Crawley Town 3 Daggers 1
Ten-man Daggers were plunged further into the relegation mire with this defeat against npower League Two leaders Crawley Town at The Broadfield Stadium on Tuesday night. But despite a fifth defeat in a row, and a ninth from the last ten matches, manager John Still was remaining positive.
''The performance tonight was very, very good,'' he said. ''What we got was the kind of performance we've become used to over the years, as opposed to some of the performances of late.''
''We watched a DVD of the game on Saturday (against Aldershot) with the players and we had something like 70% of the possession but made some really poor defensive mistakes. When you do that you get downhearted, but it's really important to put things into perspective,'' he continued. ''It's not about how we're playing, it's the mistakes we are making. If we can overcome that then we'll be alright.''
The Daggers made two changes from the side that had lost on Saturday, with Ollie Lee returning to the starting XI in place of DJ Green and Troy Hewitt replacing the injured Brian Woodall up front. Meanwhile there was an ex-Dagger in the home ranks as striker John Akinde, who had a loan spell at the club towards the end of last season, was given his first Crawley start.
But despite their poor recent run of results, it was the Daggers who were given the boost a goal inside the opening eight minutes. Gavin Tomlin was fouled by Kyle McFadzean 35 yards from goal, and Lee's free kick somehow found its way through the Crawley wall and past goalkeeper Scott Shearer, to send the 295 travelling fans into ecstasy.
But their joy was short-lived. Chris Lewington had already produced a fine save to deny Scott Neilson when the Red Devils grabbed a 17th minute equalizer. Leading scorer Matt Tubbs burst onto a flick from Akinde before being hauled down in the area by Scott Doe, leaving referee Steve Rushton no alternative other than to point to the spot and produce a red card for the devastated Doe. It was Tubbs himself who got up to coolly beat Lewington from the spot - the third game in a row in which the Daggers have conceded a penalty.
Still responded by bringing on Phil Walsh for Tomlin in a bid to shore up his defence, but it was the Daggers who almost regained the lead three minutes later. A great dead-ball delivery from Damien McCrory saw Phil Walsh denied by Shearer, while Jon Nurse's follow up effort was cleared away by McFadzean.
The Daggers continued to battle on bravely, although inevitably it was the hosts creating most of the chances. Lewington denied Neilson again in the 25th minute before doing even better to produce a marvellous double save from Josh Simpson and then Neilson once again. But the Daggers were always a threat on the break and one such move almost saw them go back in front seven minutes before the break. Nurse was sent clear with a clever ball from Gain but his shot was tipped around the post by Shearer.
However, just as it looked as though the Daggers would go in at half time still on level terms, the hosts grabbed the lead with virtually the last kick of the half. Akinde, who had been a constant threat all game, did well to keep in a cross from Simpson, and he neatly pulled the ball back for Sergio Torres to turn home from close range - a cruel blow for Still's beleaguered troops.
The second half was always going to be an uphill struggle after that, but the Daggers showed the sort of fighting spirit they will need over the coming months, to keep the leaders at bay. Lewington was in fine form once again as kept out a McFadzean header six minutes after the resumption, before performing more miracles to deny Neilson and Dannie Bulman in quick succession.
Inspired by his heroics, the visitors broke out to create their best chance of the night just past the hour mark. Hewitt battled hard to create a shooting opportunity for himself inside the Crawley penalty area, but he was unable to find the finish to match his approach work and screwed his shot wide of the target.
Lewington was called into action again shortly afterwards, keeping out a close range effort from Torres with his legs, before Akinde departed to warm applause from the travelling fans. However, it was his replacement, Jon-Paul Pitman, who finally brought the brave Daggers resistance to an end five minutes from time - heading home from close range following a cross from fellow substitute Pablo Mills. There was some initial confusion over the validity of the goal, as the referees assistant on the far side had briefly raised his flag - presumably for offside against Pitman - but after consulting with Rushton the goal stood, and the Daggers had lost again to remain just one point above the drop zone.
''I look back over the years to when things haven't been quiet right,'' said Still. ''Not just at Dagenham, but at Peterborough and Lincoln, and the over-riding feeling is that you just have to keep working hard. I believe in the players and if you work hard you can make it happen.''
Attendance; 2,862 (295 away)