Victoria Road | Att: 1415 | Vanarama National League | 26/8/17
30. Mark COUSINS 03. Luke PENNELL 05. Craig ROBSON 06. Matt ROBINSON 10. Morgan FERRIER 11. Fejiri OKENABIRHIE 17. Andre BOUCAUD 18. Kevin LOKKO 19. Sam LING 23. Michael CHEEK 25. Corey WHITELY
01. David GREGORY 04. Josh REES 05. Ben CHORLEY 06. Jack HOLLAND 10. Louis DENNIS 11. Adam MEKKI 12. Ben WYNTER 16. Tyrone STERLING 17. Luke WANADIO 18. George PORTER 21. Frankie SUTHERLAND
Unstoppable Daggers thrash local rivals Bromley
This may just prove to be a turning point in Dagenham's season. Not only did they go top of the league by putting local rivals Bromley to the sword in a 5-1 thrashing, but they did it while remaining solid defensively against one of the best attacks in the division. From the first whistle the hosts' were far sharper and looked as if they would score from every attack as they cruised to their biggest victory since April 2015. The goals came courtesy of Corey Whitely, Kevin Lokko, Morgan Ferrier and a Michael Cheek brace but, even despite scoring five, there was still the sense that the visitors got off lightly, such was Dagenham's level of merciless, unrelenting dominance.
Both sides came into the match unbeaten and it was a bright opening in East London with the home defence, which featured a new centre-back pairing of Robson and Lokko, called upon to clear a couple of crosses early on. Once the hosts' took control, though, there was no looking back, and they began to threaten. Sam Ling kept the ball in play brilliantly to force a goalmouth scramble, before set-piece expert Whitely nearly caught keeper Gregory out as his curling free-kick from distance almost crept in. Eventually the opening goal arrived in the fifteenth minute to cap a perfect start and it was Michael Cheek who got it after his determined run took him into the box, where he created space to crash a fierce effort into the net.
As the match resumed at a breathless pace it seemed as though the Daggers were destined to double their advantage until, out of nowhere, Bromley equalised. It came from the Ravens' best move of the match which saw the ball played to Wanadio on the edge of the box, and the striker's accurate, low effort zipped into the bottom-right corner past Mark Cousins to shock the home side. It was their only shot on goal but, instead of deflating Dagenham as it might have done in the past, the goal galvanised them and they were soon back in front, when Ling's inch-perfect cross was powerfully glanced into the roof of the net by Cheek just two minutes later. It's that kind of recovery and attitude which will serve them well in the coming months and, after that moment, the result was never in doubt.
It was on-way traffic in East London and the Daggers were playing some very attractive football, while Boucaud and Robinson were working their socks off in midfield. Going forwards, they were carving Bromley open at will, while the defence were sweeping up the occasional aimless long ball. The visitors almost went close towards the end of the half, earning a couple of dangerous corners, but were swiftly dealt another blow just before half-time. Whitely played a short corner to Boucaud, who crossed for Lokko to power home a header to round off a perfect half. Neil Smith's men had only conceded twice all season prior to kick-off, but that had been more than doubled in a devastating 45 minute spell.
Having thrown away a comfortable two-goal lead in the last home game, Dagenham knew that the job was not done, and they continued to surge forwards at every opportunity in the second-half, which they also controlled. In the 51st minute they went agonisingly close to making it four when the menacing Morgan Ferrier curled against the post before the Daggers rung the changes, as Hawkins replaced Cheek, who went off to resounding applause, and Okenabirhie made way for Howells. Corey Whitely had unsettled the Bromley defence all day and his bursting run and subsequent shot sailed over, to deny him a sixth goal in as many games.
A rare opportunity for the visitors saw Mekki cut inside and try his luck, but the effort flew over the upright. In the 74th minute, John Still's team finally did extend their advantage, and it was a deserved goal for the fantastic Morgan Ferrier. Moments after racing through on goal only to be blocked by what the home fans thought was a handball, he made no mistake this time, squeezing a low strike beyond the wrongfooted Gregory to add even more gloss to the scoreline. That was Ferrier's final contribution; three minutes later, he came off for Joe White, a promising Daggers youngster.
Substitute Oliver Hawkins was top scorer last season but hadn't found the net since February and he showed glimpses of his ability, holding the ball up before turning and shooting, only for his attempt to drift wide of the goal. But no victory would be complete without a Corey Whitely goal and, once again, he stole the show with a sensational goal to make it five after 81 minutes. The lethal attacker played a one-two with Boucaud from a free-kick. collected the return pass and blasted a fantastic strike into the top-right corner from the right-hand side. Another masterful piece of skill from Daggers' prized asset.
And that was it. After four minutes of injury time during which the home side threatened to make things more embarrassing, and Allen poked straight at Cousins when through on goal, the referee finally spared Bromley. A scintillating five-star display takes Dagenham to the summit of the National League, and carries them on perfectly to Monday's away game at Maidstone United.
NEXT UP: Away v Maidstone United, Monday 28th August 2017 at 3pm, The Gallagher Stadium, Vanarama National League