THE dAGGERS vOICE
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.
One of the few advantages that we discovered upon the dreaded yet then-inevitable drop to the Vanarama National League back in 2016 was BT Sport's impressive coverage of the division. As well as a regular highlights package, they continue to broadcast many live matches across the season which, when we were flourishing at the top of the league, enabled us to showcase our capibilities to much of the nation. So, as Daggers make their debut on the channel for a new campaign against Eastleigh this weekend, I profile our nine post-relegation BT Sport appearances, which have seen us rack up 3 wins, 2 draws and 4 defeats.
DAGGERS 3 WREXHAM AFC 0
A completely rebuilt Dagenham & Redbridge side had begun their first non-league campaign in a decade with devastating intent and, as they hosted the first TV-broadcast game at Victoria Road in six years, sat in a healthy second position after winning four of their five games played. Against a dismally lacklustre Wrexham outfit, the Daggers would go on to produce a magnificent display on a sun-kissed afternoon in East London. Oliver Hawkins scored a brilliant hat-trick in the first half and that was what separated the teams, while a certain Corey Whitely also announced himself to the supporters with a lively cameo.
DAGGERS 0 TRANMERE 0
A vast contrast to their last appearance on BT Sport, Dagenham's home game against Tranmere Rovers on the opening weekend of October was played against a miserable backdrop of heavy downpours and violent thunderstorms, which set the tone for a low-key affair at Victoria Road. Tranmere Rovers, playing their first game under the temporary charge of Paul Carden, had a huge chance to win it in the dying embers of the game, while Dagenham hit the bar through Christian Assombalonga, also in the latter stages of the contest. All in all, a drab encounter, but Daggers preserved their lead at the top of the table.
DAGGERS 3 BRAINTREE TOWN 0
Seeing their title hopes slowly ebb away, owing to a sloppy run of form which included a loss to Braintree Town days prior in the first installment of this festive double-header, John Still's side simply had to get three points in what was the final match to kick off in the first gameweek of 2017. Thankfully, though, the Daggers got it right on a bitterly freezing, pitch-black night under the floodlights. Though they were already leading at this point through Maguire-Drew, a reckless sending off for the visitors effectively ended the game and allowed Dagenham to return to winning ways comfortably, with Guttridge and Whitely sealing it.
LINCOLN CITY 2 DAGGERS 0
As a frantic season neared its end, Dagenham headed to runaway leaders Lincoln City in a match of immense magnitude, which could potentially have a significant influence on the final standings of the table. Nobody needed any reminder of how massive the game was but, unfortunately, Dagenham were awful throughout as they produced a bitterly underwhelming display. An injury to Ollie Hawkins (broken arm), adding to their already-large tally, restricted them to very few attacking forays. In the end, goals from Matt Rhead and Elliot Whitehouse sealed the contest, and pretty much denied Daggers any chance of the title.
DAGGERS 1 FOREST GREEN 1
As Jordan Maguire-Drew slammed home to send most of Victoria Road into sheer jubilation, the prospect of a trip to Wembley, and in turn an instant Football League return, was quite conceivable. It was the first leg of a play-off semi-final, the last year in its current format, and Dagenham were really up for it. In a tremendous home display, they battled from the injustice of a disgraceful penalty decision to roar back and earn a draw, which set the scene for a make-or-break trip to Nailsworth three days later.
FOREST GREEN 2 DAGGERS 0
It was make-or break, all or nothing, but sadly for Dagenham the end of a fantastic journey that didn't deserve to conclude with our dejected supporters watching Forest Green invade the pitch, after they'd soundly beaten us 2-0 through ex-Dagger Christian Doidge and Keanu Marsh-Brown. After such a monumental effort throughout the campaign, it was one game too far for the Daggers, who failed to carry through the momentum from the first-leg. Forest Green didn't 'crumble', we didn't deliver, and now FGR are a Football League team.
chester 0 DAGGERS 4
Sensational was how Adam Virgo described it as Dagenham & Redbridge delivered memorable a second-half performance to make it three wins in a row, and cap their first BT Sport appearance that season in scintillating fashion. A lacklustre first-half, plus a terrible penalty from the misfiring Corey Whitely, pointed to a miserable and frustrating day for Dagenham. However, from the moment Sam Ling flicked them ahead in the second 45, they were irresistable and, as Chester imploded, they twisted the knife. Cheek scored twice and Luke Howell bagged the other on a positive trip up North.
