THE dAGGERS vOICE
A MESSAGE FROM PETER FREUND
BACKGROUND: Thank you all for being here. This is such an exciting experience for us. I just wanted to do a little bit of a background of myself, why I'm here and about buying Dagenham. It started with me being in a family business for twenty years, it was a plastic packaging business and I worked for my father, but I had this fantastic passion for sport. This then started to resinate on a business side; I was able to take over several different clubs, all baseball teams in the United States, and work on everything from the fan experience to the infrastructure, to the management of the club, to the commercial side, to the merchandising etc. So Craig and I run a baseball team called the Memphis Redbirds and we're fortunate enough to have won our championship this year, so it was a very exciting year for us. We have ventured into the football business, visiting Championship, League 1 and League 2 level football in England as well as running division two level soccer team in the US. Our partner in the United States, Tim Howard, is running the football side while I would say we're running the business operation side of things. Our love and passion for football, and for what happens here across the pond, was something that we couldn't ignore. We started looking at opportunities in the UK and in the year I've been here I have been to more Premier League matches I ever thought I would, and I've been to many Championship and League One matches. Certainly, I've also been to several matches here at Victoria Road.
APPEAL OF DAGENHAM: Ultimately, what sold us on this club was the dedication of all of you, the supporters, and Steve, and just the crucial people that we were impressed with. Here was a club that financially had hit rock bottom and many of you helped support the club by writing personal cheques, volunteering, coming here because you love the club - that was something that resinated with us. It's your club, owners and investors come and go, but ultimately it's yours and not ours. There's a direct flight to London City every day, that's about twenty minutes from here so it couldn't be more convenient and that is a part of it, rather than having to go to, say, Barrow! Our philosophy is: we want what you want, for the club to be successful but also a really important part of the community. The community part is what drives me towards the sports business, it's the power of sport, and this club being important to it's community is critical. I realise that we got some flack on some new seats that we put in on social media because they can't score goals! The idea was that we have the opportunity to come into a beautiful ground and make some improvements, this is a marathon, not a sprint, so whether it's new seats or a new scoreboard that actually tells times, we want to do things that are meaningful in that they add value to the club, to all of you and that they make you proud. That's really as basic as it gets.
ON-PITCH MATTERS: As far as on the pitch, I love Peter and am thrilled he's here; over time I've got to know him, his philosophies and how hard he's working for this club. What you saw in terms of activity with player signings over the last week was not easy, it was a day-and-night process so I must give Peter a lot of credit. It was a rollercoaster to get Balanta here and the couple which we announced yesterday, Smith and Manny, so it wasn't easy. Everybody always points to January for strengthening squads but when you're a third of the way through and you are where we are, you have to do things now and so I want to give everybody at this table credit for helping put the best possible team we can on that pitch. None of us are happy where we are, from that standpoint, and my goal is to have this club back into the English Football League. It doesn't have to be tomorrow but that's my commitment, to stick around and see this thing through.
ON CRAIG UNGER: I was lucky to meet Craig three years ago when I bought the Memphis Club from the St Louis Cardinals'. Craig worked with St Louis Cardinals' for many years before he came to Memphis and ran the Redbirds. The owner of the Cardinals was probably one of the most beloved people in sport, his name is Baur DeWitt and he's a very famous sports executive, well he took me aside when I bought the Redbirds and said 'if for any reason you don't like or want Craig, I want him back.' - that was reason enough to always have him on my side.
Ultimately, what sold us on this club was the dedication of all of you, the supporters, and Steve, and just the crucial people that we were impressed with. Here was a club that financially had hit rock bottom and many of you helped support the club by writing personal cheques, volunteering, coming here because you love the club - that was something that resinated with us. It's your club, owners and investors come and go, but ultimately it's yours and not ours.
A MESSAGE FROM CRAIG UNGER
Thanks for all coming tonight. This is so much fun and, to me, the one word which sums up everything we want to do here is: opportunity. It's the opportunity to turn something into something great, the opportunity to engage with a great community who are passionate about their team and to do events like this which is the opportunity to sit down and have these conversations, talking about things and having some fun on the side. Echoing what Peter said about making a difference, we want to take the team from where it is back to the Football League but also, for example, giving Finley Connelly the chance to walk again and that is what we want to do. It's also about the community, the people who come together, it's about the experience. As Peter said, we got some sh*t about the seats but when you walk into this beautiful place, Victoria Road, we want you to be proud of it and I've heard from many of you on Twitter and social media about bringing new fans in, particularly younger fans. We want to develop the fanbase, winning will help too I understand that, so when the opportunity comes to return to the Football League we have to be ready to take it. It's going to happen, so we have to get the ground, fans and infrastructure ready for that.
This is so much fun and, to me, the one word which sums up everything we want to do here is: opportunity. It's the opportunity to turn something into something great, the opportunity to engage with a great community who are passionate about their team and to do events like this which is the opportunity to sit down and have these conversations.
a MESSAGE FROM PETER TAYLOR
It's great that we had the first two popular fellas here tonight! I've got to say that I have explained to Peter and Craig how I am absolutely hating matchdays at the minute, but I do love the job, I love being here and I love the challenge - at the moment it's not working out. I did say at the earlier fans' forum that I was concerned that the young players wouldn't get a result or two and would drop their heads which unfortunately has happened, which is disappointing, but I also know that you all are probably not happy with the situation and I completely understand that. I can promise you everybody is working as hard as they can to get this right. On Tuesday night, I'll be honest, I thought we were hopeless. We looked tired and a little bit negative so that did concern me a lot. We've now got three new players who will be playing tomorrow so we're hoping that will give the changing room a lift and make us a better team. At the moment we're probably in the position where we deserve to be so we have to get better. I have to make some big decisions and make some signings if I can, but I really do appreciate the support even if I know I'm going to get some rascal questions tonight. There are certain players unpopular with you at the minute but they're probably unpopular with me too.
I am absolutely hating matchdays at the minute, but I do love the job, I love being here and I love the challenge - at the moment it's not working out. I did say at the earlier fans' forum that I was concerned that the young players wouldn't get a result or two and would drop their heads which unfortunately has happened, which is disappointing, but I also know that you all are probably not happy with the situation and I completely understand that. I can promise you everybody is working as hard as they can to get this right.
WE now have 27 players on the books. Are there any plans to get rid of a few Of them to make way for newer faces?
PT: We now have 27 players and that's maybe four or five too many. That makes it difficult on the training pitch because having more than twenty outfield players makes it a bit awkward. There are certain players who have to train separately because it's okay doing a session with 24 players, but any more makes it a bit difficult. We will be looking to get rid of a few players but I just want to explain that things like that aren't that easy. Thankfully I got the job and I had a budget to work on in order to get certain players. I got a squad together for that money and I felt it was okay, we just needed some results. Now, because of a fantastic situation for the football club with the arrival of Peter and Craig, we're now in a position to strengthen the squad, and that's what I want to do because we have to improve not only in quality, but also experience. Now I have the go-ahead, I can bring players in but that doesn't mean straight away you can just get rid of some because they're under contract. If they're not in the team, they're the ones that clubs will be least interested in. You can get rid of great players but it's not as easy to get rid of those who aren't playing. We're trying very hard, we let James Blanchfield go out to Lowestoft, he's struggled here but will go out for a month and it'll do him good. We're still trying to speak to as many clubs as we can to get some out on loan, in an ideal world we'd let some younger players go out because they're not currently good enough but in a few years they will be. I agree that we have got too many and I'd love the squad to go down to 24 with two keepers, but I have also spoken to Peter and Craig about improving the team.
