THE dAGGERS vOICE
It was on the 21st April that Salford City last suffered a league defeat at the Peninsula Stadium, where they've averaged 2.5 points per game this season in a tremendous run of form only bettered by two sides across the top five divisions: Luton Town and Salford's near-neighbours Manchester City. Yet they're not the only team in good form and, being one of only two teams to have collected more points than the Ammies since the start of November, the Daggers will arrive in Manchester with quiet confidence.
Becoming the first ever team to defeat Salford City in the National League is a tough ask when you consider the millions of pounds splashed by them to get to this stage. Their meteoric yet despised rise through English football owes less to hard work and desire than it does the expansive wallet of five of Manchester's most decorated footballers, Phil Neville, Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt, plus Singaporean billionaire Peter Lim, who assumed majority control of the club recently.
It's not as simple as money acquainting to direct and instant success though, a lesson many have been taught in the past. Salford are astutely managed and rely on expertise, just as they do cash. They've also shown respect to the quality of the National League by investing heavily in new talent such as Adam Rooney and Rory Gaffney, whose combined goals so far lend themselves perfectly to Salford's ambition of short-cutting their way to the Football League.
They're not the first team to introduce new levels of finance to non-league football but it's frustrating for sides such as Gateshead who cannot possibly compete with them at any standard. Their approach to this season was perfectly outlined this week with their signing of Lincoln striker Matt Green, who bolsters an already-brilliant strikeforce and only adds to the talent that they have distributed throughout the dressing room. This includes, also, ex-Peterborough winger Danny Lloyd, powerful centre-back Nathan Pond, the imposing presence of Carl Piergianni and keeper Chris Neal.
It's not a game we should approach with a defeatist mentality, though, because no team in this league is unbeatable and Salford won't relish a visit from a side like us. We're bang in form and have overcome a number of talented sides such as Fylde, Harrogate and Ebbsfleet in the FA Trophy, so we're used to playing outfits that are challenging at the better end of the table. For us, this begins a frantic period of four games all in quick succession.
After Salford it's Leyton Orient (H), Barnet (H) and Orient (A) - a period that could define our campaign and potentially see us as high as the play-off places (hypothetically, of course) yet as low that we could be looking over our shoulders again. It's crucial to get off to a good start to that spell because it really can set the tone, and it's not completely inconceivable that we lose all four games! Similarly, if we manage to nick it at Salford, we'll feel invincible and surely go from strength to strength in the following days.
The reverse fixture resulted in a 0-0 draw, meaning we're one of few sides to get anything from the high-flying Ammies, and one of even fewer to stop them from scoring altogether. That doesn't tell the full story, though, because they spent a lot of that game with ten men after a moment of petulance from Danny Lloyd, who was subsequently sent off and without whom Salford would've probably won. That was when we were devoid of both quality and talent so the fact that we got a draw in any circumstances will be a source of optimism, especially as we know possess assets capable of causing panic.
This is without doubt the biggest challenge to our unbeaten run - most people will be heavily backing the hosts' to win quite comfortably. In their last league fixture, however, they gave Chesterfield their first victory since the second weekend of the season and, should they suffer another off-day, we'll be ready to take advantage. It's almost a free hit for us, we should have no fear, there's nothing to lose. We've been somewhat fortunate in recent weeks so hopefully we play better, though nobody will complain with any sort of result even if we play poorly.
So bring on the challenge. Whatever happens, we're in a much better position than a couple of months ago, with the players doing us all proud. I'm sure that will continue this weekend. Finally, safe travels to those making the long trip up north - let's cheer the boys to another victory.
Up the Dags
Make no mistake, we were going down. As we lost game after game, each with less vigour shown than the last, it was obvious that we were on a steady decline which would culminate in us playing Vanarama National League South football next term because, for all the effort and endeavour, we lacked the quality to survive in a cruel and unforgiving division. We weren't too far away, yet we constantly fell short; no owner, an inexperienced squad - no hope. The campaign had unfolded exactly as we feared it would.
That is in no way a message of disrespect to the team, who fought harder than any previous Daggers side and this was typified by Elliott Romain's work rate, but we simply weren't good enough. One of the worst starts any team had made to a season in non league's top tier throughout the last decade had already left us a monumental task as early as September. The first win eventually came, and was followed by a second, but it was only papering over the cracks, proven by the fact we lost our next five.
