Daggers Frustrate and Delight in Equal Measure
The Daggers frustratingly shipped two goals, before pulling one back and eventually recovering that deficit in the final minutes. Therefore in that sentence alone, you can understand how I and other supporters, have mixed emotions following the draw in North Wales. Clearly praise was due for the mentality, character and determination to come back from 2-0 down – but, why were we finding oursleves in that situation again in the first place?
The State Of Play:
I say these emotions are felt in equal measure; although on review you’d have to admit – at the end of the day – it was a good point on the road. Wrexham are often tough opponents and going into this one I wasn’t the most confident I’ve been – the Dragons on the up and sitting in 8th.
The build-up to the game was also dominated by the completion of the takeover of the Welsh side by Hollywood stars. This idea of the perfect start under new owners seemed to be the perfect circumstance for the hosts to put on a show. So, on paper I’d have taken a point before the game but with a good performance to warrant it – giving us a boost going into Notts County on Tuesday.
In the hour before kick-off, intrigue, was the word to describe Daggers supporters’ thoughts on the Starting XI (below) which saw five changes to the side – my thoughts on this can also be found in the tweet below.
Well, for the best part of ten minutes, it looked like we were going to be under siege for an entire game as the Welsh side dominated. Elliot Justham, already, saved his side early on as he denied a Wrexham header with a great dive - quick reactions.
After a few nervy moments early on, the Daggers midfield proved pivotal in helping the Daggers grow into the game with the likes of Deering, Rance and Robinson finding forward passes – testing the Dragons’ back line.
From there on in, it was end-to-end stuff, both sides in search of an opener, level pegging for most of the half. Robinson, Mcqueen and Deering all eyeing up strikes at goal but to no avail; the home side also going on the counter like their opposition – Elliot Justham key to keeping them out.
However, with Elliot Johnson bullied down the wing by Hall-Johnson and Eleftheriou in no man’s land giving Reckford time and space to execute his technique as the ball dropped onto his laces and into the top corner.
Again, the lacklustre defending with lapses in concentration costing us – the individual errors continuing to cost the Daggers. Time, and time again! Though the players on the pitch had no time to feel sorry for themselves and to their credit; they persisted in pursuit of an equaliser.
Though the home side were to see the half out and remain ahead going into the break, deservedly you may say, the only side out there who performed in both boxes. This difference between the sides was to out as the game wore on.
The second half commenced and it was Daryl who made changes to help his side find a goal as they were by no means out of this one. McCallum and Weston replacing Wilson and Saunders with a change in approach up top.
However, this for me wasn’t the best decision, baring in mind Wilson had troubled the Wrexham defence and Saunders, likewise, was able to get balls in the box. Though, I was excited to see Myles Weston come on as he always seems to provide that flair and pace up top.
But, it was the home side who so nearly found a breakthrough, if it wasn’t for yet another heroic save from Justham to keep the Daggers in it – denying Thomas from close range. After a dodgy start to the half, the away side finally managed to get on the ball and create, though the final ball or shot just wasn’t there – Deering firing wide.
This creativity was promising, but as we’ve said time and again this season, if you can’t defend your own box – the attacking and goals up the other end are made redundant. Another soft goal was conceded on 60 minutes as the winger breezed past Eleftheriou and Johnson had lost his man, Hall-Johnson, who was there to tap in from point-blank range. A poor, poor goal to concede.
It was probably one of the worst this season we’ve conceded and many supporters, like myself, felt deflated and frustrated at a team that – for all its efforts elsewhere, just can’t defend at key moments.
With ten minutes since the second goal and just the one wayward Paul McCallum header; McMahon saw it time to change tack as he went to a back three – replacing Johnson with Reynolds. The criticisms of this change were there, isn’t this a bit late? Why not bring Gordon on?
However, the impacts on the pitch proved many of us wrong as instantly there was more attacking intent and threat from Dagenham – Weston and Robinson in particular, on and off the ball relentless in pursuit of a goal. Their hard work was soon rewarded as the latter was to pull one back on 77 minutes and the belief was there.
I was obviously delighted for Robinson scoring on his return to the starting XI and as he rarely scores, it seemed a big moment for him and his place in the team. In the context of the game, Wrexham were now rattled; real belief was there we could score another.
But, so could the leading side, they let that be known as Eleftheriou was forced to scramble the ball away after Justham got a hand to an effort that came close to sealing it for the hosts. However, up the other end, the revelation of the second half – Myles Weston – continued to bully the full back…
And his persistence and quality cross was met by Dean Rance, a man who relishes in scoring late goals, into added time – the Daggers had found an equaliser! They were to see out the remainder of the five minutes additional time and secure the point at the Racecourse Stadium.
There was no doubt sheer delight in the moment and minutes after that late equaliser; pride in the character and determination of the side of course. Also though, resentment and realisation that that could well have been the winner – if only we could have tightened up at the back.
Then again, before the game you’d have taken a point away to Wrexham so we won’t complain too much but we need to start turning draws into wins. The final thought in ‘My Take’ is that this is our second 2-2 draw in a row and to think your side would score 4 goals in two games yet not win – the blame is pointed squarely at the defence.
All in all, I feel that we may fall short this season due to the calamitous back line which is no longer just committing individual errors but becoming a bigger problem – that needs to be sorted, and fast.
Now, there was no shirking these issues from McMahon in his post-match interview where he was mostly singing from the same hymn sheet as myself – admitting the need to be a whole lot better in our own box. Also, shedding some light on injuries and praising certain players in his piece to the camera.
I’ll start with the positives, and he hailed Matt Robinson as somebody who ‘genuinely cares’ and ‘wears his heart on his sleeve’ – while praising the quality of his performance aside from that. Speaking of how he was delighted the midfielder got into the box as instructed and his offensive approach.
The winger, Myles Weston, was also spoken about by Daryl and the reasoning behind his selection and just why he only played in the second ’45 – given his impact. He revealed that the number 11 had still being suffering the effects of COVID infection until the back end of the week – his performance yesterday showed he is almost back to his best!
Now to Daryl’s criticisms and he spoke well, simply and bluntly about the inadequacies at the back and these slow starts which hamper our progress. Speaking of how we can’t just play for 40, 50 or 60 minutes but for 95 (in yesterday’s case), also how the game is decided in both boxes and we weren’t good enough in our own.
On the injury news, Joey Jones is close to getting back to full fitness and he would do a lot to sure up that back line, but I think it’s important we don’t rush him back after last time! Also, he spoke of Adrian Clifton working hard on his return from a slightly longer-term injury.
So, in analysis of the interview, good to see him acknowledging the same issues as us; but now it’s to the training ground to do all he can to help rectify them – the Daggers heading to Notts County on Tuesday.
There were some stand-out individual performances in the 2-2 draw, for positive and negative reasons, the numbers below indicating that. The likes of Weston and Robinson I’ve heaped praise on and it’s the latter who I’ve decided to give MoTM.
Elliot Justham – 7
Elliot Johnson – 5
Luke Croll – 6
Kenny Clark – 6
Andrew Eleftheriou – 5
Matt Robinson – 8
Dean Rance – 7
Sam Deering – 7
Darren McQueen - 6
George Saunders – 6
Scott Wilson – 6
Myles Weston – 8
Callum Reynolds – 6
Paul McCallum – 6
So, we don’t have to wait long until we see the Daggers back in action (weather permitting) as they travel to Nottingham on Tuesday. Another tough encounter but if we stop the leak at the back; we could find a way to beat the Magpies.
Thanks for reading,