Now, because of a fantastic situation for the football club with the arrival of Peter and Craig, we're now in a position to strengthen the squad, and that's what I want to do because we have to improve not only in quality, but also experience. Now I have the go-ahead, I can bring players in but that doesn't mean straight away you can just get rid of some because they're under contract. If they're not in the team, they're the ones that clubs will be least interested in.
In the comeback against Boreham Wood, we ended the game strongly so why didn't we keep that side for the replay?
PT: I suppose the game is all about opinions. The team that we finished with on Saturday played exceptionally well for fifteen minutes, but they were a small team and when you're playing against Boreham Wood, who've got about six 6-footers in the team, you have a problem because they'll score from set-pieces. I don't think we could start with the same side that finished because I still have to look at certain players and think whether they can play ninety minutes. I don't like starting a player that I know I'll definitely have to take off, but sometimes you have to do it. I respect that, though, and I did say that for those fifteen minutes, it was the best we'd played and the first time we'd asked questions of Boreham Wood. The shape that we played on Tuesday should've asked the same questions but the players didn't seem to play with the same confidence. I know that when I took Mullings off it got the biggest cheer of the night but I will make a little bit of an excuse for him because he's lost somebody very close to him and I think his family have been leaning on him to do all the plans for the funeral. It's not been easy for him, I'm being honest because I have to protect the player, but I can assure you that he's now saying all the right things. I need him to be a player for Dagenham & Redbridge. I understand that you've been disappointed with him in the last two games but I'm the same and I didn't like him on Tuesday either. However, against Ebbsfleet and on other occasions, when he's got it right he's been the 6'5 centre forward we've been after. I hold my hand up with Mullins but I can assure you he's better than you've seen. His performances have been nowhere near it and he will get that, but I firmly believe he will.
I know that when I took Mullings off it got the biggest cheer of the night but I will make a little bit of an excuse for him because he's lost somebody very close to him and I think his family have been leaning on him to do all the plans for the funeral. It's not been easy for him, I'm being honest because I have to protect the player, but I can assure you that he's now saying all the right things. I need him to be a player for Dagenham & Redbridge.
Liam Gordon is a really promising player who's won man of the match a couple of times, yet seems to get withdrawn regularly.
PT: Well, when you say regular basis, I think he's played every game bar two. I love Liam Gordon and we have even been discussing a new contract, that's how much I think of him. This league has been a big test for him because he didn't play last year and this year he's had to play every game, which has put him under pressure. I saw him in the left-back position against Boreham Wood and he couldn't wait to give the ball to somebody else. I'm his biggest fan and I really want him to be successful, but I felt as though he needed a rest. He's had to play probably twelve on the spin so I felt he needed a rest and I'm going to rest him tomorrow (against Harrogate) as well.
This league has been a big test for him because he didn't play last year and this year he's had to play every game, which has put him under pressure. I saw him in the left-back position against Boreham Wood and he couldn't wait to give the ball to somebody else. I'm his biggest fan and I really want him to be successful, but I felt as though he needed a rest. He's had to play probably twelve on the spin so I felt he needed a rest and I'm going to rest him tomorrow (against Harrogate) as well.
What is the best position for Chike Kandi? He's played both out wide and up front in the past.
PT: Well, he's got great pace but isn't as brave in the air as he should be to be a centre-forward. If you want to be a centre-forward you've got to be backing into centre-halves and attacking headers and he doesn't do that. Due to his pace he has played wide right, and when he's got it right has looked a really good player, but there seemed to be less and less end product and he wasn't going past people you'd expect him to for the pace that he's got. I'm not so sure he's got enough of a trick to be a winger but I'm also not sure he's got the intelligence or bravery to be a centre-forward. I'm looking for more end product from him. Great lad, and he should be a success, but his promise never leads to enough end product. When he comes off the bench he looks effective but isn't as effective from the start, Ollie Harfield's like that too and it drives you mad because you need players who are going to be there from 3pm until quarter to five.
Due to his pace he has played wide right, and when he's got it right has looked a really good player, but there seemed to be less and less end product and he wasn't going past people you'd expect him to for the pace that he's got. I'm not so sure he's got enough of a trick to be a winger but I'm also not sure he's got the intelligence or bravery to be a centre-forward.
Tomi Adeloye and Jack Munns are two great players yet never seem to be in the team. Why is that?
PT: Jack Munns is somebody that I'm a big admirer of, he's been nowhere near match fit but now he is. People have asked why we didn't play him three matches ago but that's because he could probably only do twenty minutes or half an hour at that time. When he came on against Boreham Wood, he was the difference and he'll be playing with Balanta tomorrow so there we have two really clever players. There's a time where Munns joined us and wasn't fit, but has worked hard with the coaches and now he'll get a chance. As for Tomi Adeloye, I had a really good chat with him today about the type of thing that we need from a centre-forward. I don't want a centre-forward out on the left-wing too much and I don't want one who drops into midfield too much. On Tuesday he could've played a couple of people in. He's full of promise and has everything that he needs, he's strong and good enough, but he just needs a goal. He went through at Eastleigh and should've hit the target but didn't.
There's a time where Munns joined us and wasn't fit, but has worked hard with the coaches and now he'll get a chance. As for Tomi Adeloye, I had a really good chat with him today about the type of thing that we need from a centre-forward. I don't want a centre-forward out on the left-wing too much and I don't want one who drops into midfield too much.
Two players I've watched that we're not getting the best out of are Lamar Reynolds and Ben Goodliffe. Why?
PT: Ben Goodliffe is a young lad who was at Boreham Wood reserves before going to Wolves. He was a 17-year old playing under 23's football and now all of a sudden he's in men's football and playing every week. He's going to be a good player, a good number 5, but at the moment he's switching off at times and he's learning the hard way. He's a good lad, a good player, a good organiser and a good talker but we're not an easy team to play for at the moment. As you can imagine, we're a young team low on confidence. We're gonna bring in some more experience which will make us more organised. On his day, Lamar Reynolds could be anything but again, a bit like Kandi, hasn't produced enough end product. If you put Lamar Reynolds on the teamsheet the opposing manager will talk about him as somebody who can go past two or three. He needs a goal, he needs to make a goal, but he's a decent lad trying to make things happen and at the minute he's finding it a little bit tough. Again he could end up being a second centre-forward. Maybe he's over-trying, but if he gets it right, he's bloody exciting.
Ben Goodliffe is a young lad who was at Boreham Wood reserves before going to Wolves. He was a 17-year old playing under 23's football and now all of a sudden he's in men's football and playing every week. He's going to be a good player, a good number 5, but at the moment he's switching off at times and he's learning the hard way. He's a good lad, a good player, a good organiser and a good talker but we're not an easy team to play for at the moment. As you can imagine, we're a young team low on confidence.
ELLIOTT Romain: Why did we let him go to divisional rivals Maidstone United?
