the daggers voice
With both sides in contrasting form and needing points for very separate reasons, this could well prove to be a thrilling, end-to-end encounter at Victoria Road. Our promotion challenge has crumbled; we're slowly fading away from the play-off picture altogether when we should be going for the league. Solihull Moors though have picked up hugely under Mark Yates and arrive in the best form of their season, meaning that they will arrive with confidence that defies their league position.
It seems like whenever we turn a corner at the moment, it's almost instantly back to square one. John Still often says that the best teams get going around January, but this is a consistency that constantly evades us, and we're seeing the consequences now. On our day we can beat anyone, as the victories over Macclesfield and Dover show, but it's these kinds of games where we struggle, and that has ultimately cost us the league.
In reality, I think we all know the league has gone. Although things can change rapidly in this turbulent division, we've left ourselves too much to do. Infact, such is our decline that even a play-off spot is uncertain, so we're going to need every point we can get. Three on this occasion would certainly do us no harm, but it certainly won't be easy in any way.
Solihull are in the same bracket as Chester, Torquay and Guiseley, etc, who we have struggled against this season. No games are easy in this league, you can't underestimate anybody. In September, only a hugely-fortunate Jake Howells leveller denied Moors a victory over us, although we took the lead early on through Mason Bloomfield.
This was another thrilling encounter, as Daggers-Moors games have proven to be over the recent months. With 19 goals in the three matches we've shared, one thing you can guarantee is entertainment, especially considering the vulnerability of both defences. On this occasion, though, I'd happily take a scrappy 1-0 victory, just to halt the decline.
One player we should be wary of is Oladapo Afelayan, a pacy winger who has represented England C in the past, aswell as striking against us in September. He's impressed massively and is a crucial factor in their recent upturn in form. His team will sense another scalp, and it wouldn't be too surprising if he contributed to one and heaped more misery on the Daggers. After all, it's been a very disappointing few weeks.
Hopefully this year, though, we don't disappoint. Just as it's easy to go on a bad run, it's equally possible to embark on a good run just as quickly - just look at our opponents Solihull. Here's hoping we can gain a morale-boosting victory, which will put us in an ideal position ahead of a defining February run-in.
Well if that seemed bad in the flesh then it was even worse watching it back on TV. We were second best in every department; overrun in midfield, bullied in our own defensive area and not good enough in attack - bar the last ten minutes we not only lacked the quality but the passion and determination to break down a committed Sutton side clearly giving it all for their manager, can our players really say that?
Amazingly though, that spell at the end showed that Sutton were vulnerable to a bit of pressure, yet we didn't seem to try and put them under any all game. We actually could've nicked an albeit completely undeserved point when you consider the penalty Ferrier should've had if he went down, the fact that the ball probably didn't go out in the buildup for the first goal and the huge chance Cheek had. Even when we're awful we can at least manage to have some chances which I guess was the only positive in the kind of dreadful display we've seen far too often this season. Last campaign that kind of performance was a one-off, but now it seems like it's every other week. Not good enough.
The 2-1 scoreline suggests a tight, even contest but in reality they could've had at least 6, and probably deserved to. Even after they hit the bar three times, the post twice and had multiple others cleared off the line we didn't wake up and that first goal summed it all up for me. Yes it shouldn't have bounced but that's abysmal defending from Doe, especially after he'd got away with the exact same thing first half, and made even worse when you see him trudge away, shaking his head and looking around as if looking for others to blame. Just boot it out of the ground.
Then the second goal was just as bad, I think it was Ling's man. After all the free headers we'd gifted in our own box one was bound to count and it came to nobody's surprise when it did. This game showed how far we are away from potentially being Champions (we'd be happy enough to sneak into 7th right now) but the frustrating thing is that Sutton were pretty much gifted both goals even though they should've had more. How many times now have we played well for less than a half? Boreham Wood the other week, maybe Guiseley at home too, even Torquay (h), Chester away etc. You're never going to win games like that and when you do, such as the Guiseley game, your luck will run out eventually.
Many people seem to think Still's time is up, but I don't think we should be too hasty yet. It's still January and we have a third of the season to go and in this league things can change in the space of a week. If we don't make the playoffs though in what is a generally poor standard league (ie the leaders losing 6-0 yesterday) then it's time to reconsider definitely. If it wasn't for what he's done for us in the past, would we be content with this under say another manager?
Anyway, as they say onwards and upwards, Solihull next. Will be a much harder game than it sounds and with confidence slipping I can easily see a third consecutive defeat, hopefully not though. You also have to consider that it's the Anti-Racism game so there will be a higher crowd and pressure to win, which we tend to struggle with. A victory is a must though, especially given how poor we've been recently.
2018 begins with potentially-thrilling home clash against local rivals Leyton Orient in a match that we simply must win. With just one point from our three recent fixtures, we have found ourselves out of the play-off places as the league title is slowly drifting away from our reach.
Though Saturday was a significant improvement as we took a point at Ebbsfleet, a very tricky place to go, the performances haven't been good enough lately and we desperately need to start picking up form again. This is a pivotal part in the season, and any team who formulates a good run has the chance to pull away at the top of the division. At the minute that's looking like Macclesfield, but just a couple of wins could propel us right back in contention.
If that wasn't incentive enough, it's a match against Orient, which are always memorable occasions. Just last Tuesday we suffered the frustration and humiliation of a second defeat away at the O's already this season and the fans are desperate for us to finally avenge some of that pain, and finally earn some East London bragging rights.
But it won't be easy, as we found out last week. Orient have found some form recently under Justin Edinburgh, but were sent crashing back to earth on Saturday with a narrow loss at home to Bromley, which isn't that bad given that they had to play nearly all of the game with ten men, after Bondz N'Gala of all people received his marching orders. To make things funnier, it was all down to a dreadful backpass from Joe Widdowson.
Talking of whom, Widdowson should expect another frosty reception today, and that's another reason why we should be eager to win. He must've taken immense pleasure in beating us (twice) and couldn't celebrate the goals enough. It'd be so sweet if we could not only get one over Orient, but also him.
On Boxing Day the fans were in fine voice but I didn't see the same passion from the players, The occasion bypassed us, and it was so disappointing, especially being relentlessly mocked by the home fans. They're likely to bring 1200 today so it'll be an intimidating atmosphere, but that should be relished. The players should be determined and give 110% - John Still of all people knows how much this game means.
So a new year and hopefully, to a certain extent, a new Dagenham. We've been too inconsistent in 2017, especially on our travels, and a win today could go wonders for us, especially with two more home games fast approaching. A victory would be fantastic for the fans today, if only to have the satisfaction of shutting that lot up.
Orient fans must think we're overrated and poor, but that's not true. We've been underwhelming against them, but we can't bottle it today. This is a potentially-season-defining fixture, which will test our mental strength, something I've found myself questioning recently. Let's prove to Orient that East London belongs to the Daggers, and let's not ruin what will be a bumper atmosphere and bumper attendance.
COME ON YOU DAGGERS!
I am Joel Page, Dagenham & Redbridge FC fan. Here I will share some of my experiences.