Yet, in the second week of December, here we are. The most in-form team in the National League with four straight victories in a run of eighteen points collected from a possible 21, we're playing some glorious football and look a completely transformed side to the one in August. I remember Ben Goodliffe urging the fans to 'stick with us' after our game at Halifax in the third week of the season. We have, and here's the reward: nine points off the playoffs, relegation concerns seemingly a distant memory.
Amongst those successes have come some fearless displays against very talented sides, too. Nobody can argue that we've had a generous run of form because Harrogate and Fylde, who both visited Victoria Road two weeks apart, are two teams who will be up there come April - we beat them both. Key to this has been some big signings, namely Balanta and loanees Wilkinson and Onariase, who have been the missing piece to the Daggers. As well as that, you have Munns, without whom we are a different side.
It's not just quality that we have, but determination. Last week at Hartlepool, nobody would've given us a chance as we slumped into stoppage time a goal behind, but we somehow bagged two late goals to win the game in spite of one of our worst performances in a while. We dug in and proved that we never give up. That never happened months ago because there was no belief but, even when we didn't apply too much pressure on Saturday, we knew that we were capable of scoring when the chance came.
There are bigger tests to come, though. Our festive period provides a huge challenge as we face three games against the current top two, travelling to Salford before a double-header against Orient. In addition to that there's the small matter of Barnet's trip to Victoria Road at the end of the month, which promises to be tense. Therefore, with it being almost inevitable that drop points in the coming weeks, we need to make it easier on ourselves by winning today.
The opposition today are FC Halifax Town, always a difficult team to read. It seems traditional for them to enjoy a blistering start, where they top the table and look like genuine contenders, before a plummeting descent drags them into a survival battle. They were second after defeating us in August, yet since then have endured a dramatic decline which sees them 16th ahead of this weekend's reverse battle, directly below us in the table.
From what I understand there's pressure on the head of manager Jamie Fullarton, who seemed to be doing a very stable job, but seems to have stagnated somewhat. The manner in which he steered the Shaymen clear of the drop last season deserves immense credit, however he seems unable to halt their slip this time around. Having won just a single away game all season, itself coming on opening day against Braintree, many of their supporters are expecting a defeat this weekend, which could seal Fullarton's fate.
Last week they had a positive distraction from their domestic woes as they hosted AFC Wimbledon in the second round of the FA Cup, a tie that they earned after impressively beating Morecambe in a first round replay. While they acquitted themselves well against the League 1 Wombles, ultimately they couldn't bridge the sizeable gap in quality, but it wasn't without a very good effort from the team.
Yet that journey is over and it's back to league action for the Yorkshire outfit. Their vital victory against Dover Athletic a fortnight ago was their only three points haul in fourteen matches, which saw some heavy defeats on the road including a 3-0 reverse at Aldershot and 4-0 demolition away to Ebbsfleet United. They still have some talented players, mainly their main asset Matty Kosylo, who will be one to watch this weekend. His trickery and pace has proven our undoing in the past.
Should today's encounter emulate previous meetings then it will be an open, attacking game of football. Seven goals were shared throughout last season as both sides won their home games, with Daggers prevailing 3-1 at home at a time when Halifax sat top. We made two trips to the MBI Shay Stadium but only one game got played and it resulted in a 2-1 defeat for us on a cold Tuesday night.
So it's another test for the team and we can't take anything for granted. We can't play as badly as we did throughout spells seven days ago, yet at least you know that we won't be giving up under any circumstances. This is a game we're very capable of winning and it will stand us in good stead ahead of the Christmas run-in.
Keep doing us proud,
Up the Dags.
As darkness envelops every waning afternoon, while icy winds whip through every heavily-layered soul nearby, it's clear to see that we're approaching the time of the year synonymous with togetherness and joy. However, the weeks around Christmas have always been difficult for Dagenham & Redbridge as we typically struggle with form; in both of our post-relegation National League campaigns, this spell has very nearly proved the undoing of our season and we'll be doing everything in our power to ensure that history doesn't repeat itself this year.
The arrival of Winter this year of course coincides with a trip to one of the coldest places in the country, Hartlepool. A 249-mile round-trip to the North East may not seem like the most ideal way to spend a Saturday but such has been the standard of performance by our rejuvenated side in the last few weeks, that it could be very worthwhile. Our upturn in fortunes has been dramatic as some effective new signings have helped us to a run of five victories from six encounters, which places us at the very summit of the form table, and we seem to be getting increasingly better by the week.