PT: I expected that to be the first question to be honest! He's a great lad who can work his socks off. I feel that if we get the plays we want, Elliott wouldn't be in the starting XI. I said to him that we're in a pickle because I've got to bring in some fresh faces, and I then told him Maidstone had come for him. A month earlier, they rung me and I said no but this time I said yes. The reason I done that is that i didn't think he was consistent enough either. We didn't know what was going to happen when he got the ball and he wasn't very good with his back to goal, and he always wanted to get hold of it and take people on himself. I don't want to knock him because I know he'll go to Maidstone and get goals, I have no doubt about that, but my target is to get better than that. Hopefully in a month's time or even less, you'll look at our front line and think 'you know what, Elliott Romain wouldn't have got into this front-line' - that's my target.
He'll go to Maidstone and get goals, I have no doubt about that, but my target is to get better than that. Hopefully in a month's time or even less, you'll look at our front line and think 'you know what, Elliott Romain wouldn't have got into this front-line' - that's my target.
Gavin Hoyte featured at the start of the season but seems to have gone missing in recent weeks.
PT: Gavin Hoyte is the one player who it hurts me more than anything not to play. I really believe he's a top professional, I had him at Gillingham and know very well that he's a great lad to have around. If I had to choose between him and Ben Nunn in terms of passing, I'd go Ben Nunn. To create something we need people on the ball who are better in the full-back position. With Hoytey, what you know is that if you put him anywhere on the pitch, he'll give you absolutely everything. I hate it when he's not playing but he's working. I just feel, especially at home, we need Ben Nunn. Hoyte's best position is probably right centre-back of the three.
To create something we need people on the ball who are better in the full-back position. With Hoytey, what you know is that if you put him anywhere on the pitch, he'll give you absolutely everything. I hate it when he's not playing but he's working. I just feel, especially at home, we need Ben Nunn. Hoyte's best position is probably right centre-back of the three.
You've spoken about getting more experience in on many occasions. Are there any more signings imminent?
PT: Yes. I know nine points from 48 is sackable but that's the last thing I want to happen. As much as I want to go home and kill myself after a game, I am full of determination to get it right. I'm lucky to have some new people in the football club and they've spoken to me about what we need. I know how much we could spend before and that's changed now, but I still spend it as if it's my money, so I won't pay over the odds for somebody who was good three years ago. I can assure you everybody we look into, we look into. You never get everything right in football but as long as you look into the background, it'll work. We've already spoken about a couple tonight, but I'm very determined to get us out of this hole. We will bring in the right ones. Please don't fall into the trap though, of thinking those who aren't playing will do better than those who are and that's not true. The ones in the stand may have had a nightmare as well. Somebody who was good two years ago, you may think he'll do well, but he may not. At the moment we've signed three players this week and I think you're going to love Balanta. I knew him ten years ago and he changed our season at Wycombe then, and that was when he was eighteen. He was clever then, but he's cleverer now and if he stays fit, he'll be amazing. The other two players, one's a younger centre-half and we wanted more experience but this one is better than we've currently got. The boy Smith a has great experience, will make the right decisions and will make us hard to play against. I didn't have to be here tonight but felt that I had to. Nine points is embarrassing but I promise I will turn it around.
At the moment we've signed three players this week and I think you're going to love Balanta. I knew him ten years ago and he changed our season at Wycombe then, and that was when he was eighteen. He was clever then, but he's cleverer now and if he stays fit, he'll be amazing. The other two players, one's a younger centre-half and we wanted more experience but this one is better than we've currently got. The boy Smith a has great experience, will make the right decisions and will make us hard to play against.
NOW that Peter Taylor has left the room, how many games has he got left!?
PF: I have to say this has been such an education for me! Here's what I'll say about Peter: from day one, as honest as he's been to you is how he has been to us. The budget that was given to him was small, but we weren't losing massively every week and there was nobody more frustrated than Peter. If we give Peter the resources to build the team the right way, we can do well.
Here's what I'll say about Peter: from day one, as honest as he's been to you is how he has been to us. The budget that was given to him was small, but we weren't losing massively every week and there was nobody more frustrated than Peter. If we give Peter the resources to build the team the right way, we can do well.
This is a game that shouldn't be happening. After such a dominant and controlled display on Saturday, Boreham Wood should have secured safe progression into the first round of the FA Cup, and they would have were it not for a miraculous late comeback which typifies the ethos of the greatest competition in the world: anything can happen. Quite how a side who didn't have a shot on target until the 87th minute managed to score twice deep into stoppage time remains a mystery, but lessons would've been learned as we look to cling on to the lifeline which we have been handed.
As such, we have a replay at Victoria Road which will be played to conclusion, meaning the very nervy prospect of extra time and even penalties. While the Daggers will have a much-needed injection of confidence following the manner in which we ended Saturday's tie, we can't rely on similar dramatics this time out because if we perform as we did mostly against the Wood, they will progress and our comeback at Meadow Park will be merely a good memory, rather than a springboard for the future.
Although they will naturally be dejected, Boreham Wood have a good incentive to secure a trip to Southport at the beginning of November, which is the fixture that awaits the victors. Just yesterday the Daggers announced the signing of Angelo Balanta from Boreham Wood. He can't feature tonight due to being cup-tied from his appearance against us on Saturday but his lack of inclusion within their squad will still help us. Conversely, though, it will galvanise the club and make them more determined to beat the team who've just taken their best player.
As it has been mentioned, a trip to Southport will be the fate of the winners tonight. In a draw which contained the likes of Portsmouth, Charlton and Coventry, going to Haig Avenue is distinctly underwhelming however, with them sitting bottom of the National League North, it does present the opportunity to make the second round. All of a sudden you're one win away from a possible trip to a huge Premier League team - and that's all the incentive you need to carry you through tonight.
More in Saturday's performance, to say we were terrible would be harsh because we did start brightly in the first ten minutes of both halves, without really troubling the keeper. In a weird way it was the seemingly decisive second-half goal that made us better because we had nothing to lose at that point, which is what inspired the scenes that followed. Overall, we weren't great but we also showed glimpses of quality. We just need to see more of them.
The game changed when we brought on Munns, Harfield and Adeloye; in my opinion, they all need to start tonight's game and the subsequent league fixtures too. It gives Taylor somewhat of a headache given that we're gradually getting more depth and quality into the squad. Hopefully we're as brave tonight as we were in the last four minutes at the weekend. It's essentially a free hit for us, a bonus match, so I hope we don't come over all nervous and panicked.
Boreham Wood are a good, organised side with a confident and quality manager, Luke Garrard, at the helm. Naturally following the departures of big names such as Ferrier and Andrade, they are a weaker team this season but still possess talent such as Shakes and Umerah, who demonstrated their abilities against us in the initial clash. It's a testament to the well-run infrastructure of the club that they can continue to sustain their place at this level with the lowest crowds in the division.
They know a lot about FA Cup runs after making the second round last season so the prospect of a good journey will be massively enticing for them. However, I back us to show Angelo Balanta that he made the right decision.
Let's continue the upward curve we're currently on,
Up the Dags.
Just a solitary point from a possible eighteen in the league, coupled with the departure of popular forward Elliott Romain, meant that the honeymoon period which followed the arrival of our new American investors had well and truly worn off as the very realistic threat of relegation loomed. However, from the moment Luke Pennell completed a last-gasp miracle at Boreham Wood in the FA Cup at the weekend, there seems to have been a sudden rise in optimism.
