Saturday, 28 May 2011

The Daggers Player Review Part One.

A review of every player that's pulled on a Dagenham & Redbridge top this season, whether it was a loan or for just 3 or 4 games, you'll have my opinion on them! We also have the players that left, this is just the first part, the second will follow soon.

1. Tony Roberts- The man, the legend. Tony Roberts the 41 year old stalwart in the Daggers goal has had perhaps his best season in a Daggers top on the biggest stage he's played for us. Having kept us in so many games this season and missing just two or three through injury he has been phenomenal and would be in contention for my player of the year. The best save in my opinion was against Bristol Rovers from point blank range. However he can improve on his. poor kicking, but then again that and his amazing banter with home and away fans is a trademark of the player we know and love. A Daggers legend, lets hope he continues into next season. Robbo's reaction to Sheffield Wednesday draw.

3. Damien McCrory- The Irish has had a bit of a topsy turvy season to say the least. Starting off in the team up until November, after the Leyton Orient defeat in the Cup, he was dropped not to return until a replacement against Huddersfield in February for Femi. Just when it looked as though he had his spot back, he picked up an injury, which meant a return for the rest of the season for Femi. Not all was lost, he scored his first Daggers goal in August against MK Dons and earned a call up to The Republic Of Ireland Under 21's. One of my favourite players, I and others wonder whether it would be better for him in left midfield next season.

4. Scott Doe- One of the players of the season, reflected in the clubs player of the season vote where he finished in the top 3. A trademark of his game his his amazing ability to make last ditch tackles which has been tested on many occasions this season. A strong player who will be sorely missed should leave during the Summer, he doesn't get enough credit in my opinion. One thing to improve on is perhaps the use of his weaker foot, renowned for clearing the ball with just one foot in a weird motion.

5. Will Antwi- Big Will Antwi. He's been stuck with a season largely on the bench although when he's needed he's been fairly consistent. Coming in for his first start this season he marked it with a goal in a 3-1 win away at Yeovil in November. He then disappeared for the rest of the season, coming in again as Scott Doe injured himself against Plymouth. A strong player who does need to work on how to shield a football as shown at Huddersfield and how to judge a ball coming down from the air. If Doe leaves he will become a key player for us next season, no doubt.

6. Mark Arber- A captain who leads by example. He never shys away from a challenge and will put his head in with the biggest of them for the cause. Always close with his marking and a worthy captain of Victoria Road, maybe just a little more speaking is needed, but on the whole has been an amazing player for us, especially this season, very consistent in the centre of the defence. Down to Earth as shown on his Twitter and the tears at Peterborough only emphasise the Dagger that he is.

7. Danny Green- This man does not get the credit he deserves. Expected to perform every game, if he doesn't some fans jump on his back without fail. But, without Greeny we would be deep in the mire this season, his ability to carve out crosses and chances is second to none. His crossing is amazing, from the tightest of angles, whether it's in mid air or beating two opponents, he's capable of it. With 12 assists in the league and 10 goals, he's been a major player in our season and I can only hope that if he is reading this that you stay next season Greeny. A true fans favourite who will always go in full blooded, if a bit rash at times, if we keep him next season, I wouldn't put it past an immediate return to the third tier.

8. John Akinde- On loan from Bristol City from early January he didn't make his first appearance until the start of April against Exeter after a Hernia operation. A lot of weight on his back and for the preparation he had, done pretty well in all honesty. His penalty winning appeal is second to none, getting four for us this season and bagging two goals in 9 games has been a pretty big influence in our end of season run in. He does however need to improve on the one on ones, a number that he missed could have made a significant difference in the final standings. Now at Crawley, I wish him all the best, despite the club he's joining!

9. Jon Nurse- The real fans favourite. His sheer determination and energy is applauded from 3 sides of the ground and has turned into a key player for us after January. A slow start where he was limited to substitute appearances, John Still started him quite a bit after the New Year and become our main striker. Doubles against Brentford, Carlisle and other vital goals against Charlton & Swindon were key. A brilliant player, forever a legend for the goal at Wembley, I'm not the only one that thinks a Nurse/Scott partnership will do us the world of good next season.

10. Josh Scott- A bad season, by no fault of his own I have to stress. A decent start to the season, where he was unlucky against Notts County in particular, hitting a shot against the post before we lost 1-0. He lost his place after the 3-0 defeat against Bristol Rovers and never really regained it due to various reasons. A few substitute appearances before arriving back on the scene against Southampton on January 3rd. A great header that did in the end prove to be a consolation, it's a shame, if it wasn't for his blood clot, he would have played a major part in the season. A bigger loss than Benno perhaps, I can't wait to see him back next season.

