the daggers voice
''Dagenham and Redbridge look a completely different side to about ten or fifteen minutes ago when they were on the back foot, and here's Benson..................BRILLLLLLLLLIANTTTT!''
30th May 2010.
The greatest ever day in the history of Dagenham & Redbridge.
Tiny Dagenham and Redbridge, who had no right to be in the Football League altogether, let alone the third tier, were only promoted to the League in 2007. Now they were just 90 minutes away from playing teams like Southampton, Charlton and Brentford. It didn't seem real and, at the time, I didn't appreciate just how much of an achievement it was.
I was just seven years old and, therefore, can only recollect a couple of moments from this day. I remember exiting the train station and, daunted by the sheer volume of people, gripping onto Mum's hand. Then I remember joyfully singing 'Rocking all over the World' when the miracle of us being promoted actually happened. Oh, what a day it was, and I only wish that I was older at the time, so I could remember it more.
What made it more special was that it was only my fourth game watching Dagenham, and I was unknown to the club. Yes, this sounds hypocritical, because I'm always complaining about 'fans' who only ever turn up for the big games, but back then I was just that. And, regardless of the outcome at Wembley, I was gripped by the club, and wasn't just there under the misconception that we were always successful. But the reason why it's special is that it is one of my earliest Dagenham memories and, even though our fortunes have dropped since then, that day set the foundations for my love of the club.
Nobody gave Dagenham a chance coming into the playoffs. We had just crept into seventh place thanks to some last-gasp winners (one of which was by Montgomery in the sixth minute of injury time in my first ever game, against Burton) and were written off by most. The three other teams were Aldershot, Rotherham and Morecambe, and we would come up against the latter in the semi-finals. Morecambe had done the double over us in the league, but this would be a different story..........
It was all over after the first leg as Dagenham made playoff history with an unbelievable 6-0 first leg mauling, with Josh Scott scoring four and Benson bagging two. It was ridiculous and rendered the second leg almost unimportant. Daggers would end up losing 2-1 (meaning a 7-2 aggregate triumph) - but it didn't matter. They would be going to Wembley on May 30th. And they would be facing Rotherham.
And we only went and won.
Date: Wednesday 13th July 2016, 7.45pm, at Ship Lane.
About the Match: This was our first first-team pre-season friendly against a strong and decent Thurrock outfit of the Ryman North league. It was, therefore, the first opportunity to see the revolutionised and overhauled Daggers squad after a mass rebuild over Summer, so many were excited for this match on what promised to be a sunny evening.
Journey: It was a very smooth and easy journey to a very local area. I went with Spencer and we left at around 6pm, even having time to go to Burger King before the match, and he had to go to Thurrock anyway enroute to the ground. He had been to the ground, or nearby, on many occasions so knew just where to go, and the rest of the journey was routine, as we arrived around half hour before kick-off.
Stadium: Once we went inside the car park, I noticed that the ground looked very neat and tidy; a proper non-league stadium. The pitch was also looking very pristine, as you'd expect during pre-season. The ground was made up of mostly terracing but also a main stand, which we sat in.
The Match: It was a very competitive and useful runout for the Daggers, with many players impressing. Most of the opening stages were controlled by Dagenham, in the all green strip of 2010-12, and they raced into a two-goal lead before the break, with two Williams crosses being powerfully headed home by Hawkins. Wall replied for Thurrock in the second half, but Leo Donnellan sealed the result, and we eventually ran out 3-1 victors.
My Thoughts: In conclusion, it was a very entertaining night that proved just how much I had missed football in the previous months. The journey was very straightforward and the performance left me feeling very optimistic so, overall, a very productive night for me and the team.
Date: Monday 29th August, 3pm, at Gander Green Lane.
About the Match: This was a 3rd v 4th clash between two sides who had made a blistering start to their first season back in non-league's top tier, with Sutton having been promoted while Daggers were relegated from the FL. Two days earlier John Still's side had defeated Wrexham 3-0 on BT Sport thanks to an Oliver Hawkins hat-trick.
