Monday, 23 September 2013

Morecambe 2-2 Daggers, Murphy Ogogo!

Trips to Morecambe are usually eventful for, The Daggers Scale - predominantly because our last two attempts to reach the Globe Arena have failed due to inclement weather. But on Saturday, we finally made it to the seaside resort to witness Dagenham & Redbridge salvage a last gasp draw courtesy of a Rhys Murphy 94th minute equaliser. That was only after Morecambe turned the game around through Mark Hughes and Ryan Williams following Abu Ogogo's strike early on.

With no risk of the game being called off due to the weather this time around, we set off from Chadwell Heath at around 8am for the long journey to Lancashire. After a quick change, we boarded our surprisingly empty Virgin Trains Service to Lancaster just shy of 9:30am. Another quick change onto possibly the most modern Northern Rail service I've ever been on (this was more 1990's rather than the usual 1960's feel); we arrived in Morecambe at around 12:30pm.

Upon arrival we opted to take the scenic route through the town by walking the one mile distance to the ground rather than calling a taxi. It allowed me the chance to make several judgements about the place. Namely one - it resembled God's waiting room, and two, it didn't seem like a very multicultural community. Then again, we only get a snapshot of the town in the time that we're there and as a result can only base our opinions on what we see in that short time.
The must see attraction on Morecambe seafront. 

After finding directions to the ground, we set about finding the seafront to guide our path to the stadium. It's fair to say Morecambe is quite a rundown place unfortunately. Dilapidated buildings line the streets; while a multitude of houses down the side roads remain unused and seemingly forgotten about. What Morecambe does have however, is a polo tower. Quite why I'm not sure, but nonetheless it amused me.

Having walked down the long, straight road for a good 20 minutes, we finally came across the Hurley Flyer Pub where we resided for an hour or so. With no Sky TV to show the lunchtime kick off's and ID required to buy a drink - we were devoid of both pre-match entertainment and a pre-match pint. Nevertheless it was a quaint little pub that I'd recommend to away fans if they can go without watching the early Saturday kick-off's.

With 15:00 approaching we exited the pub for the Globe Arena, which is situated literally a stone’s throw from the back of the pub itself. With a slick front entrance, not to dissimilar to the one at Burton Albion - it's easy to think that the Globe is just your run of the mill modern build. The away turnstiles quickly tell you otherwise, at just over a foot wide making it nigh on impossible for anyone above average build to enter into the stadium.
The vacant away terrace.

The away concourse is what I've come to expect of the stadiums in League Two. The cold concrete structure has a large amount of space complete with Sky TV in the corner to catch Jeff Stelling and co with the scores at half time. After a short twisting walk you reach the pitch, made to seem park like by the lack of a real stand on the far side. At this point I should mention we were housed in the corner of the main stand for the afternoon, rather than the away terrace that supporters who travel in large numbers receive.

Our stand which is named after the current chairman, Peter McGuigan, is all seated and also accommodates home fans. With a capacity of 2,200 it's completely undercover with no viewing restrictions and plenty of leg-room if you want to sit down. It also has reinforced sides to ensure that the sea-breeze doesn't give away supporters frostbite - a feature that is especially important in the winter months.

The rest of the ground feels a lot more "League Two", but that's not to say I didn't like it. The majority of the home support stands in the West Terrace which has a capacity of 2234, allowing for a great deal of noise to be generated when the Shrimps are doing well. The rest of the supporters are given the long uncovered terrace that is split into two parts on the far side. At just a few steps high, only the hardiest of souls would dare to set foot their on a rainy day - which begs the question, why was a roof not put over it when the stand was built?

Nevertheless we took our seats in the rather steep main stand, which gave us a terrific view across the town including the now famous, Polo Tower. The PA system blared out some terrific pre-match tunes, which were unfortunately somewhat out of place in a stadium that contained just over 1700 people. I was enjoying myself anyway. After the final song had played over the tannoy, the teams emerged from the tunnel to a warm ripple of applause. They lined up as follows...

Morecambe: Roche, Hughes, Diagne, Wright, Parrish, Kenyon, Williams, Drummond, Sampson, Ellison, Amond.

Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Connors, Doe, Saah, Hoyte, Bingham, Ogogo, Howell, Hines, Murphy, Obafemi. Subs: Seabright, Woodall, Elito, Wilkinson, Femi, Reed, Saunders.

Wayne Burnett chose to name an unchanged side for the visit to Morecambe, allowing forward Afolabi Obafemi to retain his starting place. Jake Reed returned to the bench in place of winger Sean Shields, while Josh Scott remained missing due to illness/injury. 

With the teams announced and ready to go, the referee blew his whistle to indicate the start of the match. It started lively with Daggers on the attack, Zavon Hines seeing his shot deflected onto the post and behind for a corner. It was end to end action, with Jack Sampson testing Chris Lewington before Padraig Amond crashed his glancing header onto the crossbar and out for a goal kick.

With both sides pressing early on, it was inevitable that the match would quieten down as the half wore on. Even with that lull, Daggers still looked threatening and as a result took the lead with 20 minutes played. Neat build up down the right hand side released Afolabi Obafemi in the centre who threaded through for Abu Ogogo to slot the ball calmly through the legs of Barry Roche for a 1-0 lead. Incredibly it was Ogogo's fourth goal of the season, despite having only scored five in his previous four years at Daggers.

Nonetheless it was a deserved lead for the visitors who would now undoubtedly sit back inviting pressure from the Morecambe front line. And as predicted, that was the case. First the lively Kevin Ellison saw his shot comfortably saved by Lewington, before Amond tested Lewy who gathered at the second attempt. Even with the Shrimps pressure, Daggers were still able to carve out opportunities - Obafemi dragging a shot wide of the post on the half hour mark. 

From then on in it was all Morecambe and in particular Kevin Ellison, the chief orchestrator in the home sides onslaught. First he saw his fierce strike closed down well by Brian Saah, while minutes later Padraig Amond headed just over from Ryan Williams' corner that initially came about through Ellison down the right.

With the pressure increasing, Lewington was forced into two more brilliant diving saves before the break to deny both Ellison and in particular Rhys Williams, whose effort just before half-time was extraordinarily parried over the bar by the former Leatherhead 'stopper. Meanwhile ex-Macclesfield left-back Tony Diagne glanced over unmarked from a corner as Daggers just about held on following a succession of controversial free-kicks towards the end of the half.

As the ball was booted upfield, the referee who was being lambasted by Daggers fans blew for half time. It was an immense relief to hear the whistle for all concerned in the visiting camp, whose had been under siege for large parts of the second half. Quite how Morecambe hadn't gone in level at half-time was a mystery. But more bewildering was why Daggers had slumped so poorly in the latter stages of the second half after such an impressive start.

During the interval I decided to go downstairs to sample some of Morecambe's famed cuisine. They may officially have the best pies in the country, but what the surveys don't tell you is that they have the most overpriced hot-dogs. At £2.60 for a hot dog about as long as my index finger, in a bun that crumbles faster than Barnet's Conference promotion challenge - I was not impressed.
The second half restarts.

With that discouraging episode out of the way, the teams returned for the second half to yet more uplifting music. It's a shame really, because Morecambe's selection of tunes would be brilliant in a sell out stadium at full capacity, but with just under 2000 inside the Globe, it was always going to be hard to create a good atmosphere. Also, I'm pretty sure I mentioned that at the top of the Blog.

After the break, Morecambe continued from where they left off. Tony Diagne's ball in from the left was quickly cleared away, before Rhys Murphy was flagged offside for the umpteenth time up the other end. The Shrimps were finally rewarded for all of their hard work on 52 minutes, and unsurprisingly it was yet another set-piece goal conceded by Daggers.

A free-kick on the left from Ryan Williams found the unmarked head of ex-Accrington frontman Padraig Amond who glanced home past Chris Lewington to level things up at 1-1. Unusually it wasn't the poor defending for the goal that caused the most frustration for the away fans, more the contentious nature of free-kick in the first place. Most (including myself), felt that Gavin Hoyte had made a perfectly good challenge, but the referee who I'm obliged to say was having a shocker anyway, felt differently and ultimately awarded the free-kick. I know it doesn't excuse the poor defending, but you have to ask the question of whether it was even a free-kick in the first place. 

