Seagulls soaring towards the Premier League


After last week’s ultimate day drama, the Daggers diary team crave some more desperation and so head down to the Amex to watch Wolves’ last stand against Brighton & Hove Albion.

For some excellent pictures of the game head on over to Danny Last’s set here.

We must have a fatalism fetish at the moment, as last weekend, we were watching Dagenham survive on the last day of the League Two season despite losing at home to York City. This weekend, to mark the end of the Championship season, we’ve ventured down to the south coast, to watch Brighton take on Wolves. For the home team, just two years after leaving the Withdean (and beating the Daggers to gain promotion to the Championship), they are a few games from promotion to the Premier League. For the visitors, the prospect of a second consecutive relegation is looming ominously on the horizon.

6014657781_730d0cdb96_bWhen Dagenham Dan mentioned the idea of attending the game, I agreed almost immediately. After all, I haven’t been to the new stadium yet, and after Dan and Graham visited in March for the game against Crystal Palace, their reports about the place were glowing to say the least. Not normally being a person to turn down the chance to go to a game, I took up the offer of a ticket as soon as they asked.

In a way, I’ve been looking forward to this more than the Daggers games of late; at least I should be able to relax and enjoy this one, safe in the knowledge that the outcome won’t affect me. This is more than can be said for Neil, though. Our driver throughout our February trips to mainland Europe for our four game weekenders, Neil’s team have plummeted at an alarming rate in the last eighteen months. Top of the premier league after three games of 2011/12, they are now third from bottom and need a win today, plus results elsewhere to go their way to stay up. Last weekends home defeat to Burnley was met with a pitch invasion at the end, and if I am being completely honest, I can understand the frustration with it all, even if I am not completely comfortable with how it is expressed. Continue reading

Yann-dabby-dozy


Three weeks ago Charlton Athletic’s season was still completely wide open.  In one of the tightest divisions we have ever seen they could still be relegated, yet were only a few wins off the Play Offs.  The Addicks fans aren’t known for their optimistic outlook on life, yet even they were finding it hard to keep their emotions in check.  There was even a swear word used on one forum, and a suggestion that Chris Powell “may” be out of his depth.  But recent form saw them rocket up the table, and coming into the final game of the season a top eight finish was almost a certainty.

8706585543_acec13d592_bThe visitors, Bristol City, on the other hand had nothing but pride to play for having already been relegated.  In a day of twists and turns to decide everyone’s final fate, this was one of the very few games where nothing rode on the result.  So it wasn’t a surprise when I rang up Active Matt and asked if any of his six season tickets were going spare.  “Take your pick from 5…everyone seems to have better things to do today”.  On a day when football options in the South East were at a premium, this would fill the gap.

It is hard not to admire what Charlton have, and continue to achieve.  I know that Palace and Millwall fans would disagree, but it is a nicer club to visit, without the need to look over your shoulder, or constantly cover the ears of any children you bring.  And this is a family club.  Season tickets for youngsters are just £49 next season – just over £2 a game.  When I rule the world of football I will set maximum prices for all clubs, ranging from free admission at all non league ground, to a maximum of £5 in the Premier League.  Children are our future (or is it garlic bread?) but so many clubs have simply priced them out of the game already, meaning at some point a whole generation will be missing from our Premier League palaces.

My first experience of football was here at the Valley, back in April 1974.  It was a very different place in those days, with the biggest terrace in English football a crumbling, weed polluted backdrop to a game being played on a pitch of sand and dust.  I remember the programme shop in the corner, the crawl space under the main stand (where my brother told me the devil lived) and the noise when Charlton took the lead thanks to Derek Hales.  And here I was, taking my seat in the East Stand just as young Derek (now a sprightly 72 years old) was being introduced to the crowd on the pitch.  Derek was a legend in these parts, scoring goals for fun and even getting himself sent off for having a fight with team-mate Mike Flanagan in a FA Cup game once.

8706582855_4a163c452b_bToday it is all so civilised.  Parking in Makro, a short walk across the Woolwich Road, a quick burger at Come Dine With Me (alas no comedy voice over from Dave Lamb) and into the ground.  Because the ground is in a valley (wonder how they got the name of the ground?), views from the stands are excellent.  Our timing was perfect, arriving just as the heavy rain begun to fall.  The away fans seemed not to have got the message sent around by a few fans that it was “fancy dress away day” and apart from a Zippy, a rubbish looking superhero and what appeared to be a cross between a Smurf and David Hasselhoff, they looked a sorry bunch, already resigned to trips to Port Vale and Crawley Town next season.  The pitch certainly seemed to have seen better days but what the heck.  It was the last day of the season and this was sure to be a dramatic final ninety minutes, albeit not in Floyd Road, South East London. Continue reading

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

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