Victoria Park | Att: 3366 | Vanarama National League | 9/9/17
01. Scott LOACH 02. Carl MAGNAY 04. Nicky FEATHERSTONE 12. Jonathan FRANKS 14. Michael WOODS 17. Nicky DEVERDICS 18. Lewis HAWKINS 21. Devante RODNEY 27. Connor SIMPSON 28. Keith WATSON 29. Michael LEDGER
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 25. Corey WHITELY 29. Jake HOWELLS
SMASH-AND-GRAB POOLS SNATCH UNDESERVED VICTORY
Football can be a cruel sport and, in Dagenham's longest away trip of the season, nothing went their way as they suffered a frustrating first defeat of the season, though most fans, even those of Hartlepool, will be wondering how. The Daggers were dominant in Durham but a heroic display by home goalkeeper Scott Loach, coupled with desperate home defending, weathered the storm before a late and unexpected Jonathan Franks lob earned a smash-and grab victory for the hosts' who battled valiantly, but needed a fair share of fortune, as John Still's men were punished for not taking any clear-cut chances which fell their way. The unbeaten streak might be over but, given that the Londoners' performance was still very impressive, it should be nothing to worry about.
A welcome return to the starting XI for key player Corey Whitely bolstered the visiting attack and they looked lively early on as the in-form Pools began on the ropes. The dangerous Morgan Ferrier was first to go close when he spun his marker and hit a powerful shot which keeper Scott Loach parried away for a corner. From the resulting set-piece another big opportunity fell to Dagenham, this time the ball was kept alive and dropped kindly for Lokko infront of goal but the defender, who has already found the net twice this campaign, saw his low attempt tipped away by the keeper. The Daggers kept up their early pressure and their patient, crisp passing was causing the hosts' problems but, crucially, they lacked that crucial finish.
Then, out of nowhere, the home side had a huge chance. An inch-perfect corner from Nicky Deverdics found Keith Watson, whose header cannoned off the crossbar before agonisingly bouncing off the line as the away side held their breath. The thrilling start at Victoria Park continued and, at the other end, there was another massive opportunity for the Daggers when Fejiri Okenabirhie was played through on goal in acres of space, but his effort was straight at Loach and another huge chance went begging. They continued to control the game but were becoming more and more frustrated and Morgan Ferrier was again kept out by the impressive Loach. On the counter-attack, Simpson headed over for the hosts but normal service soon resumed as the visitors continued to apply the pressure.
An excellent bit of play saw Fejiri Okenabirhie played through on goal midway through the half and his half-volley was fierce, but Loach - again the saviour - cleared the danger. It was looking like being one of those days for Dagenham, who continued to carve the hosts' apart, and were doing everything but score. More chances came, dangerman Ferrier was denied again and moments later Okenabirhie cut inside before wastefully firing over the bar, while Jake Howells had a shot which was blocked by the defence, who were working hard to torment the Londoners. Eventually the referee blew for half-time but, although the away side had dominated, they had nothing to show for their efforts.
The second half was a more even affair overall, but Daggers still had the edge and began the half on the front foot once more. Corey Whitely got to the byline and looked to deliver an accurate cross into the box, but was thwarted by the Pools defence, who continued to put in a gritty display. Away dangerman Morgan Ferrier was continuing to cause problems for the hosts' and he nearly found an elusive opener when, after using trickery to work his way in the box, he poked towards the keeper, but Loach saved once more. Ferrier was back on the ball soon enough and in his team's next attack, he laid the ball off to Okenabirhie, who blazed over the bar with the aid of a deflection.
John Still proceeded to make a number of substitutions. Corey Whitely, who hadn't looked quite at full fitness, made way for midfielder Charlee Adams. In addition to this, Ben Nunn replaced the injured Luke Pennell in a like-for-like swap, and Elliot Romain, who scored his first goal for the club against Gateshead the Saturday prior, came on for Fejiri Okenabirhie. The Daggers kept pressing but, despite their best efforts, found themselves behind against the run of play in the 75th minute.
It was a long ball forwards from Hartlepool and at first there appeared to be no danger, until Mark Cousins raced out of his box to clear. However, he was beaten to the ball by Jonathan Franks, who hooked a looping chip towards the far right corner and, in a moment which looked almost in slow motion, the ball crept inside the post to send the home fans into a frenzy. Dagenham & Redbridge had come from behind to earn draws at Eastleigh and Fylde in recent weeks, and would now need to find an equaliser to keep their unbeaten run alive. They threw a lot at the home side in the last few minutes but their best effort, a diving header from Sam Ling, was saved, and that was their last chance.
So the Daggers' unbeaten run is over but, amazingly, it was one of their best performances of the season. They have a chance to bounce back on Tuesday night at home to Sutton United.
NEXT UP: Home v Sutton United, Tuesday 12th September 2017 at 7.45pm, Victoria Road, Vanarama National League