the daggers voice
It's that time of year. When you fret about your star player leaving in the January window for a bigger club to such an extent you almost don't want them to do well. In past years it's been Dwight Gayle, it's been Rhys Murphy and it's been Jodi Jones. And this year, it's super Oliver Hawkins whose potential departure we're dreading.
Hawkins is our main player; he scores goals, he sets up goals, he can defend. He's strong in the air, confident on the ball. He's a top-quality prospect who, with a huge frame, is the league's top scorer. Basically, if you cross the ball to Hawkins, expect the ball to go into the net.
For the whole of this year, 'Hawks' has been the subject of interest from a number of clubs, mainly Brighton. I'd absolutely hate for him to leave as our promotion hopes will quickly crumble. Thankfully, he's not been injured, as we would miss him massively.
But, knowing the financial situation we're in, any offer will presumably be accepted - so unfortunately we should prepare for the worst. Even if, worst case scenario, Ollie does leave - then I'll always have the memory of him levelling the scores at FGR with a beautiful header.
And, when he does move on, I'll be proud to see another Dagger rise through the leagues.
So there was to be no Christmas cheer on Boxing Day with Daggers losing 3-2 to Braintree Town, surrendering the lead in the process. To make matters worse, fellow defenders Scott Doe and Magnus Okuonghae got sent off and injured respectively, meaning Hawkins may have to drop into defence for the return meeting.
So round one went to Braintree, and the second installment of the double header will be televised on BT Sport in a match that will probably favour the Iron more. Hakan Heyrettin's side have enjoyed a dramatic upturn in form recently, while watching Dagenham at Victoria Road since November has been a thing of torture.
In the four home league games since the start of November, we've picked up one point, losing the other three games and conceding 14 goals in the process. This included an embarrasing 5-0 mauling at the hands of Gateshead, a match where we celebrated remembering the fallen - and since then our home form has gone a similar way. Our almost unrecognisable team had only conceded three home goals prior to that all season.
August and September. However, having no fewer than seven first-team players injured certainly won't help the cause.
So that's it for 2016.
For me, that is. With only one game left until the new year, that being an away game at Braintree at Boxing Day that I'm not going to, it's time to reflect on what has been a topsy-turvy year. It started, for me, with a magical FA Cup tie at Everton, then ended appropriately with a similarly quality (but for the wrong reasons) 4-4 draw against Solihull. But, ultimately, 2016 will be remembered for our relegation to the National League after 9 wonderful years. But it wasn't all doom and gloom, as you'll see below. So, let's look at a year which saw Daggers play at Goodison, get relegated, almost get taken over and re-appoint John Still as boss - as well as playing on live television twice! And I discuss the best games and goals I've seen this year.
So in 2016 I was fortunate enough to see Daggers 37 times in various competitions. 29 of those were made up of league fixtures, with the rest consisting of 3 FA Cup games, 3 pre-season friendlies, an Essex Senior Cup game and an FA Trophy game. Of those 37 games, 7 were away. I travelled to Everton, Leyton Orient, Bristol Rovers, Thurrock, Sutton United, Forest Green and Maidstone United, of which only two were wins, and one of those was a friendly! I've also seen the Daggers wear five different kits! I cheered 43 goals, and despaired as 47 were conceded before my eyes. I've seen the highs, such as roaring Daggers on at Goodison Park, and the lows - trudging out of Brisbane Road with tears in my eyes following our inevitable relegation comes to mind. However, disappointingly, I only witnessed 12 wins and 6 draws. That means that I saw 19 losses, hopefully that number is much less for 2017. So overall, it's been not the best year, but that doesn't mean there weren't some good moments - and some great goals.................
My Top 5 Games of 2016
HEADLINES OF 2016
2016 was a very hectic year, on and off the pitch for Dagenham. From the neverending takeover saga, to a change of manager, relegation and two television appearances, we were never short of drama. Here are just some of the big stories this calendar year.........
Return of a Legend
As of 1st January 2016, John Still rejoined the Daggers for a third stint at boss after leaving Luton at the end of December. The Daggers, who sat bottom of the league after a consecutive 3-0 home stuffings to Bristol Rovers snd Cambridge United, sacked Wayne Burnett on 21st December. Still's first game was an away trip to Exeter, which we won 2-1, before he took his new side to Goodison Park for the magical tie at Everton. Though, despite form improving, it ultimately wasn't enough to save Dagenham from relegation.
