History Of The Daggers
Despite only being in existence for 20 years, Dagenham & Redbridge Football Club have had their fair share of highs and lows culminating with their biggest high in 2010 when they won promotion to npower League One following a 3-2 play off final victory over Rotherham United at Wembley Stadium.
The Club came about following a series of mergers which saw Leytonstone, Ilford and Walthamstow Avenue form Redbridge Forest who in turn merged with Dagenham FC in 1992 to form the current Club. All four had proud histories as amateur clubs in the past but due to dwindling attendances, had fallen on hard times.
The first season of Dagenham & Redbridge FC saw them finish third behind Wycombe Wanderers in the GM Vauxhall Conference and reach the 1st Round proper of the FA Cup, where they were defeated 5-4 in a thrilling game against Leyton Orient.
Unfortunately after this things began to go downhill for the club especially off the pitch. Firstly manager John Still attracted a lot of interest and when Peterborough made an approach which was too good to turn down, he moved on and this was followed by a Trustee of the Club illegally removing half a million pounds which he was later convicted of. Money was now tight and the 1995/6 season saw the Daggers finish bottom of the GM Vauxhall Conference and suffer relegation to the Isthmian League.
To ensure the Club didn't continue a downward trend Ted Hardy was appointed to stabilise it. At 67 years of age, Ted worked the same magic as he'd worked in the seventies with Enfield and Dagenham FC and against all odds took the team to Wembley in the FA Trophy final. Despite the heavy underdog tag placed upon them they battled hard and were unfortunate to lose 0-1 in extra time to Woking having played for an hour with only 10 men.
League finishes of fourth, fourth and third meant that Ted had achieved the target of stability and on Monday 1st March 1999 he announced his resignation, leaving the Club in a much healthier position than when he arrived.
The Daggers installed Garry Hill into the hot seat and in his first season they returned to the Conference having romped to the Isthmian League title recording 20 victories and a draw from their 21 home league games and an outstanding 101 points.
The success story continued into the 2000/01 season as the Club captured the National headlines on the Sports Pages as they first defeated Lincoln City in the FA Cup then came within four minutes of defeating Premiership Charlton Athletic at the Valley in the FA Cup third round. In the replay held at Victoria Road, the Club battled their way into extra time but the Premiership side eventually won 1-0. By the end of their first season back in the Conference they achieved third place.
The 2001/2 season saw the Club rise to top of the Conference on September 11th for the first time ever. After the previous season's exploits in the FA Cup, there was a high level of expectation at the team didn't disappoint. After defeating Football League Exeter City 3-0 in a second round replay, they took the lead in the third round tie at home to Premiership Ipswich Town in front of the Clubs record attendance of 5949. Unfortunately an upset wasn't to be and Ipswich ran out 4-1 winners. The Conference championship turned into a two-horse race with Boston United and the Daggers heartbreakingly missing out on promotion to the Football League on goal difference. The disappointment was made even worse when the Lincolnshire side were found guilty of illegal payments to players but the points deduction was carried into the following season.
The following season saw the Club miss out on promotion to the football league for the second season running again by the closest of margins. In the giant killing style they had become associated with they held Second Division Plymouth Argyle to a goalless draw at Home Park in the third round of the FA Cup before defeating them 2-0 in the replay televised live by Sky TV. The fourth round paired them with First Division Norwich City at Carrow Road where a heroic performance from goalkeeper Tony Roberts looked to have earned the Daggers a famous 0-0 draw only for an injury time goal to seal it for the canaries. A Conference record breaking eleven match winning run took them from 15th place in January up into the promotion play-off places which they qualified for. They defeated Morecambe after a penalty shoot-out in the semi-final and met Doncaster Rovers in the first ever final at Stoke City's Britannia Stadium. Two goals behind, the Daggers took the game into a golden goal extra time period with two second half strikes but in the second period Francis Tierney scored the goal which spelled more heartbreak for the Daggers.
Garry Hill departed at the end of the following season and the Club turned to John Still for a second spell in charge. The Daggers squad had been boosted over the previous three years by good cup runs and the 2004/5 season was a transitional one with new players being required to replace some of the higher paid and experienced ones. Within a year John had completed the task of making the whole playing squad full time with the average age only 23. They ended that season in 10th place, improving on the previous season's position by one.