SUTTON UNITED 2 DAGGERS 1
In hindsight, we now regard this as the period where the club was falling apart behind the scenes to such an extent that promotion was the last thing on our minds. While, unbeknown to us, Steve Thompson was being advised to liquidate the club, the wounded Daggers were looking to bounce back from a very difficult few weeks on the pitch too. It was dubbed as a promotion battle by BT Sport but the lunchtime kick-off at Gander Green Lane was anything but a battle; Sutton hit the woodwork four times in the first-half. Dagenham survived and might've thought the luck was with them, but those hopes were soon disspelled.
daggers 0 ALDERSHOT 2
Under a month later, things had severely escalated as the devastating news of our financial plight swept through the National League. As several key players were sold to free up the wage bill, it was a much lesser side that took on promotion favourites Aldershot, far from ideal opposition when you need a pick-me-up. This game will prove to be one of my most memorable because of the brilliant support from our fans in the face of adversity, and the intensity was matched on the pitch with a brilliant battling display. It was a 2-0 defeat in the end, but the Daggers can consider themselves slightly unlucky.
After a lengthly spell of gloom which saw the club fall from promotion challengers to relegation strugglers amongst crippling financial struggles, there finally appears to be hope; the investment we sought has finally arrived and it offers immense promise. As we all hope to reunite in this cause, hopefully that long ordeal triggered by the exit of Glyn Hopkin, will be consigned to the history books as a negative chapter which paved the way for more successful times.
Yesterday came some incredible and frankly inconceivable news which sounds too good to be true, but after what supporters have had to contend with recently, feels like a glorious reward. A consortium made up of wealthy Americans has bought the club. These include, amazingly, a minority shareholder in one of the biggest sporting franchises in the world, New York Yankees who also tried to buy Aston Villa for 75m, and ex-premier League great Tim Howard. It's all ridiculous, truth be told.
No doubt our minds will wander to a period in our history, maybe in the non-too distant future, where we are flourishing under these new owners. However, today it's back to the gristle and grind of Vanarama National League football. Never will the absurdity of this situation be better illustrated than when our new owners worth billions, who have flown in for the game, see a non-league team continue to battle relegation infront of a crowd of around 1000 people.
However, hopefully we can continue to impress them with the vibe around the club, which has been significantly raised over the last few weeks. An improved situation off the pitch has coincided with an equally rapid improvement on it, as we are unbeaten in September after previously picking up just a solitary point from seven games. A battling draw against Salford preceeded narrow victories over Braintree Town and Barrow. With no goals conceded in any of those games, there are signs of optimism.
We've been playing well, and as soon as that first victory came, it's no surprise that the momentum carried us through to a second. Today we will have bundles of confidence, which will suit us playing against an under-pressure side. Martin Allen's Chesterfield have mirrored our form this season, but in a negative sense. The Daggers didn't win in their first seven before being unbeaten in their last three, while Chesterfield won their first three yet, despite looking strong candidates to mount a challenge for an instant EFL return, embarked on a woeful run which saw them winless in seven, including six straight defeats. They haven't scored in five.
They will need to win, and failure to do so will almost certainly result in Martin Allen being sacked. In a desperate attempt to change their fortunes, they've taken advantage of the lack of Transfer Window in this division, dipping into the NL North to sign Tom Denton. The experienced and talismanic striker has been a torment to us in the past and, as well as posing a big threat, indicates the style of football his side have now reverted to.
Another player capable of causing us trouble is Zavon Hines, a very familiar face. Zav played for us for a couple of seasons but a frustrating injury not only ended his spell with us, but overshadowed one season in which he was comfortably the best player in League Two. For a while, he was absolutely unplayable and you have to wonder where he could've been, were it not for various injuries and niggles. He will be a danger, but a defence with three consecutive clean sheets should approach him with confidence.