If you think for a minute that the Morecambe goal may have sprung Daggers back into action, you're wrong. If anything it worked as an incentive for the hosts to push on even more and go for a winner. The dangerous Kevin Ellison headed over from close range, before Diagne screwed a shot wide from distance and then Ellison again flashed one wide of the post. Sandwiched inbetween the Morecambe pressure Wayne Burnett managed to make a change - bringing on the bigger Brian Woodall for the pacey, but ineffective Afolabi Obafemi.

The Shrimps onslaught continued as the half wore on, Jack Sampson the latest to see an effort go wide of the post after he had worked himself into a good position. He was soon substituted for Joe Mwasile in a like for like change. With 15 minutes remaining the hosts came the closest yet, Diagne's ball in from the left headed goalward by Amond, but Lewington saved comfortably.
The fans in the open terrace had something to cheer about.

With the pressure steadily increasing throughout, a goal was inevitable and on 77 minutes, both sets of supporters were finally put out of their contrasting miseries. Ryan Williams' corner wasn't dealt with properly, leaving former Barnet midfielder Mark Hughes to scoop up and slam the ball home into the roof of the net from close range. No matter how much you expect the goal, it's always a killer when it goes in and unfortunately this time, we deserved it. 

That goal made it 2-1 to the hosts, leaving Daggers deflated after a dismal second half showing. Medy Elito was quickly introduced for the unusually poor Billy Bingham to try and give the visitors more attacking intent going into the final 10 minutes. Yet it was the hosts who continued to provide the majority of the pressure, Amond forcing another diving save from the overworked Lewington.

With time running out, Daggers launched a final onslaught in the closing five minutes and but for Barry Roche, would have been level. Gavin Hoyte's brilliant inswinging ball into the box was knocked back by Hines towards Rhys Murphy, who saw his tame header saved at point blank range by Roche to preserve the Morecambe lead. Brian Woodall followed up with the rebound but could only blast into an empty terrace. Surely it was Daggers' best and ultimately final chance of the afternoon.
77 Travelling Daggers fans.

But just as all looked lost, Daggers salvaged a late equaliser four minutes into stoppage time. Chris Lewington's hopeful punt upfield was latched onto by Hines who interchanged with Abu Ogogo before advancing into the box and squaring for Rhys Murphy to slam the ball home past Barry Roche and into the roof of the Morecambe net, sending the away fans delirious in the process. The 73 Daggers in the away stand couldn't believe it - myself included.

The players ran into the corner where several supporters had gathered to celebrate together, making a congregation of high octane emotions. There was the small matter of having to suppress a late Morecambe surge from the restart, but the referee quickly blew up to send Daggers home with a perhaps undeserved share of the spoils. Cue the biggest cheer you'll hear for an away point all season, with the exception of Scunthorpe last month where we did exactly the same thing for Luke Howell's last gasp equaliser.

Morecambe supporters quickly evacuated the Globe Arena, disconsolate that such a dominant performance had seen them come away with just the point. It also broke the clubs run of four successive victories, moving them outside of the play-off zone in the process. The Daggers faithful meanwhile remained, applauding the players and management team following a hard earned, but not deserved point.

It's an interesting one really. We dominated the opening 20 minutes, but after taking the lead we looked like a different side. There was a lack of urgency in all areas, we were second best all over. If not for Chris Lewington in particular during the first half, the scoreline could have looked a lot different.

Nevertheless we came away with a point, and maybe that's testament to our resolve this season. In past years I think that's the sort of game where we may have caved in completely and shipped three or four - but we didn't. We dug in at the end and that extra bit of quality that you pay for in Hines paid off. His dazzling bit of skill was his only really significant contribution all afternoon, but what a contribution it was. Coupled with Murphy's predatory striking instinct, we have a cracking pair of players going forward. Credit also needs to go to Abu Ogogo for notching yet another goal!

I have to admit though; I was very surprised with the selection of Obafemi up front instead of a more physical sort of player like Brian Woodall. I know we need pace, but away from home generally we've seemed to go for the approach that best combats the centre-halves - which normally is strength. Elsewhere Jack Connors continued to impress, looking assured on the ball at left-back while Luke Howell put in another committed performance in midfield.