There had been pressure on the club to make a signing ever since the aforementioned Romain sale and we've delivered the first of hopefully many big-name signings. While it will take much more than this to even stave off the threat of the drop, let alone build for a promotion-challenging team next term, it's definitely a good starting point. Ángelo Balanta has been a thorn in the Daggers side for a couple of years now and brings a good dose of pace, power and flair to an attack severely lacking in those attributes.
In a squad which is already the most youthful in the division, Ángelo also has a good amount of experience to bolster our ranks. At 28, he possesses a good knowledge of the league having been instrumental in Boreham Wood's run to the play-off final last campaign, forming a great understanding with the equally-crucial Morgan Ferrier and Bruno Andrade. His crucial opener in the semi-final at Sutton United last season was one of eleven he scored throughout the whole campaign, which is impressive considering he played almost the entire season in the hole behind the striker as an advanced midfielder.
This campaign he's netted three goals, which includes an opening day winner against ourselves. Recently, however, he's been absent for a month or so through injury and in his return to action, also against us, on Saturday he didn't look his usual energetic self. Disappointingly, that might mean that we will have to wait a little longer to see him make his first appearance for us, given that he doesn't look fully recovered from injury.
The fact that he played the majority of last season in the hole shows his versatility and, as well as operating in that role in behind the forward, he can play out on the left flank or even as a main striker himself. Overall it's a really good signing from the club, almost reminiscent of that glorious yet ultimately self-detrimental month where we brought in Morgan Ferrier and Michael Cheek. Although it sounds like we've spent a lot of money by our standards on this signing, it goes without saying that lessons have been learned from how that ended up last time.
Yet this could be a landmark moment in our ascent back up the footballing pyramid. Hopefully this sets the tone for more impressive additions which enables us to steadily improve. Irrespective of this or any other transfer we bring in, though, the priority remains staying up, before starting afresh with a squad next season which will challenge. For the first time in months, I cannot wait for the next few weeks as a brighter future emerges.
Terry Harris, Morgan Ferrier, Ben Nunn, Femi Ilesanmi are just a few examples of the personnel to pass between Victoria Road and Meadow Park over the last few years and this latest signing is just another example of the positive relationship which exists between the two clubs. Their Chairman, Danny Hunter, is somebody who always conducts himself fantastically well and he was open about the events which culminated in Balanta arriving in East London.
“Dagenham’s Steve Thompson then asked us to give them a ball park figure that we would at least consider. So, I asked for what I felt was a substantial fee commensurate with Ángelo’s ability, with a waiver included that linked this transfer to the Morgan Ferrier deal at Walsall, in which Dagenham held a 20% stake.
“I felt the chances of our demands being accepted by Dagenham were very minimal, as it would turn this into a substantial transfer fee and deal. I also felt that by setting the bar high, it would be the end of their interest, but Dagenham perhaps surprisingly accepted it and still wished to speak with the player.
“I, along with Luke Garrard, initially hoped that Ángelo would turn down the chance to move to Dagenham – which in truth he initially did, by declining the chance to even talk with them – and that I thought was the end of the matter…
“However, after receiving a phone call from our old player and Dagenham skipper Ben Nunn that evening, and after sleeping on it, Ángelo had a change of heart. Ang felt that he wanted to talk with Daggers’ gaffer Peter Taylor, and as I’m a man of my word, and as both clubs had already agreed terms, permission was given.
“After two days of negotiation between Ang and Dagenham, I then received a phone call from Dagenham’s Steve Thompson to say that both the player and Dagenham had reached agreement.
“In truth, the Dagenham hierarchy throughout this process, have conducted themselves impeccably and our player simply decided he wanted to go. We all know, that they’ve got themselves one hell of a player, and like Luke, my staff and our supporters, I’m very sad to see him go…
“Ángelo when fit has in truth been quite brilliant for us, but his circumstances and his priorities have seemingly changed. Everyone could clearly see that in his performance on Saturday, as his mind was understandably elsewhere.
“But that performance apart, from the first moment Ang walked through our door, he has been an absolute pleasure. The memories we’ve all shared together are too many to mention, and it must be remembered, that our academy boys are also losing a very popular PASE coach and I’m losing an important member of my day-to-day staff.
“People may question why I have accepted the deal, but I feel every player does perhaps have a trigger price and at 28, Ángelo has his. I also felt at 28, that it was only correct for Angelo to be allowed to talk to Dagenham, as the offer we accepted was substantial and the offer he received was also a considerable one.”
Most transfers involving us recently have had disappointing repercussions, so this one is a pleasant and much-deserved surprise. Hopefully we do manage to get, as Boreham Wood's chairman described him, 'one hell of a player'. Before then, though, let's go and give them more misery to contend with by earning a place in the FA Cup first round at their expense.
An Angelo from above has come to save Dagenham's season.
Oliver Hawkins. Morgan Ferrier. Sam Ling. Corey Whitely. Fejiri Okenabirhie. Mark Cousins. Michael Cheek. No set of supporters are more used to losing their best players than those of Dagenham & Redbridge in the last year. The fact that every website article or phone vibration could be delivering news that the latest fans' favourite is gone typifies the hardships we've had to endure and, although new ownership seems to have delivered a brighter future, it's clear that this trend looks set to continue.
Even the amount of departures in the last year couldn't lessen the sense of shock when the news filtered through that Elliott Romain, a player on whom our survival hopes are hugely reliant, had left for Maidstone United this afternoon. As usual the timing of the transfer was fantastic with an FA Cup tie at Boreham Wood, which offers the incentive of a potential 25k cash bonus, on the horizon and surely this means our preparations have been disrupted.
However, the fact that it came just a day before a cup clash surprisingly isn't the most bizarre thing about this sale. With our financial predicament now stable, there isn't actually a need to get rid of players, let alone important ones. Plus...why Maidstone? Selling to a direct relegation rival is practically footballing suicide. The only positive is that there will, undoubtedly, be new signings of a better calibre than Romain. This is what was suggested by the striker on Twitter, where he clarified the reasons for his departure.
''To avoid speculation...I was told team improvements/a change-up were going to be made and was asked if I'd be interested talking to Maidstone. I would have happily stayed if my position in the team wasn't going to be affected. Hope that clears things up.''
It bodes well that we seem to be lining up some big signings but getting rid of a big player before those are officially announced is risky at best. We've seen before how deals can be scuppered at the very last minute so I hope that we already have some guaranteed arrivals. That said, irrespective of who we're going to bring in, it would've been nice to keep Romain because he's been massive for us this season. Aside from that, he seems like a great character to have around.
In the not-too-distant past, hearing about the departure of Romain would've generated little more than a shrug of the shoulders because he'd largely been dismissed as an unsuccessful John Still signing. Despite arriving to a sea of optimism, he failed to really get going at Victoria Road and was twice loaned out as he struggled for minutes, living in the shadow of Ferrier, Whitely, Cheek etc. However, this season he's been a complete revelation and I doubt there will be a single Dagger happy to see him go.
Only time will tell whether the decision proves beneficial for us, but an undisputed fact is that we have helped a direct rival in the league and weakened ourselves in the process, albeit temporarily. Maidstone will get a fantastic player with a good eye for goal and work rate unrivalled by any in this division. He will be sorely missed here; his work-rate really epitomised what it meant to play for the club in a time where that mentality was rapidly waning. He's similar to Jamie Cureton in the sense that his love for the game is evident whenever he plays, and he's the type of player that will earn respect even if he doesn't plays well, because he always guarantees that no defender will get an easy ride.