Journey: Me and Mum decided to take the train to this fixture for what was a reasonable, yet exhausting, journey. After stocking up on supplies at a shop, we got on the District Line to Morden, before stopping for a meal and continuing our journey by bus. A very long walk, lasting at least 45 minutes, followed down Gander Green Lane, before we finally arrived at the stadium on what was another very beautiful day.
Stadium: The outside of the stadium had fantastic facilities, with a very welcoming clubhouse and club shop. The inside of the ground, installed with an aesthetically-pleasing artificial surface, also looked stylish, with a mix of terracing and seating coupled with no segregation.
The Match: It was a very disappointing fixture for the Daggers who suffered only their second loss of the season, as a very impressive Sutton side managed a narrow 1-0 victory. Hudson-Odoi got the only goal after eleven minutes for a lead rarely threatened, aside for big chances from Whitely and Hawkins. We ultimately struggled to cope with the surface and the demand of 2 games in 3 days and, despite Sutton being reduced to ten men, we ended up slipping to a frustrating defeat.
My Thoughts: A good day, but a very disappointing performance. A big away crowd turned up but unfortunately their dedication did not get rewarded. I have to give credit to Sutton though, they were resolute and shut us out perfectly.
FOREST GREEN ROVERS
Date: Saturday 29th October, 3pm, at the New Lawn.
About the Match: This would be both teams' biggest game of the season at that point prior to kick-off, as Forest Green sat at the top of the table, with Dagenham directly behind them in the Vanarama National League. The hosts' had not conceded in over a month.
Journey: Me and Mum were taking one of two coaches which would be heading to this crucial fixture. The journey was very exhausting and ended up taking ages and, having negotiated its way up a steep hill, only arrived ten minutes before kick-off. The return journey was even more stressful and took just as long as we managed to get stuck in lots of traffic before eventually getting home much later than expected.
Stadium: There wasn't much on offer in terms of facilities and we had to face a massive queue just to get tickets. We were placed behind one of the goals and most of the ground comprised of terracing with seating making up one side across the length of the pitch.
The Match: We made a very decent start to this match, which was impressive as we had a number of injuries plus, let's not forget, were playing the runaway leaders. However, gradually the hosts began to take control and eventually they took the lead, adding insult to injury as it was ex-Dagger Rhys Murphy who found the net. But, out of nowhere, we managed to salvage a point when Hawkins directed a powerful header past Russell and into the bottom right corner.
My Thoughts: It wasn't the best performance, granted, but none of that mattered because we managed to steal an unlikely point. The journey was not great, but was all worthwhile in the end as the scenes when Hawkins scored were unforgettable.
FOREST GREEN ROVERS
Season Review 16/17
After suffering relegation the season before to consign them to their first non-league campaign in nearly a campaign, Dagenham rebuilt and regrouped to earn a hugely impressive 4th placed finish and, as a result, a place in the playoffs, an achievement that exceeded the expectation of everybody. From the highs to the lows and the joy through to the despair, I now take a fond look back on what was a season to remember.
It is May 16th and the campaign is finally over - but it has ended on an undeservedly upsetting note. We were beaten 3-1 by Forest Green Rovers and I am still hurting. I went to both games with so much hope, so much excitement, so much expectation, so much so losing didn't even cross my mind. But this is all forgotten in a heartbeat when I painfully cast my mind back to the same time last year, when I thought that my Dagenham had gone forever. Yes, as every fan will tell you, that season was so terrible; not just because we went down, but because of the manner. Nobody seemed to care. It is one of those memories that you don't want to exist, but needs to remind you just how far you have come.
