York Road | Att: 1384 | Vanarama National League | 28/10/17
01. Carl PENTNEY 02. Remy CLERIMA 03. Rene STEER 04. Harold ODAMETEY 05. Alan MASSEY 07. Moses EMMANUEL 10. Jake HYDE 11. Sam BARRATT 19. Ryan UPWARD 24. Jake GOODMAN 25. Christian SMITH
30. Mark COUSINS 04. Scott DOE 05. Craig ROBSON 07. Luke HOWELL 08. Charlee ADAMS 10. Morgan FERRIER 17. Andre BOUCAUD 19. Sam LING 23. Michael CHEEK 25. Corey WHITELY 29. Jake HOWELLS
Much-improved second half showing sees Daggers claim a point
For weeks, fans have been crying out for the return of Michael Cheek and, in only the striker's third start since his two-month injury layoff, he showed the predatory instinct that Dagenham have been missing to earn his side a point at York Road. In a frustrating first-half, Maidenhead United produced a gritty and determined display to shut out the Daggers, and led at the break thanks to a glancing header from defender Remy Clerima. Heading towards another defeat on their travels, the visitors dominated the second-half and, when Cheek finally drew them level, it was just what they deserved. Ultimately, it is a valuable point for John Still and his team, but they remain without an away victory since the first week of the season.
The Daggers were looking to build on Tuesday's brilliant victory against then-leaders Macclesfield by making it successive wins for the first time since August, but would be up against a spirited and gutsy Maidenhead side in what would be a first competitive meeting between the two teams. Managed by Alan Devonshire, the part-time Magpies have been on a remarkable journey and are at the highest point in their history having claimed a number of impressive scalps this season and in the end, the Daggers done well to make sure they weren't added to that list. John Still named an unchanged lineup, with the forward line consisting of Whitely, Cheek and Ferrier.
On a breezy afternoon in Berkshire, Dagenham began well. It didn't take Ferrier long to impose himself on the game as, in the second minute, he caused his usual problems before seeing his powerful effort parried away for a corner by Pentney. Slowly, though, the hosts' began to become more comfortable in possession and they grew in confidence. First, Odametey had a shot blocked by Adams in a dangerous position, before Barratt found himself in space in the box, but failed to make a solid connection with the ball. Moses Emmanuel also went close with a low strike however, at the other end, the Daggers began to produce some neat and clever play, but the attack was broken up by the resilient home defence.
What Maidenhead lacked in fitness - due to being part time - they made up in desire and organisation, as their defence rarely looked in any danger. Barratt, a calm presence in the home midfield, skied another effort over the bar, and the Dagenham backline was constantly kept busy. It had been a disappointing display from the visitors, especially after such a morale-boosting success in midweek, and they were limited to breakaway chances as the half began to fizzle out. Eventually, just before the break, Maidenhead deservedly opened the scoring with a goal out of nowhere. A throw-in was looped into a packed box, and Remy Clerima managed to get the feintest of touches to flick it into the bottom left corner.
The away side seeked an instant response and nearly levelled the scores when Cheek got free at the far post, but his header flew over the bar. That was the closest they came to an equaliser before the interval, and the Daggers knew they needed to improve in the second half. When the teams eventually returned, the visitors did infact look much better and began to threaten. After a number of near misses, their attacking pressure finally paid off in the 55th minute following a rare moment of indecision amongst the home defence. Pentney was beaten to the ball by Ferrier and the striker showed good awareness to lay the ball off to Cheek, who kept his composure to curl the ball into the roof of the net, infront of the delighted away supporters. That was his first away goal in a Dagenham shirt and a second nearly followed as he continued to look sharp.
The goal had rejuvenated the away side and they looked to build on the leveller. As Maidenhead began to become slightly panicky at the back, Dagenham were able to earn a succession of corners which were aimed in towards the crowded box. One Jake Howells delivery was cleared only as far as his near-namesake Luke, and he punted it back towards the area. Another unsuccessful clearance sliced the ball to the path of Ferrier, who swiveled and hit a shot on the turn, but it just scraped wide of the post. A good sign of intent from the Daggers. but they had to be careful as Maidenhead began to go close themselves. The stage was set for an entertaining finale, and both sides would go close in the final minutes of the game.
Substitute Fejiri Okenabirhie was introduced late on and he proved to be a fresh injection of pace against the tired home defenders. He went agonisingly close to winning it for his team, but his low cross could only flash across the face of the goal, evading the arriving Bloomfield, who himself had come on for Cheek. Throughout the four minutes of injury time they threw many players forward in search of a late winner, but eventually they would have to settle for a point. It should be seen as a decent result for them at a difficult place to visit but in order to realise their goal of promotion this term, it's a game they will have to be winning. They remain five points off top spot.
NEXT UP: Away v Witham Town, Tuesday 31st October 2017 at 7.45pm, Spa Road, Essex Senior Cup Third Round