11. Gavin Tomlin- A bit if a false dawn in truth. In pre season he looked great, scoring a very good goal against Norwich. His trickery was always seen in every game he played, but never really had that goal scoring prowess that we needed. Two goals and a number of bench places up until April, saw him shifted on loan to League Two Torquay, where he predictably started banging them in weekly, I wish him all the luck for the Play Off Final. Another one I would like to see next season, however he may choose to stay at Torquay, if he can find his shooting boots for us, a he will become a key player.

12. Phil Ifil- A player that was perhaps brought in at the deep end. A replacement for Abu Ogogo for when injured, Ifil never really lived up to any expectations, however, I'm not sure what those expectations were. From his first game against Bournemouth to the final day against Peterborough, when called upon he was effectively torn apart. I have to say, he has great ability to ping a ball though. You can defend him, and I will because Abu was a class above and coming into a team like that must be very difficult but he was simply not up to the task. A player that I am glad to see released.

14. Paul Benson- He did play for us at the start of the season, he didn't really shine, but should always be remembered as a Daggers legend. The tears he shed against Tranmere at the end will always be the memory of him for me this season. Cheers Benno.

14. Victor Palsson- The Icelandic midfielder on loan from Liverpool never really got a chance to shine in all fairness. His first game against Orient in the cup, he looked decent with a good bit of strength about him, but the he was reduced to the bench afterwards with the return of Solly Taiwo. The harsh Winter really stopped him playing a more vital role, we didn't even get to witness one of his free kicks.

15. Damien Scannell- A player that never really got a run of games, however when he did he wasn't consistent enough. His most vital contribution was the strike against Swindon Town, he may well be a starter next season depending on comings & goings. A powerful shot on him and a decent cross, he was fairly average for us, but popped up with some good stuff.

That concludes the first part of the player reviews, the second part will be posted either on Sunday or Monday. We will also have another fan interview tomorrow on the separate blog. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Rise Of Non League

If you look into the Championship, League One & League Two you would be astounded at just how far some of the former Conference clubs have come since the Millenium and that is testament to the Conference and just what a tough league it has been to get out of in the last 10 years or so. With the possibility of AFC Wimbledon coming up today we'll take a look at the fortunes of other clubs that have come up from the top tier of the non league pyramid.

Yeovil Town, promoted as Champions, 2002/2003 season.
A real success story is Yeovil Town, in their conference winning season they romped to the league title, 17 points ahead of 2nd placed Morecambe who went into the first ever Conference Play Offs in 2003. They maintained an unblemished home record throughout the season with rousing wins against Southport & Burton Albion helping them along the way. That squad also had a number of players that went on to play in the Premier League such as Gavin Williams & Lee Johnson.
 Their first season in the football league culminated in them finishing a very respectable 8th and getting to the 4th round of the FA Cup, where they were knocked out against Liverpool. Just one season later they finished as League Two winners, clinching promotion to League One on the final day courtesy of a 3-0 win at Huish Park at Lincoln City to see them mixing it with the likes of Nottingham Forest the next season. With their first season in the 3rd tier they finished in 15th place, avoiding relegation by a margin of 6 points, a good run in April which saw wins against Doncaster, Huddersfield & Gillingham making sure of safety. The next season resulted in yet another great season, reaching the League One play offs after two wins in the last two games against Doncaster once more & Rotherham United, where they would face favourites Nottingham Forest. The first leg did not go to plan, losing 2-0 at Huish Park, but an astonishing comeback at the City Ground ended in a 5-2 aggregate win that shocked everyone, they went to face Blackpool in the final. A brave performance in front of 59,000 at the Wembley Stadium saw them lose 2-0 to the Seasiders who went on to bigger and better things. It was a season to be proud of for the Glovers and the 30,000 that made the London trip.

Since then they've had various tiffs with relegation, the following season they finished a lowly 18th and then they came even closer to the trap door with 17th place finish in 08/09 season, where they finished 2 points above the drop. Russell Slade vacated the Huish Park hot seat in February of that season and was replaced with player manager Terry Skiverton who led them to safety. This season they once again flirted with relegation but a strong finish ensured them no final day nightmares and they secured their status once more, where they will face teams such as Sheffield United next season.

I won't add Doncaster in as they had been members of the football league previously, but their remarkable rise from Conference Play Off winners in 2002/2003 to now being a Championship club is something to be very proud of, especially as their manager has been wanted by various clubs. If they get into the play offs next season it wouldn't surprise me, a good honest club who deserve anything they get.

Accrington Stanley, Conference Champions, 2005/2006
Accrington Stanley, who are they? Well in this Conference season they were heard by not perhaps the world but English football. Stanley finished the 2005-2006 Conference season as runaway champions, ending up 11th points clear of Hereford United, winning the league at a canter. John Coleman had led Stanley from the Northern Premier Division One to the Football League, another reason why stability is ever so important at every club, Coleman is currently the the 3rd longest serving manager in England, having joined the Crown Ground outfit in 1999. They have seen numerous players come through their ranks, the most notable possibly current Blackpool striker Brett Ormerod who signed for the Seasiders from Accrington for £50,000 in 1997. Since going back into the league, Stanley have not dropped out since, although they have had various scrapes with relegation and the odd flirt with promotion.