That's what we've voluntarily sacrificed. Romain turned his fortunes around at the club and deserves tremendous credit for it. He either scored or assisted 42% of our goals this season which is a testament to the influence he had on the side. He will go on to better things in football I'm sure, but for us it's just another case of what could've been. I wonder whether we'll be dwelling on that very comment in April because, at the minute, this season only seems to be going one way.
If this departure will teach us anything it's that the new investors are here for the long-term, even if it means condoning strange short-term decisions. So far there's been no honeymoon period - we've picked up one point from a possible eighteen, our goalkeeping coach has left for a more stable job and now our top scorer has followed suit. However, with new signings imminent, there will be better times ahead. We simply have to spend money to have any chance of digging ourselves out of the gaping hole we find ourselves stuck in.
No sooner had the form of the Daggers risen so rapidly when we were promptly restored to a state of panic and worry after two straight defeats in the week. Though news of the surreal takeover significantly lifted spirits, the question still remains whether this young side are capable of keeping us in the league and the manner in which we've sunk back into our early-season habits hardly fills supporters with the greatest optimism.
Two scoreless losses to very ordinary sides, Eastleigh and Solihull Moors, outline our problems perfectly. As every other Daggers supporter will verify, we've competed in every game yet it's the finest margins that have cost us, demonstrated by the fact that our defeat at the Moors was the first time all season we've lost by a single goal. We still fail to take even the most inviting of opportunities, which gives the impression that it could prove to be a 'what if' season.
Our circumstances have changed massively since the start of the season. Though this is the same side assembled admirably by Peter Taylor on a practically non-existent budget, the fact that we now have money available means that we should utilise it because at the minute I'm not sure we're good enough to stay up this season. Player by player we're actually better than the table suggests, but as a unit we're too inexperienced. We lose every header in both boxes.
So, in a bid to solve our goalscoring problems, we've taken to the loan market and signed Shamir Mullings from Maidstone. If he's not good enough for Maidstone then the question remains whether he'll fit the bill with us but of course certain players suit certain clubs better, and hopefully we're a good fit for Mullings. He's a strong forward apparently good in the air, but his goalscoring record doesn't exactly indicate a potent striker. Only time will tell if he is the answer for us.
Whenever we've made a mid-season signing so far, the player has usually gone straight to the bench and eventually pushed on from there, so we can assume that Mullings won't start today. However, we do need to do something different and that will give Taylor a bit of a headache ahead of the visit of Ebbsfleet United. Munns and Bellamy still seem to have the fitness of a pre-season Brian Woodall, so nobody knows when they'll actually make an appearance.
Defensively we'll probably stick with the same side that has been playing recently. McQueen is obviously an option but Hoyte has been doing alright, even if he doesn't get forward as much as a modern-day full-back typically does. Plus, we don't actually give away too many clear-cut opportunities as evidenced by our three consecutive clean-sheets at the beginning of the month. Our problems lie in other areas and, though we concede goals, our defenders have been decent even if they do make the odd mistake (inevitable with age).
Elsewhere, Adeloye and Leighton will battle to start up front alongside Elliott Romain. Neither are fully fit with Adeloye unable to play two games in a week, hence his lack of inclusion in the Solihull squad, and Leighton still recovering from illness. Personally I'd start with Adeloye because he's still getting a lot of chances, even if he's not taking them. All he needs is one goal to spark a good run of form and inject some much-needed confidence into him. Leighton, however, has the potential to do well and works harder than Adeloye.
The opposition today are Ebbsfleet, a good side who haven't done as well as they should this season. Their form is inconsistent, even though they have a very talented team on paper. Whitely, Cheek, Coulson, Magri, Adams, Powell, Kedwell, Weston, McQueen, Shields - I could go on - all good players capable of hurting us. Ebbsfleet have been much better on the road than at home, racking up two wins and two draws, with their only loss coming at high-flying Wrexham.
Daryl McMahon is an up-and-coming young manager who likes to play composed, attacking football. Ebbsfleet United made the play-offs last season and since then have bettered their squad, though it seems to have had a detrimental effect on the team. There's always the worry of too many names unsettling the unit, and perhaps that's why the Fleet have failed to live up to expectations so far. However, much like last season, they have the capabilities to end the season much better than they start it.
Two of their main players today are very familiar to Daggers fans, having swapped Greater London for Gravesend. Corey Whitely was absolutely adored by one point until his form dipped, and he eventually departed in February during our financial crisis. Around the same time, Michael Cheek turned down Ebbsfleet to see out the season at the Daggers but, when the opportunity arose again two days before the new campaign, he didn't say no twice.
Those players played their part in our promotion pushes since relegation, and personally I hope they get a good reception today. Unfortunately, I think we all know what's going to happen. However, hopefully we can nullify their threats well. It's about time we focused on ourselves rather than the opposition.
The last time these teams met at Victoria Road the score was 3-3. Much has changed since that enthralling evening, but hopefully we can produce a similar intensity today. If we work tirelessly, and play the kind of football we played at the beginning of September, then I'm sure we can get something out of the game. After all, we're unbeaten in three at home, so teams won't relish a trip to Victoria Road. Up the Dags.
Though Saturday's devastating late defeat to Eastleigh may have ended our unbeaten run, such is the recent positivity around the club that nobody was too disheartened by the result. Thankfully we have a chance to instantly make amends as we're on the road again, this time to high-flying Solihull Moors under the floodlights of the Automated Technology Stadium.
The general consensus on Saturday was that we played some decent football, especially in the first-half, so hopefully we approach this encounter with vigour and confidence. Peter Taylor's side have seemed to grow in maturity each week and but for a spate of missed opportunities, which ultimately cost us, we would've emerged from Hampshire with all three points. While the defeat outlined that we're still vulnerable, it also showed that we've never been out of a game and can always compete.
Tonight's game will certainly be different as we face an organised and well-drilled unit who, by all accounts, use their physical attributes well. However, it won't be the first time that we entertain a commanding and imposing side given that we've faced Chesterfield and Eastleigh recently, both of whom exerted their aerial dominance. It will be another learning curve for the players but after those aforementioned encounters we'll be well-equipped to match them all the way.
Strugglers turned contenders, Solihull Moors are an inspiration to those sides at the bottom with the way they've turned their fortunes around and shown no fear against the so-called better teams. It's a testament to their football that they sit in a play-off place, especially considering that they lost influential manager Mark Yates to Macclesfield in the summer. It may be early days in the campaign still but even to be sitting that high at the end of September deserves respect, but not the kind of respect we showed Salford a few weeks ago.
A 5-0 demolition against Bromley just three days ago highlights the potent way Solihull play their football. They're a very solid side on a good run of form and are very underrated when compared to some of the sides around them. After suffering two straight losses recently, they've managed to turn it around with back-to-back wins against Dover and Bromley respectively. One of their main dangermen is Danny Wright, a clinical forward who will be the focal point of his team's attacking exploits.
Similarly to how tonight's opposition recovered from their recent defeats, the Daggers will be hoping to put Saturday's result behind them. With every game the pressure will mount on us to get on the right track and hopefully we get that underway sooner rather than later, and don't fall into the kind of unlucky, negative run that plagued our start to the season. Although Solihull are talented, Romain and Kandi are capable of causing anybody problems.