Weeks ago, though it seems longer because of our rapid rise, we were stuck in the drop zone not knowing where the next point would come from, yet from the ashes of this has emerged a title-winning spell of form. Aside from a defeat to Sutton United at the beginning of November, we were faultless, beating Harrogate, Dover, Fylde, Bromley and Havant & Waterlooville. Against Fylde and Harrogate, we proved that we're capable of defeating talented outfits and it showed that we're actually not too far away from that standard. Against Havant and Dover, we demonstrated our ability to win pressure, six-pointer games. All good signs.
We're playing with a supreme level of confidence with there being a slick arrogance about us that almost resembles the way we were performing last August, when we were blowing teams away and had players like Morgan Ferrier, Michael Cheek, Corey Whitely and Fejiri at the peak of their majestic powers. Peter Taylor has been criticised and I'll admit that I've been sceptical with some of his tactics or decisions, but he's doing nothing wrong at the minute - it's glorious to see. This weekend, Taylor and his troops face another test with their being an expectation behind us winning, especially given Hartlepool's recent form.
They're the only team against whom we played earlier on in the season and, on that simmering August afternoon, they were well-drilled and had a lot of quality amongst their ranks. Alex McQueen rounded off a tremendous team move to hand us a deserved lead but we crumbled in the second-half, conceding two sloppy goals which proved decisive. It was a frustrating encounter but epitomised how every game seemed to unfold in the first few weeks, but now we have the quality that we lacked then.
Conor Wilkinson has been integral to our transformation as he's scored four goals in three games and has been absolutely clinical so far. He's a pest to the opposition but one thing that's clear is that he's capable of playing much higher up the pyramid, but for one reason or another he's just lost his way. This loan spell seems to be benefiting both parties at the minute, though, and long may the mutual benefits remain.
Another one without whom we wouldn't be nearly as good is Jack Munns, who is very familiar with Hartlepool fans after a spell there last season. As a young lad living a long way away from home, he struggled there but seems to found a settled rhythm at Daggers. He's formed a good partnership with Balanta, who is contributing more and more with every game. His first goal for the club against Bromley was vital because it's got the monkey off his back somewhat, and this allowed him to bag his second in our midweek victory over Havant, which was easily our best performance of the season.
While things are going brilliantly for Dagenham, things are very different at Hartlepool, who have lost six consecutive league games. Naturally this would seem like a great time to play the under-pressure Pools but they parted company with their manager Matthew Bates on Thursday, which means that they're likely to enjoy the customary boost that follows every sacking. Craig Hignett will take caretaker charge of this weekend's clash but while he may inject a bit of hope into Hartlepool, it's still the same players who lost six in a row and that should fill us with confidence.
Bates seemed like a promising manager but his inexperience showed, as he was unable to turn their fortunes with pressure mounting after every defeat. They suffered recent losses to Bromley, Dover, Wrexham, Sutton and Barnet, but it was Tuesday's 2-1 reverse to AFC Fylde that sealed Bates' fate, and when the attendance for that game was announced as their lowest in two decades, it became clear that something needed to change because people were voting with their feet.
Their clash with Barnet was broadcast live on BT Sport and they certainly weren't terrible, yet they just struggled to create chances and everything seemed disjointed with the side, who were clearly unsettled. Their main threat is always Liam Noble, one of the talented players in the division and a true professional, though admittedly someone not too fondly regarded by supporters of other clubs. However, I believe that we have it in us to limit his control on the encounter.
So two sides in contrasting form meet at Victoria Park but previous form counts for nothing in the National League. Last season we were brilliant throughout away at Hartlepool yet suffered a smash-and-grab defeat, so anything can happen. I hope for a similar performance with a result to match this time. As Matt Robinson said in his pre-match interview, we owe them one after August's defeat, so that's all the motivation we need.
Safe travels everybody,
Up the Dags. Keep doing us proud boys.
Last week's battling display against Fylde was fantastic not only because it yielded three very satisfying points, but also due to the fact that our new-found defiance and belief lends itself perfectly to a relegation battle where composure will be very much needed. While we were second best for most of the encounter, of which there is no shame against a team as decent as Fylde are, the most pleasing aspect was the way we fought our way back into the match even when a battering looked to be on the cards.
