Football back for the Daggers


Last season exceeded most of the expectations of the Victoria Road faithful. Pre season favourites for the drop, home form played a big part in that apparent change of fortune, and as the campaign progressed to the half way point, we found ourselves in a comfortable mid table position. After three years of trying to avoid relegation, this was a very welcome change.

The second half of the season bought a complete reversal of home fortune. After beating Wimbledon on January 1st, it would be another two and a half months before we registered another three points at home. As the hangovers subsided that wet New Year’s Day, little did we realise that we had just witnessed our penultimate home win of the season.

It was fortunate then that our away form, disappointing up until December, came to our rescue. Just one defeat was sustained on the road after January 1st, and so when all the points were added up on the final day of the season, the daggers had finished a very creditable ninth place, and Wayne Burnett had been nominated for the League Two manager of the year award.

IMAG1312Despite the very good league season we had enjoyed, I felt nothing of the kind. In fact, apathy would be a very good way to describe the feelings I had as the season lurched to its conclusion. Home games now became something to endure, rather than enjoy. I can take the team losing, but if there appears to be a lack of effort or they just don’t appear to be bothered, then I get annoyed. The home game against Portsmouth on April 12 was awful. Cheered on by an away support that nearly matched the number of home fans in attendance, the visitors cantered to a comfortable 4-1 win.

That was bad enough, but the last home game topped the lot. Ok, we didn’t have much to play for, while Northampton Town needed the points to stay up. But the capitulation on the day (we lost 0-3 and it should have been more) meant that, as he team came round for their lap of honour at the end of the game, around 80% of the crowd had gone home. I had to think twice about staying but I did, because no matter what had happened that day, the campaign overall had been a success. Continue reading

Advertisements

All is wet on New Year’s Day


New Year’s Day was supposed to be a day of celebration.  Since the fixtures were released back in July we had been looking forward at welcoming Maidstone United at The Dripping Pan today.  With an expected four figure crowd, a special bumper edition matchday programme written and enough organic burgers to feed at least a dozen people we were ready to put on a show.  On Saturday our pitch team battled against the elements to get our game versus East Thurrock United on and we all did a collective sigh of relief when the final whistle blew and over 650 fans applauded the efforts of those who had not only performed but had got the game on.

photoAlas, the forecast for the days before the New Year was poor, and so it was.  We put “Pitch Watch” in place via Twitter, with images of the ground posted regularly to give us all hope.  Alas, the torrential rain on New Year’s Eve meant that the standing water on the pitch wasn’t to the referees liking and with a very heavy heart our game was cancelled.  The cost to us?  Thousands of pounds.  Instead of welcoming a crowd of 1,200, we will be lucky to get 400 when the game is squeezed into a midweek slot in February.  Gate receipts will be down by £8,000.  Programme sales down.  Catering down. Bar takings down.  Yet our costs don’t change.  Players still need to be paid this week, utilities have to be paid, printers still want their invoices paying.

We weren’t alone.  In fact every game in the Isthmian Premier fell by the wayside, and only one game in the Conference South made it to 3pm.  But with a “free game pass” I had little options as to where to go.

I was literally driving around Essex and Cambridgeshire looking for a game to go to as my options reduced.  I had one last chance.  Dagenham & Redbridge.  Despite the appalling weather, it looked like the game at Victoria Road, or the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Stadium to give it its catchy shorter name was on, so headed down the A13 to meet up with the Daggers Diary team for the first game of what promises to be a great year of football. Continue reading

Daggers leave it late against the Shrimpers


The Daggers Diary team take the long road up to Morecambe to see whether their promising start to the season could continue.

Last weekend’s win over Bristol Rovers at Victoria Road was a first win in five league games for us. Granted, there had been three 1-1 draws in that run, but also a 3-0 defeat at Mansfield which was described as “not the best day out we’ve ever had” by those that attended. The defeat at the Conference champions was swiftly followed by a home tie in the JPT against Colchester.

Going one down just before half time had us facing up to another early exit from a cup competition, but a second half recovery, aided by a much better performance and a red card for former Dagger Magnus Okuonghae produced four goals without reply to earn a second round trip to Southend United.

Exeter City then provided tougher opposition a few days later. While the performance was good, the wasting of so many chances when we were on top meant that we never capitalised on our one goal lead, and in the end, were grateful to hang on to a point, as the visitors scored their first away goal of the season, and threatened to follow it up with a second.

