Victoria Road | Att: 1391 | Vanarama National League | 22/4/18
30. Mark COUSINS 02. Ben NUNN 05. Craig ROBSON 06. Matt ROBINSON 07. Luke HOWELL 11. Fejiri OKENABIRHIE 14. Dan SPARKES 15. Bondz N'GALA 17. Andre BOUCAUD 23. Michael CHEEK 29. Jake HOWELLS
01. Carl PENTNEY 03. Rene STEER 04. Harold ODAMETEY 05. Alan MASSEY 07. Moses EMMANUEL 08. James COMLEY 10. Jake HYDE 14. Harry PRITCHARD 19. Ryan UPWARD 20. Maximilian KILMAN 24. Jake GOODMAN
Cheek's header proves the difference at Victoria Road
With Summer on the horizon and the long months of non-domestic football fast approaching, most will be relieved to see the end of a season which has proved turbulent, challenging and financially unsettling. However, despite the worrying issues which have gripped the club in recent months, the Daggers at least managed to sign off their home campaign with a well-deserved victory over a Maidenhead side plunged into a similar state of mid-table security, preserving their good recent form as they look to end on a positive note. Fresh from scoring a hat-trick at Guiseley two days prior, Michael Cheek continued his goalscoring streak with a well-timed header to settle a game which gradually transformed into a typically-drab end of season encounter, just as you'd expect from two teams with little to play for. Dagenham remain just two points off the play-offs but while overhauling the four clubs above them is an arduous task, it is a testament to the players that they're still in with a chance after all that has gone on.
Overall, Maidenhead failed to replicate the intensity of October's reverse fixture but such has been the incredible job Alan Devonshire has done for the part-time outfit this season that they'd earned their right to enjoy a non-pressure environment. Similarly, after playing three games a six-day period, the Daggers weren't at their sharpest but they began well in what was a glorious day for football; the sun was shining, the travelling Magpies were in good spirits and the home fans continued to offer their unwavering backing for the team amidst the small fear that this could be their last ever home game. Thankfully those thoughts seem to have been dispelled, but it didn't stop the players from putting in another courageous display. They started on the back foot though as Maidenhead had the first opportunity, with N'Gala - recently reintroduced to the starting lineup - being dispossessed by Hyde, who carried the ball forward but saw his low strike collected by Cousins.
Dagenham didn't have their first sight of goal until the tenth minute but made the most of it by demonstrating just how clinical they can be. Their two top scorers combined, with Fejiri Okenabirhie showing good skill to drive to the byline and whip in a sumptuous cross for Cheek to guide a powerful header beyond Pentney and into the bottom-right corner; a first home goal for the striker and one which he enjoyed revelling in with his customary celebration behind the A13 Steel Stand housing the delighted home supporters. It was harsh on Maidenhead and after three successive victories they were shaken by falling behind, almost succumbing to a quick-fire second as Okenabirhie showed his confidence with an ambitious effort from distance which was comfortably collected. This was the catalyst for a sustained spell of home pressure as they capitalised on the shift in momentum, leading to an excellent team move which saw Sparkes flash a ball across goal which agonisingly evaded the reach of Cheek in the box.
Then, as the opportunities continued to present themselves, Howells played a tremendous defence-splitting throughball into the path of Sparkes, who had acres of space to work with, however in the end it was almost as if the winger had too much time to pick a pass, with the resulting ball across goal being poor in what was a wasted opportunity. The importance of that opening was almost illustrated perfectly at the other end as Maidenhead enjoyed a now-rare chance, but Harry Pritchard fired well over. Normal service soon resumed though and it was back to the left-flank for another Daggers chance, Sparkes whipped in a cross which was inch-perfect for Howell, but a disappointing miss saw the opportunity crashed wastefully over from point-blank range. With half time approaching, Cheek spurned another chance to extend his side's lead as he was denied when through on goal, but the Daggers still headed into the break with a single-goal advantage.
Into the second half and visiting boss Devonshire made two changes in an attempt for his side to adopt the ascendancy, but initially they seemed to have little impact with the Daggers retaining the edge. Four minutes after the interval Fejiri Okenabirhie was denied by a stunning save from Carl Pentney, who showed sharp reflexes to adjust his direction and pull off a save from the winger's deflected effort. However from that point chances were at a premium as fatigue set in to both sides. Maidenhead hunted an equaliser and went closest through Clifton but in truth lacked the cutting edge to work their way back into the encounter. With no further goals seeming imminent, the game settled down and the next chance fell to Ben Nunn from distance, but Pentney always looked to have the attempt covered. As the clock ticked on, the Magpies committed more men forward and this lead to a late home breakaway which seemed promising until Okenabirhie uncharacteristically over-hit his cross into the box. Despite this, it was not an opportunity they were made to rue as they comfortably held on to sign off their home campaign in style. Now the fans can focus on enjoying their Summer away from Victoria Road, but before that there's one final match to go as Dagenham are invited to Macclesfield Town's title party next Saturday, with kick off at 12.30pm.
NEXT UP: Away v Macclesfield Town, Saturday 28th April 2018 at 12.30pm, Vanarama National League, Moss Rose