No one realised just how much the young players had developed over the past couple of seasons but that became evident as last season panned out. At the end of October the Club were ten points behind hot favourites Oxford United and a play off place was seen as the best they could hope for, instead they kept up the pressure on the leaders and on the last day of 2006 they took top spot in the League, a position they wouldn't relinquish. Even the sale of Craig Mackail Smith and Shane Blackett to Peterborough for a Club record transfer fee in January didn't affect their form and they continued to pull clear of the chasing pack. On 7th April 2007, a 2-1 home win over Aldershot Town gave them the Championship and with it a place in the Football League they had been so close to achieving in the past.
Dagenham & Redbridge's first Football League game ended in a 0-1 defeat at Stockport County. Life in the Football League was tough for John Still's men but they made it to the Third Round in both the Johnstone's Paint Trophy and FA Cup before away defeats against Gillingham and Southend Untied respectively. February saw the Daggers start a five match unbeaten run, which saw them record their best wins home and away, beating Chester City 6-2 and Grimsby Town 4-1. Those victories gave the Daggers hope of finishing outside the relegation places but the next nine matches ended without any victories. In the penultimate fixture of the season, a fantastic second half display at Darlington saw them turn a 0-2 deficit into a 3-2 victory to retain their position in the Football League.
The second season saw the Club start the season how they meant to go on with a 6-0 victory over Chester City. The Daggers went into the final game of the season needing to avoid defeat against Shrewsbury to qualify for the play offs but lost the game 1-2 to miss out. They did finish as the top goalscorers in League Two and pushed League One Champions Leicester City all the way losing by the odd goal in five at the Walkers Stadium in the FA Cup second round.
In the lead up to the clubs third season in the Football League as many as seven first team regulars left the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium to move up the leagues, these included Scott Griffiths who moved to Peterborough United and Solomon Taiwo to Cardiff City.
Despite this, John Still brought in players from a lower level to fill the void and saw the side top the table on occasions during the first half of the season. A mid season slump saw them drop to thirteenth at one stage but a surge at the end saw the Club reach the end of season playoff's by virtue of a seventh place finish.
In the semi final first leg they broke all previous playoff records with a six goal rout of Morecambe and despite losing the second leg 1-2, went through to the final at Wembley 7-2 on aggregate. 32,054 attended the final on 20th May and saw goals from Paul Benson, Danny Green give the Daggers the lead on two occasions only for the Millers to equalise on both occasions. Barbados international Jon Nurse struck the winner after 69 minutes as the Essex side continued their amazing climb through the football pyramid.
The 2010/11 season saw the Daggers partake in the 3rd tier of English football for the very first time, Still strengthened the squad in the summer with the likes of Gavin Tomlin, Stuart Lewis and Damian Scannell all moving to the club. However the size of the task facing the squad was evident in the opening game of the season as a trip to Sheffield Wednesday saw over 23,000 fans watch on as the home side ran out 2-0 victors.
The club’s first win in the 3rd tier came against Leyton Orient in early September, this coming a few days after fans favorite Paul Benson left the Daggers for Charlton Athletic. Goals from midfielders Danny Green & Romain Vincelot softened the blow of losing Benson but following a harsh December where only one game could be played Still’s side were 22nd and in a relegation scrap.
The Daggers never lost faith and a superb six game unbeaten run in March including a win over Charlton saw Still’s side sit outside the drop zone with at least two games in hand on those inside it. But a run of seven losses in nine games saw the Daggers needing to record something at free-scoring Peterborough United on the final day to secure safety, over 1,000 Daggers made the trip to London Road and despite more than holding their own a mixture of poor finishing and over-committing saw The Posh win 5-0 to condemn the Daggers to relegation.
Star performers Danny Green & Romain Vincelot left in the summer of 2011 for Charlton & Brighton respectively, whilst Tony Roberts finally hung up his gloves to take up a coaching position at Arsenal. The opening day saw new boy Medy Elito grab the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win at Macclesfield and at the end of August Still’s side sat in 5th with ten points from the opening five games.
But a disastrous run of just one win in sixteen League games followed and before the Boxing Day win at home to Barnet the Daggers were bottom of the League. Results picked up slightly in the new year but following a defeat in a home ‘six pointer’ with Northampton Town in March the Daggers were again bottom and looking doomed.
With ten games to go John Still’s men went on remarkable run losing just once and a final day 4-0 win over Bristol Rovers saw the Daggers finish in 19th place. It’s fair to say that injuries played their part and with player operations in double figures for the year it gave opportunities for others to stake their claim. Brian Woodall finished top scorer in his debut campaign as a pro whilst Chris Lewington proved a more than capable replacement for Tony Roberts.