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Technical Difficulties in the Penalty Area
By: Andrew Doherty
LAST time I visited Dagenham & Redbridge's Victoria Road ground was on a damp day in January 2008. Puddles filled the car park, we drew 0 - 0, and it was the highlight of my week.
I missed last season's FA Cup defeat when the home team showed they are a decent side. So it has proved this season, when Dagenham were early front runners, dropped off a bit and now are in 11th place in the league. But if their expectations have become lower, so have ours. At least I am here and don't have to rely on some kind soul placing his microphone next to the FM commentary and setting up a Twitter feed in order to listen to Auntie John on Radio Humberside. Listening to the Solihull game was like the days where we used to place a microphone next to the radio to get noise-ridden recordings of the pop hit parade. But that was the early 1970s and we're now 50 years on. Radio Bumblingside are not the only ones with technical difficulties, mind. Town have lost their way as the defence, midfield and attack have come apart like a rocket in space and appear to be operating as separate entities. At least there's been a week and a half to sort things out and get people fit.
The team charged today with unifying things in Dagenham was: Crocombe - Waterfall, Longe-King, Towler - Efete, Clifton - Maguire-Drew, Hunt, Fox - McAtee - Taylor. "Maguire-Drew is a Mariner!", screamed the headline, reminding me that John Kettley is a weatherman, and so is Michael Fish. Speaking of which, it was a typically cold day here in East London today. As for Drew Drew Jordan Madrew, today would provide an opportunity to score on his debut against his old club, something we're usually victims of.
The frozen sun disappeared. The action began. For the first half Town in their light blue kit played towards the 537 away fans among the crowd of 1,734. The start of the game was frantic with little quality from either side. McAtee and Clifton looked to make things happen for Town with crosses provided from the right by Maguire-Drew. Efete did well to stop Balanta from scoring on 12 minutes. Town struggled to keep Dagenham out, as the home side attacked. On 19 minutes Towler blocked an attack. Weston picked up the ball on the right and sent in a high cross. The unmarked Rance rose and glided his header over Crocombe. Dagenham 1, Town 0. Dagenham continued to show flair going forward, outpacing and outgunning Town from all angles but Town hung on. Town's best hope was the Dagenham defence which looked shaky. Efete did well on 29 minutes to repel another attack, conceding a corner. The centre half Wright fired in a bullet corner which Town struggled to clear, conceding another corner resulting in panic stations at the back. Town did get the ball forward. Towler had a free header from a Hunt corner but it went straight to the keeper. McAtee went close with a header after a cross from Maguire-Drew. Towler and Clifton fell over each other following good work from McAtee and Maguire-Drew on 41 minutes. Town were uncoordinated however and lacked Dagenham's incisiveness. As one minute was added at the end of the half, Town attacked, Dagenham's defence switched off, Efete sent in a low cross from the right byline and McAtee pounced, running onto the ball and slotting the ball home at the near post. So 1 - 1 at half time.
Town looked to build on their goal. On 47 minutes a defensive error was seized by McAtee who rounded a defender and with the goalkeeper Justham to beat, tried a curler which the keeper did well to smother. Hunt then had a good shot on target before an attack led to Efete finding space but his shot from outside the box was too high. On 50 minutes Dagenham launched an attack. Town struggled to clear their lines. Rance looked to cross but played a pass through the middle to Akanbi, who shimmied and shook off the defender before firing an unstoppable shot past Crocombe. Dagenham 2, Town 1. The teams hardly had time to settle down after this setback when poor defensive work led to Balanta being in space. The ball bounced nicely for Balanta who volleyed a shot past Crocombe to make it 3 - 1 to Dagenham. Town protested that Balanta was offside but the flag wasn't raised and the fact was that Town's defenders had allowed him too much space. The game became feisty, and Hunt was booked on 55 minutes for a robust tackle. Crocombe had to stretch to keep out the ensuing free-kick. Dagenham continued to put Crocombe under pressure, winning corners and forcing Town's keeper to desperately clear the ball on three occasions. Noting Crocombe's difficulties, I heard a Dagenham supporter shout "help him, guv", shortly before a Dagenham corner swung in and rebounded off the post. On 61 minutes Saunders set up another lively attack which Town stopped and blocked. To make a difficult situation worse, 2 minutes later McAtee was sent off for a foul on Vilhete, prompting a 21 player brawl. The 22nd player Crocombe raced upfield to join the melee but he was even too late for this one, which didn't stop him arguing with the referee about something. On 65 minutes Bell replaced Maguire-Drew. This immediately prompted a reaction. Town worked the ball upfield in a rare display of fluidity. Efete advanced and was tackled. Town had a corner. The ball was cleared and fell to Bell who hit a screamer past Justham from outside the box. Dagenham 3, Town 2. Bell then showed his lightening pace, surging up the right and crossing for Taylor who was beaten by the defender. With Bell on, Town now started to play with urgency as they threw caution to the cold East End winds and continued to launch attacks. But Dagenham did not lie down and defend, instead continuing to press forward. On 74 minutes Crocombe did well to push a Balanta curler away for a corner. From the corner the harassed Crocombe only managed a weak punch but was adjudged to have been fouled. John-Lewis replaced Taylor after 76 minutes. Scott had a clear chance after great work by Weston on the left but missed the ball, before Waterfall made a great block to repel another dangerous Dagenham attack. On 83 minutes Dagenham broke out again but Town's new best friend Scott messed up his delivery with a Sousa style cross from the right to finish out of play on the left. Town looked to create an equaliser. On 88 minutes Waterfall was penalised in the Dagenham penalty box for battling too hard. Town hadn't given up but weren't getting the ball to Bell who was our best and only threat. Instead for the last few minutes including the added five, Town reverted to type and resorted to futile long balls. So it ended: Dagenham & Redbridge 3, Grimsby Town 2.
The highlight of the day for me had to be travelling over both the Lea Valley line and the Forest Gate / Barking branch for the first time in order to get here. My expectations at Dagenham's Victoria Road ground were always low. A neutral may have seen this game as a thriller but as a Town fan this ranks as another disappointment. Town were exposed for lack of pace by a skilful Dagenham side. Our inability to deal with corners was embarrassing. Our midfield and overall play simply didn't have the quality or incisiveness that the home side demonstrated. On the plus side, Bell looked electric until his teammates stopped supplying him with the ball, and after the low point on 63 minutes when we were 3 - 1 down and McAtee was sent off, we did pick ourselves up and fight to the end, albeit in vain. But there's a lot to work on, and although the spirit seemed ok amongst Town's players, technically there's a lot we can't hide, and we need to work on that.
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