A Word On The Week: Maintaining Top Spot
They were two games you thought we should win, but simultaneously ones that you thought we’d the potential to lose – if we were to go on the ‘same old Dagenham’ line.
Etched in the minds of Dagenham supporters is this mindset of ‘it’s too good to be true’ and ‘all good things will come to an end soon enough’. However, McMahon and his players are looking to reverse and erase that ideology from the minds of supporters and those around the club who’ve been infected by that pessimism of years gone by.
At the end of this week there appears no end in sight to this glorious run of form, hence the train GIFs on Twitter, with the Daggers promotion train steaming down the tracks. Some may think that we’re all getting ahead of ourselves, as McMahon sensibly urged people not to, but as I said in my fan column – we’ve got to enjoy it while it lasts! (So, keep the promotion train GIFs going).
This belief of something special happening is getting stronger by the game as the Daggers sit top of the tree and consolidating their position there; following up victory at The Walks with a 4-2 home win over Weymouth under the floodlights.
Now I’m convinced, following another week of maximum points, that this season is a season where we’ve got a genuine shout at promotion – via the play-offs or otherwise.
I’ll assess the performances from the past ‘footballing week’ below and the reasons why there should be a real, serious, optimistic belief – something special can happen this campaign:
We’ll start with the 1-2 victory at The Walks in front of the BT Sport cameras that kept our 100% record on the road in-tact. A win which saw the Daggers not get off to the best of starts (as has been a recurring theme this season) but ultimately grow into the game and see goals from Walker and Weston ensure we got back to winning ways.
Whether you were one of the travelling supporters, or watching from the comfort of your sofa, you’d have been as disgruntled and concerned at the start Dagenham made to the game as McMahon appeared on the touchline.
It’s happened in every game this season, where we appear unable to be quick out of the blocks, allowing the opposition to first impose themselves on the game. Daryl’s reaction shows that this isn’t tactical and my concern is that this may perhaps at one point catch up with us; ultimately unable to recover from being under the cosh, or worse still, going behind.
As we remain unbeaten, this has yet to be the case (thankfully), and this has been due to the side clicking into gear around the 20/25 minute mark. But this mark was hit at King’s Lynn and passed without any real change in performance levels and you wondered whether we could pull it out of the bag.
HT 0-0 | Got to do better. Hardly any attacking threat, McCallum and Walker scarcely involved. #COYD 🔴🔵⚔️— Digger•Dagger•Matchday (Keane Handley) (@Keanehandley1) September 11, 2021
It was a below-par display and you hoped that the McMahon could rally his troops in the second half to show more fight and discipline; ultimately, pose a threat, to the Linnets back line. There was too a change in personnel (as there had to be) with Phipps making way for Weston, the winger making an instant impact as he so often does.
That substitution and whatever was said at half time worked, Walker netting from Myles Weston’s cross just a couple of minutes after the break. Myles’ impact was delightful on Saturday and shows what an impact he can have off the bench with that injection of pace – posing the question – is that even more beneficial than starting him?
It was a second half of football more reminiscent of the Daggers we’ve seen all season, a vast improvement on the 45 minutes prior! This was perhaps catching a glimpse of what is to be most impressive about the team so this season, an ability to grind out results when not at their best, or at least the ability to step it up a gear – as all the quality teams do.
The result was secured ultimately, despite a late scare from the Norfolk side (some may have shrugged it off as a mere consolation), as Weston’s goal following great interplay in the 88th minute eventually sealed the deal.
Looking at the notable absentees from that game that may have forced Phipps into that starting XI, the likes of Sagaf and Jones, influential midfielders key to the team. Then, seeing that second half display with just the one new player in Weston being introduced, it shows what a strong group of players we have and with those players (and in the longer-term Balanta) added to that – we are a real force to be reckoned with.
Here is how you, the supporters, rated each player following Saturday’s game:
Back to winning ways, it was time to consolidate our place at the top of the table under the lights at Victoria Road. A Weymouth side with a mixed start to the campaign; I certainly saw them as a potential banana skin. But, despite the Terras putting up a good fight, we swept them aside with another scintillating second-half display and individual moments of brilliance!
