Daggers fail to put the knife into Stanley

It’s not been a good start to the season for Dagenham & Redridge and so the Daggers Diary team were in fine spirits as they headed down to the Vic for the visit of Accrington Stanley.

After the encouraging performance against Coventry in the league cup, hopes were raised for the long trip to Cheltenham. It’s never been a lucky ground for us, so a 2-0 defeat was not entirely unexpected.  Three days later, we welcomed Plymouth to the Vic, and despite more near misses than you could shake a stick at, as well as an outstanding display from the visiting keeper, we were unable to score and settled for a 0-0.

Next up was another home game, this time against Gillingham; another defeat (this time by 2-1) was played out in a thunder storm and lightning show that bought more “ooh” noises than a day long marathon of “play your cards right” where the winning couple have a chance to go for the car.

A lead was squandered at Wimbledon, although an equalizer by Luke Howell rescued a point. This took us (in a league sense) to last weekend, and a trip to the Essex coast to play Southend. Luke Wilkinson’s eighth minute red card meant that the task became that little bit more difficult. Although we did get the game back to 2-1, the third killed the game off. Continue reading

The season starts much the same as it ended for The Daggers

After a summer of recharging the football batteries with a few trips to the Olympics, The Daggers Diary team are back.

Tonight marks the opening game of the 2012/13 season for the Daggers, and the twenty first since the merger of Dagenham with Redbridge Forest . Under normal circumstances of course, the campaign would start in bright sunshine on a Saturday afternoon with the first league game; these though are not quite normal circumstances, and so with the league campaign kicking off a week later than normal because of the Olympic Games, the first round of the League Cup comes first.

Pre-season has gone reasonably well for the Daggers. The two games I did actually attend resulted in comfortable wins at Gresley and Concord Rangers. On the last two Saturday’s the first team has beaten Brighton (4-0) and West Ham (6-3) although a large, asterisked note should be made against both of these results, and this is that both of these were against “xi” teams. It’s easy to get excited about beating teams by these score-lines, especially in pre-season when optimism is at its strongest, but this must be tempered with the knowledge that they were achieved against players that might not to be expecting to play too much first team football in the forthcoming nine months.

While Olympic duties prevented me going to the Brighton game (having already got a ticket to see a thoroughly entertaining quarter final game at Wembley between Senegal and Mexico), I couldn’t claim the same for the West Ham game. It’s just my luck that the one time I don’t see us play my other team (albeit not the first team), they win, and I am out on the Essex coast, soaking up the rays and watching Southend Manor advance to the preliminary round of the FA Cup by beating Hullbridge 1-0. Continue reading

Taming the Shrew..well sort of

There can be few better moments than knowing that you are safe coming into the last game of the season as a football fan.  An away trip to a team at the top of the table takes on a different meaning and you can enjoy life a bit more.  The air smells fresher, food takes better and even Harry Hill appears to be funny.  It was the last trip for our Daggers Diary team on Saturday as they made their way to Shropshire, for once no longer the wettest place in England.

It makes a change to go into the last couple of games of a season with nothing to play for. Last year, we were trying to stay in League 1; in both 2009 and 2010 we were trying to get into the play offs, while in 2008, we went into the penultimate game of the season up at Darlington needing a win (and results to go our way) to stay in the football league. The last time we had nothing to play for in the last couple of games was in 2007, having already secured the conference title. It makes for a nice relaxed trip to Shrewsbury, which is the venue for our last away game of the season.

You would kind of hope that by this time of the year, we would be going to games in some decent weather, but since the drought was declared recently, it seems to have rained for most of the time since. As some have remarked, it must be one of the wettest droughts in recent times.

Today is the last away trip of 2011/12, and we are making the trip westwards to Shrewsbury Town. The home side are in line for an automatic promotion place, and a win today will see them promoted to League 1. With this in mind, the game (aside from the away section) is a sell out, and so there will be around nine thousand home fans hoping to see them achieve their aim today. In contrast, there will be around 100 Daggers fans making the trip, which is around half of our allocation.

