the daggers voice
So, after a brief detour in the FA Trophy last week, it's back to the promotion charge for our first home game in over a month, and last of 2017. We will welcome Eastleigh to Victoria HQ looking to extend our four-game winning run in the National League; a run which has propelled us towards the very top of the division.
Another three-point haul, therefore, would keep us in touch ahead of what is a crucial period for every club, where four games are played in ten days. This gives the opportunity of a possible 12 points which could well see us at the summit of the division and, with such a short turnover, we may see some rotation from John Still.
The visitors today are Eastleigh, making the journey from the Silverlake Stadium. The Spitfires are one of those teams who threaten to do well every campaign, but always fail to deliver. Currently 18th, they are winless in eight - having also been knocked out of the Trophy - which has prompted a dramatic change in management.
Current boss Richard Hill has moved upstairs to make way for Andy Hessenthaler, who has taken the reigns. This changes things for the Daggers; it means that Eastleigh may well set up a completely different way than expected, and there's always the expectation that a new manager delivers results straight away.
Thankfully, having a new manager won't change the fact that they are struggling and, on the flip side, you may well see a cautious approach from the visitors. I fully expect them to sit back and possibly invite pressure, which is never good against a team like us. I don't see any way of them dealing with our attacking threat of Ferrier, Cheek and Whitely, the latter of which is gradually returning to his old self.
Big things are expected from Corey now. He loves playing Eastleigh, netting six of our last seven goals against them. This includes two in the August meeting, which ended in a draw with a brace for home striker Ben Williamson, who I'm delighted to say is injured and will miss the clash at Victoria Road. That's not to say they don't carry a threat, but their main one is gone, which is a boost for us, not that we should be relying on average teams having their best players injured.
Speaking of which, there are no fresh injury concerns for the Daggers, to my knowledge. Robson was absent in the loss to Hereford but should be back to maintain his ever-present league record. Morgan Ferrier was forced off through injury at Edgar Street but hopefully that was for precautionary measures only, and he too will return to destroy another defence, as he has been doing all campaign.
It's mainly the form of fans' favourite Ferrier, National League signing of the season in my opinion, that has distracted the attention somewhat from Whitely's deteriorating performances. Had this been last season then we'd be lost without him firing on all cylinders but the fact that we have so many talented players has compensated for this. However, we still need Whitely, and it's easy to forget what he's capable of when he's got the confidence.
And, obviously, his place shouldn't be guaranteed. He needs to earn his position just as anybody else would and, to be fair, he's been doing that recently. Nobody can fault his work rate but he needs to regain his unstoppable form of August, especially with January around the corner. I don't want us to lose him but if he really wants to realise his Football League dream, he needs to start showing it.
But I think he'll start against Eastleigh. I expect Still not to want to tamper with a winning formula, and as such will stick with the side that won four league games in a row. That means Cousins in goal, a back four of Howells, Doe, Lokko and Ling with Robson sitting in midfield alongside Boucaud and, on the wings, Whitely and Howell, while Ferrier and Cheek operate up front.
However, mindful of the upcoming few days, he may make changes. We could see a return for Luke Pennell on the left. Also returning to full fitness is Okenabirhie, who could easily slot into one of the wing positions. Sparkes has been impressing recently and he could make his first start for the club, which is definitely something I'd like to see. Kandi, too, is available, and certainly good enough from what I've seen.
Adams and Robinson are also waiting if John fancies meddling with the midfield. This just goes to show the sheer options we have; he could make five changes and still be left with a team capable of winning a game. But we mustn't underestimate Eastleigh, who will want to make an instant impression for their new manager.
A repeat of last season's clash would be perfect. Dagenham won 4-0 against a lethargic-looking Eastleigh side who were already on the beach. Whitely was incredible that day, scoring a hat-trick, hitting the bar and creating the other goal for Benson. He also bagged the winner against Eastleigh the previous October, and today could be the perfect morale-booster for him.
We are the best home team in the league and, as John Still says, that's not because other teams aren't good. It's because we are GOOD, and now we must go out and be good.
Last time we won four in a row, we lost the elusive fifth. Now let's rectify that and get another three points, a welcome early Christmas present for all of us. It's been over a month since our last home game, so let's make the wait worthwhile. COYD
I am Joel Page, Dagenham & Redbridge FC fan. Here I will share some of my experiences.