While Chesterfield signed Denton, we were also busy in the transfer market since our last home game. We made a double swoop in Liam Bellamy and Jack Munns, both of which played midweek in a friendly at Canvey Island. They should be in contention today but Peter Taylor will be wary of changing for changing sake. We have a good formula, things are clicking, it would be unnecessary to change. They do, however, offer something to the team and eventually they will prove an asset I'm sure.
Elsewhere, after his national side shipped ten goals in midweek, Alex Mcqueen returns to the team but probably won't displace Gavin Hoyte, who has seized the right-back space and made it his own. Another returning player is Noel Leighton, who will be fighting with Adeloye for a place alongside Romain, who is simply undroppable at the minute. Personally I feel he'll go with Adeloye, who is gradually getting better and better, but Leighton can also do a good job if needed.
So a big game for the team, but I feel we can do this today. How long has it been since we've approached a game with this much confidence?There should be a real feelgood factor around Victoria Road today and, if the players absorb it, then there's every chance we'll be out of the relegation zone by 5pm today. Up the Dags!
Not since that pulsating play-off semi-final clash with Forest Green Rovers in 2016 has a game at Victoria Road held so much significance. Already embroiled in a certain survival battle which promises to be challenging, frustrating and painful, we're in a situation where nothing but a victory will be good enough tonight. It may seem slightly early to refer to any game as a 'must win', but such is the severity of the situation, that it deserves such a label.
The fact that we're only in the first week of September creates the impression that the season is barely underway. However, tonight's game is the ninth we would've played. The longer that the wait for a victory goes on, the harder it'll be as more pressure falls on the players. Therefore, it's vital that we get that first three points' haul as soon as possible because it really could spur us on as the schedule continues to throw up difficult games.
There won't be a better chance, therefore, to win than tonight in what is a battle of both remaining winless sides. Braintree Town, having miraculously beaten three higher-placed teams away from home in the play-offs to earn promotion to this league, have struggled massively so far. They're in exactly the same situation as us so, unlike Saturday's clash with Salford at Victoria Road, neither will be content with a point. It's all or nothing.
This has the look of a game which could be potentially defining, one of those that you look back on as a turning point. With tight margins playing such a huge part in this division, the three points at stake tonight could be the ones we wouldn't be able to survive without. However, if we lose - which is a thought that doesn't bear thinking about - then already we are playing catch up and the lost points will conversely be the ones which, upon reflection, we see as a missed opportunity. The game that got away, the one where we just fell short, and ultimately paid the consequences. That's not an option.
Braintree are undoubtedly a poor team but, like us, seem like much a better side than results suggest. In drawing at home to Hartlepool, and repeating the feat away at Boreham Wood, as well as getting a point at Barnet, the Iron have succeeded where we failed recently and already that shows that they're no pushovers. Not only have their three accumulated points been earned against teams who defeated the Daggers, but they've been resilient enough to come from behind in two of those.
So we have two teams who have been slightly unfortunate. Similarly to how Daggers were beaten at high-flying Halifax, for example, Braintree were unfortunate to lose against Havant & Waterlooville, in a game where they were 3-2 up with stoppage time on the horizon, yet somehow contrived to lose 3-2. Elsewhere, they've been beaten yet not disgraced against Halifax, then-soaring Chesterfield, Maidenhead and Barrow. Their on-pitch situation is very similar to ours.
While Brad Quinton's outfit were earning a draw at Boreham Wood, the Daggers faced the monumental task of Salford City. They escaped with a point made attainable by Danny Lloyd's petulant red card, though should've done more when faced with ten men. Both their points have come at home to ten men, which isn't great, but recently the Daggers have been good, cut out the mistakes and genuinely it seems as if that elusive win really is looming.
A first clean sheet of the campaign, especially against a star-studded attack, supports the idea that our fortunes are changing and we're learning from our mistakes. However, with two first-choice centre-backs going off through injury against the Ammies, we may be weaker tonight. Hopefully, though, it as purely through precaution and the two players (Pennell & Davey) will be back to produce another solid display at the back tonight.
So where does that leave Peter Taylor? Well, his situation remains largely the same. Recently, with a quick-fire turnaround of games, he's made changes in order to give some players a rest. we saw this with Noel Leighton playing against Barnet and so, after consolidating his place at the weekend, we may see Adeloye back in the starting lineup. Kandi and Phipps, both omitted for unknown reasons, may return to the squad. Donovan is back and we need him in that midfield.
