Review of 2002
by Hardy on 02/01/2003
So 2002 is over and DiggerDagger.com wishes you a Happy New Year for 2003 with a review of an eventful 12 months for Dagenham & Redbridge FC.
A Review of 2002
The last year was another great one to be a Dagger, even if
in the end the big prizes have eluded us. It started with me walking up a
deserted Victoria Road on New Years Day to find that the Hayes game had been
called off due to frost. That day only one game started in the Conference, the
game at York Street, Boston. This was subsequently abandoned just before half
time with rumours of the Pilgrims being desperate for the gate money, a theme
that will be repeated later.
The first Saturday of the year saw the visit of Ipswich
Town in the FA Cup, John Motson (right) and Match of the Day in attendance. With a near
full house Junior scored his customary goal on these occasions to take the lead,
but unlike a year before Ipswich proved too strong in the end, running out 4-1
winners. Reality struck a week later when Dr Martens Eastern Division side
Eastbourne Borough came and nearly escaped with a draw, Danny Shipp's late,
late winner securing a spot in round 4 of the FA Trophy.
The game in January that really mattered, the visit of
Forest Green Rovers, was a disappointing draw before February opened with the
Daggers tamely going out of the Trophy at home to Telford United, much to the
relief of many fans who saw it as a distraction to the clubs Football League
The rest of February saw three good results and one bad one
in the Conference. Farnborough Town were beaten 2-1 after taking the lead early
at Victoria Road, then Hayes arrived for the rearranged game from New Years Day.
The Daggers could only gain a point from that game despite their keeper Bertrand
Bossu (left) being sent off. In the end, dropped points like the two that night would
be very costly.
The frustrations of being a Dagger surfaced the following
Saturday when the team came up against a good Yeovil side at Huish Park and
gained a great 3-3 draw and could easily have won. Dover Athletic came and went with a win courtesy of Steve
McGavin before February ended. The game that was billed as the title decider
loomed, Dagenham & Redbridge v Boston United, live on Sky TV.
The game was moved to Monday night for the cameras and
3,805 turned up to see the clash of the two title favourites. It was a less than
spectacular game, very cagey and tight but the Daggers won due to a rare Ashley
Vickers goal after 38 minutes. The Daggers and the fans celebrated after the
game with mutual applause during the players warm down, the same as every other
game at Victoria Road. Boston manager, Steve Evans, turned that into the
"premature lap of honour" controversy though, and the Daggers moved seven
points clear of the Pilgrims and into pole position for the Conference title.
The bad blood between the Daggers as Boston intensified the
next day with claims in a number of the nationals that the Daggers had
"disrespected" the beaten Boston team with the "lap of honour", banging
on the Boston dressing room and singing "We are the Champions. The claims have
since turned into folklore and are accepted as true by many, but have been
denied over and over by the Dagenham & Redbridge team and management. Evans
upped the temperature with statements in his program notes the following week
about the Daggers being a "Sunday league team" but with the Daggers 7 points
clear with 13 games to play it seemed like it was just sour grapes.
The championship continued with a 3-1 win at Stevenage,
Mark Stein (left) hitting a hat trick in the first of a five game run of away games.
After this though the wheels came off the title challenge with one point from
the next four games. The Daggers were thrashed 4-0 by Barnet
at Underhill then lost at Leigh RMI before a 1-1 draw at Morecambe, Peter
Thomson grabbing a late, spectacular equaliser for the Shrimps. At Nuneaton the
team rolled over 2-0 and Mark Stein was sent off. The destiny of the title was
back in Boston's hands just three and a half weeks after the Pilgrims had lost
at Victoria Road.
The Daggers came back hard with four wins on the trot over
Morecambe, Northwich, Stalybridge and finally Doncaster on a stormy Friday
night, on the pitch at least, again live on Sky TV. During all this the club had
reached the Essex Senior Cup Final courtesy of Purfleet being chucked out of the
competition. The Essex FA insisted the game took place on the Monday before the
Daggers had a league game at Hereford and as a result a team mostly made up of
the PASE side, plus Neville Southall (right) and Mark Brennan, lost the final 6-1 to
The following night another nail was driven into the
Daggers title hopes when, with Boston losing at Scarborough, a late goal won the
game for Hereford when a draw would have put the Daggers back in charge. A draw
at Scarborough with a cast iron penalty turned down wasn't enough to make the
two wins at Woking and home to Chester City meaningful and the Pilgrims took the
title on goal difference. The season ended with "what if's" in abundance
but a best ever second spot in the Conference.
The close season started with three players released in May
including record appearance holder Jason Broom (left) who joined Grays as Garry Hill
started to build for another tilt at the title. Ken Charlery was to follow
shortly afterwards but only after reports of an FA investigation into Boston
United started to appear. On June 26th the FA charged Boston United
and individuals in the club with 16 cases of registering false contracts and
hampering the investigation into the club. Suddenly there was hope that the FA
would dock Boston points for the season just over and the Daggers may still go
On July 19th the FA announced that the Pilgrims
would be docked points and fined as a result of the charges, but the points came
from the coming season. The Daggers were obviously disappointed but accepted the
decision and got on with building the team for the new season.
Back to kicking a football
After the usual "what team will they bring" friendly
with West Ham the Conference season kicked off with three straight wins and the Daggers
From there though a draw at home to Telford was followed by a record equalling four defeats
on the trot, including the 5-1 Sky TV thrashing by Doncaster, and the Daggers
dropped to mid-table. The ups and downs continued with a win over Kettering,
then a defeat by Chester with five more goals shipped, then a win over Margate
and a defeat to Southport with two sent off (right) and another at Hereford from 1-0 up
Since then though there has been steady progress. Two draws
at home were followed by a great win against Northwich Victoria at their adopted
home in Witton. Kidderminster Harriers beat a second string Daggers in the LDV
for what before the FA Cup 2002/03 kicked in with a great 4-0 win at Aldershot
(left) in what had looked a tricky game beforehand.
Since then the Daggers have had a long unbeaten run, having come from behind for draws
at Huish Park and the Shay, finally ended by Barnet's late, late winner on
Boxing Day and closed the year with a great 4-0 win over Gravesend. We are in the FA Cup 3rd round again for
the third time in succession, having got past Havant & Waterlooville and
Crawley Town in the 1st and 2nd rounds. This is a feat not
achieved by a non-league side for 20 years. In the Conference we are 4 points of
a play off spot and in decent shape for a challenge at the play-off in the
second half of the season.
It is never dull being a Dagger and lets hope that 2003
brings as many thrills and spills as 2002.
Happy New Year.
The Daggers in 2002
*Includes the Essex Senior Cup Final at Roots Hall