Over the last few months, meetings between Dagenham and Solihull have certainly been enthralling, pulsating, end-to-end encounters. With 23 goals in our 4 meetings, you can guarantee a free-flowing encounter tonight. Generally the Daggers have had the upper-hand over Solihull, picking up 4 points at Damson Park. Last season, Jake Howells struck in the 94th minute but Solihull wouldn't be denied in the next meeting, triumphing 3-1 in East London.
As for what could transpire in Birmingham tonight would be anybody's guess. Dagenham can be composed and calm, yet seem to lack a cutting edge at times. The biggest lesson we'll have learned recently is that we have to take our chances, so hopefully the team have been putting extra work in on that, and it pays off tonight.
I believe in these boys who continue to so the team proud. Whatever happens tonight, let's hope for a committed and nergetic performance. When that happens, everything else should fall into place.
We're at that stage of the campaign where the league table begins to vaguely form something meaningful, and you can begin to make accurate predictions on where teams will realistically finish. One thing evident so far is that the National League is typically competitive and, as usual, anybody can beat anybody.
BEN NUNN (5/10): Of course, our captain having been out all season through injury means there is very little to base this on. However, Nunn seems to be fighting to get back on the pitch and is supporting his team-mates on it. He joined in on the celebrations at home to Maidenhead in August which shows the passion he has for the club; by contrast, all other sidelined players can usually be found motionless in the TBS. When Nunny gets back, it could be vital.
LIAM GORDON (7/10): Some of Liam's excellent performances have defied his young age. While inevitable errors have crept into his game, overall he's been a very reliable figure at the back who has held his own against more physical opponents. Plus, as well as being defensively solid at times, Gordon has been fearless going forward and this is demonstrated by his joint-highest tally of two assists. In five or six years, he could be one hell of a player.
MATT ROBINSON (6/10): Despite being one of our more senior players, it's easy to forget that Robinson isn't that old himself. It hasn't been easy for him having to assume the role of stand-in captain and there's been times where he hasn't exactly shone, but Robinson seems to be getting better, particularly in the last few games. He's not the kind of creative midfielder who will spray and thread passes seamlessly, and sometimes he fails to track his man, but what I will say is that he isn't afraid to get stuck in.
ALEX DAVEY (7/10): Hard to pinpoint many instances where Davey has put a foot wrong. He was one in just a few who arrived with National League experiences and already he's demonstrated a good understanding of the game. Unfortunately, he has been injured for a while now after going off against Salford in the first week of September. Overall, he looks composed on the ball, has a variety of passes in his locker and has looked a threat from set-pieces.
LUKE PENNELL (8/10): After being called up for England C in the summer, Luke Pennell has re-emerged for the new campaign with confidence, energy and a good mentality. He continues to perform well at centre-half which has always looked his strongest position, even though he was restricted to the left-back role last season. There's always the worry that Pennell will suffer another lengthy injury but at the minute, with every game, his fitness is growing and he continues to look sharp.
ALEX MCQUEEN (6/10): It's never a great omen when a full-back looks stronger when going forward than defending. He's a frustrating player because when he's defending, he looks weak going one-on-one with a winger and when attacking himself, looks reluctant to take him on. When he initially signed, Mcqueen was excellent and contributed significantly to the team with two goals. Sadly, his biggest mistake was missing our game at Barrow through international commitments - he has lost his place ever since.
HARRY DONOVAN (6/10): A solid yet unspectacular midfielder, somewhat similar to Robinson but with a bit more technical ability. Donovan impressed many in pre-season with his mature performances and he's showed glimpses of talent so far. However, he doesn't look like he's gone out of his comfort zone. He needs a good run of games to fully get into his stride and only then, I feel, will Donovan begin to have more influence on the games.
CHIKE KANDI (7/10): Probably not a good time to write about Kandi. His penalty miss on Saturday overshadowed what had been a great run of form for the striker, who has blistering pace and (generally) a good finish on him. Last season, particularly towards the latter stages, he looked brilliant at times which he carried into parts of this season. He's an asset to the side but his crossing needs work. On a positive note, though, he holds the ball up well and is always first to every foot race.
ELLIOTT ROMAIN (8/10): Works harder than anybody I've ever seen on a football pitch and typifies the approach typically synonymous with being a Dagger. Romain has added the missing part of his game this season - an end product to all his running and endeavour. Last season we would've been happy to let him go permanently to Torquay but now I wouldn't sell him for any price and am delighted he's unlocked his potential at this club. He's a fans' favourite and a great role model for aspiring footballers.
LAMAR REYNOLDS (5/10): Probably our most underwhelming player so far but that's not to say that Reynolds doesn't have the capabilities to become a quality player. While he threatened to become a Zavon Hines type skilful and tricky winger, so far Lamar has looked lightweight and reckless infront of goal. However, at times he has outlined just why he is so highly rated in non-league through glimpses, but we need to see more from him.
LEWIS MOORE (5/10): Moore was always going to be consigned to the role of backup keeper this term. He looked very good in our pre-season games but until we see him in a competitive environment, it's hard to judge him properly. The best thing for Moore is to keep his fitness and sharpness up because there may be a point when he is suddenly required for first-team duties, should Justham become unavailable. Until then, he'll have to contend with friendly matches.
ELLIOT BONDS (5/10): In the pre-season friendly against West Ham in mid-July, I remarked on how composed Elliot Bonds looked at the heart of midfield. After emerging from nowhere as one of the few beneficiaries from our financial crisis, Bonds hasn't really pushed on this season and is yet to make an appearance. If he were to be needed, however, I'd have no doubt that he could do a fairly decent job, and he still has a bright future ahead.
BEN GOODLIFFE (8/10): Apparently when Daggers secured the loan capture of Ben Goodliffe from Premier League outfit Wolves, our former manager John Still said it was one of the best signings in the National League. Stilly may not exactly be adored within the club at the moment but it's hard to disagree with him on this. Goodliffe has played with an incredible level of maturity and has grown into an accomplished defender. Recovering from the setback of an opening day red-card shows immense courage too.
HARRY PHIPPS (6/10): Phipps has been a bit touch-and-go since signing for the Daggers, playing the first three games then suddenly going missing until he recently re-emerged on the bench. He didn't do too much wrong in the early weeks of the season, but one criticism is that he appeared to lack fitness. When it comes to his performances however, he's been fairly decent and looks calm in possession, but it will take a lot more for him to cement a spot in the side.
TYRIQUE HYDE (5/10): Tyrique doesn't seem to have gone anywhere in the last couple of years. When he scored on his debut against Solihull Moors in December 2016, it was hoped that he would really kick on yet here he is, two years later in a much weaker team, no closer to making a mark on the side. Every time I've seen him play he hasn't looked too bad but it's obvious he needs to do more.
JAMES BLANCHFIELD (5/10): After an impressive cameo on the opening day against Boreham Wood, the general consensus was that Blanchfield needed to start the next few games. He didn't, and has only amassed a further two substitute appearances since then. He seemed to have a lot of potential when he signed following a stint at Ipswich, so the fact that he hasn't been around the first-team picture much is strange. One thing is clear: he needs to force his way into the team and obviously he isn't doing that.
