The Petrol Light Had Been Flashing; Now We've Broken Down.
Daryl McMahon’s side losing 1-3 to a Notts County team that weren’t only down to ten men – but without a recognised keeper – was a new low for the Daggers. This time, he and his players just couldn’t get to the petrol station in time to save themselves from breaking down [defeat] and in this case, embarrassment.
The Warning Signs:
Before we delve into the embarrassment
of Tuesday in Nottingham, let’s take a step back, and look at the warning signs
of such a performance in the months prior. By McMahon’s own admission, the
first half at Aldershot (just to take one example), was a ‘disgrace’ – the players
simply not turning up. It happened again for a full 90 minutes away to
Eastleigh where we lost 3-0 in Hampshire, another game where Dagenham just
seemed flat – without desire or want to win.
These games are reminiscent of those under Peter Taylor, where our away record was horrific, so much so – you were resigned to the fact we’d lose away. Or, if not, a point was always a valuable one on the road.
Now, Daryl McMahon has sought to change this mentality but he hasn’t (as of yet) – you may suggest he should’ve done by now and he has therefore failed. But, we’ll get onto his part in this demise later.
The inconsistency is the problem, and where the frustration comes for many; we play well in games like the FA Cup ties and Torquay away – also picking up a win in the league. But, then we put in the types of performances previously mentioned! Now, we even do this within games – this Jekyll & Hyde nature of performing I’ve referenced previously.
This nature has seemed to take a different form of late, in that we go behind due to constant slow starts – sometimes two goals down, like at Wrexham – before then putting up a fight. This almost self-sabotage of giving ourselves a disadvantage before playing how we should; is costing us time and again.
Only this time we were unable to claw back, despite the circumstances seemingly in our favour, that I’ll outline next below. As McMahon and the players’ luck finally ran out at Meadow Lane.
Images like those below show how on Tuesday night, Notts County and their ‘new hero of a keeper’ Doyle were lauded with praise by national outlets, but by the same token – Dagenham & Redbridge were ridiculed.
The focus of National League ridicule this week, were the Daggers, being described as ‘mannequins’ following their disastrous showing at Meadow Lane – in amongst the frost – this defeat really did bite.
So, unlike just 3 days prior in North Wales, the Daggers were unable to salvage a point against a team where a 5’8 midfielder took up the role between the sticks. We speak of ‘papering over the cracks’ but then some say ‘no, it was just great character, fight, determination and desire’ that rescues us in the end.
I saw none of those traits on Tuesday, zero. Now, I mentioned McMahon at the beginning of my piece, and we’ll get onto him in good time – after his belated post-match interview – for the time being, I’d like to focus on the players.
For all the arguments, at the end of the day, those 11 (later to be 14 in all) players went out onto that pitch and as soon as they cross the ruled lines of the football pitch – it’s over to them. They put on what some would see as a comedy; but for us supporters it was a horror show of the very finest order.
We started okay and then a lapse in concentration just threw us off, after merely 600 seconds of action, from there on in we just wanted to get out of the Nottinghamshire cold. As McMahon said (I agree with his analysis but we’ll move to his failings shortly), ‘we looked scared’.
Paul McCallum missing a penalty really was just the beginning of a dire 75 minutes of football and I won’t go into detail as it’s painful to relive as I type this – but, it was one of the worst performances many supporters have seen from players in a Dagenham & Redbridge shirt.
|My reaction following the awful display on Tuesday.|
The players who came out of that game with any credibility (some may be closing the article at this point, but hear me out!) were the goal-scorer Matt Robinson and substitute George Saunders. It was an embarrassing display and the Magpies relished every second as they revelled in the heroic shift they were putting in – with ten men and no goalkeeper.
|Matt Robinson took to Twitter following the disappointing defeat|
In The Driver’s Seat: Daryl McMahon
‘Why is he still here?’ one supporter commented ‘He’s clearly lost the dressing room’ concluded another.
The urge for the Irishman, who occupies the Manager’s office at Dagenham & Redbridge, to leave – reached boiling point on Tuesday. Even myself, a supporter of McMahon’s and an optimistic (some may say far TOO optimistic at times) Dagger – was left with nothing to defend what was the indefensible.
His decisions on like-for-like substitutions and persisting with three centre backs on the pitch baffled me on Tuesday – rendering me speechless.