Three years ago, we met on the final day of the season in what was basically a winner takes all game for the final play off place. Although we had a one point lead going into the game, the Shrews led 2-0 by half time, and it looked all over. Although we got one back early in the second half, an equalizer wasn’t forthcoming, and despite the best efforts of everyone, Shrewsbury held on for a 2-1 win, and thus took the last play off place. Over the course of a season, where you finish is where you deserve to finish, and over the course of that season, Shrewsbury deserved to finish in that place. Given that we had only just avoided relegation the previous year, it still represented a major improvement for the team. Continue reading

Safety first

All is fair in love, war and football.  Well, that is what we are led to believe.  If it wasn’t for the pantomine villians, football would be no fun.  But when they escape the punishment of the fans it is oh, so frustrating.  Brian Parish reports on the absence of Steve Evans as Crawley Town met Dagenham & Redbridge.

Up until about ten days ago, this fixture was one of the most eagerly anticipated in the Daggers season. And this was not for good reasons, either. It all boiled down to the man who was in charge up until this point in time, Steve Evans. Evans was in charge of Boston United when they beat the Daggers to the Conference title in 2002. With only one promotion place up for grabs, it was only those that won the championship to go up; if you finished second, then there wasn’t even the prospect of the play offs to fall back on.

Then it emerged that Boston had been making illegal payments to players throughout that season. The FA investigated, and eventually, in a pathetic half-way house, doing something but not really doing anything kind of way, they deducted Boston four points. Not from the season when the offence had taken place though, but the following year. The Daggers protested, but the FA reckoned that they couldn’t change the fixture lists that had already been produced, so Boston got to keep their place in the league, while we had to stay in the Conference.

Evans eventually left Boston, although they clung onto their league place for five years before succumbing to relegation in 2007. The ironic thing was that we replaced them in the league, which was a fact not lost on any Daggers fans. Boston are now on their way back in the non-league game, although they were left in a bit of a mess after their time in the league.

Evans was convicted of tax evasion, and given a 20 month suspended prison sentence, although that didn’t stop Crawley employing him a few years ago. From that moment on, Crawley became a target of hate amongst Daggers fans, and the away trip in October was marked by a home 3-1 win, as well as one visiting fan being chucked out even before the game had started. And while most would be getting ready for Evans coming back to Victoria Road since that fateful 2001-02 campaign, that has all gone now since he decided to up sticks and depart for Rotherham. If you think that I may be overplaying this all a bit, then I will put it like this. Some of the biggest despots and dictators in history would get a better reception at Victoria Road than Evans. He really is that despised. Continue reading

Bottom of the league, you are having a laugh!

A week is a long time in football, two weeks a lifetime.  But we know that form is only temporary and anything can happen on any given Saturday.  Could Dagenham and Redbridge continue their good form? Well we sent Daggers Diary’s very own Brian Parish up to Port Vale to find out.

Eleven days ago, following our draw at Barnet, the bottom of league 2 got a whole lot tighter with several teams separated by only a few points. Last weekend saw the Daggers take on Accrington Stanley in one of those “must win” games, so beloved by media and fans alike at this stage of the season.

A visit from the Stanley also brings Accrington Pete to Victoria Road. Accrington Pete is Dagenham Dan’s dad, and having been to several encounters at Dagenham, he had yet to see his team lose. He even ventured up to Accrington on our supporters club coach a few years back, and they won that as well, so when he strolled into the bar an hour or so before kick off, my hopes of a result weren’t that high. They were even lower when the visitors were 1-0 up at the break.

The last five minutes of normal time (plus the six added on for stoppages) saw a total change in the game. First, Brian Woodall scored in the eighty-fifth minute to send the smallest crowd at Victoria Road this season into raptures (aside from the away fans, naturally) at the prospect of saving a point. Then after it had all got a bit daft in the penalty area as Accrington prepared to defend a free kick (and losing Toto Nsiala to a red card for an “off the ball” incident into the process), Scott Doe rose salmon like at the back post to record the eventual winner, and put belief back into the Daggers cause that relegation could be avoided.

Starting the day in last place, by the close of the day, we had risen to 21st, which got a huge cheer in the bar after the game when it came up on the various tv screens dotted around.