It was a similar story last Saturday against Rovers. Once again, we scored first, and were playing quite well, but gradually it levelled out and soon we were under the cosh. When Brian Saah was penalised for handball inside the area, the feeling of deja-vu was the overriding emotion as the ball was placed on the spot. Matt Harold’s spot kick though was well saved by Chris Lewington, and despite a few more nervy moments, the game was settled by a second Daggers goal to produce that first win since York City visited in mid-August.

morecambe 1The new style of play is winning a few people round, although this is certainly not being reflected in attendances. For the last few years, we could take some small comfort in the fact that we were at least getting more people than Accrington. Last week’s gate of 1,423 was the lowest for some time, but follows a trend that started last season. In a week when Leyton Orient’s request for a review of the decision to allow West Ham to take up tenancy in the Olympic Stadium was refused (and with it, the possibility of cheap tickets flooding the area), it’s slightly worrying to see so many empty gaps appearing at home games. There are some deals on to get more people into places like the Boleyn Ground at the moment (the league cup tie on Tuesday against Cardiff is £15 for anywhere in the ground), but will this take floating fans away from clubs like ourselves and Orient? Mostly, ourselves and Orient are at home when West Ham are away, so it could be argued that they are not denying either of us supporters. However, I would suggest that perhaps the pricing structure at the lower level is turning people away. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Welcome to Squeeze Gut Alley


Whitstable, home of England’s biggest village green (despite the fact it is a town), Alan Davies and TV’s worst comedian, Harry Hill.  Twinned with Mölndal in Sweden and “just good friends” with Sisimuit in Greenland.  And the final venue for my 2012/13 football season.  Yes, you may say it is nearer to the start of next season than the end of the last, but I play by the official rules.  UEFA told me over a coffee a few weeks ago (not all of UEFA but someone who works there) that the season ends on the 30th June each year, and so despite not seeing a game for over 4 weeks, today I bow out of the 2012/13 season having seen a grand total of 93 games.  Not quite the high of 2011/12’s 105 games, but even still – pretty bloody impressive if you ask me (which of course you are).

9169370130_c7c86a7f41_bWe all dream of fixtures falling into place for the Best.Day.Ever and here we are at the end/start of the season with a double-header of Ryman League South v Football League teams, separated by just a few miles, or one stop on the train.  Alas the lack of match action in the past few weeks has driven us to the extreme.  I wasn’t the only one who had seriously looked at the World Stool Ball this weekend before I stumbled across Dagenham and Redbridge’s visit to the Kent seaside.  As 80/1 outsiders for the nPower League Two title next/this season with Betfair.com, Dagenham & Redbridge will hope for a season similar to the start of next season rather than the end where they were in freefall. Add into the mix Gillingham’s first run out of the season at Faversham Town and it was a day better than hospitality at the FA Cup Final, or a free ticket for the All-German Champions League Final.  Probably. Continue reading

Wigan 1 Morecambe 0 – Football wins over the weather again


Spare a thought for those fans who embark on marathon journeys to the other end of the country to watch their side at this time of the year.  Who would be mad enough to make such a trip?  Step forward the Daggers Diary Team.

The last Saturday before Christmas is a busy day. Whether it’s the last few (or all) of the presents to be bought, meeting friends or delivering to those you won’t see over the festive period, the last few days can be a bit of a rush. All this helps to explain why, as we set out from a still dark Victoria Road, there are only two dozen fellow travelers on the long, long journey up to the north-west.

There are probably several factors that can be attributed to the lack of people making the journey. For a start, the leaving time from Victoria Road is 6am, which means that we’ll be around ninety minutes into the journey before we see the sunrise. Another possibility is that, with a coach cost of £25 per person and money tight at this time of year, it’s just proved to be too an expensive a day out. Plus if people still need to do shopping, then this is a day that probably could be spent doing that instead. I have no idea what people used to do when we didn’t have shops open on a Sunday.

Last weekends win over Barnet pushed us up to twelfth place in the division, our highest of the season so far, and stretched our unbeaten home run to seven games. Away from home it has been a bit more difficult, but a win at Bristol Rovers a fortnight ago pushed them closer to sacking their manager (which was done after their defeat at York last weekend), and we have also collected impressive victories at both Chesterfield and Oxford in the last two months. While this can be offset with defeats at Torquay, York and Torquay, it still represents a fairly successful first half of the season. While Christmas is always seen as a time for looking back, the first half of 2012/13 is ending quite nicely for us, and so we can look forward to the rest of the season with a bit of optimism. Continue reading

Christmas cheer all around at Underhill


League Two in the past few months seems to have gone through a bit of an image change. We’ve had Luis Boa Morte sign for Chesterfield, a former double winner with Arsenal. James Beattie, once a £6 million player who counts Everton and Rangers among his former clubs, is now at Accrington Stanley.

Three weeks ago, we had the pleasure of seeing the former Rangers midfielder Barry Ferguson control the midfield when Fleetwood came to town. It’s scary to think that it could have been Joey Barton, who decided to swap the north-west for the south of France and Olympique Marseille. Their central midfield could have been even better if the two had been in the same team.

Ferguson though was excellent on the day. Ok, so no-one on the day impressed with their “Movember” efforts, but facial hair aside, he was clearly a step above everyone else on the pitch that day. Continue reading