My only other qualm is our worrying deficiancies when defending from set-pieces. It’s clear to everyone at the club, management staff included that this is our major weakness this season. And once again it was exposed on Saturday afternoon. If we can sort that out somehow, we will be a far sturdier outfit.

Unfortunately I can't let the game go without having a moan at the officials. They were absolutely abysmal, the worst I've seen in League Two in a good few years. You don't expect them to get all decisions correct at this level, but a decent grasp of the game would have been nice. Some of the decisions didn't make sense and quite frankly, it became embarrassing. I don't like moaning at the officials (contrary to popular belief), but Saturday's collection were bordering on a joke. 

And that was it basically. Finally we had completed a trip to Morecambe and secured a point for our troubles. The journey home was largely uneventful, although Zavon Hines was on our train for one reason or another.

Next up for Daggers is Bury at home on Saturday, while Morecambe travel south to Northampton Town. I do regret to tell you that due to Sixth Form work and other writing responsibilities, The Daggers Scale will now only be reserved for away matches - meaning no home games will be reported upon. That is of course unless there's a freak home result, in which case a report may be filed.

As always thank you for reading and I'll speak to you again soon! Remember to follow me on Twitter @NickMurphyDRFC.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Daggers 1-1 Exeter City, Parkin Space.

Dagenham & Redbridge continued their mediocre start to the new season on Saturday with a 1-1 draw against promotion chasing Exeter City. Despite a tough opening to the match, Daggers took the lead in the first half through Josh Scott, before Sam Parkin equalised for the visitors late in the second half with a controlled header. 

Before the match there was cautious optimism ahead of the clash with Exeter. Despite our notoriously poor record against the Grecians, we claimed all three points at St James Park last year when we needed it most. Not only that but our impressive 4-1 victory over Colchester United in midweek was also encouraging, retaining our unbeaten home start to the season. 

There was to be no pre-match pints this week, as upon arrival we sought shelter from the arctic winds in the warm alcove that is, the Sieve. Soon after our entrance the teams were announced, but not without one or two surprise selections.

Daggers boss Wayne Burnett made three changes to the side that was defeated in convincing fashion at Mansfield last week. After his debut in the Johnstones Paint Trophy in midweek, left back Jack Connors was handed his full league debut at the expense of Femi who dropped to the bench. Medy Elito and Luke Wilkinson were also replaced by Josh Scott and Gavin Hoyte, allowing Scott Doe to revert to his more familiar centre back position alongside Brian Saah.

Dagenham & Redbridge: Lewington, Connors, Doe, Saah, Hoyte, Howell, Bingham, Ogogo, Hines, Scott, Murphy. Subs: Seabright, Wilkinson, Saunders, Woodall, Elito, Obafemi, Femi.

Exeter City: Krysiak, Woodman, Bennett, Baldwin, Coles, Sercombe, Oakley, Davies, Grimes, Gow, Parkin.

With the Daggerettes having completed their "routine", the teams soon emerged from the tunnel to be greeted by warm applause from the 2000 or so supporters inside the ground. After the pre-match pleasantries were adhered to and the two most stylish managers in the division had shaken hands, we began. 
 Exeter City fans
(From Twitter)

From the off the visitors came within a lick of paint of taking the lead. Jack Connors, on his Football League debut, gave the ball away on the left, allowing Exeter to attack. A swift move saw the ball played to Arron Davies who took a touch before curling a terrific effort goalwards that glanced off the post before going out for a goal kick. It was a nervous start for Connors, who understandably was feeling the pressure early on. 

Despite that early chance, neither side could establish a real foothold on proceedings during the opening stages. Zavon Hines shot wide for the hosts from long range, while defender Danny Coles was on hand to deal with the early threat down the Daggers' right hand side. With few chances for either side, it was perhaps appropriate that Wayne Burnett's men should take the lead in slightly fortuitous circumstances.

A hopeful punt upfield from Brian Saah was raced onto by Josh Scott, who, after Exeter goalkeeper Artur Krysiak fluffed his clearance, volleyed home from a difficult position outside the box to give Daggers a 1-0 lead. The moment of madness from Krysiak seemed to take an age to happen, leaving Daggers fans on tenterhooks as to whether the ball had in fact gone in. Nonetheless we were now 1-0 up through Josh Scott's first league goal of the season.

