Date Saturday 24th August 2019 | 15:00 Competition Vanarama National League Venue Silverlake Stadium Attendance 1631 Home/Away Split 1535 | 96 Referee James Durkin
01: Max STRYJEK 02: Joe PARTINGTON 03: Michael GREEN 04: Rob ATKINSON 06: Andrew BOYCE 08: Jack PAYNE 10: Tyrone BARNETT 11: Sam SMART 17: Cavaghn MILEY 18: Ben WILLIAMSON 19: Danny HOLLANDS
- ROSS FLITNEY - JACK MCKNIGHT | MILEY (74') - SCOTT RENDELL | WILLIAMSON (80') - CALLUM BAUGHAN | SMART (89') - TOM BEARWISH
01: Elliot JUSTHAM 02: Will WRIGHT 03: Liam GORDON 05: Luke CROLL 06: Kenny CLARK 07: Alex MCQUEEN 08: Mitch BRUNDLE 10:Ángelo BALANTA 14: ReeceGRANT 16: Harry PHIPPS 19: Joan LUQUE
- MANNY ONARIASE - BAGASAN GRAHAM | GORDON (73') - MATT ROBINSON | LUQUE (83') - JOE QUIGLEY | BALANTA (63') - JAMES DOBSON
UNLIKE THE SCINTILLATING SUN THAT PROVIDED A BEAUTIFUL BACKDROP ON THE SOUTH COAST throughout the entire ninety minutes, DAGENHAM'S BRIGHT START WAS ULTIMATELY temporary. For all of their energy and confidence throughout the first half, they began to struggle as soon as Eastleigh provided any sort of resistance and simply couldn't regain the ascendancy, meaning that a game which should've been a comfortable victory from the moment Ángelo Balanta and Joan Luque combined for a classy opener, instead transformed into a backs-to-the-wall performance from which Taylor's side were somewhat fortunate to escape with a draw after a spate of late Eastleigh chances. However, despite the disappointing lack of grit against a side in the relegation zone prior to kick-off, it's still a point away from home at a place that is notoriously hard to go to, and it marks a second game unbeaten ahead of Monday's bank holiday meeting with Yeovil Town at Victoria Road.
Eastleigh away would be the first game of a quick-fire double-header over a Bank Holiday weekend that would see them play twice in just over 48 hours. For the first time this season, the Daggers had a full seven days following on from their last game, a 4-2 victory at home to Harrogate, which allowed the team to not only rest while in the midst of a challenging August schedule, but also process the last couple of weeks. They'd fluctuated from one extreme to the other so frequently that nobody could predict quite which version of Dagenham & Redbridge would emerge from the Silverlake Stadium tunnel but the fact that another positive result could build momentum, coupled with the American owners being in attendance, meant that there was much incentive to perform well, especially against a side that were struggling so far.
There was one change from the side that were victorious the prior weekend, with Chike Kandi omitted from the squad altogether for no specified reason. His replacement, Reece Grant, looked lively if admittedly slightly impotent at times; three minutes in the tightest of offside calls denied him going one-on-one with shaky-looking May Stryjek in the Spitfires' goal. That set the tone for an opening few minutes where Dagenham looked confident in possession but lacked the key ingredient up front. Luque and Balanta caused problems, while the midfield looked solid and the defence held firm, yet the final pass evaded the Daggers and they couldn't make the most of their early intent. With Eastleigh struggling to adapt in the early stages, Taylor's side needed an early goal while they were on top.
When Stryjek picked up a clear backpass in the eighth minute, it epitomised the defensive hesitancy from the hosts' but, after Brundle knocked the indirect free-kick into the path of McQueen, the ball was wastefully skied over the bar. At the other end, Eastleigh ventured into Daggers' first half for the first time and enjoyed a couple of chances, as Barnett fired into the body of Croll and a couple of dangerous corners were struck into the box. As the tide began to turn, though, the Daggers struck a glorious sucker punch by producing a moment of brilliance. Balanta collected a bouncing ball on the byline and appeared to be preparing a cross before deceiving the defender by instead haring down the line, catching his marker completely unaware. As the keeper rushed out to reduce the angle, Balanta spotted Luque at the far-post and coolly squared it for his team-mate to convert into an empty net. 1-0 and a richly deserved goal at that - Daggers now had something to protect.
16 minutes in and Taylor's side had started perfectly, knocking the ball about well and silencing the home crowd. As panic set in for the Eastleigh players, they persistently struggled to keep possession as the Daggers forced them into mistakes, one of which nearly led to a second goal as the defence got their wires crossed and nearly handed Balanta a free shot in the box. Elsewhere, Reece Grant twice went close with headers as he first looped Wright's cross wide before then missing the target narrowly following a corner. However, Eastleigh were working hard to disrupt Daggers' rhythm and it paid off, because one big chance was all it took to alter the balance of the encounter. Williamson poked wide while in front of Justham's goal after being picked out by Green, and from then on Eastleigh had more belief in their play.
Whatever happened during half-time also contributed to the complete role reversal that happened following half-time. Dagenham re-emerged for the second half in a comfort zone that would rapidly be wiped out by a 48th-minute equaliser from Tyrone Barnett, who powerfully dragged the ball into the bottom-right corner after a cross was poorly cleared. It was a moment symptomatic of Daggers' display in the second 45 as, in vast contrast to the first half, they seemed weak all over the pitch. All of a sudden, instead of picking a pass into midfield or out wide, the defenders began to pump it forwards which led to a cycle of Eastleigh attacking, losing the ball then having it gifted back to them. Balanta remained the best hope of turning one point into three but, with just over twenty minutes remaining, he made way for Joe Quigley who did unsettle the Eastleigh defence somewhat.
Infact it was Quigley who had the best chance to win it for Taylor's side when he spun his man and struck venomously from distance but Stryjek was equal to it, albeit not with the most conviction. Reece Grant also had an opportunity when he was picked out well in the box, but frustratingly he struck tamely into the arms of the keeper when, in truth, the quality of pass and quality of chance demanded a better finish. Aside from those two openings in half an hour, though, it was all Eastleigh. They battered the Daggers in every department as the game spun dramatically, exposing the frailties of Taylor's side who didn't look capable of battling their way back into the contest. It seemed like they were fairly content with a point and when Luque also departed the action, the lack of firepower left on the pitch was alarming and it's no surprise that the Spitfires launched cross after cross into the box.
A remarkable finger-tip save from Justham denied Tyrone Barnett late on, not long after a huge goalmouth scramble saw several home players strike at the ball, however the referee blew for an earlier foul amidst the chaos. He blew again after three minutes of nervy stoppage time, this time to bring a close to the encounter. Although there were aspects that were really disappointing, there were some good signs for the Daggers in the first-half and that's what Taylor will be hoping to see replicated on Monday afternoon.