The Daggers fell to their 3rd consecutive npower League Two defeat as Oxford United came away 1-0 winners from the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium. A debut goal from West Ham youngster Robert Hall was enough to give the U's all three points and consign the Daggers to their fourth defeat of the season.
Coming off the back of an improved second half performance on Saturday away to Rotherham, John Still stuck with the side that finished that match. That meant recalls for Jon Nurse and captain Mark Arber, with Gavin Tomlin & Phil Walsh the duo to miss out. The Daggers lined up in a 4-3-3 formation with Damian Scannell given the license to roam around either side of the front two.
The match started somewhat slowly as both sides settled down well, Oxford were lining up in a 4-4-2 formation and the extra man in the middle was enabling the Daggers to slightly edge the territorial battle. The first shot on target came from Alfie Potter, the diminutive wide-man who would prove to be a threat throughout shot from fully 45 yards out. Chris Lewington was aware of the danger though and collected comfortably.
The first big chance of the match came just after the quarter hour mark; a fine cross from Femi was met by Nurse towering over the defenders. Unfortunately the Barbadian could not direct his header on target as it dropped just wide of the 'keeper's left hand post. This signalled the start of a good spell from the home side, Nurse shot into the side netting from a tight angle before Scannell rose well but could only head wide under pressure.
Chris Wilder's charges did well to repel the Daggers during this spell and certainly grew into the game as the half went on, at the 35 minute mark they really should have taken the lead. A fine ball inside Abu Ogogo found the pacey Hall, he in turn produced a superb cross which was met by James Constable on the stretch just 3 yards out with Lewington to beat. However he could not match the quality of the build up play and could only divert the cross over the bar. This acted as a real wake up call for the majority of the 1921 people in attendance.
The Daggers however didn't heed this warning and were indebted to Lewington for not the first time this season after 38 minutes. A hopeful ball in from the Oxford right was only half cleared and fell nicely to Simon Heslop 15 yards out, he struck a fierce volley towards goal and only a fantastic save with his legs from Lewington kept the Daggers level.
United were really knocking at the door now and took the lead with just 5 minutes to go until the break. A well worked set piece routine found Hall unmarked 8 yards out, the debutant despatched goalwards with aplomb leaving Lewington with no chance. That's how it stayed up until the break, with the only action seeing Jon Nurse joining Damian Batt in the book.
Both managers kept it tight as the 2nd half began, neither making any changes. It's well worth noting that Oxford had changed to a 4-5-1 midway through to the first half and it certainly seemed to turn the tide in their favour. The 2nd half did not start as the Daggers faithful would have wanted, the expected pressure on Clarke's goal failed to materialise early on with the first meaningful effort on his goal coming in the 61st minute.
It came from the skipper Mark Arber who could only divert a volley wide from a corner, the ball was behind him and around 14 yards out so it was a real tough chance for the August Player Of The Month. Both teams made substitutions around the hour mark, Brian Woodall came on for the hard working Billy Bingham in a move which saw he Daggers go 4-4-2 and Josh Payne entered the action replacing Heslop.
Straight from this came the Daggers best chance of the match, an over-hit cross from Femi forced Browne into conceding a corner. From which the ball found Woodall at the back post all alone, but the summer signing from Gresley could only scuff his effort off target. It was a tough chance for Woodall due to the ball coming through a number of bodies before reaching him.
The Daggers were now on top playing some of their best football of the match, arguably their best move ended with a fine cross from Scannell just being flicked away by the Oxford defenders. With the Daggers pushing on they were leaving gaps at the back which were being utilised well by the U's, Potter in particular looked a real threat. It was he who was next to trouble the scorers, a superb weaving run from the right ended with him rounding Lewington before striking the bar from the edge of the area. Credit must go to Abu Ogogo for getting back on the goal line making the chance far more difficult than it would have been otherwise.
The tiring Constable was then replaced by Deane Smalley as Oxford looked to hang on to what they had, but they could and possibly should have wrapped up all three points 15 minutes from time. Firstly Potter broke through before the alert Lewington shot out from his goal to spread himself well and deny Potter who had a real influence on proceedings throughout the 2nd half.
Hall then cut in from the left before sending in a fabulous low cross which was begging for a finishing touch, no United player could oblige though as the ball beat everyone on its way through. Smalley was the next to threaten, latching onto a delightful through ball from Potter before a poor touch allowed Lewington to gather. It was real top notch 'keeping from Lewington in another fine personal performance.
John Still then threw on Gavin Tomlin for the last ten minutes, hoping the fleet footed forward could change the game in the Daggers favour, and he so nearly did. Just seconds after coming on he played in a delightful ball from the right, Woodall rose well and flicked a powerful header goalwards only for Clarke to dive to his left and palm the ball away.
The feat was repeated minutes later, this time it was Sam Williams who found himself on the end of another great cross from Tomlin. Williams flicked a header which for all money looked like landing in the top corner. But Clarke stuck a right hand out to push it away to safety. That was the closest the Daggers came in the final stages, a Mark Arber shot from 25 yards which went over the bar was the only other effort on goal.
All in all it was a deserved win for Oxford, the Daggers never really got forward with enough quality, and struggled to deal with United's 4-5-1 formation when they changed midway through the first half.
Lewington; Ogogo; Doe; Arber; Femi; Lee; Bingham (Woodall, 64); Gain; Scannell (Tomlin, 83); Williams; Nurse. Unused Subs: Hogan; Rose; Walsh
Clarke; Batt; Duberry; Wright; McLaren (Worley, 90); Heslop (Payne, 58); Leven; Davis; Potter; R. Hall; Constable (Smalley, 54). Unused Subs: Brown; A. Hall
Attendance - 1921 (420 Away)
Vicarage Field Man Of The Match - Scott Doe
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