the daggers voice
For the second year in a row, my season would begin at Thurrock's Ship Lane.
Almost a year to the day since I made my first visit during last pre-season, the Daggers were back in town for their second fixture of pre-season. This would be my first official match of the 2017/18 season. It might only have been a friendly, but I was just delighted that football had finally returned.
A busy, yet less hectic Summer compared to the last, saw several incomings and outgoings at Victoria Road. While we mourned the losses of fan favourites Jordan Maguire-Drew, Luke Guttridge and Curtley Williams, in came new faces such as Morgan Ferrier, Michael Cheek and Dan Sparkes. This would be my first opportunity to see the team gel, and I was relishing it.
This was mainly because of my last visit, when a completely overhauled Daggers' side absolutely outclassed Thurrock in a 3-1 victory. A friendly it might've been, but it was hard to not get carried away after such a performance and, in a way, that match prepared me for the kind of season we would have. Maybe this would be the same. Or maybe I was overthinking it. Either way, it was football, and would be worth it.
With the school year naturally crawling to an end, the day passed by fairly easily and without stress, and soon I was getting ready for my first game of the 2017/18 season. I would be going with Uncle Spencer, just like the trip to the Fleet last July, so the night promised to be just as entertaining off the field.
The team was announced before we set off to meet up with him at Burger King in West Thurrock, around five minutes from the ground. Our departure was around twenty past seven and we arrived in time to take our place. We decided to stand behind whichever goal the Daggers were attacking, instead of sitting down like last time.
I was introduced to a familiar face as I was walking around the stadium which by now I was starting to know well. Standing by the away fans was ex-Woking and Dagenham manager Garry Hill, who was in his first pre-season without a club in more than a decade. I got a nice picture with him, before continuing to wander around the ground.
Unfortunately, there was no matchday programme for this fixture; slightly disappointing, but I was generally unfazed as, by now, the teams had taken to the pitch. Thurrock were in yellow, while Daggers were sporting the 2013-15 pinstripe home strip.
We found our place behind the goal which gave a lovely view of both the pitch and the surrounding Thurrock Hotel. The game was a slow burner with little in the way of chances in the opening stages and we looked less sharp than I expected.
Thurrock took the lead in the first half through a Dennis Oli lob and I was surprised by the amount of times the hosts' got in behind our defence, and the relative ease behind it. Soon the half drew to a close and at half-time I saw injured new signings Dan Sparkes and Charlee Adams. After getting a picture with both of them, we made our way to the other side of the ground.
The second half was far more entertaining and we nearly levelled the scores, with Okenabirhie hitting the bar with a powerful effort. The equaliser came courtesy of Michael Cheek which drew a subdued cheer from the fans. After the game, we chatted to the Club Secretary, befire getting a teamsheet and then heading home.
So, it's great to be back for the new season. I extend my thanks to Spencer for taking me and hopefully he'll be accompanying me to more away games starting from August.
Pre-Season begins at the Eyrie
Fresh from a challenging training camp in Portugal, Dagenham & Redbridge face their first pre-season friendly of the Summer at the Eyrie Stadium.
John Still takes his side to Bedford Town of the Southern League Central and will certainly be looking for a positive display as he looks to take last season's play-off semi-finalists a step further this term.
Since that 2-0 defeat to now-Football League outfit Forest Green Rovers, there have been 69 days and several changes around the squad, with these friendlies giving the new players the perfect chance to gel, bond and develop team chemistry before the real stuff begins on August 5th.
Ultimately, though, that is all what pre-season is about: fitness and preparation. A chance to watch a laid-back, relaxed match with the result proving to be meaningless. It's when the players have to put in all the hard work ahead of a new campaign but, on the other hand, it is extremely important.
It is vital that everybody is fit and raring to go come the end of pre-season, and hopefully by then players will start to develop and understand each other's strengths. Everybody needs to be pulling in the right direction, and need to be on the same wavelength. Thankfully, last year, pre-season couldn't have gone better.
A practically new squad managed to gel perfectly and find their rhythm from the get-go. This, I believe, was the key to our success because, by the time the Southport season opener came around, our players were ready. I also believe there was an evident contrast in fitness levels, so it is clear to see why the club have been working so hard out in Portugal.
And so, here we go, technically the start of 2017/18. Nine long months all starts tomorrow. The tedious, non-football spell is over, and pre-season is here. It begins at the Eyrie Stadium.
The fixture release day is often one of the most exciting days in the football calendar. It has no shortage of suspense and signals that the football season is near..........after a long, tedious Summer. Surprisingly, this drowsy, football-less spell has passed by rather quickly and so, today, the fixtures were released for next year's National League campaign.
