Victoria Road | Att: 1411 | Vanarama National League | 10/3/18
30. Mark COUSINS 02. Ben NUNN 03. Luke PENNELL 05. Craig ROBSON 06. Matt ROBINSON 07. Luke HOWELL 08. Charlee ADAMS 11. Fejiri OKENABIRHIE 14. Dan SPARKES 23. Michael CHEEK 29. Jake HOWELLS
01. Scott DAVIES 02. Adam BUXTON 03. Liam RIDEHALGH 05. Steve McNULTY 08. Jay HARRIS 09. Andy COOK 10. James NORWOOD 11. Connor JENNINGS 18. Josh GINNELLY 33. Manny MONTHE 34. Drissa TRAORÉ
DAGGERS IMPLODE AS FREE-FLOWING TRANMERE FIRE FOUR
This was a meeting between two former league sides heading in very different directions; while Tranmere continue their promotion charge back towards into the EFL, Dagenham's Football League days seem long gone as serious financial problems continue to grip them off the pitch. However despite the obvious contrasts which existed between the teams before kick-off, for 90 minutes they were equals and battled to an entertaining clash at Victoria Road which began brightly for the Daggers but, just like their season, soon turned sour. Tranmere soon found their rhythm and as they grew in confidence in the second half, the home side imploded to fall to their heaviest defeat in over 15 months, with braces from deadly duo Norwood and Cook doing the damage. It was a day that could've been so different for the Daggers but, after such a ruthless attacking display from the visitors, they really can't have many complaints.
It was another day of 'what if's' for the Daggers as they were made to rue some big misses which, against teams like Tranmere, you will always be punished for. The match hinged on a clinical second-half for the visitors and, though the scoreline suggests a dominant display, the reality was quite different as Dagenham began with the determination and spirit that has epitomised their recent form. A positive half from John Still's men saw them apply lots of pressure in the opening stages but the visitors responded with two efforts from distance by Connor Jennings, which were comfortably gathered by Mark Cousins yet still highlighted Tranmere's ability to create chances from nothing. Dan Sparkes was causing problems with his tricky deliveries and from one free-kick on the right, Luke Pennell found space but narrowly nodded wide as the hosts' continued to have the edge.
With the away side rattled Dagenham went in search of the opening goal, which was always going to be crucial in a game like this. The chance that they were waiting for finally arrived when Matt Robinson robbed a surrounded Tranmere defender and flashed a ball across goal which picked out Okenabirhie in acres of space, with the net gaping and both sets of fans anticipating an opener. However the in-form winger somehow managed to power his header over from an excellent position, not only a glorious chance wasted but also the catalyst for Micky Mellon's side to liven up. As the so-called 'Super White Army' provided a vociferous backing from the A13 Steel Stand, you could almost feel the mood change in East London as the Wirral-based outfit began to gradually take control, with Norwood and Ridehalgh glancing headers over from close-range, while Andy Cook hit a stinging drive from outside the area that once again stung the palms of the impressive Cousins in the Dagenham goal.
In what was quickly becoming an end-to-end encounter, the Daggers looked to regain control. Despite losing Corey Whitely and Morgan Ferrier in recent weeks, they are not short in offensive quality and one of their remaining attackers, Dan Sparkes, skilfully glided beyond his marker Buxton before sliding a teasing ball across goal for Cheek which, but for a desperate intervention from a combination of Monthe and McNulty, would've resulted in a well-worked opening goal. Meanwhile, at the other end Ridehalgh had curled his free-kick over from a promising position and that was Tranmere's last opportunity in a half which may have ended goalless, but was not lacking in entertainment. Dagenham would've been quietly optimistic at the break and if they could maintain the intensity they showed in the first 45 then they had every chance, but little did they know the game was about to change in a way that nobody could have imagined.
All of a sudden, the visitors began to show just why they're flying high this season. In a devastating showing of deadly attacking prowess, they took the lead within two minutes of the restart. As Dagenham switched off, Jennings effortlessly jinxed to the byline, enticing Cousins out of his goal before then pulling it across to Andy Cook, who calmly swept the ball into an unguarded net. That was the catalyst for a Tranmere rout and the dangerous Norwood, who just moments before had brought the best out of Cousins with a rasping drive from distance, turned fantastically and applied a fantastic finish with a superb clipped effort over the keeper. After establishing a comfortable cushion in Essex, it was hoped that the away team would settle down, but instead they simply switched it up another gear as Dagenham continued to fall apart.
It took under a minute for the inevitable third to arrive and once again it was Cook, taking a touch before smashing past Cousins into the top right corner. In just two minutes the game had been completely taken away from the Daggers, who having lost the game were able to at least end with a flourish, yet wasted their chances of getting a consolation goal. They had been completely bypassed in midfield from the moment Luke Howell went off, and their aimless long balls played directly into the hands of experienced defender McNulty. In the last minute, more gloss was added to the scoreline when Norwood got through a virtually non-existent defence to poke home a fourth and cap a forgettable day for Dagenham.
NEXT UP: Away v FC Halifax Town, Tuesday 13th March 2018 at 7.45pm, MBI Shay Stadium, Vanarama National League