Victoria Road | Att: 2217 | Vanarama National League | 27/1/18
30. Mark COUSINS 02. Ben NUNN 05. Craig ROBSON 10. Morgan FERRIER 11. Fejiri OKENABIRHIE 14. Dan SPARKES 15. Bondz N'GALA 17. Andre BOUCAUD 18. Kevin LOKKO 25. Corey WHITELY 29. Jake HOWELLS
13. Max O'LEARY 02. Kristian GREEN 04. Darren CARTER 08. Kyle STORER 09. Adi YUSSUF 10. Jermaine HYLTON 18. James RECKORD 26. Liam DALY 30. Fiacre KELLEHER 36. Jamey OSBORNE 37. Kwame THOMAS
FRUSTRATION GROWS AS DAGENHAM SLIP FURTHER FROM THE TOP 7
The frustration is growing week by week and, as the boos rung out at the final whistle, they told the story of another bitterly disappointing performance which saw Dagenham fall further from the play-offs. 'Daggers against Racism Day' attracted a healthy crowd to Victoria Road but any potential newcomers would've been turned away as the hosts' crashed to their third defeat in a row, putting them on the brink of their lowest league position in over a decade. Solihull might not be the most talented side but they were certainly more determined, battling for everything and eventually getting the three points that nobody in the ground could dispute that they deserved; they were defensively solid and took their chances, unlike the Daggers whose defensive frailties were painfully obvious once again. Okenabirhie's 40th-minute goal was a reminder of the quality the home side can quite easily muster but by then the damage was largely done, and this latest setback leaves Dagenham five points off the top seven, even though under-pressure manager John Still maintains that the title is not yet off-limits.
''The best sides get going in January'' - that was the message from Still, but his outfit are yet to adopt that philosophy, and have infact suffered a dramatic decline since the turn of the year. Therefore it was vital that the Daggers returned to winning ways, but would face a Moors team who under the guidance of new manager Mark Yates had enjoyed a rapid upturn in form, with impressive results including a draw at leaders Macclesfield. With 19 goals shared in our last three meetings it was bound to be an entertaining clash, and - boosted by the large attendance - Dagenham began well in East London. Corey Whitely, making a surprise start that could possibly be his last, looked energetic in the opening stages, as did Okenabirhie who had the first sight of goal when he scuffed wife at the far-post when he should really be doing better.
For all their early intent, Dagenham failed to trouble the keeper and instantly at the other end they were made to pay.....twice. Solihull had barely ventured into the opposition half but amazingly with their first two shots on goal raced into a shock two-goal lead as a deafening silence descended over Victoria Road. Both goals came from throw-ins in seemingly harmless positions, but typically poor defending gifted Moors the opportunities. Firstly, debutant Adi Yussuf made space from a throw in before arrowing a low effort into the bottom-right corner, and barely had the home side been allowed to regroup when they were picking the ball out of their net again; more awful defending allowing Yussuf again to poke home from a right-wing cross. Quite how both goals were allowed to happen from a team who apparently work tirelessly on defending is unknown, but now the Daggers had a mountain to climb. In the space of just over a minute, the game had been turned on it's head and for the home fans, it was the same old story.
There was still cause for hope, though, given that Dagenham had come from two behind at home to Guiseley to win, as well as last season's extraordinary comeback against the same opposition Solihull, who that day were three up after twenty minutes. However, it would be a big test of character, desire and passion which Dagenham seemed to lack as they began to panic, allowing Solihull to impressively control the game. Osborne went close for the visitors with a powerful low strike and even at 2-0 they didn't intend to sit back, making things increasingly uncomfortable for Dagenham. Just before the break though, there was hope as the home team finally found some quality, with the in-form Okenabirhie scoring with a brilliant strike, swivelling and smashing home on the turn to leave the visitors rattled. Now, with a fresh injection of confidence the Daggers flooded forwards in search of an equaliser, with the returning N'Gala so unlucky to power a header against the bar, but Solihull managed to overcome the onslaught to make it to the break unscathed.
Half-time came at a bad time for the East-Londoners, draining all of their new-found momentum which led to a slow start to the second half, though Solihull were still on top, barely looking in any danger. Their defence kept their composure to deal with the long balls Daggers had resorted to while also retaining a menacing feel to their attacks which was only enhanced by the introduction of key player and England C international Oladapo Afalayan. By contrast, Dagenham's substitutions - bringing on strikers Kandi and Cheek - didn't have quite the same effect that Solihull's did. Afelayan hadn't even been on the pitch a minute when he breached our vulnerable defence to put the game beyond doubt. Most of the credit however will go to Hylton, who done brilliantly to bamboozle N'Gala, hold him off and then square brilliantly for the arriving Afelayan to lift the ball over Cousins. If that was bad defending then moments later things got even worse as only the crossbar prevented things from becoming even more embarrassing as Thomas was unmarked and in acres of space at the far post. Dagenham had their customary late rally but no amount of pressure would disguise how comfortable this result was, with the full-time whistle prompting a chorus of boos from the dissatisfied home faithful, who will be demanding a response in Saturday's long trip to Halifax Town.
NEXT UP: Away v FC Halifax Town, Saturday 3rd February 2018 at 3pm, Vanarama National League at the MBI Shay Stadium