three games. The performance improved after the changes at half time, and it’s good to see that the manager will make the necessary alterations if needed. Next week sees a trip to the Conference Champions, Mansfield Town, in what will be another test of our team and style of play. A tough game awaits, but at least the team are going in the right direction.

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