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Daggers Defeated
An ugly win on a bitter January evening By: Max Bygraves 10/01/2024
Dagenham and Redbridge
2 1
League 09/01/2024
2023-2024 Attendance: 1156 (127)

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I wanted to try and start this article focusing on the football in some way, but I can’t seem to get past just how cold that was. Not sure my feet (despite three pairs of socks) have ever taken that long to recover feeling. Standing up at full time, I felt like I’d been frozen into sitting position. Who decided 9th January was an appropriate Tuesday to put this one on?

Upon arrival, it seemed many others had asked the same question. Just ahead of kick off, the bar was sparsely populated and things didn’t look a whole lot better in the stands, either.

It feels a bit ‘rinse and repeat’ to say this, but given our continued low midweek gates, was this not the time for a promo of some sort? Granted, the temperature would have put some off regardless but on a night with little other football on, it felt like perhaps more should have been done to push interest.

Saying that, we’re 3rd in the league and had won our last two home games in front of reasonable numbers. It’s not a new conundrum we’re considering here, but it’s frustrating all the same.

The first half and occasion in general was summed up well by one of our group at half time: “It feels like an Autoglass Trophy game.” Extra points for the retro reference, combined with the disappointing accuracy.

Dagenham only brought 127. Not a huge surprise given their season thus far. The Strevolution their flag proclaimed behind the goal has not yet been the success they’d have hoped. Another season in mid table obscurity appears to beckon for them. Personally, whilst I have no desire to see Dagenham do well, I hope Strevens enjoys some success in time to come. It would be no sad thing to one day see him in the home dugout in the future. He gets it.

The smattering of fans from the far end of the District line made an initial attempt at noise but this quickly petered out. The flat atmosphere was compounded by a less than exciting opening exchange.

Barnet again started with new loan keeper Josh Keeley in goal. The young Irishman who arrived from Spurs last week was a surprise inclusion on Saturday, replacing ever-present Laurie Walker on the back of his best performance of the season. Dean Brennan has got more right than he’s got wrong so far as Barnet manager, but this is a move that’s got more than a few scratching their heads.

It may prove to pay off, but in the immediate, it’s sad to see such a stalwart of the team that’s galvanised the club in so many ways seemingly disregarded so quickly. There may be more to it. There may be a plan. Questionable whether that’s the place in the team that most urgently needed adjusting, though.

The new boy had a tough time at Altrincham on his debut and his night didn’t start a lot better in this one. Some shambolic defending allowed Dagenham to take their customary lead against us. In much of the first half, we looked devoid of ideas and incredibly shaky at the back.

It was something of a makeshift trio in defence; a combination not well rehearsed, at least, and it showed. A few further dubious moments could have resulted in things becoming more grave but the visitors failed to capitalise.

By first half stoppage time, I found myself sat alone in our part of the stand as others had decided they’d seen enough and it was time for a pint. Who could blame them?

However, the decision to stay was rewarded when Kabamba deftly met a wicked cross from Maguire-Drew to pull things level. His 24th goal of the season. What a boy.

Refuge in the warmth of the bar at half time was most welcome. Given the spectacle thus far, it was an effort to drag ourselves back into the baltic conditions to endure forty five more minutes.

It took about ten minutes of those forty five to realise that Zak Brunt had replaced an unusually quiet and unfortunately injured Harry Pritchard at half time. After a slow start from our number 33, his impact quickly became hugely significant.

A fine, composed finish on the hour saw the Bees reverse things fully, taking a 2-1 lead. There was a suspicion of handball when he brought it down, but the Daggers complaints fell on deaf ears.

It was a toil and a bit of a slog from here on and it wasn’t especially pretty. A long way from convincing, but results are the main thing and despite a couple of nervy moments, we did manage to see it out.

Our first win over Dagenham since Beadle’s Covid Crew in October 2020. It was a performance not too far off some of that football at times - but thankfully, like that night, it resulted in success.

Keeley grew in confidence in goal as the game went on. A catch from a late corner was celebrated by his team mates with real enthusiasm. That kind of support will only help boost confidence which is so key for a young player of his position. Interested to see who starts on Saturday in the FA Trophy.

It was notable that Brennan wasn’t in the dugout. Didn’t feel right. Too many yellow cards apparently - this quashing the odd whisper about where he might be or indeed, have gone. It was a bit of a shame that no Brennan meant no huddle at full time. Maybe they just wanted to let us get off and into the warm as quickly as possible.

Not a classic by any means but a much needed response to Saturday’s disappointment. A big gap from 4th remains with very little in it with Bromley. Whilst this wasn’t as fun as Boreham Wood or Southend, the win is just as key.

A real battle awaits on Saturday. Radcliffe away with those two headcases in charge of Salford documentary fame. I can’t say I’m filled with confidence at the prospect of a beleaguered, injury hit side going and playing on a poor pitch in the far north against a big, aggressive side running away with their league with a partisan, swelled home crowd. It’s going to be a real challenge.

Fingers crossed the weather doesn’t get in the way - a midweek jaunt there is needed even less. I still vividly remember the anguish of Forest Green away in the FA Trophy being postponed due to a frozen pitch in January 2003. We were mid table but that was the game to galvanise our season. The context is different this time, but either option of a postponement or a disappointing exit to lower opposition would preferably be avoided.

Despite our strong position, the Trophy should be treated with the same respect as the league. The Wembley dream being achieved one way or another is the main thing!

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13/06/2024 How It All Began
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29/04/2024 Outfought, Outthought, Out Of Ideas
21/04/2024 The Best Of The Rest
10/04/2024 Nearly There
25/03/2024 "A Game Of F*****g Demolition"
20/03/2024 Another Step Closer
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