Assuming the worst, which would mean Davey and Pennell are both out, then three centre-halves becomes impossible to employ, unless Hoyte plays there temporarily. He would likely convert Will Wright back to his natural position and he would probably partner him with Goodliffe, who was superb Saturday. This would mean Donovan would probably take Wright's place in the centre. However, hopefully Pennell and Davey are unharmed, so Taylor can name his strongest lineup.
Justham, Gordon, Goodliffe, Davey, Wright, McQueen, Harfield, Robinson, Donovan, Romain, Adeloye, Reynolds is the likeliest lineup, though it's difficult to anticipate. Pennell has been rested before so even if he is fit enough to play tonight, could be rested as he was against Barnet. The biggest task of that team would be to restrict Mo Bettamer to very little in terms of an attacking capacity. We can't give away cheap free kicks either - their star man has scored two stunners from distance already so far.
So the stage is set for a match which is going to be crucial. As a spectacle, it will be cagey yet entertaining as both teams go for the victory, given that such an opportunity may not arise again. The league tabel tells the story: Dagenham 24th, Braintree 23rd, both winless. Please, let tonight be the night where we get our reward, because everybody around the club deserves it richly. All that's left to say is COME ON YOU DAGGERS, but now we have to leave it to the boys. They know the importance, and will be confident. Striding of the pitch on Saturday, Peter Taylor said 'It'll be three Tuesday' - he better be right.
Divided by ownership, finances, quality and ambition, this may seem like a mismatch on and off the pitch. However, boosted by the news of a promising potential takeover by an American consortium, the Daggers will be looking to continue their positive performances recently by finally making one of them count, and relieving the pressure already mounting on the bottom two, who are at risk of being cut adrift.
Monday's narrow reverse at Barnet marked their fourth consecutive 2-1 defeat in a row, which tells a story in itself. Every mistake or slight lapse in concentration usually gets punished this season but hopefully we can turn things around and the first three points will be crucial to that. For as long as this winless run persists, more and more strain is put on the players yet they all know that the fans are completely behind them.
At this level, Salford City need no introduction. The unknown little outfit have embarked on a meteoric rise through the divisions, seeing their once Sunday league-esque ground transform into a stylish, modern stadium. This is no AFC Wimbledon or Burton Albion however, and the rise of the Ammies has been a direct consequence of the money pumped into the club by the Class of 92. Over the summer, they've made some very notable and slightly unfair signings.
The main coup, which has caused controversy, was Adam Rooney from Aberdeen, who has already began to flourish in the National League with five goals from seven games. Such was the shock evoked by this signing, rumoured to be on a staggering 4k a week, that other equally brilliant arrivals went under the radar. Danny Lloyd was highly thought of at Peterborough while Nathan Pond established himself as a regular goalscorer in League 1 from defence. Both got off the mark in their recent win over Barrow.
Salford may be a big side in this division, but they haven't enjoyed an electric start to the season. They've been solid if unspectacular, but the fact that they've drawn against teams such as Havant offers the Daggers hope for today. Salford have been much better at home than on the road, where they are yet to taste victory. They've been beaten by Sutton United and Gateshead, which gave them an enlightening wake-up call about the quality of this division.
Today there's absolutely no disgrace in losing; Salford should be blowing sides such as us away with all the cash that they've invested into the club. A well-organised outfit, with a good manager in Graham Alexander at the helm, should be blitzing an inexperienced team of youngsters. However, this is the National League and that's not how things work. Anybody can beat anybody and there's no reason why we can't nick something today.
Hopefully we can do what teams have done to us so far, by doing nothing before striking a deadly blow. Taylor has a good variety of options to select from including Harry Donovan, who was recalled by Millwall only to sit on their bench in the Carabao Cup, and then rejoin us two days later. Taylor could opt for the team who lost to Hartlepool, or the one who were defeated at Barnet, or merge the two. Noel Leighton played well at the Hive and I'd love to see us somehow accommodate him, Adeloye and Romain.
