the daggers voice
2017 marked our first full year back in non-league's top flight and was full of up's and down's - from the delight of making the play-offs on that simmering day in Wales to the despair of seeing our eventual promotion challenge ended on a heartbreaking afternoon against Forest Green which was a devastating end to a fantastic campaign.
Ultimately, this was a year which continued a new era at the club following the end of a nine-year stay in the Football League and our fantastically-rebuilt team exceeded all that was expected from the fans, which I can't praise them enough for. As our initial bid to make an instant return failed, we had a long Summer to recuperate and get the result out of our systems, ready to mount another challenge.
Those fabled trips to Charlton, Southampton, Portsmouth seemed a lifetime away, but the more time we spend in the National League makes you appreciate those days all the more. Instead, they were replaced with journeys to places such as North Ferriby and Maidenhead United, a reminder of just how far the Daggers had come in our short 25-year history, but also how far we had managed to fall, all because of one disastrous year.
Another busy Summer was in store as John Still wanted to ensure we could go one better this time. We sadly waved goodbye to Jordan Maguire-Drew, who will be fondly remembered at the club. Even though it was ultimately meaningless, I'll never forget his goal at home to Forest Green in the home play-off semi-final, which even the thought of brings a smile to my face.
In his place, though, came two quality strikers in the form of Morgan Ferrier and Michael Cheek and they would go on to endear themselves to the fans. Ferrier in particular is adored now, and his incredible goal at home to Ebbsfleet United in August will go down as one of my favourites of all time. Cheek had netted 20 goals for relegated Braintree the season before and him signing signalled another statement of intent from the Daggers.
Several more players were recruited and Dagenham were expected to have a rather successful year. Optimism soared after an incredible August where the Daggers went unbeaten. We were scoring goals for fun and looked a cut above the rest in the National League, even at that early stage.
It's safe to say many people were getting carried away, but why wouldn't they? We'd battered then-leaders Bromley 5-1, Corey Whitely was on the form of his life and a battling draw at Maidstone with ten men even proved we could dig deep when need be. The signs were overwhelmingly positive, but nobody knew that things would begin to decline.
September began well, with an impressive win over Gateshead, where we showed that we could perform even without Whitely. However, the first defeat arrived at Hartlepool and, with us rattled, was swiftly followed by a second. People were claiming that cracks were starting to appear, but we responded with last-minute goals against Solihull and Torquay to pick up points, despite admittedly shaky performances.
Our first week in October was one of the biggest in our year, as we travelled to high-flyers Aldershot and Woking respectively. Although we earned a point at Aldershot which again outlined our promotion credentials, we were then beaten at Woking, despite dominating. Once again, the next defeat was hard to recover from and we went on a bad run after that, losing to Orient in the FA Cup and suffering a last-minute loss to Wrexham, but form picked up and we managed to end the month with 4 points against Macclesfield (then top) and Maidenhead.
We were suffering from a bad case of travel sickness, though, and we lost our first game of November against Tranmere Rovers, meaning we were without an away win since the first week in August. However we would go on to break that record in the middle of a fantastic four-game winning run that propelled us right up there, beating Guiseley after being 2-0 down, Dover (then top), Chester emphatically and then Barrow, also away, to begin December.
But we typically underperform in December, and this year was no different as we are still winless since that display at Holker Street. An FA Trophy exit to seventh-tier Hereford meant there was to be no cup success this season and our defensive problems plagued us in the games that followed, with a shock loss to Eastleigh coming before another loss away to Orient. And the year was ended on Saturday, with a 1-1 draw at Ebbsfleet.
So it's certainly been an interesting year, and we're currently just on the cusp of the play-offs, but with a match in hand. Whatever happens it's generally been a proud year to follow the Daggers, and here's to an even better 2018, when we can maybe go one better.
I am Joel Page, Dagenham & Redbridge FC fan. Here I will share some of my experiences.