Annual Pilgrimage

It’s been a few years since we made the long pilgrimage to see the, erm, Pilgrims but it was always a great day out. Fortunately, The Daggers Diary team did the trip for us yesterday.

Having left the clubhouse during the closing stages of the Manchester United v Fulham cup tie, it was hard not to feel a bit down side following our defeat at home to Morecambe last Saturday. There may have been a touch of admiration for the results of both Luton and Bradford (oh for the days when that was us), but although we are in a relatively comfortable league position at the moment, we are all very aware that it can change all too quickly.

100_5751Today is an away game, and we venture to the most southerly and westerly ground in the football league; Plymouth Argyle. During my early formative years watching football, I can remember Plymouth reaching the semi finals of the FA Cup, with the nation’s media eager that the plucky underdogs from Division Three produce an upset against top flight Watford. In the end, a goal from George Reilly sent Watford to their first FA Cup final, while Plymouth had to try and secure their future in the third division, which they did, although nineteenth place doesn’t immediately suggest a team reaching the last four of the cup.

The other memory I have of Plymouth is Daggers related. Since promotion, I haven’t made the trip to Devon, but the one time I have visited was back in January 2003. On that occasion, we had been drawn away to Argyle in the third round of the FA Cup, and although there were two divisions between us at the time, we travelled back to Essex with a fantastic 2-2 draw. The replay at Victoria Road went down in club folklore, as we secured a 2-0 win, with the second goal being a header from Junior McDougald after a cross from Mark Janney which was described as “Beckham-esque” on the highlights that night.

Since our first league meeting in 2010, our league record against Plymouth is fairly awful, with just two goal-less draws to show for five meetings between the two clubs. There have been times in the past few years when we have wondered if we would be playing; with financial problems meaning that Peter Reid had to sell a Cup Final medal, Plymouth have been up against it in a financial sense. Continue reading

Daggers undone by the Shrimps net

The Daggers Diary team reflect on what might have been in the past week as well as a disappointing home game against the visitors from the North West.

Last weekend, our plan was to finally attend a game at the Dripping Pan, as we had been invited down to watch Lewes v Margate . Every time we had planned to make the trip, something had come along to scupper that plan, whether it be lack of funds, lack of transport, the weather or alien invasion. Whatever it was, it always stopped us actually getting to the game.

So, with the weather deteriorating in the days leading up to our next attempt, there was almost something inevitable about this one going by the wayside as well. With other games at various levels disappearing a lot quicker than the snow and ice, the alternatives weren’t that many.

There was the opportunity to stay in the warm and watch the opening game of the African Cup of Nations, but that would have to be watched with the volume turned down, lest those trumpet things start to really get on my nerves again. Anything in the local area was being called off, and for a while, I seriously contemplated staying and watching the game on tv, although doing that would have violated the natural order of things for a football fan on a Saturday afternoon. I suppose I could have put the tv in the window and stood outside, to get the “sort of” terrace atmosphere, but it wouldn’t really have worked. Plus I would probably have got some very strange looks from the neighbours.

Handily though, Wycombe were working hard to get their game with the Daggers on, and a posting appeared on their website on the Friday afternoon, saying that they were “optimistic” that it would go ahead. A couple of hours later, another message appeared, saying that the ticket office would be shutting early because of the snow. Now things didn’t look quite so good.

We need not have worried though. The good people at Wycombe rallied, and with the roads deserted as we made our way round to Buckinghamshire, we were at the ground just after mid-day. The anticipated crowd would, we were informed, be well down on what they would normally expect, but the pitch looked in good condition, and the car parks looked to be reasonably clear.

It was just a pity that, after all of the work that went on, the game wasn’t much to write home about. Both teams looked as though they would rather be anywhere else, which, judging by the even lower than anticipated attendance was precisely where most had gone to. In the end, one of the few coherent moves of the game resulted in the only goal after thirty five minutes, and although both teams looked as though they were trying, it just wasn’t really working out. Prior to the game, sitting in the warmth of the bar, the general consensus was that a point would be a good outcome for us. Ultimately though, we probably didn’t deserve that.

There was even a disagreement after the final whistle between John Still and Dean Morgan (after the Wycombe forward had punted the ball into the corner following a drop ball after an injury, meaning that we recovered possession a whole forty yards further back), although this only succeeded in delaying (for a about a minute) a few people from getting back to either the warm bar or their cars.

Saturday 26th January 2013, Dagenham & Redbridge v Morecambe, Victoria Road

IMAG0589It seems like only yesterday that the team were making their way up to Morecambe for the rearranged league game, although it was actually eighteen. Morecambe, like us haven’t had great attendances this season, and made the game a freebie, attracting a crowd in excess of over four thousand on the night. It will be interesting to see if a proportion of those who attended that night will be tempted back on a more regular basis.

We all stroll into the ground with about an hour to kick off, although we are already fairly certain it won’t be that busy. Talk is about the possibility of the crowd being less than a thousand, and with the visitors having sold just forty eight tickets prior to today, we might just struggle to get to four figures. With half an hour before kick off, there isn’t even a couple of hundred in the ground, which really doesn’t look good at all. Continue reading

A festive football cracker from the Dagger Diary

The Daggers Diary don’t let a small matter of rain, snow or Christmas get in the way of their quest to every game humanly possible.  Here is their update from the festive period.