Ever since relegation was confirmed on that tearful day in Leyton Orient on April 16th 2016, attentions turned to what would prove to be one of the most defining Summers in our history. I was just as nervous during those painfully boring months as during the previous season as I eagerly awaited news of player transfers and other developments during the club. Within weeks, several players had left the club, generating mixed feelings amongst the fanbase. Released were Jack Connors, Ashley Chambers, Clevid Dikamona, Ian Gayle, Ashley Hemmings, Zavon Hines, Justin Hoyte, Liam O'Brien, Josh Passley, Matt Richards and Ade Yusuff, while Doidge, Cureton and Labadie also exited the club, to my disappointment.
Gradually, players began to sign for us. First to put pen to paper were iconic duo Scott Doe and Luke Howell who returned to the club after a year away at Boreham Wood. I remember being in my room when I stumbled across the news and to say I was overjoyed is a slight understatement, as my friends at school the next day will confirm, I'm sure. And, after that, more were recruited by John Still, who added Justham, Williams, Robson, Robinson, Okenabirhie, Maguire-Drew (loan), Ling and Staunton to the team. At the time, I knew barely anything about the players, so began to research them extensively. After all, when there's literally nothing going on in a tedious Summer, you cling onto anything you can from your club.
Midway through June the fixtures were released and it was revealed that Daggers would start and end their season at home. I scanned through them meticulously for hours as all eyes looked ahead to August 6th. But before then, we had our pre-season schedule to negotiate. Our first friendly was an XI fixture at Ware, which saw a respectable 3-2 loss. My first chance to see the new look team came the following night as I watched us win 3-1 at Thurrock. The team gelled incredibly well and were dominant, with Hawkins x2 and Leo Donnellan scoring. A 4-0 win against Romford was then succeeded by two high-scoring victories away at Dunstable and Bishops Stortford respectively. Finally, the schedule ended with two impressive performances at home to league sides Leyton Orient and AFC Wimbledon, though both ended in losses. Pre-season drew to a close and, overall, I was very optimistic.
Slowly but surely, August 6th rolled around, and eventually it arrived. It was a beautiful day in East London and Victoria Road was nervous as Dagenham and Southport emerged for the season opener. The Daggers were superb and recorded an excellent 3-0 success, with plenty of positives and even a missed penalty. At the end of the day, they sat top of the table. But just three days later, we came crashing back down to earth with a 3-0 reverse away to Chester and they slipped down to 11th. What followed, though, was one of their best runs of form in the season, as Guiseley, Lincoln, Woking and Wrexham all fell victim to the free-flowing Daggers, who struck 9 goals in the process including a hat-trick for Hawkins infront of the BT Sport cameras against Wrexham. August ended negatively as Sutton United claimed victory on a Bank Holiday Monday, but John Still's side still sat 4th at the end of the month. Another positive was a double signing announced on the opening game, as it was announced that Paul Benson and Corey Whitely had joined.
At the beginning of September, the East London outfit suffered their first home loss with Boreham Wood triumphing 2-0, but this was quickly forgotten as Dagenham proceeded to win their next four. The first of these was away at Solihull Moors where another Hawkins treble accompanied goals from Okenabirhie and Maguire-Drew as they won 5-2. Hawkins then found the net twice in a row in successive 2-0 victories over Dover and North Ferriby respectively at Victoria Road as they briefly regained top spot, which they would occupy until the beginning of October. On September 24th, Dagenham headed to Bromley for a local derby. The match ended 3-1 and Hawkins, now the league's top scorer, put in a MOTM performance by converting a penalty and assisting Maguire-Drew. The other goal came courtesy of Corey Whitely's first, and first of many, for the club.