Today sees our attempt to save our place in the football league take us to Burslem, for a game against Port Vale. Burslem is part of the conurbation known as Stoke on Trent, which is also made up from the towns of Hanley, Tunstall, Longton, Fenton and Stoke.

Our home game against them in December was marked with protests from the visiting fans regarding their clubs board, which has continued to dominate local media coverage. Things have not been helped by the club going into administration, thereby incurring a ten point penalty. It has even got so bad that, according one of the local newspapers, the club was even been sued by their own shirt sponsor over an unpaid loan. Continue reading

Barnet Fayre a bit better than the Daggers

Seven days ago, I think it is fair to say that many Daggers fans had written off their chances of staying in the Football League. If they were to give ourselves a chance, then a win last Saturday against Macclesfield was imperative. And lo and behold they did.  So with a midweek trip to Barnet to look forward to Brian Parish and Dagenham Dan hot-footed it up the Northern Line.

So while Dagenham Dan and I were taking in a weekend of Spanish football in Madrid, we were praying from afar that we might be able to get a positive result that would give us a bit of hope. As football fans, we are all liable to be a bit on the fickle side now and again; last weeks hero is this weeks donkey and all that. But a 2-0 win on Saturday, secured thanks to two Medy Elito goals means that, until tonight’s conclusion at least, we might just have our Dagenham back.

Victory though, came at a cost, with Luke Howell (only just back from a six month lay off) succumbing to another injury; despite initial messages to Spain saying that he had been carried off, it now sounds like that he might not be missing for that long. This is most definitely good news, as Howell had been sorely missed in the middle of the park, and although we were beaten by Northampton, he had looked as good as ever, and been a steadying influence.

With another two loan signings made prior to Saturday’s game, (both are from Crawley, with John Akinde returning to the club after a year, and Charlie Wassmer coming in), not only are we going for the title of most corners won in League 2, but quite possibly the most loan signings made in a single season. It’s a good job that numbers are not allocated to only one player throughout the season, because otherwise we could be pushing the high forties by now. Continue reading

Dons outthink free falling Daggers

Fresh from the beaches of Catalunya, Brian Parish was ready for the Daggers final push to save their Football League status – well for a week at least before he went back out to Spain.

After the glamour and excitement of our European trip a couple of weeks ago, for Dagenham Dan and I, it was back to familiar ground last weekend, for our home game against Bradford. Results after the crushing 0-5 defeat at home to Cheltenham had improved; a goalless draw at Plymouth was followed by an unexpected (but more than welcome) win up at Morecambe. In ten years of visiting Morecambe, I have never seen us win there, as our only victories in that time have come on the two occasions that I haven’t been able to attend. Perhaps I should leave well alone.

Last weekend saw the visit of one of the biggest clubs in the division, Bradford City. Their plummet down through the divisions has been well documented, but in an encounter that sort of threatened to get going but never really did, the one moment of quality settled it. Matt Saunders, a recent free agent signing, scored with a beautiful free kick, to earn us the points, despite the dangerous wing play of the Bradford number 32, Kyle Reid. To sum up our season though, Saunders was injured taking the free kick, and so sat out our midweek trip to Swindon.

With results improving, there was the hope of getting something from the trip to Wiltshire, but instead all we got was another thumping (0-4), and we lost our main striker to a straight red card, which will mean a ban of three games. All in all, those that travelled have probably had better nights out. And to have to pay £25 for the privilege as well, meant that the night out was probably in the region of around £60. Not good.

At least our next couple of away games are a bit closer. In ten days time we travel on the Northern line of the London Underground to High Barnet, for what is becoming an eagerly contested fixture. Today though, we venture to south west London, for a district line derby visit to AFC Wimbledon.

Given that the club was only formed ten years ago from the ashes of the original Wimbledon FC that was shamefully allowed to decamp seventy miles up the road to Milton Keynes, what they have achieved is to be truly admired. I’m not sure if even the most die-hard fan could have predicted the meteoric rise of the club, but here they are, and they are more than coping with the demands of the football league. Their win at our place in August was their first away victory since promotion last May, and so we know that this is going to be a tough day out. However, recent form (3 wins in 22 league games) is not so good, so this is a game that we may, just may be able to take something from. Continue reading