No sooner had the form of the Daggers risen so rapidly when we were promptly restored to a state of panic and worry after two straight defeats in the week. Though news of the surreal takeover significantly lifted spirits, the question still remains whether this young side are capable of keeping us in the league and the manner in which we've sunk back into our early-season habits hardly fills supporters with the greatest optimism.
Two scoreless losses to very ordinary sides, Eastleigh and Solihull Moors, outline our problems perfectly. As every other Daggers supporter will verify, we've competed in every game yet it's the finest margins that have cost us, demonstrated by the fact that our defeat at the Moors was the first time all season we've lost by a single goal. We still fail to take even the most inviting of opportunities, which gives the impression that it could prove to be a 'what if' season.
Our circumstances have changed massively since the start of the season. Though this is the same side assembled admirably by Peter Taylor on a practically non-existent budget, the fact that we now have money available means that we should utilise it because at the minute I'm not sure we're good enough to stay up this season. Player by player we're actually better than the table suggests, but as a unit we're too inexperienced. We lose every header in both boxes.
So, in a bid to solve our goalscoring problems, we've taken to the loan market and signed Shamir Mullings from Maidstone. If he's not good enough for Maidstone then the question remains whether he'll fit the bill with us but of course certain players suit certain clubs better, and hopefully we're a good fit for Mullings. He's a strong forward apparently good in the air, but his goalscoring record doesn't exactly indicate a potent striker. Only time will tell if he is the answer for us.
Whenever we've made a mid-season signing so far, the player has usually gone straight to the bench and eventually pushed on from there, so we can assume that Mullings won't start today. However, we do need to do something different and that will give Taylor a bit of a headache ahead of the visit of Ebbsfleet United. Munns and Bellamy still seem to have the fitness of a pre-season Brian Woodall, so nobody knows when they'll actually make an appearance.
Defensively we'll probably stick with the same side that has been playing recently. McQueen is obviously an option but Hoyte has been doing alright, even if he doesn't get forward as much as a modern-day full-back typically does. Plus, we don't actually give away too many clear-cut opportunities as evidenced by our three consecutive clean-sheets at the beginning of the month. Our problems lie in other areas and, though we concede goals, our defenders have been decent even if they do make the odd mistake (inevitable with age).
Elsewhere, Adeloye and Leighton will battle to start up front alongside Elliott Romain. Neither are fully fit with Adeloye unable to play two games in a week, hence his lack of inclusion in the Solihull squad, and Leighton still recovering from illness. Personally I'd start with Adeloye because he's still getting a lot of chances, even if he's not taking them. All he needs is one goal to spark a good run of form and inject some much-needed confidence into him. Leighton, however, has the potential to do well and works harder than Adeloye.
The opposition today are Ebbsfleet, a good side who haven't done as well as they should this season. Their form is inconsistent, even though they have a very talented team on paper. Whitely, Cheek, Coulson, Magri, Adams, Powell, Kedwell, Weston, McQueen, Shields - I could go on - all good players capable of hurting us. Ebbsfleet have been much better on the road than at home, racking up two wins and two draws, with their only loss coming at high-flying Wrexham.
Daryl McMahon is an up-and-coming young manager who likes to play composed, attacking football. Ebbsfleet United made the play-offs last season and since then have bettered their squad, though it seems to have had a detrimental effect on the team. There's always the worry of too many names unsettling the unit, and perhaps that's why the Fleet have failed to live up to expectations so far. However, much like last season, they have the capabilities to end the season much better than they start it.
Two of their main players today are very familiar to Daggers fans, having swapped Greater London for Gravesend. Corey Whitely was absolutely adored by one point until his form dipped, and he eventually departed in February during our financial crisis. Around the same time, Michael Cheek turned down Ebbsfleet to see out the season at the Daggers but, when the opportunity arose again two days before the new campaign, he didn't say no twice.
Those players played their part in our promotion pushes since relegation, and personally I hope they get a good reception today. Unfortunately, I think we all know what's going to happen. However, hopefully we can nullify their threats well. It's about time we focused on ourselves rather than the opposition.
The last time these teams met at Victoria Road the score was 3-3. Much has changed since that enthralling evening, but hopefully we can produce a similar intensity today. If we work tirelessly, and play the kind of football we played at the beginning of September, then I'm sure we can get something out of the game. After all, we're unbeaten in three at home, so teams won't relish a trip to Victoria Road. Up the Dags.
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.