October would prove to be a challenging month for the club as they faced a difficult run-in, playing Tranmere, Eastleigh, Macclesfield, Aldershot and then-runaway-leaders Forest Green - but amazingly DRFC would remain unbeaten against all of them. First came the visit of promotion-chasing Tranmere Rovers in a televised fixture kicking off at the later time of half five. The visitors would go down to ten men but still hung on for a point, and Dagenham's disappointment at only drawing to one of the league's best sides showed the belief that had been instilled into the team. However, three days later, they were unexpectedly beaten away at Torquay United in a match where captain Scott Doe also saw red, but such was their inconsistency, Whitely then set up a 1-0 victory at Eastleigh, before two home wins in cup competitions followed; a youthful side disposing of Southend in the Essex Senior Cup before a professional 3-1 win over Wealdstone in the FA Cup fourth round qualifying with goals from Okenabirhie, Maguire-Drew and, of course, in-demand Oliver Hawkins. A week later, on October 22nd, Macclesfield Town were the visitors, and they would snatch a point in injury time, the first of many late goals at that venue during the campaign. Okenabirhie also scored but concerningly went off injured, another trend that would continue. But they had players who could fill the goalscoring void and three days later Corey Whitely struck a late winner over Aldershot Town. At the end of October, first met second in what promised to be a thrilling encounter at the New Lawn as Forest Green hosted John Still's men. An injury crisis led to a threadbare-looking side starting the match and they were duly outplayed, with ex-Dagger Murphy of all people firing home the first. I remember being there and thinking we would get hit for four or five but amazingly, we dug deep to draw the game. Hawkins was the man who fired the leveller with a fantastic header. The Dagenham of last season would've dropped their heads but instead we worked even harder, and got our rewards.
November, though, was by far the worst month as a spell of horrific injuries culminated in a woeful run of form that saw us lose our play-off place altogether. It started reasonably enough with a goalless stalemate against Halifax in the FA Cup, but then came by far their worst result of the season - a humiliating 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Gateshead. Things did not get better as a 2-1 loss at Halifax saw Dagenham dumped out of the FA Cup. Form seemed to improve slightly after successive clean sheets in away wins at York City and Maidstone, with Guttridge finding the net in each game alongside, unsurprisingly, Oliver Hawkins. Despite this, though, Barrow would record a win in Essex in a 4-1 scoreline that flattered them a little. And three days later it got worse as lowly Torquay completed the double with another 1-0 success. It was a very low month for Dagenham and form would need to pick up in December for sure.....
And at the beginning it did, with a hugely-impressive 2-1 victory at free-scoring Dover Athletic. Paul Benson scored his first goal in his second spell at the club before Maguire-Drew made it two and, despite Ricky Miller registering one of his forty goals during this season, they held on to earn a surprise result. But they couldn't build on this, and next week suffered an embarrassing loss at home to Worthing in the FA Trophy. It was the equivalent of a Premier League side losing to one in League 2 and another disappointing result at a home which was seeming more like a torturehouse than a fortress. A week later, on 17th December, Dagenham welcomed Solihull Moors to Victoria Road. This was a chance for the hosts' to earn some much needed points and put in a good performance and........they were 3-0 down inside twenty minutes. Boos rung out all around the ground, which was in disbelief. But amazingly, they fought back to earn a scarcely-believable 4-4 draw which probably said more about Solihull in more honesty. But it showed that Dagenham don't give up and. as bad as the performance was at times, it's the points that matter. Onto Boxing Day now, as Dagenham headed to Cressing Road, but the year would end sourly as Doe was sent off in a 3-2 defeat.
But on New Years' Day, they gained their revenge with a dominant 3-0 triumph over the 10-men Iron. Maguire-Drew, Guttridge and Whitely all found the net as they put on a silky display for the BT Sport cameras and this would start a good run for the club. The next game brought a 4-0 victory over North Ferriby, Hawkins x2, Guttridge and Okenabirhie finding the net, but it would be two weeks until they next took to the pitch. It was worth the wait though as a determined performance saw Tranmere Rovers beaten by two goals from Whitely and Hawkins.
