By Gerry PrewettBristol Rovers hit the road this week and for them the only way is Essex as they head off to face a Dagenham and Redbridge team languishing at the wrong end of the table.
Dagenham are only one point out of the relegation positions having picked up just two League victories this season. Their season got off to the worst of starts with 3 defeats followed by two draws before their first League win, which strangely enough was a 2-1 victory at Northampton. They then went 11 games without a win, picking up just 4 points from 4 draws.
It is strange that in Cup competitions the Daggers have done well, winning 3 Football League Trophy ties and find themselves through to the Third Round of the FA Cup, where they will face Everton, after two draws and two wins.
In the first match of their Second Round game against National League South side Whitehawk, former Gas hero Jamie Cureton gave the Daggers a 4th minute lead with a typical shot on the turn.
But there was injury-time equaliser from substitute Jordan Rose who headed home a cross into the top corner four minutes into added time from Sam Deering to deny Dagenham a first home win of the season.
In the replay on Wednesday evening the game was once again very tight, at The Enclosed Ground in Brighton. Whitehawk took thirty minutes to establish the lead as Danny Mills nodded in. Kyle Vassell, pegged the National League team back with a powerful shot shortly before half-time.
With 15 minutes left Josh Passley's put the Daggers in front before Whitehawk sub Juan Cruz Gotta struck in stoppage time.
Ayo Obileye’s header on 100 minutes put the League team back in front for the third time in the tie and despite having midfielder James Dunne sent off for a second bookable offence, they survived to face Everton in the Third Round.
Daggers Boss Wayne Burnett, said after the game “I hope this can be a turning point and the thing that triggers our season. It is massive for the club because our league position is not great and we have not had much to cheer about this season. When we conceded the late goal I thought: ‘Here we go again’, because we have conceded a lot of late goals of late.”
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to go up to Goodison Park and give the fans something to cheer about. It is a bonus for us now but the priority is staying in the league and we would sacrifice this Cup run for points.”
Rovers’ first visit to Victoria Road was on 18 September 2010 and a Jeff Hughes hat-trick brought all three points back to Bristol. The following season after a very successful run under Mark McGhee, the Gas finished their campaign in Essex and went back with their tail between their legs with a 4-0 thrashing.
The high scoring in this fixture was continued on 1 April 2013 as a spectacular start saw Rovers go 2-0 up within 6 minutes with goals by John-Joe O’Toole and Oumare Tounkara. Danny Woodards looked to have made the game safe for Rovers on 20 minutes before Ben Strevens pulled on back for the Daggers.
The game then went 40 minutes without a goal before Tounkara notched his second; Jake Reed gave the result some respectability for the Daggers who finished well-beaten 4-2.
The following season, in Rovers last visit to Dagenham a disappointing first half performance saw them trail at the break to Abu Ogogo’s tenth minute goal and they were fortunate to only be one goal behind at the half time whistle as the Daggers squandered two more excellent opportunities.
They were handed a lifeline on 57 minutes when they were awarded a penalty after Ogogo handled Michael Smith’s ball into the box, but Matt Harrold’s spot kick was too close to keeper Chris Lewington who dived low to his right to push the ball away.
It was game over after 72 minutes when they were punished for poor marking at a corner and Luke Howell scored from close range.
Dagger’s Josh Passley spoke about his role in his team’s 3-2 defeat to Crawley between the two Cup ties, “We were a bit unlucky to lose. I think in stages we played really well and in other parts of the game we didn’t but there’s no point in complaining. We have to go onto Whitehawk and try to get a result there.
“I played in the right midfield area when I was younger before getting put back to right back so I have some memory of playing there. It was a good experience to be back in that position on Saturday. I was happy with the performance I gave and if the gaffer wants to put me there again I wouldn’t complain. I would just go out there, do my job and play to the best of my ability.”
Passley believes the two goals conceded before half time were crucial to the outcome of the game even though the Daggers pulled back a two goal deficit twice.
“The two goals conceded just before half time took the steam out of us. It would have been good to have gone into half time at 0-0. After the two goals it was an uphill battle but we tried getting back into it, then the 3rd goal killed us off. We’ve showed we do have character and no matter what the score is we always try to get back into the game.”
Striker Warren Hackett was annoyed at the opportunities the Daggers gifted to Crawley but was hoping the squad would roll their sleeves up the Whitehawk replay.
“We didn’t really give a good account of ourselves in respect that we were two goals down at half time. There wasn’t much fight shown at the time. They scored two easy and simple goals which we have looked at on video and agreed we could have done a lot better collectively to stop that. They didn’t create great opportunities to score against us we actually gifted them opportunities to score against us.
“There wasn’t too much in it in the first half. They obviously dominated possession but we put some telling balls into their box, which we didn’t get onto the end of. Cureton got on one of them but it was blocked and that was about it for us. Whether you have possession or not you can’t expect to concede as easy as we did”
“I wouldn’t say we are excited for the Whitehawk game. I’d say the whole group, know they need to do the job, and the job is to win the football match at all costs. It’s going to be a very tough game, in a very tough stadium on a difficult pitch. We won’t be used to these conditions but we need to roll our sleeves up and fight to win.
“It’s irrelevant who people say the favourite is. On the day we know we are good enough to win the football match and that is all we need to know. We are focused fully on this game. There is an obstacle in front of us before we can think about Everton. If we are fortunate to win the football match then Everton will be the next opposition after that.”