Victoria Road | Att: 1254 | Vanarama National League | 24/2/18
30. Mark COUSINS 02. Ben NUNN 05. Craig ROBSON 06. Matt ROBINSON 07. Luke HOWELL 08. Charlee ADAMS 11. Fejiri OKENABIRHIE 14. Dan SPARKES 15. Bondz N'GALA 23. Michael CHEEK 29. Jake HOWELLS
28. Sam HORNBY 02. Andy HALL 06. Ryan ASTLES 10. Ross HANNAH 15. Dominic VOSE 16. Shaun HOBSON 19. Matty WATERS 22. Tom CRAWFORD 27. Gary ROBERTS 30. Jordan ARCHER 36. Myles ANDERSON
UNBELIEVABLE LATE DRAMA AT VICTORIA ROAD AS DAGGERS LEAVE IT LATE
Much had changed since these two sides last met at Victoria Road but, for Chester, it was a very familiar story as they were cruelly denied a valuable victory with two dramatic late goals, just as they were the year before. On that occasion they held a comfortable 2-1 lead until the very dying minutes and here, after Archer and Waters had turned the game on it's head, it seemed like the points were certainly heading to Cheshire for what would've been a vital three points for the strugglers. Yet there was another twist as history repeated itself in Essex, with Chester somehow conspiring to lose the game altogether despite looking comfortable in the latter stages. Okenabirhie, once again superb, completed his brace to reduce the visitors to nervy desperation, which eventually culminated in a late own goal winning it for Dagenham and completing a turnaround that, just minutes before, had seemed improbable at best. Thankfully though a fourth-consecutive home defeat was avoided and some much-needed cheer was brought to Victoria Road, a reward for the tremendous spirit that was once again on display.
In a meeting between two teams in financial turmoil, it was refreshing to be able to just focus on on-pitch matters and this was evident as both were playing with freedom in the open stages of what was quickly becoming a very open game with chances for both sides. However, the Daggers had the edge in the open stages and were looking dangerous with Sparkes' cross, which narrowly flashed across the face of the goal, acting as a warning sign for the visitors. Eventually their bright start was rewarded as Okenabirhie continued his fantastic recent run of form, controlling a Robinson pass on the edge of the box before curling a sublime effort in off the bar, giving the keeper no chance to the delight of the home fans behind the goal. Visibly upbeat following the goal, Dagenham continued to play with confidence but to their credit Chester were not giving up and when Waters saw his deep cross strike the bar it was a sign of intent from his side. At the other end the hosts' were just inches away from extending their lead as the threatening Okenabirhie picked out Howell at the far post with an inch-perfect teasing cross but the midfielder was unable to make contact with the goal gaping.
This was swiftly punished at the other end as Chester produced a goal from nothing to level the scores and kill the mood in East London. They had looked dangerous from the right flank all afternoon and this time Roberts got the delivery perfect for Archer to smash a volley home from close-range. All of a sudden the momentum had shifted and Dom Vose, rivalling Okenabirhie for the best player on the pitch, was giving the home defence all sorts of problems. However new fans' favourite Fejiri soon showed his quality as he looked to break away at the end of the half but his tricky counterpart Vose tripped him to tactically break up the attack; that was it for the first-half but all the ingredients were there for a thrilling second 45. This soon materialised as early pressure saw Astles glance a header wide for the visitors who went close again through Matty Waters, with the youngster fashioning a yard of space and hitting a low effort which was well saved. Just moments later and when Vose saw his effort parried by Cousins, Waters was in the right place to sweep the rebound beneath the keeper and send the away fans into raptures.
The game had been turned around and this was befitting of Dagenham's recent home form, though Chester - fighting for their lives at the bottom - were worthy leaders. Deflated, the Daggers didn't look up for the fight and as the away outfit continued their onslaught, with Archer just lashing an effort wide, they looked set to extend their lead, boosted by the vocal support of the travelling fans. This was demonstrated even further as the hosts' wasted a chance that indicated it really wouldn't be their day as N'Gala hooked the ball over from point-blank range following a corner. There was still hope as Chester remained shaky at the back, but as the game approached the latter stages they didn't look likely to relinquish their lead. Instead, they twice cut through the home defence but only quick reactions from Cousins, coupled with a poor first touch, kept Daggers' faint hopes alive. They had ten minutes to salvage the contest and possibly their unlikely play-off hopes but as a goalmouth scramble was somehow cleared by the away side, it looked as if the game was up.
But it wasn't, as a dramatic five minutes ensued. Kandi had already wasted a glorious opportunity by the time a hopeful ball arrived in the Chester box with 85 minutes on the clock. It was laid off by Robinson to Okenabirhie, who didn't appear to have much on. However, somehow the winger worked a yard of space on his left foot and through a crowded box clipped his shot into the bottom-right corner past the despairing dive of the keeper. You could almost hear Chester hearts break, but sadly for them Dagenham weren't done. The away side transformed into a scared side full of panic and as the home fans roared on their side, inspiring a win which seemed virtually impossible, there was almost a sense of inevitability that they would go on to do it. Barely had the equaliser hit the net when they were piling forwards again and as Robinson whipped the ball in, it reached the head of Chester defender Andy Halls, whose wild, desperate header flew into the top corner to seal an incredible win. It was incredibly harsh on Chester who deserved at least a point, but at the final whistle the mood around the ground was superb.
''Daggers never give up, never stop.''
NEXT UP: Away v Guiseley AFC, Saturday 3rd March 2018 at 3pm, Vanarama National League, Nethermoor Park