And the wait, though it hasn't seemed as long, has been agonizing, especially considering that the Football League and Premier League ones have already been out for some weeks. Ever since we suffered a play-off semi-final defeat to Forest Green, attentions have turned to this season, and it is important to have a good sequence of fixtures to begin with. With seven fixtures to play, August is the busiest month. Start well, and it propels you towards a good season. A slow start is very difficult to recover from, especially in the National League, where most of the relegated sides had occupied a relegation place in August, and the high finishers were generally towards the top of the division.
Last season, thankfully, we were handed a fantastic start to the season, beginning with a clash against eventually-relegated Southport, which we won 3-0. I still believe that this performance was the catalyst to a great campaign as the players seamlessly gelled. We can only dream of another start like that. So, after weeks of waiting, the day came, and what would it hold for Dagenham?
It is very tough compared to last campaign as we face Barrow, Eastleigh, Ebbsfleet, Fylde, Gateshead, Hartlepool and Sutton in just the first two months of the new season. We start off with a home game against Barrow and I believe that it is always good to start off with a match infront of your own supporters to ease the nerves. Barrow will certainly not be relishing the long trip but, having been one of only three sides to do the double over us last season, will be targeting a win. It's an interesting start, but not a favourable one.
In the next few days we face successive trips to Boreham Wood and Eastleigh, one of the favourites for the title. Though difficult, this gives us a chance to gain early bragging rights and size up potential tital rivals. This is followed by games against two big-spending promoted sides in Ebbsfleet (H) and AFC Fylde (A), which will certainly be difficult. Derbies against Bromley and Maidstone then follow before a huge game away at Hartlepool, which could prove to be a defining fixture.
I believe that it is around this point when the league begins to take some sort of credible shape and if we can remain high in the division at this point, we certainly have a chance of it propelling us to success. We end September with home games against Sutton, Halifax and Torquay with a trip to Solihull Moors sandwiched in between. With so many games in such a short space of time, form is vital, and admittedly this run of fixtures is far more preferred than the previous ones.
In October, my birthday month, we head to Woking and Aldershot in the space of a week, then hosting Dean Keates' revolutionised Wrexham and a much-changed Macclesfield side before seeing out the month at Maidenhead. November by comparison is less busy; we face a monumental game at Tranmere and their local rivals Chester, while also welcoming Guiseley and Dover to East London. The final month of 2017 sees us entertain Boreham Wood in the first return fixture of the campaign, before visiting Barrow and hosting Eastleigh. The second and third games of a crammed festive period see us travel to local sides Leyton Orient and Ebbsfleet on Boxing Day and 30th December respectively.
Orient visit us on New Years Day' in what will be one of the headline matches of our season, and then the other relegated League 2 side, Hartlepool, come to town five days later in what could be a very vital week in our season, and surely a stern test of our promotion credentials. We then travel to Sutton United on 20th January, a week before the visit of Solihull Moors which comes seven days prior to a visit to FC Halifax Town. Victoria Road contests Daggers v Aldershot in the middle of February, before a period of long travelling brings us to Torquay, Guiseley and Gateshead.
In between that time. we also travel to Dover Athletic, Crabble always being a hard place to go, while Chester and Tranmere venture to East London, soon followed by Fylde, Maidstone and Woking. On March 17th, Daggers head to local rivals Bromley for what should be an exciting local derby. And, with the season now coming to an end, we travel to Wrexham, then conclude our home matches against Maidenhead, and then bookend a long nine months in Macclesfield, hopefully as champions.
Dagenham v Barrow (5th August) - Despite being overlooked by BT Sport for Sutton v Leyton Orient, this is absolutely one of the standout games on an important opening week in the National League which will set the tone for the season. Both games between the Daggers and Bluebirds were tight performance-wise last season and so another matchup between two attack-minded promotion rivals should make for a pulsating opening day.
Hartlepool v Dagenham (9th September) - A crucial match for both teams, Hartlepool v Dagenham pits two ex-Football League sides against one another. Both have strengthened heavily this pre-season, looking to gain a swift return, and this will prove to be a huge test of it. Betting companies have placed both the Pools and the Daggers amongst the title contenders so, even at this early stage, this fixture could prove to be very important for both.
Leyton Orient v Dagenham (26th December) - In just 2011 this was a League One fixture but, even though both sides have fallen, their rivalry has not. Games between the Daggers and Orient are always hugely competitive and played at a high tempo infront of a bumper attendance. With under twenty miles to separate them, this match will be embraced by all, and the fact that it is on Boxing Day only adds to the excitement.
I am Joel Page, Dagenham & Redbridge FC fan. Here I will share some of my experiences.