the daggers voice
One of the most tragic weeks in our history had a bizarre end befitting of a club in our difficult position; it was supposed to be a distraction from off-pitch matters but indeed only added to the troubles we have all faced. As the loyal band of fans conjugated at Victoria Road in the early hours, we were determined to get behind the team when they needed us most, but little did we know that the only team we'd be supporting was Ossett Town for 45 minutes of their game against Ramsbottom. This was one of the many matches that somehow managed to survive the extreme conditions and torrential downpours which only existed in the delusional minds of FC Halifax Town, responsible for one of the most pathetic shows of sheer incompetence I have ever seen.
The calm, unsympathetic way in which the club announced the completely-unnecessary postponement certainly showed that they had dealt with this kind of situation before. Their FA Trophy game against Macclesfield fell foul of the weather but from what I heard that was quite justified, although despite the fact that Macc fans hadn't had long to travel the short notice which they gave was ridiculous. Then, just a few weeks ago Orient supporters were informed that the match was off while they were well into their journey, with many having booked accommodation and travel. If Orient were aggrieved, which they would be perfectly entitled to be, then imagine how we felt.
You might think that after these postponements, alarm bells were surely ringing and we should've been expecting the worst. We were assured that the game would be on and there was nothing to indicate that it wouldn't be, especially given that their rescheduled clash with the O's had taken place just four days prior without any concerns. The only potential difficulty, we were told, was one of the touchlines which had failed to fully soak up water, but surely that's not enough to postpone a match which both teams would've wanted to go ahead. The match was called off after the referee examined the pitch for a second time following an earlier pitch inspection that we also very conveniently were not informed of.
That pitch inspection took place at 10.30 so if you were going to cancel the game then do it then, just to prevent as much upheaval as possible. Apparently the surface was playable then so had worsened in the space of just two hours, but if you had enough doubts to constitute an initial pitch inspection, how can you not check the weather forecast to anticipate this weather? Perhaps this is because the conditions they allege then arose simply did not happen and this has been supported by residents of Halifax, Dagenham fans in the area and anybody with half a brain cell. It's also worth noting that the referee apparently called the game off because the ball wouldn't bounce twice but with two hoofball teams, that certainly wouldn't have been a problem anyway.
So as we were in the Shay bar, getting ready to leave and head towards the turnstiles, the game was promptly called off, just minutes after Halifax had advertised the match on Twitter. They continued to advertise it even after declaring the postponement, something which summed up their unprofessionalism and only added to the increasing confusion. Barely had we had time to recover from the 216 mile journey when we were heading back to Dagenham. We had essentially travelled four hours for nothing and paid £25 each for the privilege; it had certainly been an unusual awayday, but mainly because Dagenham hadn't lost. The players were also waiting around having also been left in the dark and they were just as confused, as well as genuinely disappointed that they weren't going to be playing football, which I took as a good sign.
Not wanting to render the day completely wasted, I spoke to some of the players and took pictures with them: after the recent club statement, it was probable that this would be the last time some of the team members would be seen in Daggers clobber. Given our turbulent financial status, shelling out on overnight costs and travel certainly wouldn't have helped things, so I fully expect the team to be reimbursed, but that won't help the fans who committed to the day. As luck would have it, I would win £50 on the coach journey home so essentially the only loss for me was hours of my life, but other fans certainly weren't as lucky.
As we trudged back onto our coach, thoroughly dejected and very angry, we decided that we were going to see a football match after all. We limited the candidates to Harrogate v Billericay, Guiseley v Wrexham (my personal preference) and Ossett v Ramsbottom. The shambles at Halifax was apparently contagious as we struggled to make a decision, but eventually decided on the latter, although it would mean missing the first 45 minutes. I commend the way that the Supporters Club organised this as it would've been easy just to go home but in the end I'm glad we went to Ossett as it meant we saw a club who apparently cared about supporters; we were let in at a 75% reduction and offered a very warm welcome, which we all appreciated.
In this time, Halifax had promised to issue a statement in due course, though they even managed to mess that up, taking about three hours to produce a very basic article which left more questions than answers. It cited heavy rainfall between 12.30 and 1.30 as the cause, but given that we were already in the area during that time, we can confirm that apart from light drizzle, there was nothing of the sort. It was also worth noting that this game was the only in the region called off, with Guiseley, Harrogate and Ossett - all smaller clubs who would be more likely to call a game off - deemed fine. Infact just a few weeks ago Guiseley did the completely unbelievable thing and had a pitch inspection the day before the game, which was then called off but thankfully saved visiting fans money and time. Imagine that, Halifax.
This is the third time Halifax have done this and it's obviously no coincidence. I obviously understand that home fans would've been just as frustrated at having as many games off - i certainly would - but for us it was obviously worse. Halifax will obviously lose out when the rescheduled fixture, which will obviously be a Tuesday, draws a much smaller figure than would've attended Saturday's. This isn't an unfair, disrespectful rant at Halifax because the whole setup of the club struck me as very nice and decent, but the way they've handled things is ridiculous. Obviously this kind of experience is part and parcel of football: we're not the first to experience this and certainly won't be the last, but that doesn't make it acceptable. Not just to Dagenham, but anybody who has been shafted by Halifax or any other team this season, it's not good enough and the National League should do more to ensure this does not happen again.
We are next in action on Saturday when we host Aldershot Town at 5.30pm in a fixture live on BT Sport.
I am Joel Page, Dagenham & Redbridge FC fan. Here I will share some of my experiences.