In their very first football league season, then finished a very respectable 20th, avoiding relegation by an impressive 14 points, albeit Boston had been deducted 10 points, but no one likes Boston so I couldn't care less. Season on season they have steadily progressed up the table, with 17th, 16th & 15th placed finishes, maintaining league status season on season is the main aim for teams such as Accrington and this season has been a special one for them. A bit of a slow start to the season with two successive draws, but their season really kicked off with a 7-4 victory over Gillingham in October. The forte of their success however was their impressive home form towards the end of the season, winning their last 10 home games, scoring 3 or more in 9 of them. Simply amazing form which led the side to an astonishing place in the play offs where they went out to Stevenage. However it was an amazing effort this season, one that everyone inside the club was proud of and even outside of the club, Accrington are a club that go against all the odds to achieve, and they're testament to what stable management can do.

Dagenham & Redbridge, Conference Champions, 2006/2007

Danny Shipp (back)

My club, Dagenham & Redbridge formed in 1992 because of a merger from Redbridge Forest & Dagenham FC have come right up the non league pyramid. The meteoric rise has seen us go from the Ismithian League up to League One & eventually back to League Two. The Conference winning year was a special one, with Oxford United expecting to stroll the league, outsiders Dagenham gave them a shock and a half to eventually romp to victory by 14 points. The Boston fiasco in 2002 denied the Daggers promotion and then a season later they were left to rue what might have been once more after losing the Conference Play Off Final to Doncaster Rovers 3-2, with the infamous golden goal, possibly the worst thing ever invented in football. A few mid table finishes saw the end of Gary Hill reign, even more so after Hereford embarrassed us live on Sky, losing 0-9 at home to the Edgar Street outfit in 2004.

 In came John Still, a former manager who was hoping to lead the club back to more top half pushes and after a magnificent 2006/2007 season that's exactly what we got, a 2-2 draw at Oxford in late March effectively confirmed the inevitable. It was confirmed after a 2-1 victory over Aldershot Town in front of 4044 spectators, a Dave Rainford penalty being the difference. We ended the Conference on a win as well, a 2-1 win against Gravesend & Northfleet. That season showed the emergence of Paul Benson as a top quality striker, the formidable partnership of Benson & Mackail Smith had been broken up following CMS's move to Peterborough for £200,000 in January, but Benson continued to shine and took the Conference golden boot.

The first football league season was a nervy one, only preserving our status on the penultimate game, a 3-2 win at Darlington after being 2-0 down, a magnificent achievement which condemned Mansfield to the trap door, ironically we would play eachother on the final day. A couple of the major games in that season other than Darlo was of course, the first win, a 1-0 victory against Lincoln City which got the football league ball rolling! However the highlights for me were, the 4-1 win against Blundell Park against Grimsby Town, the Mariners never ever looked the same to me and of course the 2-0 victory away at Bradford, to see thousands of Bradford fans leaving early has never looked so sweet! Sandwiched in was the 6-0 victory at home to Chester which was another amazing day.
The following season we missed out on the play offs by a single point to Shrewsbury Town following a final day defeat, but it was a season to be tremendously proud of. A team expected to be fighting for their lives had once more punched far above their weight and had been unlucky at the final hurdle, this followed with a mass exodus with players leaving for higher up clubs.

The following season saw the best there has ever been for a Dagger. The arrival of Danny Green, Josh Scott, Scott Doe & Abu Ogogo to name just a few saw the Daggers have a new look about them. A great start at Crewe set the standard for the season, with great wins and consistent form leading to us grabbing a play off place on the last day at Darlington, a 2-0 victory with goals from Jon Nurse & Josh Scott. Step forward Morecambe in the Semi Finals, a club who we had always shared fortunes with, beating them in the 2003 play off Semi & coming up with them.

 The first leg was phenominal, a 6-0 win which shocked everyone and sent the Daggers into overdrive, book those Wembley tickets! We lost the second leg, but got to Wembley where we beat Rotherham United 3-2 to advance into League One, a pulsating much that had everyone in tears at the end, an unbelievable achievement for a club that was odds on to go down at the start of the season. Just being in League One was unbelievable for everyone concerned and taking it down to the final day was another reason to be immensely proud, a terrific season that ended in relegation at the last, but wins against Charlton & Swindon just showed how far a little non league team can come. Just how far you can challenge and with the right management and players and belief you can actually do.

