Sunday, 29 July 2012

Dover Athletic 1-2 Daggers, Pre Season Begins

Whilst the Daggers may have been back in action last weekend, this was my first game of the new season away in a pre season friendly against Dover Athletic at Crabble Athletic Ground. I have to say the day didn't disappoint, many new things we learnt and it's given me the motivation to begin Blogging again for the new season ahead!

The journey began at a prompt 8am at Fiddlers Junction before continuing on to Dagenham East Tube station where the dreaded District Line awaited us. After a brief wait we boarded our train that had to make 25 stops before we reached our destination - Victoria. Upon arrival we were greeted with droves of tourists, I just can't fathom why...? After avoiding the hundreds of different nationalities we got our tickets and jumped on the train to Kearsney, (its closer to the ground than Dover Priory.)

With just over two hours down we arrived at the rather natural Kearsney/Dover - one of the eeriest train stations you're ever likely to get off of. After heading down several roads with minimal pavements we searched for a pub to occupy ourselves for a couple of hours - no avail at first as the Cricketers was closed. Eventually though we settled at a quaint little joint called, "The Royal Oak", which was very nice and quiet.

Following a delicious pub lunch at a reasonable price, we headed back to the Crabble Athletic Ground for the game. Another walk up the extremely steep hill ensued before we headed through the age coded turnstiles and into the ground itself which was of a fairly decent standard for Blue Square South.

Main Stand
The main stand on the far side is a neat compilation of two long seated areas which stop in the middle where a higher seated stand for directors and press is located. At either end of the ground there are two terraced areas, both undercover with slanted roof's - I assume this is where the more vocal of the Dover support would be throughout the season. The ground is completed with a small family stand next to the dugouts with a brand new clubhouse adjacent.

As we found our seats on the far side we noticed a very nice feature of the ground and one that is common at lower league level - supporters have the ability to switch ends at half time dependant on what way they're attacking. Overall I was pretty impressed by the stadium and I'd probably rank it above some of the Football League ground's I've visited in the past.

Dover Athletic: Walker, Huke, Harrington, Rance, Watt, Webb, Cogan, Thompson, Magdzinski, Dixon, Smith. Subs: Wynter, Modeste, Bricknell, Willock, Simpemba, Hook, Sessignon, Pitcher, Forster, Raggett, Axford.

Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Hoyte, Spillane, Wilkinson, Femi, Howell, Maher, Bingham, Woodall, Gayle, Scott. Subs: Lawrenson (Trialist), Doe, Williams, Edmans, Green, Elito, Reed, Saunders, J Green, Davie, Antwi.

The Daggers would be lining up in a familiar 4-3-3 formation which seemingly meant Woodall playing more on the wide right with Gayle in a central role to begin with whilst Josh Scott would be providing the attacking threat on the left. Abu Ogogo was nursing a knock and as a result was quite literally watching from the family stand.

The game began at quite a fast and intense pace for a pre season encounter with several high velocity challenges taking place in the opening minutes. The first chance though, came about three minutes into the match when Femi advanced forward menacingly before seeing his left footed drive just clear Walker's bar - the 'keeper probably had it covered.

We then had a lull in play as you may expect in pre season as both sides found their feet in the contest, however with 15 minutes gone it was the League Two side that opened the scoring. Dwight Gayle's neat footwork on the edge of the box drew a foul from Steven Watt - Mickey Spillane looked over the free kick and effectively passed it into the corner of the net to give the travelling Daggers something to cheer about.


video


Whilst the game was still very cagey it was John Still's men who continued to look more threatening when going forward, Billy Bingham rifling a shot over The White Cliffs of Dover. The home side then came close to levelling the scores; however Dixon was flagged offside just as he rounded Lewington to slot the ball into an empty net. Up the other end and Gayle continued to look lively with another deflected shot being saved comfortably by Walker.