When nothing is expected of the Daggers, that's when we can can cause the shocks. The pressure is off us today and the emphasis will be on the away side to win. In reality, though, anything could happen and as long as we see a dedicated and passionte performance, I'll be happy.
If we only win one game this season, then please, please, please make it today. After a summer in which Barnet stole our manager, our assistant, our coach and five of our first-team players, it would be so satisfying to inflict some footballing retribution upon the Bees, who also happen to be our local rivals to add fuel to the fire. So as this eagerly-awaited clash, highly anticipated ever since the fixtures released, finally dawns upon us there won't be a more pleasing way to get a first victory of the season.
This means a lot to the club and the supporters have made it obvious to the players how important this clash is because to lose to a team of essentially our own players, managed by the staff who were with us last season including Mr Dagenham John Still, would really hurt. Even seeing Craig Robson and Mark Cousins, two adored fans' favourites at Victoria Road, line up in Barnet colours will hit hard but hopefully only act as extra motivation.
Hopefully a large contingent of travelling supporters make the relatively short trip to North London and offer an unrelenting backing to the team, who really do deserve it despite our league position, which doesn't truly reflect both our capabilities and our performances. However those that do travel will be split into three groups: those who will boo John Still, those who will stay quiet and those who will applaud him. I can see the arguments for all responses but personally I feel that while the most successful manager in our history deserves a degree of respect, it shouldn't make him immune from criticism.
The manner in which he made the seamless transition from Dagenham to Barnet was disappointing and did feel slightly underhand given that Stilly had earlier said he didn't have anything lined up, only to be at Barnet under a day later (though this did significantly reduce the wage bill it's worth adding). However, we need to forget about all that and focus 100% on the task at hand which is to earn three points and move out of the relegation zone. The atmosphere will be feisty but we need to treat it as if it's any other game and focus on ourselves.
After losing three away games on the spin, Dagenham sit bottom of the league with their only point coming at home to fellow strugglers Maidenhead United, who were also reduced to ten men. On Saturday we were disappointingly defeated by Hartlepool United despite an assured home display. However, we completely threw it away after the break but the luxury of the Bank Holiday schedule is that you have an instant chance to make amends.
Rivalry and animosity aside, Barnet will be a tough test and it's a terrible time to play them as they're fresh from a morale-boosting first victory of the season at Chesterfield of all places, thanks to a 90th minute Jack Taylor stunner. However, prior to that, they'd struggled with many fans demanding that the club sack Still, which was a happy distraction from our own problems. They've been poor against sides towards the bottom with draws to Braintree and Aldershot, plus a home reverse to Eastleigh. Elsewhere, they were soundly beaten by Ebbsfleet and also comfortably defeated away at Harrogate.
Though they'll be on a high, they won't have an easy ride at the Hive, where they haven't won all season. Dagenham have been good in spells this campaign and could be much higher in the table so if we absorb the enthusiasm of the supporters there's no reason why we can't pull off a victory today, especially with the pressure on the home side to win. We don't have the best of records away to the Bees, with one win from eleven attempts, but history cannot define our future.
We have a side determined to win who will battle for everything today and soon enough it will pay off for us. With such a demanding schedule, though, Peter Taylor may ring the changes. Adeloye could make way for Leighton who has been anxiously waiting for a start, and wasn't even on the bench Saturday. Plus we have key players Kandi and Reynolds who have the ability to change games. It's hard for Taylor because he wants to persevere with five at the back in the hope we'll have defensive solidity and we also want to accommodate Reynolds and Kandi, but you have to sacrifice something.
Barnet's team are very familiar with us. They have a great keeper at this level, Mark Cousins, but if anybody knows his weaknesses it's us and while Cousins is a good shot stopper, he notoriously doesn't take gambles off his line much so we must swing the crosses in today. They also switched to three at the back at the weekend, which may be good for our faster players like Kandi and Reynolds, who can be expansive. Robson will be important for them, but Boucaud remains out which is a boost to us.
It's guaranteed to be an entertaining clash but we desperately need the points and with the backing of the supporters, hopefully we can produce a brilliant performance. The players know what it means to all of us so I urge them to continue making us proud. Can today finally be the day? 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.