Morecambe, Conference Play Off Winners, 2006/2007
Morecambe enjoyed a good season in 2006/2007, reaching the play off finals after finishing 3rd in the league with a last day victory against Grays Athletic. In the semi final Sammy McIlroy led them to a 2-1 aggregate win over York City, both goals coming in the 2nd leg at Christie Park in front of an amazing 5567 spectators. This led them to the final where they were to face Exeter City at Wembley Stadium. It didn't all go to plan, Exeter taking the lead in the first 10 minutes, but the Shrimps fought  back to win the game 2-1 and march on into the Football League, cue unbridled joy from their supporters, football league for the first time. In their first season, it was relatively comfortable, not near the relegation zone, a good run in November 2007 saw them only 3 points outside of the play off places, an extraordinary feat.

 They did continue on and finished slap bang in the middle of everything, 18 points from a play off place and 18 points from the relegation zone, a very successful first Football League season, finishing in 11th place, a top half position. The following season was once again a mid table one, ending up once more in 11th place but with an improvement of 3 points on last season to make it 63 points from 46 games. They were establishing themselves as a league club very well, proving to be a stern test, particularly at home.
The following season would be the best in their history. A slow start didn't help them, with just 3 wins in the opening three months of the season, things looked bleak, by the end of October they were just 4 points from the drop zone. However unlike a lot of teams would do, the Shrimps kept faith with the man at the helm and McIlroy repaid them with a strong second half to the season. They went unbeaten at home from the start of February through to the end of the season which was a vital reason as to why they secured a play off place and their highest ever finish of 4th, missing out on automatic promotion by 9 points and getting into the play offs by 3 points, a very tight season.

They would face Dagenham & Redbridge in a tricky tie of two old foes with a lot of mutual respect. As I said previously the Daggers won 6-0 at Victoria Road, but credit to the Morecambe fans they kept on singing after every goal that went in. Back at the final ever game at Christie Park, Morecambe restored some of their pride, winning 2-1 with a David Artell winner in the 91st minute. A fitting end to Chrsitie Park as both teams invaded the pitch celebrating come the final whistle, great scenes. The true reflection of their fabulous season was their finishing position, an amazing achievement and one that they can be immensely proud of.

The following season however was not so good, a poor start once more, but this time they did not generally pick up, the highlight of their season possibly the win against runaway leaders Chesterfield. The Globe Arena wasn't as much of a fortress as some thought it may have been and it culminated in Sammy McIlroy being sacked at the end of the season and Jim Bentley being appointed.

These clubs all have made a relative name for themselves in the league, and they all have something in common, they have generally stuck with their manager. It shows what sticking with your manager and consistency can do.

It also shows the consistency of the Conference, the clubs that are now coming through it, other clubs have come up for the first time and made a name for themselves. Look at Wycombe Wanderers previously and Stevenage now, testament to how good the non league is these days. For example, take a look at how many formerly established league teams go into the non league now, plenty. This season, Lincoln City & Stockport County, although County isn't a prime example. Kidderminster Harriers, Rushden & Diamonds, York City, Cambridge United, Grimsby Town, Mansfield Town & Wrexham, all former league teams that have been unable to come back up.

I hope you've enjoyed this as I sit down and watch the penalties from the City Of Manchester Stadium, I say thank you for reading and I'll be back with an interview tomorrow. They've just won, add AFC Wimbledon, the biggest fairytale of all time to your book.
What an achievement, what a team, and well done to Terry Browns men.

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Daggers Top 12 Performances This Season

Here we'll have a gander at my top 12 performances from this season, you're probably thinking why 12, the answer is there were so many good performances, regardless of the result that we had to expand the amount! These are in order of game date. There are plenty of video's for you to enjoy along the way !

Number One- Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Dagenham & Redbridge, Saturday 7th August
The Daggers arrived on the league one season with a defeat, but gave a good account of themselves at Hillsborough in a game where we could have really snatched a point. The 640 away fans certainly made themselves heard, this away support set the tone for the season, with good numbers going to a lot of places. A Clinton Morrisson goal and a Scott Doe own goal sealed the Daggers fate in two first half minutes, a promising debut from Stuart Lewis and a good attacking display from Romain Vincelot were two talking points. Considering the two backgrounds from the teams it was a great performance and one that everyone could take positives from going into the rest of the season.

Number Two- Dagenham & Redbridge 2-0 Leyton Orient, Saturday 4th September.

Dagenham & Redbridge got their first League One victory at home to local rivals Leyton Orient to move us up out of the relegation zone. Two goals from Frenchman Romain Vincelot sealed the win against a luck lustre Orient team in front of the biggest crowd of the season so far at Viccy Road, 4195. It was also the first home game without fans favourite Paul Benson who had left for Charlton Athletic for over £200,000, a transfer that had a significant impact on the rest of the season. This performance epitomised everything about the Daggers this season, full of energy and up for the fight. Danny Green provided both goals, one from a cross and the other from a corner as you can see in the video on the right.

