the daggers voice
On Thursday evening Dagenham & Redbridge hosted a Fans' Forum with Paul Gwinn, Glyn Hopkin, Steve Thompson and John Still in attendance. The event lasted approximately 90 minutes and was attended by around 60 people in the clubhouse hall, with questions varying from off to on-pitch issues. A summary of all is below.
After successful pre-season trips to Spain and Holland in the last three years, the Daggers will be embarking on another European adventure - this time to Portugal - when they travel to Portugal for a training camp when pre-season is over, it was revealed. Unsurprising, this generated a lot of excitement and John Still said that people are welcome to travel up to watch training. They are also trying to arrange a match during the trip. Lots of people had fantastic experiences during the last two so hopefully this is no different, and I'm sure details will be finalised.
POTENTIAL BURY ROAD STAND
The new 30-year ground lease, coupled with the increasing investment of Glyn Hopkin, has led to the potential for a stand where the Bury Road terrace currently stands. It was revealed that the club have been in talks with architects over what this would do to the ground layout and also in regard to turnstiles and space, although it was also said that work would not be done until the end of the 2017/18 season at least. It goes to show the progress that has been made, and hopefully will continue to be made, under Glyn Hopkin.
Summary of other topics:
Another topic asked about was the West Ham u23 Agreement whereby West Ham were allowed to use our pitch for their Premier League B games. When asked about whether this would continue next season, most of the panel said that they were unsure. It was also revealed that Dagenham asked the Hammers if they would be willing to employ some of their groundsmen to maintain our pitch, although despite it being by all accounts a good offer, it was a resounding no.
Elsewhere, on one of the rare occasions when matters on the pitch were discussed, John Still gave an insight into our injuries this season. He said that to be where we are was a remarkable achievement and that he's delighted that players are coming back now. He also told us that Hawkins is unlikely to play both games against Eastleigh and Lincoln, while Okenabirhie is likely to be out for the rest of the season.
There was a few questions regarding the Traditional Builders Stand. One person asked whether the home fans would be allowed in the stand all of next season while several others spoke about the trouble that has happened this season. Thompson said that, if we were to come back up, we would revert back to the Combo-style tickets and that, whatever happens, the season ticket prices will be frozen. John Still commented that the support from that area has been fantastic and that it generates more noise and can help spur on the team.
So overall I thought it was a very productive evening that hopefully improved relations amongst supporters. Many people thought that it was pointless to have a forum at this point in the season however I found it very interesting, with many new topics emerging.
Match Appeal: Aldershot had the best home record in the division and were slowly creeping up on the playoffs having defeated Sutton 2-0 three days prior. We still sat in 4th place but were on a dismal run of form, meaning that it was impossible to predict the outcome. This would be a big fixture for both sides.
Journey: After returning to school, I charged my phone and got my things together before we left at around 4.15pm. The journey itself was not too bad and, despite hitting a bit of traffic around midway through the trip, we arrived in just over an hour and a half. Most of the journey was spent listening to music and discussing the game we were about to witness. We also amazingly managed to catch up with the Supporters Club Coach!
Pre-Match: It took us a while to find somewhere to park but we eventually did near the La Fontaine pub which we would later go in. But before that, we went back around the main entrance of the ground to take some pictures. We then went into a very decent club shop which seemed very well maintained, where I got a fantastic programme for £3. After that, we ventured back to the pub and got some drinks while I read the programme and chatted to some fellow Daggers. At around 6.45pm, we left and walked outside (the light had now been replaced by darkness) and headed back for the ground.
Programme: One of the best I've seen as a visiting fan with, clearly, lots of effort put in. There were around 8 columns altogether which made for interesting reading, aswell as a special feature reflecting on the demise of Aldershot FC, which was almost 25 years to the day, and around 4 pages devoted to Dagenham. It looked so professional and classy.
First Impressions: The ground was similar in size to ours and looked very tidy, with the pitch particularly in near-pristine condition. There were two stands on either side with one, alongside a curving terrace which wasn't opened for our visit, given to away supporters, next to a large stand full of vocal Shots fans. Overall, I was impressed, although there were lots of bollards obstructing the view.
Buildup: Spencer and I entered the turnstiles and went straight to the refreshment area, buying a burger for us both and sharing chips which were drowned in tomato sauce and, as Dad joked via Whatsapp, looked like 'a crime scene'. After changing our seats multiple times (and accidentally sitting in the Aldershot area) we finally settled down. Kick-off was upon us and my excitement was building!
First Half: The worst half of football I have possibly ever seen us play. As the rain lashed down my mood was just as miserable as we gifted away possession time and time again, failed to apply any pressure and defended shockingly. As a result we were duly outclassed and trailed 2-0 at the break, although there were no complaints as it could've been more.
Second Half: An improvement but we had given ourselves way too much to do. There was, however, a twenty minute spell where we played quite well and - after Scott Doe scored - we really started to believe. But it was only false hope and, when Okenabirhie worryingly went off, any hopes were swiftly ended, and even more so when substitute and ex-Dagger Matt McClure curled home a delightful strike.
Atmosphere: The 109 away fans started off quite noisy but fell silent as they watched the team implode. It was pretty much the opposite for Aldershot, who started off less vocal but as they took control of the match began to chant more vociferously. Credit to them though, as they didn't stop singing from then on.
Return Journey: Went far more quickly and we arrived back to my house near 11pm.
Overall Summary: So a decent trip and night that unfortunately didn't match the game. It was just an abysmal performance, but at least there was a goal to cheer.
Thanks: And finally, a huge thanks to Spencer for taking me, which I hugely appreciate. My next Daggers match is on Saturday, when York City visit Victoria Road.