That goal gave the hosts momentum to push forward in search of a second. The onus was on Hines in particular, who was giving his full back a torrid time as we edged closer to half time. The dynamic winger flashed down the right before firing in a cross that evaded both sets of players before going out of play for a throw in. Chances for Exeter were few and far between, but top scorer Alan Gow managed to test Chris Lewington 30 minutes in with a long range effort.


Liam Sercombe and Luke Howell then both traded strikes on goal, but in truth it was a half of few chances. Neither side had been able to establish a real foothold on the game, and as a result, few clear cut chances had been created. The referee soon blew his whistle for half time, bringing to a close a satisfactory half for Daggers fans.

During half time we were treated to another rendition of the Daggerettes, who as I'm sure you know by now, are my favourite Barking & Dagenham based dance troupe. Soon after their three minutes of fame was over, the teams re-emerged for the second half, with the visitors having made two changes.

Jimmy Keohane was introduced for Arron Davies, with David Wheeler replacing midfielder Matt Grimes. Despite the change, it was Daggers who opened the half the stronger. Once again it was Hines who looked the most menacing, forcing a shot from close range out of Krysiak after he weaved his way round the Exeter defence. From the resulting corner he went close again, this time firing just over the bar. 

Exeter then began to grow into the game, forcing successive corners that were dealt with by the resolute Daggers defence. Up the other end Rhys Murphy headed narrowly wide, while the newly introduced Keohane forced a quick double stop from Chris Lewington. It was the same pair who came closest as the half wore on, Murphy sliding another effort wide before Keohane flashed a shot just the wrong side of the post.

With just over 25 minutes left both teams continued to push for a goal - Daggers to make the game safe and Exeter to draw things level. Yet it was the hosts who continued to create the better of the opportunities. Jack Connors who was growing into the game more and more as it progressed skipped past his man before playing the ball to Zavon Hines. Hines, the architect of so much of Daggers' best work all afternoon, turned on his brilliance once again, forcing his way to the byline before cutting back for Josh Scott whose left footed shot was superbly stopped by the diving Artur Krysiak. 

That terrific save seemingly acted as the catalyst for an Exeter revival. But before they could truly kickstart their push for a point, Daggers made a double change. First Brian Woodall came on for Rhys Murphy, then five minutes later Medy Elito was introduced for Josh Scott. The substitutions seemed to disrupt Daggers' play, allowing Exeter back into the game to create several opportunities.

First the home defence were forced to clear away a tricky Pat Baldwin delivery, and then Alan Gow fired another speculative effort wide of the post.

But the Grecians finally found their leveller on 80 minutes. Former Leicester City maestro Matt Oakley delivered a ball in from the left that found Sam Parkin who was on hand to convert superbly with a glancing header that tied things up at 1-1. 

With the game there for the taking, both sides pushed following the equaliser. Good work on the left was wasted by Brian Woodall, who fired high and wide after working himself into a good position thanks to yet more neat play from Zavon Hines. Keohane aimed a late effort wide of the post, while Medy Elito found the scoreboard behind the goal during the three minutes of injury time.

Ultimately 1-1 was how it stayed. Daggers were punished for failing to capitalise on their chances against a strong Exeter City side that will be there or there about’s come the end of the season. Their lack of goal threat could be an issue however, with Alan Gow the only real problem bar Parkin's header for the goal.

Daggers meanwhile will be disappointed to have let three points slip from their grasp through abject finishing. Still, it was good to have Josh Scott score on his 100th appearance with a well taken finish. Hopefully alongside Murphy, Josh will thrive in a similar way to when he played alongside Paul Benson. Elsewhere Jack Connors did well after a nervous start, while Zavon Hines continued to prove why League One clubs were looking at him through the summer.

Next up for Daggers is Bristol Rovers at home on Saturday, while Exeter City are on their travels again at Northampton Town. Have a good week and remember you can follow me on Twitter at @NickMurphyDRFC. Thanks for reading! 

Oh and sorry for the lack of pictures from the game, only my Blackberry decided to stop working for the afternoon.