The nerves pre-match for me stemmed from the fact that if we didn’t pick up three points and then go into the Wrexham game low on confidence – it could’ve spelt the beginnings of a dip in form. A win, however, would have taken a huge weight off of our shoulders going into Saturday and going into it with that ‘nothing to lose’/underdog mentality; which I see as a huge psychological advantage for us this season.
Surprise, surprise! We got off to a less than ideal start, once more, and conceded from a cross (losing an aerial duel) which is an issue we’ve yet to put to bed from last season. There appeared to be a lot of panic from players and nerves after that, feeling slightly rattled, with misplaced passes and poor touches.
I think a goal was needed to settle the nerves on the pitch and I felt we’d get one as I’ve seen us come from behind in almost every game this season – but it remained a shaky start. Around seven or so minutes following the goal, we did appear to settle down and be in real search of a response, with Weston and Vilhete key players in that search.
It then did finally come that breakthrough, Vilhete with his incredible leap, heading home the equaliser. However, unlike previous games, the Daggers didn’t use that goal as a catalyst and the game remained very much even. Shields still causing problems in acres of space and McMahon’s men remained unable to retain possession for any lengthy spell.
With the Daggers unable to assert their dominance, a penalty was awarded to Weymouth after a poor cross hit Callum Reynolds’ chest (the ref cited handball as the reason for awarding it!). A great penalty in all fairness from Ash and no response before the break – the Daggers went into the break behind.
HT 1-2| This current XI on the pitch won’t win it I don’t feel. He’s got to bring Sagaf on and sort out the midfield (5) incl. the wing-backs. A few below-par individual performances.— Digger•Dagger•Matchday (Keane Handley) (@Keanehandley1) September 14, 2021
We can still win it but changes have to be made. #COYD 🔴🔵⚔️ pic.twitter.com/SVUVng6Rql
There was to be a change in personnel as Sagaf came on and he certainly provided that creative spark we needed on his return from injury; not dissimilar to the Weston effect at King’s Lynn on Saturday.
Then, within 10 minutes of the second half commencing, another player who has impressed so far this season – Will Wright – stepped up and equalised for the hosts. From that point forth, I felt that we could get more than a point from the game, that ‘early’ breakthrough in the second half was vital.
The game did then swing in the Daggers’ favour and you thought it was just a matter of time, but then every 10 minutes that went by without a goal to put us in front – you thought, would we be held at home to Weymouth? We were getting closer, applying pressure, yet not threatening the goal for around 20 minutes.
We needed that moment of brilliance… step forth Will Wright! I was stunned in the Sieve, elated but stunned, as Wright stood there in celebration as his corner went straight into the net. A brace for Will Wright, incredible in itself, but then to score directly from a corner.
I’ve said it before and so don’t want to labour the point, but how far our captain has come since being released in the summer of 2020 to that performance on Tuesday – it’s remarkable. We’ve benefitted from his resilience and relentless nature to win his place in the starting XI and lead us to the top of the table with five wins from six.
Then our number 9, responding to chants of ‘So come on Paul McCallum…’, just minutes later netted heading home a fantastic cross – us Daggers sure did go ‘…wild, wild, wild!’. That relief and ecstasy was replicated just five minutes later as the referee signalled full time and the fifth win of the campaign for the mighty Daggers.
FT 4-2| WOW! What a fantastic and exciting second half display. I love watching this TEAM in full-flow. Two points clear at the top - a dream start!— Digger•Dagger•Matchday (Keane Handley) (@Keanehandley1) September 14, 2021
Weston brilliant second half, Sagaf had a great impact and @willwrightt... no words! #COYD 🔴🔵⚔️ pic.twitter.com/x0TJnWwzAm
That second half display, once again, proved why we are where we are in the table. Dominant, relentless and scoring goals. Two points clear at the top, 11 ahead of Southend and 7 points ahead of Wrexham – this Saturday’s opponents – it’s a dream position to be in.
Here are the supporters’ player ratings for Tuesday's match:
Maximum points, 6 goals and confidence is sky-high going into what looks on paper one of the toughest games of the season. I mean, we just can't ask for much more from this team now and I love watching them play exciting, attacking football - as I'm sure many of you do.
Let's hope they can put in a similar performance at the Racecourse. Until then, thanks for reading and COYD!