Two months ago, conceding after 34 seconds would be a setback from which we probably wouldn't recover, such was our fragility yet the recent additions seem to have made us mentally stronger. From just a couple of matches it's easy to conclude that Manny Onariase is one of the best defenders at this level; his timing and ability to read the game is something we haven't seen since Craig Robson left for Barnet in the summer.
Then, at the other end, you have Ángelo Balanta, who has made our attack so much better and even then still gives the impression that there's more to come from him. Conor Wilkinson's brilliant goal last weekend further illustrates the quality we now have. Earlier on in the season, we would control games yet simply be unable to score but now we have players who only need one chance to do so, and that's the difference.
In sixteen games we only scored more then once inside ninety minutes on a single occasion but we've now done it three times out of the last four. Recently, it's been like watching a different team and the only blip has been away to Sutton, where we weren't even that bad. However, it was the disappointment of the display at Gander Green Lane that may cast a few doubts this weekend, when we make the short trip to Bromley.
Artificial pitch, physical team, on the outskirts of London - we've been there before. It's almost exactly the same situation as when we played Sutton three weeks ago except Bromley are lower in the table. The last time we played on a plastic surface we looked leggy and lethargic but while it's hard to attribute the pitch for that, it can definitely be said that there's something psychological about it, especially when you've lost on the same type of pitch a matter of weeks ago.
Hopefully, though, we're not looking for excuses come 5pm. We have the capabilities to beat Neil Smith's side which could take us as high as 17th in the table. Losing would be the worst thing to happen ahead of Tuesday's game as well because that has all the credentials of being a huge clash in East London. Against Harrogate and Fylde, we got in their faces, showed neither any respect and were clinical in front of goal.
Bromley aren't a terrible team but it would be a shame to lose to them. Just yesterday they brought in Jack Barham from Barnet, who will be very familiar to us after scoring a brilliant winner against us in August so that's something we'll have to be wary of. As demonstrated by their demolition of Hartlepool recently, they can score goals but the fact that they shipped four against Braintree at home also illustrates they can concede them too.
One of their biggest threats will be Omar Bugiel, a player who in the past has proved more of a obstacle without the ball than with it. We'll always be wondering 'what could've been' had he not dived to win a penalty in the 2016/17 play-offs so let's not give him an opportunity to get one over on us. Where could we be now if that penalty doesn't happen and we take a lead into the second leg? It still hurts to be honest.
Anyway, looking at their form they've been very hit and miss. In their last encounter they were beaten by Leyton Orient at Brisbane Road but that's not the kind of match that they will be judged on. Prior to that they had an FA Cup meeting with Peterborough United where they took the lead and looked to be on route to a cup upset until Frankie Raymond's rash actions earned him a red card, derailing his side's hopes. They lost 3-1 after that.
Today I really fancy us for the victory. We've been very good in the last few weeks and if we play to that level will have every chance of taking three points home. It's going to be absolutely freezing, pitch black by half time and we'll be in an uncovered side terrace so I really hope we put in a performance! We've been a joy to watch since we made our signings just over a month ago and finally it appears that the good times are slowly returning. With plenty of away fans there today, it could be an enjoyable day.
Do us proud boys. Up the defiant, determined Dags.
The roar at the final whistle encapsulated the delight of the home crowd perfectly. This was a huge win, not only to put us within touching distance of being outside the dreaded drop zone, but to send out a powerful statement to the rest of our relegation rivals from whom we are slowly starting to move away. More results like this and we can slowly start to look up the league table rather than being consigned to it's surface.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Daggers victory if there weren't a few worries and scares. For the first twenty minutes, we were dreadful and surely heading towards a heavy defeat - but this is exactly what makes the result all the more pleasing. Had this been a couple of months if not weeks ago, we would've crumbled yet now, all of a sudden, there seems to be a defiant level of belief instilled into the team, which is ideal if you're fighting relegation.
However, it's important to remember that we spent a lot of the game on the back foot. Elliot Justham made some absolutely incredible saves and it was a regular occurrence for a defender, usually the fantastic Onariase, to bail us out just as it looked for all the world that Fylde's predatory instincts were about to show. But they never did. Even though Fylde kept the ball well and to their credit had quite a few opportunities, they never sliced us open aside from the opening goal.
They were definitely the better team and through their sharp passing and quick movements, it was clear to see why they have been one of the best teams in the division for over a year now. Under Dave Challinor, they have a very talented outfit and the glue that holds it together is Danny Rowe. He's a very unique striker in the sense that he's everywhere - at times he was racing towards our goal, moments later he'd be defending his own goal yet I'm proud to say we kept him largely quiet.