The intensity was highlighted once more with half an hour played when Spillane made a rash challenge down the other end of the field which drew disapproving groans from the home support. Minutes later and some good inter-change between Scott & Gayle saw the former put a poor ball into the box that was just behind the expectant Woodall - its pre season after all!

Despite good Dover pressure with 35 minutes played, the Daggers defence held out, with Luke Wilkinson looking particularly calm and assured by passing the ball out from the back to Femi who went on a fantastic run down the left hand sided. His mouth open gallop was completed with a wonderful ball in which found the head of the pint sized Gayle who rose highest to head the ball seemingly into the top corner, Walker though made a fantastic diving save to deny the Daggers a second.

From the resultant corner Mickey Spillane was gifted a golden chance of the heading variety, however he contrived to nod it way over the bar. The final action of a pulsating opening half came in the form of former Dagger Shane Huke whose long range attempt went just wide of Lewington's far post as Dover threatened to get themselves back into the game.

My half time assessment - relatively pleased with the performance and particularly impressed with Femi, Wilkinson, Gayle and to an extent...Josh Scott, who appears to be back to his old self. My assessment of the chips at Crabble is...decent enough, and the price was fine as well so you've passed The Daggers Scale food test.

The Daggers Return.
(Second Half Seating Position)
The second half began with a pace equally as fast as the one at which the first half ended with Lewington forced to come out and smother the ball as a Dover attacker tried to nip in and equalise. Minutes later and we were up the other end as Brian Woodall hit the side netting from a tight angle - mainly due to good defending from Walker.

With just over 2/3 of the game played it was Dagenham and in particular Mickey Spillane again who doubled the scoring. Once again Dwight Gayle was brought down on the edge of the area and once again Mickey curled home past a helpless Dover goalkeeper and wall. Cue a flurry of changes for either side.

For the Daggers from what I remember; Dom Green, Jake Reed, Rob Edmans, Will Antwi, Scott Doe, Danny J Green & Medy Elito were all introduced. Directly afterwards Dover began to attack with Sessegnon drawing a save from Lewington before Lewy was then forced to come out of his area and head the ball out and away from danger.

Since his introduction Jake Reed was proving to be a thorn in the Dover defence, beating the offside trap in the 63rd minute before his lob just hit the roof of the net rather than going underneath the crossbar. Minutes later and Reed broke through again - this time though his shot was palmed away as the score remained at 2-0. Trialist goalkeeper Berkley Lawrenson was then brought on for Chris Lewington.

As the game began to die out, Dover were handed a lifeline when Ricky Modeste was shoved down inside the box by a Daggers defender. Willock stepped up to slot the spot kick past a helpless Lawrenson who had otherwise been untroubled in his brief spell, collecting several crosses.

That was the end of the contest and the Daggers had run out 2-1 winners over the Blue Square South side. In truth though it's not about the result, it's more about seeing how individuals and the team perform - not to mention the fitness aspect.

A couple that impressed me were Luke Wilkinson who looks as though he's really matured in his time at Dartford. He was calm on the ball and looked to constantly play out of the back rather than hoof clear, his aerial presence should be noted as well. Femi looked extremely threatening going down the left hand side and his defending was adequate enough as well.

With the midfield three you know what you're getting and up front Gayle put in a good performance to justify why we're all raving about him. Josh Scott also looks to be back to his old self with a decent performance, his fitness has rather obviously vastly improved since we last saw him - see what a pre season can do for you!

In the substitute aspect, Green & Elito both looked lively whilst Jake Reed provided a potent threat going forward when introduced, however I expect him to go out on loan in the next campaign due to our influx of forwards.

There we go then, the first game of a long and arduous season has been completed and I hope you've enjoyed reading! One last little note to the Dover fans who I encountered that were all very friendly - I wish the best of luck to you in the next season!

Next up could be an Olympic Blog, Braintree match report, Grays Match Report or Brighton Match Report - I'm undecided!

A little picture gallery....