the daggers voice
IN an 11 month rollercoaster which, for me, started in the sweltering heat at Thurrock and ended tearfully on the perfectly maintained and fan-invaded pitch at Forest Green Rovers, there were many twists and turns, with overwhelming feelings of frustration, elation, dismay and satisfaction throughout different stages of the glorious ride. Our first year back in non-league was a happy one, in spite of the manner in which it ended, and here I look back fondly on the moments and matches which defined it, on both a personal and club perspective.
There were many fantastic moments during last season, but my personal favourite came in the Playoff Semi-Final home clash against Forest Green. Having dominated most of the game, we fell behind to a dubious penalty which was converted to silence the home support which had been so noisy and buoyant, and it seemed like our chance had gone. But then, heading towards half-time, a standard flickon was capitalised on by the one and only Jordan Maguire-Drew, who stole in and steered a fantastic shot into the roof of the net. The dramatic celebrations channelled the joy of us all, as well as the frustration of the injustice that had preceeded it and, although the goal ultimately proved pointless, it was a moment I will always smile about. It was also somewhat of a parting gift from fan favourite Maguire-Drew.
Losing out very slightly, is another amazing scene provided by the one and only, gifted winger Maguire-Drew. The score was 2-2 between Daggers and Chester in February and we were heading towards a disappointing draw after missing an earlier penalty, against ten men. Despite this, we had taken the lead through Sheppard's fizzed strike in first-half injury-time but, after two quick-fire second-half Chester goals, we were staring towards another underwhelming home result. The match entered the last ten minutes with almost everybody consigned to a defeat, with little complaints, although it did seem as though we had salvaged something when Whitely converted a second spot kick after a Chester player had handled on the line, and was also sent off. And so, the last few minutes were dramatic; the hosts threw everything at the Seals, who defended for their lives. But then, in the fifth minute of injury time, a Benson header cannoned off the bar........and there was substitute Maguire-Drew to calmly sweep the ball into the corner. Cue ecstatic scenes by both the home players and fans, while Chester players collapsed to the floor.
The campaign was packed with incredible moments and another came in my first of two trips to the New Lawn, home to Forest Green Rovers. Before kick off on 29th October, we sat 2nd and FGR were first, setting up a pulsating encounter in Nailsworth. However, much like the second meeting at that venue four months later, Dagenham never really turned up. The day itself hadn't been too great, as the coach only arrived ten minutes before kick-off and the journey was predictably a nightmare, so when Forest Green took control, despite our bright start, things were looking bleak. Murphy put the hosts in front and it seemed like we were heading towards an embarrassing thrashing but then, just as we were being thoroughly outclassed, a miracle of sorts happened. A superb deep ball by Widdowson was directed to the far post. Hawkins rose to meet it and, with a firm and composed head, gracefully found the bottom corner to spark incredible scenes. The players headed straight towards us and fans roared towards them in mutual celebration, and we managed to earn ourselves a draw, even coming close to a late winner. It was a great moment as their keeper Russell hadn't conceded in over a month but, ultimately, both teams would end up falling off and fighting it out in the end-of-season playoffs.
We might've finished fourth, but you'd be surprised by the amount of low moments there were, especially during the Winter months. The worst moment, though, was when we suffered heartbreak in the playoffs. It was a year on since we played our last game in League 2, a clash at Bristol Rovers when the Gas were promoted in the last minute and, that day, we enjoyed their celebrations. So, to have to be a spectator to another team's celebrations, for the second year in a row, hurt badly. I remember watching on glumly at the final whistle as the home fans raced onto the greenery and some taunted us. To see our players visibly crushed was devastating as it had been such a good season which didn't deserve to end how it did but I guess we can learn from it, and at the final whistle we were proud at what we have achieved.
With the playoffs being such a momentous occasion, emotions run higher than ever and, so, any errors tend to hurt more. Another scarring moment came in the first leg at Victoria Road. The Daggers had started brilliantly and were dominating, with FGR barely managing a shot yet. The fans were noisy and the players had risen to the occasion. However, just then, Omar Bugiel rounded Cousins before tumbling to the ground. I couldn't tell whether it was a penalty or not, but replays confirmed that it definitely wasn't, and although we got back into the game that meant that we didn't go to FGR with an advantage, so ultimately cost us. And so we headed to the New Lawn for the second leg, where there were to be more painful moments. During the first half, Forest Green had begun to take control of a cagey encounter and eventually took the lead. Widdowson was robbed of possession and Doidge was teed up to put his side ahead and we couldn't recover. From then, the atmosphere was silent.
I remember one moment, though, which stood above all as the worst individual moment of the season. It was November, and we had collapsed against Gateshead. 4-0 down and by far the worst I had seen us play since the dreadful season before. Having shipped a couple of goals in just the last few minutes, and in the pouring rain, Gateshead made it five with an easy finish. I stared in disbelief and shock, and remember glumly gazing at the scoreboard after the game, thinking that our season was all but over.
I am Joel Page, Dagenham & Redbridge FC fan. Here I will share some of my experiences.