I kept my phone close to my possession for the entirety of Wednesday; thinking that there was a possibility of a club statement being released. There are often angry comments after games with ‘McMahon Out’ and what not, understandably so as your team is losing: you are left frustrated and upset.
But. Tuesday’s performance would have met the threshold, in my view, for a manager to be relieved of his duties given our league position – so I didn’t miss any potential news of a sacking; I checked my phone throughout the day.
The announcement didn’t come, I must say I would’ve been - not shocked – but surprised if it did. The issue of sacking McMahon, it’s not an easy decision of course to sack anybody, but his side have shown signs throughout the season of reaching the levels expected. Therefore, I see it as a bigger predicament as first thought; once you scratch the surface.
This is the most frustrating part, we have seen what they are capable of – but the Daggers so rarely showcase it and this leads to the levels of inconsistency we’ve seen.
What’s this got to do with the manager? He has cited excuses, fairly reasonable ones, of injuries and COVID for the inconsistent team selection and what not. This does unfortunately lead to minor inconsistencies in performance, but, not to the level we’ve seen recently. These are indefensible.
He has assembled a squad of players he wanted, with a generous budget, and can’t manage to get a tune out of his squad consistently. Now, I know player availability is an issue this season (for all clubs) but he could stick with a formation – could he not?
On this idea of changing the mentality of the club, I see it as a smaller-club mentality if you’re changing your team and formation to suit the opposition – when, we should be the ones bold and confident; sticking to our own playing style. I accept against a few of the big teams you’ll have no choice but to do this: but not every game!
This approach could explain in part the timid nature McMahon has criticised his players of having, wanting them to be bold and confident – admittedly, as he said, that comes with winning games. But, I just look to last season – as I know many do – and simply scratch my head.
Where has this ‘on the front foot’ and attacking approach from when Daryl first took over gone? Surely, with supposedly better players at his disposal; they should at least be matching those performance levels – but they just haven’t been matched.
Player Responsibility + Sacking Realistic?
Abu Ogogo brought a bit more of this ruthless nature to the line-up, and with that fight for the badge, Abu having been in one of the best Daggers sides ever previously. However, it seems since his departure there has been none of that and again, using McMahon’s very words – ‘these are the basics’.
The minimum he and the fans expect is for players to work hard and fight for the badge, as I said, I only ever saw Matt Robinson do that on Tuesday in all honesty. Now, the players are the only ones that can do that themselves, but part of a manager’s job is to motivate the players – has Daryl really implemented his intent and this mentality on the dressing room?
Some go as far to say he has lost the dressing room… now I’m not sure on that and only time will tell, but for the players not to even show that fight we’ve seen previously – it was a new low. This hard work is a minimum expectation, putting aside the sheer lack of quality on display from these players.
I say time will tell, how much time will he be given? Now, when I look at wanting a manager to be sacked: I look at the results and performances, can they turn it around and is there a viable replacement. I’d say that with Darren Currie, a possible replacement, waiting in the wings to return to football management and recent performances – you’d say that it’d be right to sack him and get Currie in.
However, on the second question, (I know it isn’t the case for everyone and that’s why they want him gone) I am yet to decide whether he can turn it around. Though, I acknowledge McMahon has to start backing up the talk with action; he’s saying a lot of the right things but we’re just not seeing it play out on the pitch.
The Jumpstart: Just how can we improve?
I’ve had my say on the sacking situation and that is one way you can get out of a rut: but since we’ve hit rock bottom, in my view, the only way is up (whatever the decision taken). So, the question is more, how far can we bounce back now and how do we best do that?
Matt Robinson, the only player to speak following Tuesday, said that we ‘must bounce back’ against Hartlepool – a win against them would start that process. But, we’d need a good run to repair the damage done by such a humiliating loss against Notts County.
Joey Jones, is he the answer? The defensive player seemed to breathe new life into the side and sure up the back line; he is said to be close to return. But can he sort out those defensive problems, as we are yet to replace Manny Onariase in my opinion?
Look, I could go on… but the only people who can change our fate are the players and to an extent the manager. If the players aren’t prepared to show the fight, determination and Daggers spirit (which is the minimum expectation) then you can expect McMahon out of a job and the team in aperilous position.
I’ll end it there,but being five points off relegation and with a discontent (to say the least) fanbase: the hard work for the players needs to begin.
Thanks for reading,