the daggers voice
Almost a year to the day, a tremendous performance away to mid-table Wrexham not only cemented a play-off spot we had worked so hard to attain, but also encapsulated the incredible spirit and endeavour John Still had extracted from his side during the whole season, even when nothing was expected of our newly-assembled squad. While we can except the same level of work-rate when the Daggers return to North Wales this weekend, the situation is very similar to last year, just with the roles reversed; Wrexham look to cling onto a play-off place which is slowly slipping away, while the Daggers have very little to play for but pride.
Dagenham are still deeply rooted in worrying financial troubles yet have managed to leave that off the pitch in recent weeks. The players are giving everything for the cause and while we've lost a bit of quality, the distinct increase in commitment and desire has compensated for that. We arrive in our best form of 2018 having amassed two wins and two draws from our last four games, of which we were unbeaten in. That included a goalless draw at Gateshead on Good Friday, where a Jake Howells missed penalty late on could've yielded further reward, which followed an excellent victory over Fylde. More recently, we've collected four points from our last two games at Victoria Road, a 2-1 victory over Maidstone then a disappointing 1-1 draw with Woking.
It could've been five unbeaten had Tuesday's game at Guiseley not been postponed due to an overnight downpour at Nethermoor Park. It only adds to our frustrations in West Yorkshire this season - two postponements at Guiseley coming after our game at Halifax in February was called off at 1.45pm. It means that we now have a packed and testing schedule approaching, with the Wrexham game beginning a spell of four games in eight days, three of which are away. This will be a huge test for our depleted squad, who now have only one day's rest between Tuesday's clash at Bromley, and Thursday's rearranged trip to Guiseley. After that there's just two games until the curtain is brought down on what will go down as a devastating campaign - and we thought the last two seasons, culminating in relegation and play-off heartbreak - were awful.
While our Tuesday night plans were scuppered, there was plenty of other action in the Vanarama National League, including a surprising defeat for Wrexham. They were beaten by Ebbsfleet, not particularly shocking in itself given that the Fleet are a good team hunting the play-offs, but it's the margin of defeat that was surprising. Corey Whitely, one of our old fans' favourites sacrificed for desperate cash, scored the first as Ebbsfleet ran out resounding 3-0 winners following later strikes by Kedwell and Coulson. That made it four without win for Wrexham, equalling their worst form of the season. So the Daggers will arrive in good form and are playing with freedom, so will surely fancy their chances against a Wrexham side starved of confidence and morale.
When the Dragons visited Victoria Road in October, they looked genuine title candidates, let alone the play-offs. They had confidence, instilled in them by various good performances and an excellent, unwavering support from the fans. Not only were they solid in defence, without doubt the best backline in non-league, but they had the ability to dig deep and grind out results - which they showed by snatching a last-second winner despite not looking particularly great on the day, even against ten men. Since then they've even found a temporary solution to their striker crisis, bringing in on-loan striker Scott Quigley, who's hit the ground running in North Wales. So how has it all gone wrong? Well, the catalyst for their dramatic decline was the sudden and unexpected departure of manager Dean Keates - he's gone to Walsall.
Obviously it's a terrible time to lose a manager, and especially one as influential as Keates. He seemed intent on assembling a squad to not only challenge this season, but continue to make steady progress. Moreover, his recruitment strategy indicates that he really wanted to build a dynasty. While he will probably bow out with respect, Wrexham's push - which has been sustained all season - looks to be faltering at the most important time. It's not all bad though, they can't win the league and look like they will finish 6th or 7th, which means they'll have to beat two higher sides away from home. That suits their defensive, resolute playing style on the road perfectly. They still have work to do though, and a win against us is seen as vital.
We certainly won't be easy to defeat though, as recent displays have shown. We've played play-off chasing sides since our crisis began and given very good accounts of ourselves. Aldershot at home was one of the hardest games but we honestly might've grabbed a point on another day. Away to Dover, all that could separate us was a wonder goal from Mitch Pinnock as we once again warranted a draw minimum. Against Fylde we were superb all over the pitch and deservedly won 2-0, so what this proves is that we won't be daunted; we'll go there in good form and hopefully get Okenabirhie and Sparkes involved as much as we can, whip in crosses and provide a stern test.
Quigley represents their major threat in attack and it will be tough to contain him, but as one of the most underrated defenders in the league Craig Robson will consign him to a difficult afternoon. We might have nothing to play for but we still want to win every game, after all they could be our last, so Wrexham won't have it easy. If we play to our strengths then we always stand a chance, after all we still have some very good players. You can view this game in one of two ways; either we've got a really tough game against one of the best defensive sides with just two home defeats all season, or we're in good form playing against a managerless team in terrible form under severe pressure from their fans.
So let's continue our good form and give the travelling 60 or so something to cheer about, we deserve it!
I am Joel Page, Dagenham & Redbridge FC fan. Here I will share some of my experiences.