𝔽𝔸 ℂ𝕦𝕡 𝕄𝕒𝕘𝕚𝕔: Spirited Daggers Sink Stones

What a way to progress to the 1st Round Proper of the FA Cup! It wasn’t going to be easy, we knew that, but the Daggers made it extremely difficult for themselves on Saturday. But it made that victory so much sweeter, the barriers broken in the 90th minute; victory from the jaws of defeat – there’s no feeling quite like it!

As I say, we made it extremely difficult for ourselves and this was from the second minute (supporters having scarcely settled in their seats) as we looked up and instantly saw red. Paul McCallum given his marching orders so early on, the general response was that of disbelief but also slight anger at the striker’s recklessness.

Many fans’ eyes were now set on a replay at Victoria Road or grinding out a 0-1 victory while parking the bus for a large chunk of the game. But these provisional plans went out the window after eight minutes, with lacklustre defending allowing the ball to slip through to Jay Bird, whose finish was composed – slotting home beyond Justham.

This was now an almighty task to get back into a game that saw us not only concede early on (once again!) but also be a man down – less than 10 minutes in. However, not all hope was lost, with the following ten minutes seeing Myles Weston spearhead numerous attacks into the Stones half.

Despite no goal being scored, Weston ensured the team could be bold in spite of the man disadvantage and remain in the tie for as long as possible – an outside chance of clawing a goal back. He came close with the winger’s effort deflected onto the crossbar, a warning sign for the hosts.

Half-time came around and a key team-talk was to be held by McMahon, how could he prevent the Daggers from crashing out of the FA Cup? The next ’45 minutes was to answer that in emphatic fashion!

Wealdstone so nearly put one foot into the first round minutes after the break as Dennon Lewis’ powerful shot forced Justham into a great save – Umerah unable to net the rebound. All hope was not lost with Dagenham still probing, Dean Rance on his return to the side going close with a volleyed effort.

This, just before he was hooked off by McMahon, in search of an equaliser (or more…) Rance and Scott Wilson made way for Joey Jones and free-scoring Josh Walker. Both made an instant impact, magnificent interplay saw them venture into the box and Jones being fouled – winning a penalty – the turning point the Daggers had waited for?

No. Angelo Balanta stepped up and scuffed the opportunity to put his side level, the captain lacking venom in his spot kick which Wickens easily saved. This led to a collective sigh/head in hands moment from every Dagger at the Vale, myself turning to the low concrete wall, head in arms – the opportunity of a great FA Cup comeback missed.

As the clock ticked down, 15 minutes to go, then 10… us supporters in the away section were losing hope by the minute. One fan sarcastically saying within my earshot “Did you enjoy that FA Cup journey?”. There were also questions of just why Balanta remained on the pitch and was chosen to take the penalty; having a below-par game with little going right.

Those questions were answered, critics silenced, just minutes later in the 88th minute as the Daggers and their captain were unrelenting in their search for an equaliser – not going down without a fight. The skipper finding himself in the right place at the right time to send the away support behind the goal not into exasperation as before, but ecstasy!

The momentum swinging firmly behind the team, you just felt that at the very least we’d secured a replay, but the fourth official indicating another 4 minutes – you backed us to go further. The corner won in the 92nd minute, Will Wright surrounded by Daggers along the side-line and behind the goal – all beckoned the ball into the net…

Balanta flicked on at the near post, the net bulged, bedlam! The barriers behind the goal broken: players embraced by supporters. The most exhilarating moment of the season so far, an FA Cup tie that’ll live long in the memory.

The Stones have been sunk in spectacular style, but now it is onto perhaps on paper the biggest game of the season – hosting Southend at Victoria Road. Therefore, we’ve little time to dwell in the joys of Saturday and we must look forward to the Southend fixture, distantly too, to Salford who we’ve drawn in the first round.

Until next time, thanks for reading,




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