the daggers voice
It was 8pm on Saturday as a loud applause rippled throughout the terrace towards the players, which was returned with as much appreciation. After a determined and energetic performance the fans once again greeted the players with a warm reception, as they do every game. Yet the Daggers hadn't won, we hadn't even drawn, and in fact had just lost our fourth consecutive fixture in the National League which left us in our lowest league position in over a decade.
It's this kind of display of affection that makes being a Dagger so special. It would be easy in that situation to use our current plight as an excuse not to play well but every player gave 100% and competed for everything, so genuinely can't be faulted. The game had transformed into an afterthought and many fans had been dreading the rest of the season, but it was a relief to forget about our issues and just do what us supporters do best: watch and get behind the team.
So, therefore, even amidst everything behind the scenes, it's clear that there is at least still a glimmer of hope. Probably not for this season but we can at least remain optimistic for the future without worrying about the future of our great club. To be honest, I'm quite looking forward to the Summer when John Still can lead one of his fantastic rebuilds. The last one took us to 4th in the National League and 90 minutes away from Wembley.
It's clear that this season has been a mistake. While it's been a pleasure to adopt a 'big club' mentality with a lot of signings that were coups at this level, it's not us. Glyn Hopkin deserves praise for the money he invested in the club but perhaps it's best that Dagenham return to the club that we truly are - a small club punching above it's weight and turning unproven, untapped gems into FL-Quality+ players.
That's what Dagenham & Redbridge are, and I'm proud of it. I'm proud that we throughout our meteoric 25 year rise have been seen as the underdogs. Even now, in what some would probably correctly call our rightful level, we are something of an underdog in the promotion race. To even compete with teams like Forest Green and Tranmere last year was fantastic and we did it with a squad that was practically thrown together.
The ironic thing is that this squad was probably better, all things considered, than the one we had this campaign. That's what I mean when I say that Dagenham should return to old times, we clearly have a formula that works when it comes to assembling a team of a quality that defies our stature so we shouldn't change. A Dwight Gayle is always better than a Morgan Ferrier, and there's more pride at plucking a player from nowhere than buying one. As John Still said, ''there's much more pleasure in baking a cake than buying a cake''.
Back to the Aldershot performance, we were just lacking a crucial spark, but it wasn't for the want of trying. Sparkes and Okenabirhie looked very lively and showed that we are not bereft of quality within our ranks, as we feared once players began to depart. It is probable and almost certain, apparently, that more players will depart - Cheek and Fejiri have allegedly been subject of bids from Ebbsfleet - but as long as we have 11 players who are devoted and dedicated to the shirt, there is always going to be hope.
Luckily against Aldershot, we had that. Aside from Sparkes and Fej who've already been mentioned, we had players willing to get stuck in like Boucaud and Robinson who managed to control the midfield well. Also, considering that it was his first start since early-September, Luke Pennell was fantastic and deserves his chance. All round, the work rate - particularly from Cheek - was truly brilliant.
It's unfair not to give praise to Aldershot who with their two goals showed just why they have been so successful under Gary Waddock. To win when not at your best is a sign of a good team it is said and while Shots were predominantly average at Victoria Road they showed their quality when they needed to. They are well poised to win the league, which is very possible. This is what I wrote after the game:
Don't think we were outclassed at all. Overall they created about three chances (and to be fair took them) and we probably edged it. They just had that bit of clinical quality infront of goal but the effort was superb. I went home happy yesterday because I was expecting a hammering and although we were beaten the team gave everything, which is all you can ask for. There wasn't really a single player who was poor yesterday. There was a couple of times where Cheek and Sparkes should've been more selfish instead of pulling it across goal but other than that we weren't too bad. Okenabirhie was brilliant, he needed to step up and in recent weeks has, and Pennell looks a different player as a centre back. The work rate from Cheek was good too especially given that he's supposedly in his way out. So yes a loss, but even with Ling and Ferrier it was going to be an uphill battle, so without them we showed that there is at least something to work with. More importantly, I was just glad that by 8pm we were talking about what happened on the pitch, rather than off it.
So it's four losses in a row but we do have something to work with. Hopefully that performance wasn't just for the TV cameras and can be replicated at Torquay and Dover, two games I go into with a surprising amount of confidence. The fans will turn up as ever, so hopefully the players do too.
I am Joel Page, Dagenham & Redbridge FC fan. Here I will share some of my experiences.