Number Three- Charlton Athletic 2-2 Dagenham & Redbridge, Saturday 25th September.
In possibly one of the most frantic finales to a game in this season, we grabbed a last gasp point at the Valley. In the first half Miguel Llera had given Charlton the lead from the corner before Bas Savage earned a penalty on the stroke of half time which Danny Green smashed home to send the travelling fans into raptures. The second half however was a stark comparison to the first, with the Daggers completely dominating proceedings. However on 91 minutes, Johnnie Jackson scored to break Daggers hearts with a goal they scarcely deserved, Charlton fans believing they had one the game begun to mouth off. Then with 96 minutes on the clock, Danny Green went down the right and crossed the ball in, it fell to Jon Nurse who's dividing header found the back of Ross Worners net. The Daggers fans were sent into jubilation, three sides of the ground stunned as the other erupted, emotions running high and Jon Nurse bleeding on the floor, Dagenham & Redbridge had got a point at the Valley, one of my personal highlights of the season.  Typical of The Daggers never say die attitude.

Number four- Yeovil Town 1-3 Dagenham & Redbridge, Saturday 13th November.

The Daggers got their first win on the road with a fantastic performance at Yeovil in mid November. The debut of Colchester winger Medy Elito from the bench lifted the performance whilst Will Antwi came in for the injured Scott Doe at centre half from the start. Will Antwi opened the scoring for the Daggers on 18 minutes with a powerful header from yet another great Danny Green corner. Just as it looked like the Daggers would go in ahead at the break, Yeovil equalised in injury time to alter both teams team talks. With just over 10 minutes left, Abu Ogog sent the 125 away supporters barmy as he let leash a shot into the far corner of the net. Then just 5 or so minutes later, Medy Elito broke down the right with yet another scintillating run and sealed his debut with a goal, to make it 3-1 to the Essex side and achieve one of the best performances of the season and their first away win since Darlington the season previous.

Number five- Carlisle United 0-2 Dagenham & Redbridge, Saturday 11th December.

The longest and most gruelling away trip of the season in the arctic December conditions, rewarded the 109 travelling fans with a fantastic victory that the Daggers dominated from the start, a performance which showed why they were a league one side. The Daggers ground out the result in the last 10 minutes, something that teams have managed to do against us at Victoria Road a lot this season. Kayleden Brown sprinted down the left on 82 minutes before putting a ball into the 6 yard box with Medy Elito nipped into to convert. Danny Green wrapped up the win on 89 minutes when he took a touch just inside the box and fired into the roof of the net to seal the victory against a Carlisle side who had just beaten Sheffield Wednesday comfortably the previous week.

Number six- Hartlepool United 0-1 Dagenham & Redbridge, Saturday 15th January.

Another great away victory at another far away ground that left Pools wondering how they had come away with nothing. Hartlepool largely dominated from start to finish but suffered what is called, "The Daggers effect", this is when you dominate from start to finish but concede a late goal to leave you with nothing. The goal came from Gavin Tomlin, his second of the season that was teed up by Jon Nurse, this was the last goal he would score for us before going on loan to Torquay. We ground out the result, another great performance and result, one that really got the ball rolling in the second half of the season. It was somewhat revenge from the 95th minute equaliser they gained at Viccy Road back in October, and as you can see, the 87 visiting supporters certainly enjoyed their day out. For a bit of hilarity, Jeff Stelling.

Number seven, Dagenham & Redbridge 4-1 Brentford, Tuesday 1st February.

The Daggers recorded their biggest win of the season to lift themselves off the bottom of the league and end Andy Scott's reign as Brentford boss in the process. The Daggers took the lead on 19 minutes when Jon Nurse tapped in stand in Brentford keeper Simon Royce's bundle to make it 1-0. That's how it stayed in the first half with Brentford having a couple of half chances, but Dagenham dominating. Into the second half and the Daggers went wild, a Darren Currie corner was turned into his own net by Karleigh Osborne on 56 minutes to make it 2-0 to the home side. Then came the return of Sam Saunders who got his fair of boos, but the majority welcomed him back. Just minutes after Nurse grabbed his second and the Daggers third from a Damien Scannell cross, another minute later Romain Vincelot headed home to make it 4-0 and sent Brentford fans packing. One consolation for Brentford from Charlie MacDonald didn't take the shine off of a dominant Daggers performance, one of the best home displays of the season.

Number eight- Dagenham & Redbridge 1-1 Huddersfield Town, Tuesday 22nd February.

The Daggers turned in a fantastic performance to frustrate promotion chasing Huddersfield at Viccy Road in one of the most entertaining games in many a year. A fast paced end to end game that really could of gone either way. A penalty claim was turned down for the Daggers in a frustrating first half in which Tom Clarke gave Huddersfield a goal lead heading into the break. The second half was manic, end to end action with not a minutes peace either end, the Daggers drawing level courtesy of a Danny Green spot kick on 58 minutes. From then on it was anyones game, Tony Roberts pulling out top class saves in between Daggers attacks. This game also saw the re-introduction of Damien McCrory in place of Femi at left back a little earlier on and Damien had a stormer. The best chance came in the final minute, a scramble in the Huddersfield box led to the ball being prodded onto the bar by Marvin Morgan from a yard, only god knows how it didn't find its way in. A fantastic performance in a fantastic game, entertainment wise it was the game of the season.