A Day to Remember
John Still said he was so proud of the team after they were sadly beaten at Everton, but it was a magical day for the club. With 1883 away fans in attendance, it was a game that captured the imagination of many and proved that the FA Cup is still magic. Even though the Daggers lost 2-0, it was an incredible day that no Dagger will ever, ever forget!
First Home Win
It took 17 games, 7 months and many last-minute goals, but on 1st March 2016 the Daggers finally won a match at home, against fellow strugglers York City. For probably the millionth time that season it looked like being 'one of those days' after Labadie missed a penalty amongst a whole host of opportunities wasted for the home side, but with just minutes to go Josh Passley sent the ground into pure joy with a left-footed strike. The Daggers would go on to win two more games at Victoria Road, but again it wouldn't save them from the inevitable fall into the National League.
Cash is on fire! - Loanees shine
While last season was utterly terrible in conclusion, it was a welcome distraction to see loanees Matty Cash, Joe Worrall, James Dunne, Dominic Hyam and Oliver Muldoon do so well, and almost took focus off the terrible campaign we were enduring. They weren't at the club long, but those four players managed to show more passion in just a few months than some of the team over the whole year. It's great to see Worrall and Cash now flourishing at Forest, Dunne doing well at Cambridge, Hyam playing well on loan at Pompey and Muldoon playing regular football at Braintree, and I wish them the best of luck in the future.
The End of the Road
Daggers' 9-year stay in the Football League came to a tearful end at Brisbane Road on 16th April 2016 after a devastating 3-2 loss. After being 2-0 down, Cureton and Dikamona both scored in the space of a minute and it seemed that Daggers would go down fighting, but moments later Orient scored again to win the game. After the match, distraught fans trudged out of the ground while the dejected team assembled in a huddle at the centre of the pitch. It was a very sad moment. Daggers were relegated.
Last Game in the FL
Another truly extraordinary game, but the occasion didn't belong to us, although we very nearly ruined Rovers' day. It was 7th May and a fitting end to 9 wonderful years in the Football League at a packed Memorial Stadium, who sensed promotion. What followed was an extraordinary 90 mins of football, where we amazingly took the lead but were pegged back just minutes later. But, in the last minute, Rovers scored to spark jubilant, mental scenes around the whole ground. It was a chilling moment that you couldn't help but get caught up in, almost enough to forget that it was our last game in the FL!
By the end of pre-season 2016 the Daggers side was almost unrecognisable with only one player who played against Bristol Rovers featuring in the first game of the National League season. Leaving the club were Jack Connors, Ashley Chambers, Clevid Dikamona, Ian Gayle, Ashley Hemmings, Zavon Hines, Justin Hoyte, Liam O'Brien, Josh Passley, Matt Richards, Ade Yusuff, Matt McClure, Christian Doidge, Jamie Cureton and Joss Labadie, while in came no fewer than ten new faces for John Still's new-look side.
After starting life back in the National League in ideal fashion by topping the table by the start of October, the Daggers had two opportunities to showcase their quality to the world as BT Sport came to town for our home games against Wrexham and Tranmere almost a month apart. The Daggers swept Wrexham aside with a Hawkins first-half hat-trick in what Adam Virgo described as the best half of football he'd ever seen from a National League side. Then, on 1st October, Daggers and Tranmere played out an exciting 0-0 draw that had everything but a goal.
So on Saturday the Daggers managed to score twice in the last seven minutes to snatch a 4-4 draw against Solihull Moors, despite playing terribly for the most part. I can't figure out whether I'm happy or disappointed with the result. We definitely didn't deserve it and only played well for about ten minutes of each half, but then again the best teams pick up undeserved points. Still, when you think we've conceded 16 goals in just five home games - compared to just three all season before that - it's far from good enough.
Take the first two Solihull goals on Saturday, where our defence backed off and invited both players to shoot. It was obvious for the first he was going to shoot, but again nobody was willing to put their body in the way. For the second goal, as spectacular as it was, there was no closing down and we got what we deserved. And these were just small mistakes compared to the next two.
And yet we still didn't yield the warning. Two became three as Widdowson was bundled off the ball in the corner, the first of a catalogue of errors. Then, failure to close the attacker down presented him with an opportunty to shoot, which he did - right at Justham. What should've been an easy save turned into him spilling the ball right to Byrne, almost stopping it dead for him to tap in. It's not just one error, but multiple avoidable ones that would never have happened earlier in the season.
I am Joel Page, Dagenham & Redbridge FC fan. Here I will share some of my experiences.