They'll Never Do It The Easy Way!


We talk about the highs and lows of football. We were at the very depths of despair going into the break; fans angered and disappointed – rightly so. 0-2 down and yet the performance didn’t seem to really reflect that.

I, at best, thought of getting a point – at that stage though – I even saw that as unrealistic! The half did it grow on: the deficit remaining at 2. Then, Reynolds pulls one back, hope. Eleftheriou from the touchline into the far corner - stunned, delighted.

Still time left on the clock, we kept pushing, the referee points to the penalty spot. I celebrated it as if it were a goal – we’d done it! Or, so we thought. The very depths of despair, we were there again, a point gained would go to two points dropped.

The latter feeling would last a mere 7 seconds, the net was to ripple, Brundle would be the one to head it home. Ecstasy. Dotted around East London, mini eruptions – scenes in living rooms!

The State Of Play

Let’s rewind… going into this one hope and expectations were high. This was to be a building block to get us back on track and back to winning ways – leaving our foot in the door for the play=offs.

The Linnets were defeated on penalties last weekend in the FA Trophy by Hornchurch, though they did bounce back with a victory over Eastleigh on Tuesday. The Daggers fancied themselves going into this one, both sides level on points, but you felt with Dagenham’s ambition – it was imperative for them to kick on with three points at home.

Ian Culverhouse returned to Victoria Road, to face a Dagenham side whose formation and personnel on the pitch were yet again altered. Robinson, Gordon and McQueen were dropped to the bench as Johnson, Rance and Saunders came into the Starting XI.

The omissions of Robinson and Gordon I weren’t keen on, however I was delighted by the inclusion of winger, George Saunders. Raising questions of creativity in the last game, I was pleasantly surprised, believing Saunders could be an answer – getting the ball into the box.

Elsewhere, there was an adoption of 4-2-3-1 by Daryl, looking to go back to the basics of four at the back and getting it out wide to the attacking wingers - looking to them to do the damage.

My Take

So it was a great start from that 4-2-3-1 setup of Dagenham, who found gaps between the visitors’ midfield and defence in pursuit of an early breakthrough. I was someone who tweeted ‘Good Start’ and what impressed me was we getting shots off, not perhaps on target, but a vast improvement on the whole from 4 days ago.

Though I held that view of ‘at least they’re shots’ and they’ll get more accurate as they go on – the latter part of that view wasn’t to become true. The shots being taken were a lot more than against Stockport, but they weren’t on target, and as the half wore on I did get more and more concerned.

This concern was soon to be backed up by a goal, frustrated, it seemed the Linnets had had just a solitary shot on goal – yet, they had taken their chance and were ahead. I saw the frustration from the players too, using it as motivation, almost seeing an immediate response - Balanta hitting the inside of the post!

That, in a minute, encapsulated the story of the first half – one side took their chances – the other didn’t! The stats were stacked up against the Daggers as they looked to break the unwanted run of not registering a league goal at Victoria Road since October 10th.

The King’s Lynn goal-scorer, now gone off injured, there was some light relief on the home side’s back line – Kiwomya caused all sorts of issues in the first 35 minutes. However, being lulled into this false sense of security, we were soon two goals behind after a good move on the Linnets’ part and poor defending on ours.

Michael Gash was the player who turned in the cross, on the stroke of half time, landing hammer blow on the Daggers – leaving them rather blunt.

That’s a description of the players; us supporters were deflated, disappointed and despaired. The ‘McMahon Out’ messages were prominent on Dagenham twitter; though I wasn’t one of the authors. I was disheartened I’d say, the performance up until the final third was improved on recent ones, yet we were 0-2 down!

Such a score-line is hard to recover, not least because of the team’s record in front of goal this season – 11 goals in 15 games!  The second half was to commence in good time and the Daggers were running out of the tunnel – determined, so it appeared on camera.

Though that determination seemed to fail to transpire into anything material – a couple of good moves but still similar to the first half. Though that was in the immediate minutes following the break, George Saunders was to spearhead the Daggers offensive down the right flank – winning several corners.

Those corners didn’t result in a goal, but we were getting closer – you felt it was coming. As oppose to the end-to end feel of the first half, the hosts had sustained attacking spells, the Linnets camped in their own half. The furthest man back in red and blue in the centre circle, we went full throttle.

So, the clock ticking down, I among others were looking to the bench and urging Daryl to utilise it. But, when he did, I was confused as to why he thought to bring on Liam Gordon as his first substitute – as oppose to the likes of Darren McQueen and Scott Wilson.

The away side were looking to fight back, yet time and again George Saunders was eager to go back on the offensive and get the ball into the box – a talisman on Saturday was the young player. For all his and others’ efforts, we still trailed by two, and that’s because the crosses into the box were getting no reply.