To say we were vastly inferior, though, would do our boys a lot of discredit. This was a side with a lot of money invested into it whereas, aside from Balanta, the foundations of our side were essentially scraps, young and inexperienced players. The fact that we were so clinical against them and managed to see out the game without there really being a massive 'heart in mouth' moment is a testament to particularly the improvements we've made in the last few weeks.
The big test, now, is how we approach the next game which is an away clash at Bromley. The last time we played on an artificial surface was obviously at Sutton and that was a bitterly disappointing occasion so hopefully we adjust better this time. Beating Fylde is mightily impressive so it would be frustrating for an instant reality check to bring us back down to earth. With that, I'll leave you with five observations from what turned out to be a very good Saturday and the perfect way to celebrate the life of our amazing former chairman Dave Andrews.
5 OBSERVATIONS FROM DAGGERS 2 FYLDE 1:
WE'RE NOT THAT FAR AWAY | I'm not going to pretend that we could match the technical attributes of a very talented Fylde side who weren't even at their best, yet it's also clear to see that we're making steady progress. In the last few weeks, we've played three very good teams in Harrogate, Sutton and Fylde - we have two wins from that very tricky spell of fixtures which is hugely impressive and stands us in great stead ahead of a potentially defining few weeks prior to Christmas. Even when we were disappointing against Sutton, there wasn't a single point in the match where we were outplayed or even looked vastly inferior to Paul Doswell's outfit. Our away form is something that needs improvement but having ended both Fylde and Harrogate's unbeaten away records, it's clear to see that things are slowly getting better. The next few games, particularly that six-pointer against Havant at Victoria Road, will prove whether this is merely a good run of form or the beginning of our future.
THE NEW SIGNINGS HAVE MADE A BIG DIFFERENCE | Before we made our recent influx of signings, we had only found the net more than once in a fixture on a single occasion out of a possible 16 attempts, and we wouldn't have even managed that were it not for the fact that our opposition that day, Maidenhead, were reduced to ten men. Since Balanta has signed we've done it three times in just four games and it's clear to see that we're distinctly more confident when going forwards. Though the former Boreham Wood attacker has failed to break his duck in a Daggers shirt, he's laid on two assists for team-mates (already the joint highest in the side) and gives us an extra dimension going forwards. Elsewhere, Manny Onariase has joined on loan in defence and has quickly outlined that he's a class act with his ability to read the game better than most on the pitch. Another addition, admittedly also on loan, is Conor Wilkinson, who took just 28 minutes to cap his debut with a goal; he's another who has definitely bolstered the squad. It may seem like minor tweaks but these additions could be the difference between staying up or not.
JACK MUNNS IS QUALITY | We've had to wait a long time to see Munns in action but it's been well worth the wait and you wonder where we'd be if he had come into the side just a month earlier than he did. I've spoken about the impact of Balanta and Onariase but the most influential of the lot has been this man, and now he's got his first goal we may see another gear from him in the next few weeks. He's a nightmare for defenders, nippy, energetic and just a pest. The perfect centrepiece linking defence and attack, he's been thriving in an attacking midfield role where he can compliment our strike-force very well. However, one thing clear about Munns is that he's definitely not a left winger which is where he started against Fylde. We need him in the hole - that's where he makes a difference.
LET'S NOT GET TOO CARRIED AWAY | While we're having a decent few weeks, everything can change in an instant in the National League and this was demonstrated perfectly when we won two on the bounce earlier in the season, only to lose five consecutive games after that. You can't deny that victories over Fylde and Harrogate indicate much promise, but lots of things are going for us at the minute. Justham is producing outstanding saves left right and centre, opposition forwards are missing sitters and we're getting away with a lot of last-ditch clearances, which won't happen every week. Quite how we even won this game after the first twenty minutes is incredible but there's no way we'll survive onslaughts like that frequently. Nine times out of ten, Fylde would kill teams off but, as luck would have it, they kept us within touching distance and then we scored out of nothing. If we get a bit of fortune every week then that's brilliant, but it's bound to even itself out in coming weeks.
