YOUNG HAMMERS PROVE TOO STRONG IN A VALUABLE TEST FOR STILL
Dagenham & Redbridge's opening home pre-season friendly of the 2017/18 campaign saw them edged out by West Ham's incredibly-talented Development Squad in what was a stern and difficult test against the young Hammers. Teddy Westley's side provided a huge challenge for the hosts', playing some delightful football and creating countless openings infront of over 1600 in Essex. Mason Bloomfield cancelled out Hector-Ingram's opener before Dan Kemp secured the victory in the dying moments.
With Ben Nunn and Scott Doe worryingly out injured for John Still, he used this as an opportunity to experiment with his team. Goalkeepers Mark Cousins and Elliot Justham played a half each, while Pennell, Robson, N'Gala and Ling started in defence and the midfield was made up of Robinson, Boucaud, Okenabirhie and the returning Whitely. Hawkins partnered Ferrier up front. A pulsating start to the game saw the rapid Hammers almost open the scoring inside thirty seconds. From the kick-off, the ball was worked back to Luke Pennell, who ended up losing the ball to Hector-Ingram who raced on, but Cousins was there to smother the danger. At the other end, Pennell was in the thick of the action again, escaping his marker from a corner before powering his header over the bar from a narrow angle.
The Hammers were keeping the ball majestically and their technical ability was clear to see, but they lacked a clinical nature infront of goal, spurning multiple opportunities. In the fourteenth minute they nearly took the lead in fortunate circumstances when a Pennell clearance ricocheted narrowly wide, as they continued to dominate. Playing his first game of pre-season, Corey Whitely was Dagenham's best player as he looked to create an opening past the West Ham defence. Refreshingly looking back to his best, he went close with a curling free-kick before driving at the away defence and unleashing a powerful fizzing drive which the keeper had to parry wide for a corner kick.
As they grew into the match more and more the Daggers found themselves getting an increasing number of chances, with Oliver Hawkins - rumoured to be possibly on his way from Dagenham - firing way over following typical hold-up play from the talisman. However, in the 37th minute, it was the away side who broke the deadlock at the Chigwell Construction Stadium. Cousins had tipped a Diangana drive wide just moments before but was beaten this time as Hector-Ingram latched onto an intricate pass to curl the ball into the bottom left corner, giving his side a lead which seemed against the run of play at the time but, given the balance of play, was perfectly justified.
The friendly remained end-to-end and Dagenham searched for an equaliser straight away, which they almost got when Hawkins showed just why several clubs are vying for his signature. The striker fashioned space infront of goal before jinxing in and out of the defence, but his resulting effort was straight at Joseph Anang. And Anang was called upon again at the end of the first half as Dagenham, who were by now finding their rhythm, worked an opportunity for Corey Whitely. The Player of the Year for last season controlled the ball on the bounce which allowed him to slam a fierce volley goalbound, with Anang diving to tip the ball over. The two teams would go into the break with the score at 1-0 to the visitors though as the referee brought an end to a half which was, for pre-season standards, quite entertaining.
The second half took upon a familiar theme and began in a similar vein to the first, with West Ham managing to almost instantly carve their way through. The impressive Hector-Ingram was played through again, opening his body up and curling towards the bottom right corner, but Justham was equal to the strike while the resulting rebound flew over. Justham then made a tremendous double-save to deny what seemed to be a certain goal, as WHU kept the pressure on. The rest of the game quietened down until the last ten minutes when it exploded into life again with two goals making for a frantic conclusion. In the 80th minute, Mason Bloomfield got in behind the defence and, after tripping under a challenge, the referee pointed into the spot. The substitute stepped up to convert the spot-kick low to the keeper's right. However, the scores did not remain level for long, and in the 89th minute, Dan Kemp kept his composure to coolly slot past Justham to secure a 2-1 victory for his side after a hard-fought contest.
NEXT UP: Away v Eastbourne Borough, Monday 24th July 2017 at 7.30pm, Pre-Season Friendly, Priory Lane