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Match Report


Posted Tue 26 Apr 11 at 11:29 AM

Daggers Slip into Bottom Four

The Daggers slipped back into the bottom four with this defeat at promotion-chasing Huddersfield Town on Easter Monday, but the performance will give John Still and his men belief they can still survive going into the final two matches of the season, writes Ricky Butler.

Still's side more then matched their illustrious opponents for much of this vital encounter and had John Akinde found the target with either of the two glorious opportunities that came his way in the second period they would have left with a thoroughly deserved share of the spoils.

The Daggers starting eleven showed two changes from the Good Friday defeat to Plymouth - Billy Bingham replacing Darren Currie in midfield with Will Antwi coming in for hamstring victim Scott Doe at the back - while DJ Green, who had impressed on his debut in that 1-0 loss, was again on the bench.

After a bright start in which Danny Green had fired narrowly over the top following a game of head-tennis inside the Town penalty area, Still's side went behind after just nine minutes. Arsenal loanee Benik Afobe beat Antwi far too easily down the Daggers left before squaring the ball for leading scorer Jordan Rhodes to tap home from close range.

Having lost 6-1 on this ground in the FA Cup last season the 125 travelling fans may have feared the worst as keeper Tony Roberts was called into action to deny namesake Gary before then doing well to keep out a low drive from Afobe and a drilled effort from Jack Hunt. But the Daggers weathered the storm and broke out to grab a superb equaliser just prior to the half-hour mark.

With the hosts unhappy that head-injury victim Lee Peltier had not been allowed back onto the pitch after receiving treatment, a flowing Daggers move saw Romain Vincelot play a lovely 1-2 with Akinde on the edge of the area before drilling the ball into the top left hand corner of the net from 20 yards.

But their joy was short lived as just four minutes later Gary Roberts whipped the ball in from the left and Rhodes glanced home his 22nd goal of the season from close range.

Undeterred Still's men fought back and they felt they should have a penalty shortly before the break when Green was tripped by Gary Naysmith but referee Eddie Ilderton was unimpressed and the Daggers were then grateful to Roberts for a fine save to deny Afobe in the final attack of the first half.

With other results at the bottom going against them, the Daggers survival hopes would have been hanging in the balance had Scott Arfield made it 3-1 within seconds of the restart, but Roberts was alert to the danger with another smart stop.

That proved to be a rare opportunity for the hosts in a second period largely dominated by Still's side. Peter Gain, who was having more and more influence the longer the game went on, fired just over the top after great play from Vincelot and Akinde, while the two combined again moments later as a dangerous ball in from the left by the Bristol City loanee was only just too far ahead of the late-arriving Frenchman.

For all their pressure the Daggers could not relax as Huddersfield always looked dangerous on the break and only a wonderful tackle from Antwi denied Afobe in the area before Gain then got in a vital block to prevent Rhodes completing his hat-trick.

But the Essex side should have been level thirteen minutes after the restart. Gain whipped in a dangerous ball from the left but Akinde could only glance his close range header wide of the right-hand upright when a firmer contact would surely have brought the equaliser.

It was all Daggers now as Gain was denied by Ian Bennett in the home goal before Still made his first change with twenty minutes left, bringing on DJ Green for Bingham and switching to a 4-4-2 formation. The move almost paid dividends within two minutes as Akinde's deflected shot from 12 yards beat Bennett and came back off the left-hand post, but the big front-man reacted quickly to stab the ball goal wards from close range. With the travelling fans behind the goal all set to acclaim the equaliser Bennett somehow recovered to scoop the ball behind for a corner, although the Daggers felt Akinde had been impeded in the build up.

Still threw on Bas Savage and Currie for Jon Nurse and Femi Ilesanmi in the closing stages as the Daggers went for the jugular. Gain shot just wide from the edge of the area in the 81st minute while a deep right wing cross from Green looked set to dip into the far corner of the net before Bennett touched it over the crossbar.

Then, deep into injury time, DJ Green had the chance to make a real name for himself when skipper Mark Arber nodded the ball into his path on the left hand edge of the penalty area, but he succeeded in merely screwing his shot wide of the target and the Daggers relegation fight will now continue to the final day.

Despite the result Still was upbeat at the end. 'It was a definite, definite penalty (on Green) and we felt we should have had another for a challenge on Akinde in the second half, but we are only Dagenham.' he said.

'Second half it was all us. They are a top side and were always going to cause us problems but we dealt with that and in the end the only team with the problems was them,' he added.

'Some of our movement and passing today was brilliant. The pitch helped us, it was terrific, but I am so pleased with how we played and we have to take that performance into the next two games. If we play like that we will give ourselves every chance.

'Carlisle and Peterborough are tough games in an unbelievably tough league, but to compete here today when you look at the gap between the sides, it is almost embarrassing. Two of their players make up our entire wage bill but we have shown that we might not have this or have that but when we get going we are okay.'

Danny Green was convinced he should have had a penalty in the first half. 'He (Naysmith) definitely clipped me' said the winger. 'I wouldn't have gone down otherwise. I asked the ref why he didn't give it and he told me he thought I had dived.'

But with late goals conceded by both Bristol Rovers and Walsall the Daggers now go into the final two matches of the season just one point from safety with the great escape very much still on.

Attendance; 14,072 (125 away fans)

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