ELLIOT JUSTHAM (7/10): To fill the void vacated by Mark Cousins, a figure adored by supporters, was always going to be difficult but Justham has commanded the goal really well so far this season. His distribution is good and he rarely sends the ball spiralling out of play, while some of his saves against Eastleigh on Saturday epitomised how excellent a shot-stopper he can be. It must have been hard sitting on the bench throughout last season but Elliot is certainly making that perseverance count now.
TOMI ADELOYE (7/10): As a player, Adeloye is strong and gets into good positions. Unfortunately, he almost always spurns the opportunities spectacularly. Adeloye is cutting a frustrating figure at the minute but you get the sense that as soon as he next finds the net, he'll embark on a good streak. Until then, he needs to keep persisting. However, he doesn't work hard enough or press enough, so perhaps needs to take a leaf out of Romain's book.
WILL WRIGHT (8/10): Good, versatile, but unfortunately only a loanee. Wright has played at centre-back and in centre-midfield but doesn't look out of place in either, making several good clearances per game and doing the simple things effectively. It's a testament to his ability that he has played every minute of every match so far and we're certainly a better team with him than without him.
NOEL LEIGHTON (6/10): Would love to see more from Leighton who has provided that extra spark at times. Though he's currently injured, Leighton will be a good asset when fully fit which he's already started to show in his current appearances. That assist against Barnet was quality and offers a taster of what he can produce. Now, it would be nice if we could see more of it from the player dubbed by Taylor as a good number 9, effective with his back to goal.
GAVIN HOYTE (7/10): Hoyte has taken his chance in the team very well, and it's coincided with those around him performing very well. It would be good to see him go forwards more because he is capable of producing a good delivery for his teammates. The main reason behind the signing of Gav was his experience so he will obviously be influential to the side, especially as the season develops.
OLLIE HARFIELD (6/10): Harfield's main asset is his crossing, which has set up many opportunities including Adeloye's header against Barnet. Recently, Harfield has returned to the side and has been a useful presence with his composure and eye for a pass. However, at times he can drift in and out of games making little impact on the outcome, which explains his fluctuation in and out of the side so freely.
MUNNS AND BELLAMY (5/10): Daggers two recent new signings are yet to make an appearance for the team but extra funds enabled Taylor to bring them in, so they will definitely play a part in the future. Munns played in our recent friendlies at Hornchurch and Canvey, performing well on both occasions. However, Peter Taylor has said neither are currently match-fit so hopefully that won't be a recurring problem.
AGBOOLA, SALIS, MEKHI HYDE, HIRST, BALOGUN AND NAJIA (5/10): Don't know enough about any of these to pass any sort of judgement. None are likely to feature in the first-team this season but, providing they make steady progress, could break into the side in the future. All have potential, though. Tarek Najia was apparently being watched by West Ham and Chelsea according to the Daily Mirror. Mekhi Hyde and Luke Hirst have been loaned out to Bowers & Pitsea u23s.
In the midst of a turbulent few weeks came the eagerly-awaited news that all Daggers were hoping for, with the emergence of an American-based consortium who have since seized majority control of the club. That, and the double-signing of Jack Munns and Liam Bellamy respectively, has made for a hectic few days. However, while traditionally calm preceeds the storm, on this occasion the roles have been reversed and it's been quiet since.
As the club absorbed the injection of much-needed positive news while also simultaneously preparing for the next game, a BT Sport televised trip to Eastleigh, there haven't been many stories coming from Victoria Road, which seems unusual given the turbulence of this year where there seemed to be a fresh revelation every week. There was supposed to be a fitness-maintaining friendly match against Heybridge Swifts on Tuesday night, but that was instantly cancelled for reasons unknown, which was a shame for Peter Taylor who said he would've liked the opportunity to give more minutes to the injured Ben Nunn.
On Monday, in the aftermath of our game against Chesterfield at Victoria Road, the club released a statement regarding an incident that happened during the 1-1 draw. From one side of the North Terrace, reportedly in line with the 18-yard box, a bottle was thrown at visiting player Drew Talbot. Although the actions and tactics of all Chesterfield players had been frustrating, it's doesn't excuse what happened and it's a shame that our supporters are, as usual, being regarded in a negative light thanks to a single individual. The statement from the club read,
On a day when the ownership of the club, and the performance on the pitch were grabbing all the attention, there was a regrettable incident that has the potential to prove just as significant to the Daggers. In the 62nd minute a spectator in the North Terrace, apparently annoyed by the actions of a visiting player, threw a bottle at the player. The incident was seen by the referee, who removed the bottle from the pitch and continued with the game.
Naturally it's a case of the actions of a particular person overshadowing the faultless conduct of our supporters, who have been criticised in the past. Generally, we're a good bunch and so that makes it hugely frustrating when you see these sort of statements. It's also very irritating that the incident came from the sieve, where there doesn't seem to be much trouble ever. Most attention goes towards our fans in the A13 Steel Stand so, once again, it's disappointing that - instead of being praised for our vocal support this season - our supporters instead were having to read that sort of negative publicity.
Of course it came in the midst of a really good time at the club which makes it all the more puzzling. Quite why someone who calls themselves a Dagger can do something which has even 1% chance of jeopardising or even slightly overshadowing the recent feelgood factor is beyond me. Saturday's game against Chesterfield marked a good time to support the club, when there hasn;t been much of that this year, and it seemed as if we could all look towards the future.
There was no more mentioned about the incident given that nobody could, or would, identify the perpetrator. Instead, the club's attentions were turned towards the upcoming game against Eastleigh, which would be documented live on BT Sport. As the days slowly ticked by, there was increased focus on the game thanks to the launch of Daggers' revamped Youtube channel, now called DaggersTV. Credit to those who've partaken in the creating of the channel, which looks fresh and is a testament to those who clearly spent hours working on it. The first highlights package, for the Chesterfield game, was highly impressive.
With not much else going on, the final action of the week was the main event and that was the clash against Eastleigh, though unfortunately that didn't really go to plan. Despite a great first-half display infront of the TV cameras, we were made to pay for guilt-edged missed chances and were punished for it. A poor second half was always leading to an inevitable Eastleigh goal and, guttingly, it came with just seconds left of normal time.
So that was it for this week at Victoria Road. With two games next week, it's guaranteed to be a busy few days around the club. Hopefully all publicity is positive and we can match it with equally impressive displays on the pitch.
We all knew it at half time, because we've seen it so many times before. To miss those kind of chances, especially while embroiled in a relegation battle, was always going to cost us and so it proved in the most frustrating way possible.
After such a good week both on and off the pitch it was a shame that our positivity was blunted so cruelly, but the goal had been coming for a solid twenty minutes. From the moment Chike Kandi wasted our penalty so spectacularly, you could see the team were drained of confidence and Eastleigh really did take advantage. There was only so many times our defenders could produce last-ditch tackles and it's not surprising that a set-piece proved our undoing.
As always with our young side, we lost nearly every header in both boxes and invariably that leads to a lot of goals. Unfortunately, their winner came at a time where we had very little time to respond. It was a crushing feeling especially after a first-half in which we were so dominant. When you miss that many clear-cut opportunities, though, you're almost asking to get beat especially in such a difficult division.