The opening game of February brought one of the most joyful moments of the season. The hosts', having already missed a penalty, took the lead through Sheppard's blistering strike, but the game was turned on it's head by two Chester goals. It seemed like the game would end that way, until the last five minutes when two last-gasp goals saw the Daggers snatch all three points and spark jubilant scenes all round the stadium. Seven days later they made the long trip up to Merseyside to face Southport and, again after falling behind, rallied to win 4-, courtesy of Okenabirhie, Maguire-Drew, Whitely and an own goal. However, the inconsistency that plagued their season soon surfaced again as two shocking home performances followed, a 2-1 home loss to Guiseley before a thoroughly undeserved victory over a mightily-unfortunate Bromley side only beaten by a moment of quality from Jake Sheppard. They were not to be as lucky the following Tuesday however, with Maidstone winning 2-0 in Essex.
That brought an end to February, and March started on a similar note, with a narrow loss at in-form Gateshead, but this was followed by one of the best performances of the campaign as another late goal helped them defeat Forest Green 2-1. Another away loss at Barrow followed, despite Whitely scoring directly from a corner, before Aldershot outclassed the Daggers with a 3-1 victory, with Doe scoring a mere consolation. The month ended with yet another late victory at Victoria Road, Frankie Raymond scoring a sublime winner after an excellent passing move to defeat York City and consign them to a first loss in over ten games.
And so, the last month of the regular season began. Eastleigh had nothing to play for and it showed as Dagenham romped to a 4-0 victory, set up by Whitely's excellent hat-trick, helping to secure their play-off place. Two days later, though, Lincoln City would win 2-0 on Monday night, but Dagenham regrouped to win 4-1 at Macclesfield Town. They collected four points over the Easter period, winning 3-1 at Boreham Wood in a match where Benson struck twice before drawing 2-2 with Sutton United despite being two goals up. Their play-off place was finally secured in the penultimate fixture at Wrexham, as Benson scored the only goal, and the final game saw nine players rested yet a point still earned against Woking to ensure they finished fourth.
This meant that they would host Forest Green first in the play-offs, and this ended in an entertaining 1-1 draw, as Maguire-Drew cancelled out a controversial, and much disputed penalty from Liam Noble. This meant that winner would take all at the New Lawn three days later, but for Dagenham, it wasn't meant to be, as they just fell short. Forest Green won 2-0 and would win at Wembley the following weekend to earn their place in the Football League. The Daggers will go again next season.
NATIONAL LEAGUE LINEUP 2017/18
With all the non-league playoffs completed, the National League can confirm its lineup for the 2017/18 season. Six new sides join the division, with Hartlepool and Leyton Orient (subject to approval) dropping down from the Football League and Halifax Town, AFC Fylde, Ebbsfleet United and Maidenhead United being promoted. The full list is as follows:
DAGENHAM & REDBRIDGE
FC HALIFAX TOWN
LOANS HAVE ENDED
The season has ended and all loan players have returned to their parent clubs. Jordan Maguire-Drew was a much-loved fans' favourite among his time at Victoria Road and heads back to Brighton having bagged an impressive 16 goals and six assists, aswell as finishing first, second and third in the goal of the season competition. He also picked up the Young Player of the Year award at the Supporters' Club Presentation Evening and, personally, will go down as one of my all-time favourite Daggers players. It has been a pleasure to have him and his Grandad Ron at the club and hopefully his career continues to progress rapidly.
Also returning to their parent club, Reading, is Jake Sheppard. Sheps was advertised as a defender but ended up offering lots in attack, scoring two amazing strikes in the home games in February against Chester and Bromley. He also provided a brilliant cross for the winning goal in the Chester game and is another one to have done themselves proud at the club. Finally, Shaun Donnellan departs. Donnellan, brother of fellow Dagger Leo, joined in January from West Brom and made twenty appearances, helping us keep a clean sheet in a quarter of them. On behalf of all Daggers fans, I extend my sincere thanks to all these players and wish them every luck in the future.
Winner takes all.
Dagenham head to Forest Green on Sunday afternoon in the play-off semi final second leg with the tie finely poised at 1-1. Thursday's match couldn't find a winner, meaning that whoever triumphs at New Lawn will be going to Wembley. In essence, both team's entire season hinges on tomorrow. That is how massive it is.