So, Daryl looked to make changes as Scott Wilson replaced Paul McCallum, hoping the end product would be produced – a goal. That hope soon came to fruition, moments later, though it wasn’t Wilson who scored – Dagenham had scored! Reynolds nodding home with help from the crossbar, the Linnets lead was slashed, 18 minutes from time.

Momentum swinging fully behind the hosts, there were shots fired at the goal in which ‘keeper, Mair, occupied. Though these were, in keeping with the majority of the shots throughout the match, fired wide of the mark.

However, just a few minutes after pulling one back – the Daggers were level! Elated. Though, almost in disbelief. An Eleftheriou cross shot from the touchline had sailed over the keeper and nestled into the far corner – one of the best goals he’ll ever score – his first for the club!

You felt we could, but then just thinking of where we were at half-time – surely not! The game, all of a sudden, was there for the taking – all three points. No longer in front, the away side had a spell of possession, looking to restore their lead – McMahon’s men remained resolute however at the back.

Daryl took one last throw of the dice, looking to influence the game and find that allusive winner – George Saunders (MOTM) was replaced by the rapid McQueen. The game remaining very open, right to the last, but on 89 minutes the excitement reached a tipping point – the referee pointed to the spot!

The one thing standing between Dagenham and three points, was Mair, whom like his teammates looked to unnerve Brundle and delay the spot kick for as long as possible. He’d succeeded. All of a sudden, a great point salvaged felt like two points dropped.

The resultant corner though, came in, and it was simply fairytale stuff at Victoria Road.

These tweets were my reactions just seconds apart!

That man, Mitch Brundle, headed home at the front post! From zero to hero: in the space of a few seconds. He is often criticised, Brundle, sometimes rightly for his below par performance – the mental strength and determination there though was something special. He has form of stepping up in big moments does the midfielder. 

That was two minutes before the referee signalled full time. I mean… what a game! Never have I celebrated a goal at home with such excitement; I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that! Neighbours bemused as to just what was going on, on a Saturday night in January (during a pandemic!).


McMahon’s Take

The Daggers manager coming under fire at half time, as you’d expect, high expectations and we were sitting seven points off play-offs – fewer off relegation. 0-2 down to a side we’d be expected to defeat, with little hope of a revival considering we couldn’t find the net.

McMahon Out was tweeted, with meaning. ‘Paul Gwinn in the dugout for the second half?’ – one remarked. Though we managed to do it; beyond everyone’s belief. So it seems, that whenever the Irishman is under mounting pressure – the team step up and find a way to win.

‘The non-league Ole’ I think is the best description – the Norwegian’s side always managing to come up with the goods when his job is in jeopardy.

So, that’s the story of the fans’ view of Daryl throughout the game; some still not impressed with how we only just scraped a win against King’s Lynn. But, there’s no pleasing everyone! A win’s a win in my eyes.

Now to what Daryl had to say about it, he singled out Saunders for praise, just like us supporters – a real flair he has the local lad – and he brought that to the pitch yesterday! On the fans, Daryl spoke of how ‘he wished they were there’, saying those sorts of wins undoubtedly give you the biggest buzz.

The Irishman, interestingly, spoke of what he said at half time “keep doing what you’re doing” were his words – putting the two goal deficit down to ruthlessness in both boxes – an issue we know about only too well this season. And, I’ll agree on that, the score-line wasn’t down to performance in my view – just small errors – which made it so frustrating.

Also, the criticisms I had of how we just weren’t getting enough shots off were addressed yesterday by McMahon’s instruction. Urging the players not to ‘look to score the perfect goal’ and overplay in the final third; rather, just score!

On the change in formation, he put it down to one player, George Saunders – speaking of how he was desperate to include him in the team in his best role. This, following the winger’s absence from the side due to track and trace regulations and injury.

On a closing remark, he was eager to highlight the team’s fight, confidence and resilience following Saturday’s remarkable comeback. Happy that everyone was able to see how much the players want to win as Daryl himself sees it day in and day out – that comeback the perfect backdrop to display that strength of character.

Player Ratings

Elliot Justham – 6

Andy Eleftheriou – 8

Aside from the goal, he looked good over the course of the ninety minutes and did well supporting Saunders on that side.

Luke Croll – 6

Callum Reynolds – 7

Elliot Johnson – 6

Mitch Brundle – 8

Fantastic character in those final minutes and a solid performance throughout.

Dean Rance – 7

Sam Deering – 8

Angelo Balanta – 6

George Saunders – 9

He was from start to finish when he was replaced – fantastic. His frustration would have been beyond belief as he put in quality cross after quality cross and have nobody on the end of them. But, he persisted and had the better of the full back throughout.

Paul McCallum – 5

A game we won’t forget in a hurry! An outstanding individual display from Saunders who grabbed his opportunity with both hands and the fight, determination and resilience shown in the final 20 minutes was a joy to behold.

Now we go onto Eastleigh as we very much remain in the hunt for the play-offs – providing financial matters off the pitch ensure that’s the case.

For now, Stay Safe and COYD!



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