Adeloye done all the hard work going through one-on-one with the keeper, only to inexplicably pull it wide just as a man low on confidence would, yet somehow that wasn't our biggest failing. When the penalty arrived in the 45th minute, it was a huge moment and most expected Kandi to score given how he effortlessly dispatched his spot-kick against Braintree. But, how, how, how, has it crossed his mind to tamely pass it towards the corner? It was an awful effort, which the keeper always looked like saving.
Sadly, that was the turning point. Eastleigh had enjoyed lots of success on the wings through counter-attacks but after the break they began to dominate the midfield and instead it was us restricted to rare forays forwards, where we would always immediately lose possession. Chike was suffering badly from his miss and the symptoms were contagious for the team because we looked nervy and no longer took the game to them like we had in the first half.
Overall we were worthy of at least a point, even then we would've been slightly disappointed not to have claimed all three. So, to lose everything was absolutely gutting but it wasn't an unfamiliar feeling because it's almost ingrained into us to concede late, heartbreaking goals. Recently the luck had been with us but there was only so much pressure we could withstand as Eastleigh chucked everything at us late on. We invited pressure which is always dangerous and, of course, suffered as a result.
There were a few impressive performers for us and, in particular, I thought Matt Robinson was absolutely fantastic today. He covered a lot of ground and gave us a little bit extra both defending and going forward. He provided the part of his game that had been lacking in recent weeks so huge credit to him for that. He also done brilliantly well in earning the penalty which typified the determination he played with.
Elsewhere, Elliott Justham pulled off some scarcely-believable saves which kept us hanging on for a while. He definitely didn't deserve to be picking the ball out of his net in the 89th minute because his display was more than worthy of a clean sheet. It's a similar story with Goodliffe, who constantly exceeds himself every week and this performance was no different. For a player that young to have so much maturity in his play shows how successful a career he is capable of forging.
But for every Justham there was a player like Kandi or Romain, neither of which looked their usual selves today. Hoyte, I thought, didn't offer enough in attack which is why so many of our build-up play down that flank broke down so easily. Ultimately, the outcome of the game hinged on the substitutions; Eastleigh brought on Zebroski and Constable who offered that vital spark while our introductions of McQueen and Reynolds proved highly ineffective. We'd have been much better utilising Ollie Harfield.
Lessons learned, though, and let's go again Tuesday. I'm proud of the players for another dedicated performance that could've, on another day, brought a point or all three. Our supporters were excellent especially with the game being on BT Sport and personally it was another good day out following the boys.
So the unbeaten run is over and now the real test of character arrives as we look to bounce back. However, if there's one thing to take from this game, it's that we simply have to take our chances or we'll consistently be punished, as we were both today and on many occasions earlier on in the campaign.
From our tremendous play-off journey and its eventual heartbreak to this year's crippling financial turmoil, the BT Sport cameras have been there to capture some of our most integral post-relegation moments, broadcasting the highs and the lows in equal measure. Moments such as the second Maguire-Drew equalised in the semi-final against Forest Green were quickly cancelled out by those overriding it just three days later, as the players solemnly watched the home celebrations unfold around them.
That contrast not only portrays the turbulence of football especially in this division, but shows that BT Sport have witnessed some of our most important clashes over the last couple of years, which have come to define the circumstances by which they were played against a backdrop of. So, as the Daggers make their debut on the channel this weekend away to Eastleigh, there's every chance that this, too, could prove a monumental occasion under the cameras: the first victory of our new American era.
It comes after a hectic week at the club, where some surreal off-pitch news has coincided with an equally-pleasing upturn in fortunes on it too. Last Friday, it was announced that an American Consortium comprising of several highly-regarded sports franchise owners in the states, plus Premier League icon Tim Howard, have acquired 58% of the club. This came as a huge relief and, finally, a reward for what everybody has had to contend with over the last few months.
The resignation of Glyn Hopkin, the consequent fire-sale of valuable players and the fear of not even having a team at one stage made for a distressing year. However, thankfully, we can now all move forwards and, for us, that means we can focus on one game at a time without worrying about the future. So, with a stable infrastructure, the Daggers head to Eastleigh on Saturday for a match which promises to be difficult, but one where we can realistically get something.
The main thing about this game is that we focus on ourselves, because trying to nullify the physical presence of Chesterfield on Saturday, rather than placing our attention on how we can hurt them, made things more difficult than they had to be. Recently we've proven the quality of football we're capable of playing and that's been evident in our recent results. There aren't many teams who've enjoyed a better September than the Daggers, who are unbeaten in the month and full of confidence.
The defence is more secure, the attack more potent and the younger players playing with maturity way beyond their years. After the euphoria and relief of the first victory against Braintree, which itself followed a positive point against Salford, confidence is coursing through our veins. We've since beaten Barrow with a last-minute goal, before last Saturday saw a solid point earned against Chesterfield.
Though the Spireites are badly out of form, if anything that made it a harder game for us because they were very one-dimensional and put many men behind the ball, which made them hard to break down. However, though we were far from perfect and failed to match our own recent expectations, we got the goal eventually and as a result, will enter this weekend's game feeling we're capable of beating them. Eastleigh will be very similar to Chesterfield in the sense that they're on a disappointing winless run.
As a team, generally, they've distinctly ordinary and always seem to fluctuate between the mid-table and narrowly above the drop zone; they're always too good to go down, but rarely any better than that which means they never really threaten for anything, They're a bit of a low-key club who can lurk in the shadows of the division, despite having the resources to do much better. They've always been a side synonymous with money, but that was dealt a significant blow in the summer when chairman Stewart Donald left for Sunderland.
That said, they've still got a number of players who can hurt us. Paul McCallum, their most significant threat, has five goals this season and, in terms of stature, will offer a very similar challenge to Tom Denton last weekend. Mark Yeates is another who will be integral to anything his team produces. Under Andy Hessenthaler, the Spitfires will definitely be an organised and well-drilled unit, who will be determined to earn their first victory since August.
Their recent results have been two quite impressive draws against good opposition in AFC Fylde and Hartlepool United, which is even more evidence of the challenge they'll present. However, as the previous results show, they can also concede goals. They conceded 4 at Harrogate, were beaten against Maidenhead and suffered another defeat against Ebbsfleet. They're better away from home than at the Silverlake, where they've won only once all season and four times in just under a year.
In terms of personnel, Taylor will probably persevere with the side, because at this stage to change a team who are getting progressively better, would surely be counterproductive. We have the luxury of squad depth, meaning there is some sort of Plan B to resort to if need be. For Eastleigh, there's been a major change with the departure of well-known goalkeeper Graham Stack, who has announced his retirement from football. As a result, just a few hours ago, Eastleigh announced the signing of replacement keeper Max Stryjek on loan from Sunderland.
Hopefully the Daggers can take advantage of the new keeper's lack of familiarity with his teammates, and continue to build on the feelgood factor around the club. It's going to be a tough game, especially with the added pressure of the TV cameras for some of our younger players, but I'm sure we won't be fazed. Eastleigh are a beatable team and we should enter the game with no fear. We have a good record at the Silverlake - let's continue it tomorrow lunchtime. Up the Dags.
I am Joel Page, an avid Dagger who travels across the country watching the club. Over the last few years, I've absorbed the turbulent rollercoaster ride that comes with supporting the Daggers and have seen us both at our highest and our lowest. From 'that' day at Wembley to watching us suffer a devastating drop into non-league, it's all a part of the journey.