Number nine- Dagenham & Redbridge 2-1 Charlton Athletic, Saturday 19th March

Possibly the best victory of the season in front of 3505 spectators, a game in which we dominated from start to finish and kept us out of the relegation zone. Charlton rarely threatened and the scoreline really flatters the Addicks as the Daggers could have scored a lot more in this one. The Daggers opened the scoring on 33 minutes when Jon Nurse hit a powerful left foot shot past Ross Warner to send the home fans mad and silence the Addicks. The Daggers continued to pressure and in the second half doubled their lead, some hesitant defending from Christian Daily allowed Green to nip in and hammer home into the top corner. The Daggers let the foot off the pedal then and Charlton began to push forward slightly, their consolation in the 92nd minute when West Ham loanee Frank Nouble hammered home from all of 3 yards.  Possibly the finest victory of the season and our history considering the background of the two clubs.

Number ten- Dagenham & Redbridge 3-1 Notts County, Saturday 9th April.

The Daggers got back to winning ways with a resolute performance against Notts County who we condemned to their 9th straight defeat in the league. After being firmly beaten 3-0 at home by County last year, some revenge was in order and John Akinde starting his first game for us, scored the opener. A superb Danny Green cross hit in mid air found Akinde who volleyed home into the bottom corner, at as glamorous a finish as it seems, we can assure you. County were then reduced to ten men after Graeme Lee pulled down Jon Nurse as he was through on goal. The resulting free kick was spectacular, Danny Green placed the ball down and hit a rasping strike into the top far hand corner, possibly the goal of the season from the former Bishops Stortford man.
The game was effectively sealed in first half injury time, John Akinde was brought over in the box and Danny Green smashed home the resulting penalty. A great first half performance led to a sitting back kind of second half in which County pulled one back and should they have got another could have troubled the Daggers. The best first half of the season and a terrific display assured the points for John Still's men.

Number eleven- Brighton & Hove Albion 4-3 Dagenham & Redbridge, Tuesday 12th April

The Daggers produced a magnificent display to nearly down Gus Poyets promotion party at a packed Withdean Stadium. John Akinde scored a deflected strike on 21 seconds to give the Daggers a lead to send the 239 away supporters mad, not that the other end could hear though. Brighton hit back with a quickfire double just before the 20 minute mark to make it 2-1, some poor marking at fault for one of the goals. That's how it stayed for the rest of the half, Daggers being hard to break down and giving the top of the league side a match, much like we did back at Victoria Road 3 weeks previous. Into the second half and the game turned once more, Jon Nurse scored via another deflected strike to draw the teams level. Then just 3 minutes later, John Akinde was brought down in the area, Danny Green had the chance to give us the lead and dually delivered, 3-2 to the Daggers! It only stayed like that for 5 minutes until Liam Bridcutt scored a spectacular equaliser to draw us level once more. Barnes then headed home 10 minutes later to make it for 4-3 and despite our best efforts, were unable to find away back and Brighton were officialy promoted. This game was testament to the energy and belief & determination of the side, playing a top of the league team and given them the best game they have had this season.

Number twelve- Dagenham & Redbridge 3-0 Carlisle United, Saturday 30th April.

The final home game of the season and the Daggers ended it in style with a comfortable 3-0 win over a Carlisle side who had done their bit in the season by winning the JPT. A confident Daggers performance started when John Akinde was yet again bundled over in the box by Lubo Michalik, Danny Green stepped up once more and his spot kick was saved, Jon Nurse however was there to tap in the rebound on 4 minutes. Nurse then doubled the lead on 29 minutes with a tap in once more after Akinde's shot was saved, he was in for a Dirk Kuyt hat trick ! That's how it stayed at half time, with numerous more chances coming, if the Daggers were more ruthless it could have been 4 or 5 already. The Daggers sat back slightly in the second half but Carlisle rarely threatened and Danny Green rounded off the win with a lovely strike on 84 minutes, before being sent off a few minutes later for a rash challenge.
The final home game was a brilliant one, the Daggers running the show and if it wasn't for a tonne of missed chances it would have been a lot more.

What a season it has been, it's only fair that we done 12, although it could have been a lot more than that. I hope you enjoyed the games I pick and it brought back some memories, one or two more new blogs to come over the coming weeks as well as the fan interviews. Thanks for reading !