WE'RE STILL HEAVILY RELIANT ON LOANEES | It's all well and good seeing Onariase slide across the grass to pluck the ball from the feet of an onrushing striker, Goodliffe clear one off the line and Conor Wilkinson rattle a low strike into the bottom corner - but these aren't our players. At the minute, the core of our defence are loan players and that's dangerous because all it takes is one phone call for that player to be gone and for your hopes to be thrown into disarray. We have six loan players on our books and many of them, like Wright or Mullings, will probably be rotting on the bench for the foreseeable future. January could be a huge month if parent clubs decide to either keep these players or loan them out higher up in the league pyramid. It would be so much better if we had more permanent options especially as money is now available, otherwise we're relying on favours.
With their intricate football and rapid style of attacking, AFC Fylde have established themselves as one of the National League's most feared sides and are led by a manager, Dave Challinor, who epitomises their immense ambition. After a great end to last season propelled them into the playoffs, they ultimately fell at the first hurdle of the new promotion system but have picked themselves up well to sustain another promotion challenge.
They possess perhaps the most valuable asset in the division with Danny Rowe, who is irreplaceable in the team and has been subject of bids from teams higher in the footballing pyramid, yet such is Fylde's determination to reach their goal of being an EFL outfit come 2022, that they knew they could not afford to lose their talisman. Not only is he clinical in the box, but he's capable of scoring sublimely from distance and this potent combination has led to twelve goals so far, topped by only two other players.
However, to focus simply on Rowe, would discredit the role that several other integral players play because they're far from a one-man team. There's talent all over the pitch; Francis-Angol and Byrne are all well-regarded defenders while Philliskirk and Bond anchor the midfield. Then, you have Gime Toure who has complimented Danny Rowe well - he adds another dimension in attack for the Coasters.
The undoing of them last season was their away form, which everybody could see was a weakness when we beat them in March. This campaign, though, they've rectified that and are one of just two teams to have not tasted defeat on the road yet while also only conceding twice on their travels. If anything, their home form is now quite unpredictable as they've seemingly stopped being free-scoring at Mill Farm, where they've lost twice, admittedly to good sides in Orient and Salford.
If the Daggers get caught up in the above level of thinking then we will lose quite easily today, especially if we start on the back foot. The fearlessness with which we began our last home game left Harrogate significantly rattled and that was the catalyst for a fantastic display at Victoria Road. We ignored the fact that Harrogate were third and instead imposed our own style of football on them, which was so rapid that they ultimately succumbed to it.
Infact, there have been a number of promising things to arise in the last few weeks. From the moment we had the fans' forum a few weeks ago, the new American investors have seemed to instil new belief into the side. Some good signings have followed, notably Balanta, which have given us both an extra spark in attack and an extra level of solidity at the back. This has yielded reward with the two good results against Harrogate and then Dover Athletic.
In those games, we scored twice and we'd only done that once prior to then throughout the whole season, so we're making gradual improvements. However, such is the congestion towards the bottom of the league that one bad result can throw things into disarray again, and this happened in our last game which we lost at Sutton United. Though there is no disgrace in losing to a team like Sutton who are always in and around the playoffs, we weren't great in that game and it's hard to not feel that our good period prior to then has been tarnished somewhat.
So we're in a position where we face a real test of character, and the games don't get any easier. The last time we won two in a row, it was proceeded by a run of five straight defeats and so we're trying to prevent similar fate from ensuing. It seems like we have a lot of time left in the season but the reality is that we're in November and have played a lot of games. With every defeat and every missed opportunity, we're only leaving ourselves more to do after January which is when the stress will really develop.
Havant & Waterlooville are steadily improving, Braintree have a new manager and have rapidly developed, Maidstone are getting better by the week and Dover, too, have a new manager who will improve his side's fortunes. All of those teams have picked up form and many have made managerial changes. Therefore, we need to be better than all of those to rescue our season and given that they're all getting better, it will be a hard task for Peter Taylor and his troops.
Six points from a possible nine, though, is impressive and should that trend continue we'll end with 69 points come May; suffice to say, relegation won't be an issue. For now, though, we need to start picking up points, particularly in our home games. Fylde are a good side but they won't be coming here expecting an easy game. There's no room for respect in football, so we need to put Fylde under pressure from the off. Most importantly, we need to focus on our strengths, and other issues like containing Danny Rowe will take care of themselves.
It's been a long two weeks and it's good to have football back. It would be even better to have that winning feeling back, because we haven't experienced it nearly as many times as we should've.
Up the Dags
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.
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.