I've seen lots of abysmal Dagenham performances, but that ranks right up there.
I went to Aldershot yesterday expecting a thrilling match, however there was no match. It was all Aldershot from the first whistle to the last. It was pathetic and quite frankly I went out of the ground with no complaints and, infact, I was pretty delighted that it was only 3-1 - because it should've been much more embarrassing.
To be fair, the Shots were very impressive and they massacred us in all fairness, but when we started to apply pressure and chase things down, that was when we got back into the game. But again we only started to do anything when we scored. Why could we not show that effort in the first half?
We resorted to lumping it to Hawkins, who is just isolated. We brought Benson and Romain on but they didn't do much either. Then, Okenabirhie going off summed up the night, along with the aptly miserable weather.
I went to the game yesterday in such good spirits. I didn't expect a win, I just wanted some effort and a proper Dagenham performance. We didn't even show any effort whatsoever and barely strung two passes together. I'm just happy that we scored because at least there was one thing to cheer from a horrible night.
XI to XI we can match any team but when we get injuries our squad isn't deep enough for us to sustain that. For instance, Jake Sheppard. He was shocking yesterday and got roasted by the Aldershot wingers at every opportunity. Quite frankly, Aldershot were streets ahead of us.
And so now our play-off place, the least we deserved just a few weeks ago, is now in jeopardy. And after seeing yesterday's performance, I can see why. In the last 3 weeks we've been beaten by Gateshead, Barrow and Aldershot - three teams looking to steal our place.
So a forgettable night for the boys but it's onto York now which is an absolute must win. Not that I'm expecting anything.
Tuesday 21st March 2017
The EBB Stadium
Aldershot, who sit 2nd, come into the match having recovered from their 1-0 to Guiseley a fortnight ago to beat Sutton 2-0 on Saturday. That result cemented them as the league's best home team as they won their twelfth match at the Recreation Ground.
Dagenham, meanwhile, are one of 2017's best performing sides but in recent weeks have slumped to losses away at Gateshead and Barrow. They did manage to defeat Forest Green, though, and have also bolstered their attack with the signing of Elliot Romain.
This will be my fourth league away fixture of the season, and first since Maidstone in November. I will be going with my uncle Spencer who has taken me to two on the road this season. And of course - those were the two wins! Hopefully tonight is the same. We will be leaving at around half four.
It's almost impossible to believe that the same side that took 4 points off Tranmere, 4 off Forest Green, 3 off Lincoln and did the double over Dover also somehow lost to Guiseley, Maidstone and Torquay - twice!
And the problem that has plagued us all season has arisen again, at the most crucial point in the season. Sure, Gateshead, FGR and Barrow are all tough games but were all winnable and to take only three points isn't good enough. At the moment, we're only two points above the playoffs (admittedly with a game in hand) and our form is mid-table form at the moment. That isn't good enough.
And, despite being on top of the world this time last week following our fantastic win over Forest Green, I'm not starting to doubt the validity of our playoff push altogether. We have to play Aldershot and Macclesfield in the next few weeks. We also play York whose form has dramatically increased, and Eastleigh - who are in decent form too. Not to mention Lincoln away.
On Saturday we were beaten 2-1 by Barrow. I wasn't at the game, but reports and highlights show that we took the lead, conceded a tame penalty and then dropped our heads. By accounts, Barrow then seized control and we only started playing when it was too late, with a few minutes left. Romain had a header which could've crossed the line but even so we shouldn't have put ourselves in that situation anyway. So it sounds like the FGR performance was just a one-off.
But thankfully it's back to the drawing board and we have a huge chance to rectify it when we travel to Aldershot on Tuesday. I will be attending the game so my reaction piece will definitely be more detailed and insightful. I'm hoping we get all three points - but who knows?
It really doesn't seem like mid-March. I remember the agonising wait for pre-season and that doesn't even seem that long ago. Now, all of a sudden, there's less than ten games left and the campaign is almost over.
It still feels as though we've made a 'decent start' to the season, but little have I known that it's now at the point where every game matters, and come the next few games it could be either celebration or heartbreak for us. I vaguely remember the 2009/10 play-offs, so this is my first real taste of a real promotion dogfight. Of course, we've been in the mix since August, but as I sit here writing this, everything seems so real. We're third in the league and it really is make or break for our promotion hopes.
Sat 18 Mar - Away v Barrow
Tue 21 Mar - Away v Aldershot
Sat 25 Mar - Home v York City
Sat 01 Apr - Home v Eastleigh
Mon 03 Apr - Away v Lincoln
Sat 08 Apr - Away v Macclesfield
Fri 14 Apr - Away v Boreham Wood
Mon 17 Apr - Home v Sutton United
Sat 22 Apr - Away v Wrexham
Sat 29 Apr - Home v Woking
There are some really tough games in there but if we continue our form of 2017 then by the end of the season we should be in the play-offs. The hardest three of those games are of course Barrow, Aldershot and Lincoln, but they are all away and we have the best record on our travels in the league! Still, it's not the big games I worry about, it's the matches against smaller teams (Home v Guiseley & Maidstone and both v Torquay spring to mind) that we seem to struggle with.
Personally, I think the league has gone. Lincoln deserve it and while people may argue that they will tire, they have not done so far and can see the finish line so that will only make them more determined. However, in the play-offs, I think we can win it. After all, we have the best record against teams in the top five having taken 4 points off FGR, 4 off Tranmere and all three off Lincoln.
DARE TO DREAM.
I am Joel Page, Dagenham & Redbridge FC fan. Here I will share some of my experiences.