WHAT. A. SEASON! - PART TWO
Looking to put a stop to their recent dip in form The Daggers faced Gateshead in their first game of the month but were defeated 2-0 by the hosts. After yet another defeat in the league this time to Wrexham, where Dagenham only netted due to an own goal, they were now 5 points from safety. Looking for a turning point in the season, it was time for the FA Cup where we made the short trip to Boreham Wood for what proved to be a game to remember. With Umerah scoring from the spot early on things weren’t looking great for the visitors and after a cagey 60 minutes The Daggers seemed to have been dealt their final blow in the 87th minute. A goal from Shaibu looked to have wrapped things up for the hosts but this was the FA Cup and this young Dagenham side weren’t giving up; a quick fire double in the four minutes of additional time took the tie to a replay. The scenes in the away end at Meadow Park were what the FA Cup was all about - drama and magic! That was what Luke Pennell brought to the match with a last gasp equaliser.
However the joy following the encounter was short lived as those FA Cup heroics couldn’t be repeated in the replay with The Wood narrowly defeating Dagenham by a goal to nil. The Daggers’ third game in three days came against high flying Harrogate therefore unsurprisingly expectations were low however the hosts defied the odds as McQueen’s brace saw Dagenham get the better of a bitterly disappointed Harrogate side. A long awaited win didn’t only condemn the Sulphurites to just their second defeat of the campaign but saw the victors go just two points from safety. The win also saw debutants Manny Onariase and Nathan Smith impress in the Daggers back line - experienced league players who looked to play a crucial part in Dagenham’s push for survival. Peter Taylor’s men registered back to back wins to end the month securing a 2-0 victory at Dover with Adeloye and Harry Phipps netting for the visitors.
Those wins saw The Daggers climb out of the drop zone on goal difference so now the plan was to distance themselves from relegation. This they could not manage as Sutton got the better of them in a close encounter ultimately seeing Dagenham two points from safety in 22nd. Things weren’t get any easier for The Daggers as they faced a solid AFC Fylde outfit but debutant Conor Wilkinson helped his side defy the odds in what was a great 2-1 victory for Dagenham. Another player making his debut against Fylde was Angelo Balanta but he had to wait until they faced Bromley to get his first goal. The match away to the Kent side also saw Wilkinson get his second in as many games as Dagenham came out 2-0 winners pushing them up to 19th after back to back wins.
Things kept getting better for Peter Taylor’s men as Wilkinson continued to make a huge impact alongside Balanta as they eased past Havant. The Irishman bagged a brace as The Daggers defeated the relegation stragglers in what was a crucial win to ease the pressure and threat of relegation. Going into December the Essex side looked in great shape now with a prolific goal scorer they hoped to continue this run for as long as possible. Those hopes of extending this good run of form looked to have been crushed as Hartlepool were leading in the 89th minute at Victoria Park but The Daggers weren’t giving in. Ben Goodliffe had equalised in the 89th minute before Matt Robinson netted in the 92nd minute to send the away end into ecstasy - things were now swinging in Dagenham’s favour after a torrid start to the campaign back in August. On paper the Christmas fixture list looked near on impossible to get anything out of before November but this Dagenham side now relished the challenge of the likes of Salford and Orient. Before the trip to Salford Dagenham faced Halifax at home, whom they were now above as The Daggers had surged up the table to 15th, but they were held to a 1-1 draw in a game that ended 10 v 10.
Next up was a long trip to title chasing Salford, though the visitors were in good form they knew they would have to be on top of their game to come away with a result. AND THEY WERE... Dagenham had defeated The Ammies 1-2 in their own backyard with Wilkinson and Balanta again scoring great goals. Those goals could take nothing away from what was a great team performance as they came from behind to provide what was my highlight of the season.
Choruses of ‘ Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, jingle all the way, Oh what fun it is to see Dagenham win away’ were belted out in the away end!
The Daggers were then back at home just four days later on Boxing Day to face Orient, yet another side in contention for the league title. High in confidence Dagenham fought a tough battle that saw three goals fly in in the last 20 minutes the last coming from skipper Ben Nunn. The Daggers were very much WALKING IN A TAYLOR WONDERLAND as that Ben Nunn goal proved to be the winner - Dagenham had defeated the top two clubs in the league coming from behind in both encounters!
That incredible run of results didn’t only put them top of the form guide but saw them distance themselves from the drop by 10 points as Dagenham & Redbridge sat in 13th!