By Gerry PrewettAt the culmination of a massively successful season, whether promotion is secured or not, Bristol Rovers, like Julius Caesar must be wary of a Dagger in the back. Whilst their Essex opposition are already ‘down and out’, literally the threat they pose is a real one.
There are two facts to support the warning, firstly Rovers record is a poor one with just 2 victories and 3 defeats in the five home games in this fixture, secondly the Daggers have won their last two games, the first time they have won back to back League games this season.
If any further evidence is required that Rovers should not be complacent the Daggers first victory came on 5 September when they inflicted a 2-1 home defeat on runaway Champions Northampton Town.
On Saturday as Rovers were demolishing York City, ex-Gas Manager John Still’s team were performing a similar job on Crawley Town. After going in at half-time scoreless the game burst into life on 51 minutes as Christian Doidge scored from 18 yards after playing a one-two with Jamie Cureton.
Two minutes later Doidge profited from a goalkeeping error. The Welshman shot from around 25 yards and Reds stopper Callum Preston thought it was going wide, only for it to bounce just shy of the goal and spin in. Dagenham sealed the win when Ashley Hemmings finished off a swift counter attack from close range.
Talking after the game Still commented, “The first half we were slow and the game was slow, everything was slow in the first half. It did surprise me after last week, but we picked up in the second half. We did very well, but it’s that drive that’s been so hard to find, but we found it in the second half.”
“We shouldn’t have to wait for me to push for that drive, they have to find it in themselves. It’s disappointing when it doesn’t come. You look for leaders and warriors, we went young again, but we still had a few more experienced players that have to drive the others on.”
Talking about Doidge’s second strike he said, “It’s football and those things happen, if you don’t shoot, you don’t score.”
The very first meeting between the clubs took place on 5 December 2001 in the Associate Members Cup (as it then was), with Rovers running out 4-1 victors.
In the 2012-13 fixture, a period of pressure from Rovers led to a goal for the opposition; on 19 minutes Matthew Saunders crossed the ball in to Sam Williams who slammed the ball into the top right of the net from close range. It was the only goal of the game.
Rovers’ last victory was on 29 October 2011. By the end of the game Rovers had recorded their first clean sheet in eight games. It also ended their run of Saturday home defeats, having not won a weekend home game for eight months.
Joe Anyinsah bundled in Rovers first goal of the game early in the second half. Matt Harrold made sure of the three points with just two minutes left on the clock. The striker was fouled in the box to win a penalty, and stepped up to slot home for the spot.
That victory for Rovers was some sort of revenge for the reverse result the previous time the two sides met on 5 March 2011, as the visitors ran out 2-0 winners.
The last times the teams crossed paths in Bristol was on 11 March 2014 and it saw Rovers’ six match unbeaten run came to an end with a 2-1 victory to the Daggers.
Rovers took a 7th minute lead through O’Toole from a short corner routine. The ball was played back to Lee Brown who whipped a cross in to an unmarked O’Toole who rose to fire home a powerful header.
On 23 minutes it was all-square as Adebayo scored from a corner swung in by Medy Elito, Azeez was the first to react and rose highest to fire home.
Dagenham took the lead just before the hour mark through Azeez who notched up his second goal of the game. The striker was given too much space and shot into the top corner for what proved to be the winning goal.
In a season of few positives for Dagenham one came on Saturday when Jimmy Shepherd made his debut, the young defender playing 80 minutes at right back. It was the perfect way for Shepherd to make his debut for Daggers as the hosts gave their fans some cheer in their final home game of the campaign.
Afterwards he said, “A clean sheet for me after coming into the team and a 3-0 win, I thought we did well against Crawley. I arrived nervous and warmed up nervous, but I got a good few touches early on and it went from there. I just came out here wanting to do my best having been offered a pro deal. I wanted to prove to the gaffer and everyone else involved in the coaching staff that they’d made the right decision by giving me that.”
Someone who is confident of a Rovers victory is Gas hero and Sky TV pundit Ian Holloway, Ollie says, “I think Rovers won't falter, they will keep going. Everything should be buzzing for the play-offs and the town is at the minute. They've got new owners and Darren Clarke has been superb. He's given me my team back and my pride in the club, and for that I thank him. I watched them win promotion last year and maybe I can watch them do it again if they don't do it automatically. They'll be my favourites for the play-offs. 3-1 home win.