So obviously, FGR have home advantage, and will want to use it well. They are expecting a crowd of over 2000, while Daggers are likely to bring more than 300. It will be a highly tense atmosphere with both teams backed vocally.
However, Dagenham will take solace from their excellent away form, which is the best in the division. The Daggers have also recorded the most away goals, so will have no fears heading into the game. John Still has said we are just going to go for it.
These sides have now met three times since last August and all three have been even affairs separated by just one goal. Dagenham have the edge, having won one and drawn two, but this is Forest Green's third successive season in the playoffs, and they will be praying it is third time lucky as they look to end 19 long years in non-league.
I remember the first meeting well. It was October, and Mum and I went to the New Lawn with, prior to kick-off, Dagenham sitting 2nd and their hosts sitting 1st. This was when FGR were top by miles, until they eventually succumbed that lead to Lincoln, who never let it go from that point. Anyway, Dagenham were second best from most of that game, but emerged with a 1-1 draw, as Hawkins scored a late header.
The second meeting was also entertaining, coming just two months ago at Victoria Road. Dagenham dominated but, as was the case on Thursday too, couldn't find a goal. That was, until, Maguire-Drew popped up in the second half. However, Christian Doidge scored against his old club, and it looked as if we would have to settle for a point. But Scott Doe had other ideas, scoring with three minutes left to spark jubilant scenes.
But on Thursday, we missed our chance and I can't imagine Forest Green will play anywhere near as bad as they did. However, we should have Williams and Guttridge back, so we are capable of playing better too.
Tranmere Rovers have already booked their place in the final, but who will join them? It's Forest Green v Dagenham. Mark Cooper v John Still. Green and Black v Red and Blue. Everything rides on tomorrow. We are one team, we are daggers.
Winner takes all.
This is it. 46 games and it all came down to this: the play-offs. On Thursday, the Daggers took on Forest Green Rovers. The atmosphere was electric, and the performance was brilliant. The match ended 1-1 and so will be decided at the New Lawn on Sunday.
With such a young and inexperienced squad, I never expected us to perform so well and to look totally unfazed by the occasion. I thought that we absolutely controlled the game and forced Forest Green into several mistakes. It's just a shame that we ultimately couldn't take advantage of our biggest chance to beat them.
Our start to the match was blistering, just like when we hosted FGR in March. In the first five minutes we had had three shots well saved and really were piling on the pressure. But the goal just wouldn't come. Then, Forest Green earned a penalty, and I thought our chance had gone.
We were incensed by the penalty decision as almost everybody thought that Bugiel had dived. And, when I got home, I instantly looked through the repays and, as it proved, there was no contact whatsoever. Noble smashed the penalty in and Daggers were victim of a huge injustice.
But we have never given up this season and so of course were not going to again. We took a while to recover from the setback, but came back stronger and were eventually level. Maguire-Drew latched onto a flickon and thrashed the ball past the keeper to spark jubilant celebrations.
The second half was comparatively dull and the game stayed 1-1 in a scoreline that probably favours Forest Green now. But the way we played was brilliant and I am so proud of the team.
Maguire-Drew, for somebody who is only a teenager, was unplayable in his last Daggers game at Victoria Road. He was so calm and made everything happen on the ball. He completely deserved the goal, and the plaudits, but there were several other players who deserve credit too. Boucaud covered every blade of grass and battled fiercely, Robson was determined in the middle. On top of this, we had Whitely and Okenabirhie, who unravelled the FGR defence whenever they could.
Overall, I was very proud at full time, although slightly disappointed. We rose to the occasion as we have all campaign, and put in a performance to remember. Forest Green were vastly inferior on the night, which is why I'm so disappointed we couldn't take advantage.
But whatever happens, this season has been fantastic and I am proud of the team whatever transpires. Now we go onto Sunday. Everything rides on Sunday!
COME ON YOU DAGGERS!
I am Joel Page, Dagenham & Redbridge FC fan. Here I will share some of my experiences.