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Proud To Be A Dagger

Akinde doesn't fare well with
one on ones.
Dagenham & Redbridge were relegated back to League Two yesterday after a 5-0 defeat at London Road to a Peterborough United side that are in the play offs. However the goals from the home side didn't really justify the performance and the effort the lads put in, in this blog I'll look back over the season, have a little rant and touch on yesterdays performance. We lost 5-0 yesterday with the Posh goals coming from Mendez-Laing, McCann, Boyd, Mackail Smith and and Ball. You have to bare in mind that the last three of those goals came in the last 10 minutes when it was all but over for the Daggers. Before that however we had numerous great chances to equalise and even take the lead. John Akinde had three great one on ones that he failed to convert, a trait that we've seen a bit too much of recently, as well as that Darren Currie hit the post twice, although I'm sure from being there Akinde hit the post for one, not Currie. Going into the second half and Vincelot had a great volley blocked on the line as well as Nurse missing a great chance by heading wide from 6 yards.

It was somewhat of a sour end to a great season for our team from Essex. The support yesterday was phenomenal, 1005 Daggers descended on Peterborough to create the best away atmosphere I've ever been involved with. From before the game to after it the noise never stopped and it is testament to everyone of our fans that even the final whistle went they kept going, cheering along for the lads, some in floods of tears, that's proper support. I'd go as far to say that our fans are sometimes the most valuable asset to our club, you get the usual 50 or so that go to every game and full credit to them, it's great effort then you get the ones like me that go to any that they can, when they're all together away or at home the atmosphere created is superb. The numbers this season may not have been terrific all the time, I mean we've drifted from 56 to Plymouth on a cold rainy Tuesday night to 1005 at Peterborough in the decider. With John Still holding up the "Proud to be a Dagger" shirt at the end yesterday it hit home even more how proud we should be and how great the lads have done this season.

Losing Benno was a big blow
 Looking back on it, there are numerous reasons why we've gone done, I'm sure we're all going to look back and think, "what if", because I know I will. You can look back to Hartlepool, the 96th minute goal, MK Dons when Robbo let one through or Orient when that penalty should never have been given. These are things we have to learn from, what was our two major problems this year? That's simple. We have conceded far too many late goals for any ones liking and the team know that and it's something I'm sure they've tried to work on, that can boil down to fitness, but effort wise they've given their all. The other major point was up front, we didn't really have a firing striker until January onwards when Jon Nurse stepped up to the plate and Danny Green joined in. We all know that Paul Benson moving to Charlton was possibly the worst thing that could of happened. With him leaving only a day before the transfer window closed we had lost our main attacking threat and it concerned many people, the fact is he was never properly replaced, simply because we couldn't. In January we had agreed two deals with two separate clubs to sign a striker, however the man didn't join because we couldn't agree the wage terms.

That leads on to the next part, the fact that on such a small wage budget we finished where we did. The 5 Live documentary the other week said it all, the fact that our current left back Femi is on £175 a week. That is amazing, he still manages to do a job there, you should all know I'm not a particular fan, but on that wage, he's doing a sterling job for the level he's playing at. That goes for all of the players. They're not on big amount of money, even the likes of Danny Green & Scott Doe who were given new contracts at the end of the season to stop them from leaving, they aren't on much and they play their hearts out every game. We can be proud that we've given more or less every team a game this season. We've played Brighton twice and we've lost by the odd goal twice, we deserved at least a draw from the home game and I wasn't at the away one so I won't comment. We have only been properly beaten twice and they were both away from home to the top clubs, even Peterborough didn't justify the game in honesty.

Swindon ended up bottom
 We may have finished 21st, but we've done things we never could have dreamed of this season. We've played at amazing stadiums such as St Marys, Hillsborough & The Valley. We've even beaten Charlton at home and drawn with them away, if someone would have said that ten years ago, you'd have thought they were mad and rightly so. We have finished above Swindon, a former Premiership club and we've not lost to them this season, another achievement. Look at the table, we missed out on safety by a single point and that is mighty cruel. If you think at other teams that spend vast amounts of money to try and stay up and fail, you have to be proud of our lads. Look at Swindon for example, they spent £100K on Matt Ritchie I believe and he's ended up finishing rock bottom.

We were tipped by more or less everyone to be down by mid April, once again it's testament that we have taken it to the last day of the season. I'd have been happy with that in August, obviously we all wanted to stay up but the lads have done us tremendously proud this year, more or less every performance has been great, we've challenged everyone and that's all you can ask for.

The standouts for me this season have to Romain Vincelot firstly, the Frenchman has worked tirelessly every game, not given up on anything and for me epitomises everything being a Dagger is about. His 12 league goals this season gave us a fighting chance and he has won the hearts of every Daggers fan, if he is not playing at higher level next season it would be a crime, but should he stay, it would make everyone that much happier. Danny Green is the next one, he has been wrongly criticised in my opinion by a lot of fans this season. The reason for that is, he's had a lot if pressure put on him, he is probably our best player and when he does one thing wrong the critics are quick to jump. The fact he's got around 14 assists this season and 12 goals showed what a great season he's had, the sour note is getting sent off last week against Carlisle for a needless challenge, one that really shot a hole in our chances at Peterborough yesterday. Tony Roberts of course, he's kept us in so many games this season, the most memorable of his saves, the one away to Bristol Rovers, see right.