After our last game prior to Christmas at Morecambe was called off as we started the final part of our journey to the game, it meant that the team would have had a bit of extra time to prepare for the two Christmas games, even if it has meant a wasted journey over that particular weekend.

This all meant that our last game before Christmas was the December 15th win over Barnet. The 1-0 win pushed us up into the top half of the table, although we have since slipped back a couple of places to 14th. The loss of Dwight Gayle to Peterborough has not proved (so far) to be as big a loss as first feared, although the winning margins have been tight. Gayle so far, has proved to be a player capable of stepping up to the Championship level, and he has netted on several occasions for Peterborough so far. Now that the anticipated transfer has gone through, it is to be hoped that Gayle will continue to progress and eventually end up costing Peterborough a fair bit of cash, and that we won’t be cashing in on any sell on clause that we might have requested.

As is traditional over the Christmas period, the games come thick and fast, assuming that they go ahead of course. After the postponement at Morecambe, the next opportunity to see the Daggers is a Boxing Day home game against Southend United. Continue reading

Gone for a Burton

Last weekend saw the return to Dagenham of probably the most hated man in the history of the club, Steve Evans. With a welcoming committee ready and waiting to meet their team coach as it arrived at the car park, the day itself saw quite a fair amount of abuse aimed at the former Boston United manager whenever he ventured into the technical area surrounding the Rotherham bench.

As it turned out, Saturday 10th November will go down as one of those days when just about everything went right. A an excellent 5-0 win saw each goal celebrated like a World Cup final, and a reminder of just how much everyone hated Evans after each time the ball hit the net. Rotherham, on the day, were awful, and had Andy Warrington to thank for keeping it at just the five. After the game, Evans described it as the worst performance of his managerial career, so that was nice. There was even the threat of him not sending the team back out in the second half, but they eventually emerged and were just as bad in the second half as they were in the first. Perhaps it would have been better just to pack up and go home at the interval.

Despite the win though, Saturday just seemed a bit of a strange day. There was an atmosphere, partly stoked by the situation regarding the visiting manager, but there was also a bit of a dispute regarding the supporters club. For as long as I can remember, they have been staffing the match day club shop, so now that it has moved from inside the stadium to outside, there was probably the expectation that this arrangement would continue. Except that it hasn’t, and so standing outside the old premises prior to the game were a few of the “former” staff of the shop, complaining about the situation, and that they would need to have a word with those at the club who had seen fit to dispense with their services. This created more than one edge to the atmosphere, which helped make the noise in the ground last week the loudest and most sustained for some time.

Then, in the early hours of last Sunday morning, there was a fire at the club. First reports on the forum reckoned that it was the club house that had gone, which wouldn’t have entirely surprised me. That was then corrected, and it was confirmed that it had been the programme shop that had gone up instead.

As a club, one of my biggest moans is that we don’t seem to celebrate our history enough. As Dagenham & Redbridge, we were formed in 1992, out of a merger between Dagenham and Redbridge Forest. Forest themselves were formed out of mergers before that, but like Sky and their Premier League era, we only came into existence in 1992. It just seems that anything that happened before that isn’t of as much importance.

In the programme shop were loads of items that related to our predecessors, and now thanks to this, they are now gone forever. A quick look at the picture posted on the club’s website in the week showed the almost total destruction of what was inside. If anything is salvageable I’m not sure, but from that picture, it didn’t look like it. If there is nothing left, then it’s an opportunity to celebrate the history of Walthamstow Avenue, Ilford et al that has gone. How long it takes to get the shop back up and running again is anyone’s guess.

All of this has sort of cast a long shadow over what had been a brilliant day on the pitch. Winning any game by five goals is a cause for celebration, but given the nature of the win, and then adding in the history with the opposition manager, it just made it so much sweeter.

The win meant that the good league form had been extended by another game, making it now just one defeat in ten. There were times at the start of the season when this didn’t look likely, but now that there is a settled team, with minimal injuries, the side is starting to play well. There is also a little bit of confidence appearing in the support. Whereas there was the hope that we might play well and get a result, now that has changed slightly, and we are now going into games with a good level of expectation that we can get a result. Continue reading

Fear and loathing of Steve Evans

The defeat at York on October 20th was our first in the league in a month. Despite a below par performance, we had got to within one goal of somehow getting something from the game.

We followed that up with two home games within a few days. First up was a 1-1 draw at home to Exeter, and then came a 0-0 draw at home to Aldershot. Quite comfortably one of the most boring games I think I have ever seen, it was two hours of my life that I will never get back.

Even allowing for the fact that the Aldershot game was one of those designated as “kids for a quid”, the attendance was still around the average of 1700, which would no doubt have been a disappointment for those who work hard at the club to try to encourage those in the local community to attend and support the club.

Last weekend saw us exit the FA Cup at the first round, following a 0-4 defeat at Bournemouth. Neither Dagenham Dan or I were actually there though, attending Borussia Moenchengladbach with Neil Shenton instead. Nor did I get to Oxford in the week; pessimism following the Bournemouth defeat turned out to be totally misplaced as the team managed a 3-2 despite being a player light for the last twenty minutes. The win pushed up to fifteenth place, which is almost nosebleed territory given our start to the season. Having said that, the league form is now just one defeat in nine games, which is not bad given that it took us until the end of September to register our first league win. Oh ye of little faith and all that… Continue reading