A rising star
 Now we have to look forward to next season and what it may hold. A new crop of youngsters are destined to make their break through for a regular starting place. The likes of Billy Bingham who has been on the fringes for years, Danny J Green who has become a slight impact player towards the end of this season. New young signings such as Brian Woodall from Gresley, Jon Jo Bates from Bedfont and many more we're bound to be linked with before August. Then you look at Chris Lewington who may get his chance to shine if Robbo steps down if that rumour is true, other players that have been on loan such as Alex Osborn & Duran Reynolds. We'll also have Josh Scott back and maybe Gavin Tomlin, he seems to be able to cut it at this level. Now is the time to look up, towards the future, let's bounce back at the first time of asking, we've got a hungry squad and regardless of who inevitably leaves, myself and around 2000 others will be at Victoria Road game after game to cheer whoever is playing on towards the victory that every performance warrants.

My final words, let's try and look up. We have lots of exciting prospects for next season, we face old foes such as Barnet, Crawley, Oxford and of course Rotherham. There's a lot to look forward to, everyone back to Morecambe and maybe if we're lucky a bye in the JPT for a change ?
John Still & co know what their doing and I'm confident that we can make a push for League Two success, this time in a year who knows where we'll be, what I know is I'll always be there to cheer on my beloved Daggers. I'm proud to be a Dagger, and I always will be.

Monday, 2 May 2011

All Hail King Romain

This man has stood out from the rest this season. Romain Vincelot, the Frenchman signed on a free transfer after having been out of contract for six months after leaving FC Guegnon has made a giant impact on Victoria Road towards the back end of last season, but more notably in this campaign. After starting his career at Chamois Nortais and staying their for four years in the French lower leagues he eventually moved to FC Guegnon in 2008 where he made 20 first team appearances as a right back without scoring a goal.

His break however came in January 2010. After being spotted by a friend of Dagenham & Redbridge manager John Still in a French 6 a side competition, JS was notified of him. He was brought over to England in the back of a van, such immaculate style and trialed in a few behind closed doors games. Low and behold a week or so later he was signed on a two year deal. Since then he has blossomed into a player that everyone loves at Victoria Road.

He played his first game in the 2-1 defeat at Shrewsbury Town, coming on in the 70th minute in place of Josh Scott after Scott Doe had been sent off, since then he's been transformed from a full back into possibly one of the best central midfielders in league one and a firm favourite in our part of Essex. He rose to prominance in Dagenham's vital match against Burton Albion where he fired in a spectacular 40 yard goal after keeping hold of the ball through several challenges. Helping the Daggers with their first promotion in the Football League and being denied arguably one of the best Wembley goals ever by a fine Warrington save capped off a superb five months in Essex.

Those early performances had secured him a role in John Still's side in central midfield, the constant work and determination of the Frenchman made him loved by all at Viccy Road. This season he's been even better, the Daggers standout player in our fight for survival. Not only has he shown himself as a workhorse, a battler and great character, but he has emerged with a goalscoring side to his game, usually with his head. He must be one of the best headerers of a football I've seen, scoring nearly all of his 12 goals this season with his nut. What makes it all the more remarkable is his size, at only 5ft 10in it's extraordinary how he manages to leap above players much taller than him and get the ball. My personal favourite though, must be the one he scored against Colchester United, Danny Green whipped a ball in and Vincelot got his head to it and some how directed it beyond the Colchester goalkeeper and in. He ended up with concussion afterwards after going into the back of the defenders head as well, he went off to applause from all sides of the ground. Saying that the brace he scored to secure a first victory in League One against Leyton Orient were very sweet indeed.

He has recently been linked with a number of Championship clubs, including Norwich City. I would personally like to say that should he leave during the Summer, what a great servant he has been to this club and I'm more than confident he is able to cut it at a higher level. With any hope however it won't come to that, but I'm resigned to the fact should a good offer come in then he will be leaving our little corner of Essex.

Romain epitomises Dagenham & Redbridge players, fans and staff alike. He never gives up on a cause, if he loses the ball, he will always chase back and win it back, bringing applause from the Daggers supporters. He's tireless, you'll always see him running up and down the pitch with non stop energy, the fearlessness of the man is unique, getting concussion at Colchester clearly showing that. He has got that never say die spirit that every Dagger should have, imagine him & Stuart Thurgood in the Daggers middle, magnificent. This little Frenchman won the Daggers player of the year and deservedly so, I cannot even remember him having many bad games this season and his ability to lift the lads and score vital goals will always be remembered during and after his time here.

King Romain of Victoria Road.