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     On This Day


In 1993,The Daggers drew 2-2 with Cambridge City Away in the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round


In 1999,The Daggers beat Walton & Hersham 2-0 at Home in the Ryman League Premier 


In 2004,The Daggers lost 1-2 to Farnborough Town Away in the Nationwide Conference 
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In 2010,The Daggers lost 2-3 to Rochdale Away in the NPower League One 


In 2012,The Daggers drew 1-1 with Exeter City at Home in the NPower League Two 


 

 


Har Har

Where have the Daggers gone?
by Hardy on 06/11/2003

With the Daggers season turning sour rapidly Hardy looks at where it has all gone wrong in just six months since the play-off final at Stoke.

Where have the Daggers gone?
As we sit this weekend watching the FA Cup First Round, not involved for the first time in four seasons, with the added ignominy of our conquerors Thurrock being the first game on TV on Friday against Luton Town, it seems a good time to look at the season so far and where on earth it has all gone wrong after coming so close to promotion in Stoke against Doncaster Rovers just 6 months ago.

The Daggers season is not over yet, but is in serious danger of descending into a battle against relegation given current form, and the run of four defeats we have just experienced matches the worst ever for the club.

So what has happened, where have the Daggers of the last four seasons gone?

Close season 2003
The Daggers made wholesale changes to the squad in the last close season. Several of the changes have patently not worked to date. Movements this summer were:

Out: Mark Rooney (released, signed by Barnet), Steve Heffer (released, signed by Thurrock), Paul Gothard (released, signed by Thurrock), Steve Potts (released, retired), Steve West (reported fee of £10k to Hornchurch), Junior McDougald (refused new contract, signed by Canvey Island)

In: Jimmy Jackson (free from Gravesend & Northfleet), Mark Bentley (free from Gravesend & Northfleet), Leon Braithwaite (free from Margate), Alex Meechan (undisclosed fee from Forest Green Rovers), Lenny Piper (free from Farnborough Town). Chris Piper (free from Farnborough Town), Keith Scott (free from Leigh RMI)

With the release of several players being completely understandable for me, the one player released that made little sense was long time stalwart Steve Heffer. Heff was an ever reliable holding midfield player willing to give blood for the Daggers cause and was just 30. The official reason offered for the release was Steve's desire for first team football and a difficulty to commit to the time needed for a team in a National competition like the Conference. Steve just becoming a father was also a factor.

Given the subsequent sale of Paul Terry to Yeovil Town in September, a move that the Daggers did not want to make but were forced into in order to cash in on an asset who could walk away on a free at the end of the season, the heart of the midfield which had carried the team to the Ryman league title, and to third, second and the play off final was ripped out.

Replacing Heff came several midfield signings, Mark Bentley and Jimmy Jackson from Gravesend and the Pipers from Farnborough, none of which are similar types of players. The departure of Paul Terry means that the club's only real option as a combative midfielder is Danny Shipp, a centre forward.

Another loss was the underrated Mark Rooney. At the Fans Forum in February 2003 Garry Hill described Mark as a perfect squad player, happy to fill in wherever needed, yet in the summer Mark was released and immediately signed by Barnet where he has made 14 appearances for the club lying 4th in the table.

The Keith Scott saga remains a complete mystery to date. Scotty was no spring chicken at 36 and had more clubs than Tiger Woods, but was a "target man" replacement for Steve West who took the 30 pieces of† Bryco silver to move down to Hornchurch. Having done pretty well in pre-season Scotty was shipped off on loan to Tamworth without ever playing a game and then signed by Windsor & Eton.

And more changes since
Since the summer Paul Terry has moved on to Yeovil to warm the bench in Division Three, realistically a move that the Daggers would not have wanted to make, but had little realistic alternative to in this "Bosman" day and age.

Then came the infamous Fitzroy Simpson race row following the game against Telford United on the 5th of September. While that is still under investigation, the fall out for the club was the loss of two key players, Mark Smith and Mark Stein and a definite dent on morale around Victoria Road.

Players in since are Tony Scully, Alan Kimble and Steve Watts. While Wattsy is a proven player for the club after his loan period last season, Scully is yet to convince so far. Alan Kimble, while hugely experienced, is 37 and has been severely embarrassed for pace of a couple of occasions.†

Last week two of the summer signings, Lenny Piper and Alex Meechan, were transfer listed having failed to make much of an impact or secure a regular first team spot. Some of this was no doubt down to the trimming of budgets following the shock FA Cup exit, but neither can argue that they have made a difference as yet this season.

So are we better?
I would argue that the only player that has joined the club in the summer and since that has proved their worth so far is Mark Bentley. Even he has very anonymous days, and Garry Hill doesn't seem to know whether to play him on the right or centrally.

Of the other signings Jackson has been injured for most of the season so far, Lenny Piper and Meechan are now transfer listed. Chris Piper has played a lot but looks a little lightweight. Tony Scully can beat a man but rarely delivers a decent cross.

Leon Braithwaite struggled for a long time to get his first goal, has only two to date and has been injured. Leon is blessed with blinding pace but suffers from the old Junior McDougald problem of not being direct enough.

Let's remember that these players have almost all been brought in from clubs that finished bottom half in the Conference last season. Right now, it looks like that is where they will be finishing this season too.

Tactics anyone?
I have to say that I believed we would be trying to play the sort of game that took Yeovil so convincingly to the title last season. Fast movement, passing, fluid. On the rare occasions we do this, like in the second half against Orient in the LDV it seems to work. Despite this, all too often, like last season, when the going gets tough, the long balls start.

Whereas last season we had Steve West picking up the pieces and Mark Stein sniffing off the knock downs, this season we have Alex Meechan and Leon Braithwaite, having sent Keith Scott packing. Long ball is not working, we don't have the right sort of players to use it as an option so why resort to it?

We have tried all sorts of combinations through central midfield, none of which seem to have worked consistently. So many players have been played out of position week in week out.†

Ashley Vickers seems still to be the first choice left back despite proving when he was forced back into central defence that this his best position. Danny Shipp, a centre forward has yo-yoed between front and midfield. Chris Piper has played all over the place, Scully has gone left and right, Paul Bruce has played left back, left midfield and centre midfield.

Full Time or Part Time?
The club made the decision to go partly full time in the summer. A number of players are on full time contracts and train daytimes as well as with the part time players on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Has this impacted the cohesion of the squad? Quite possibly it seems.

Lee Matthews missed much of pre-season having got married in the summer and has not looked anything like the player he can be this season so far. Mark Janney looks unfit watching from the terraces.†

Even the full time elements of the squad don't seem noticeably more fit, with the possible shining exception of Tarkan Mustafa who has to be the Daggers player of the season so far.

The Daggers now have half the squad full time as well as a full time manager and coach and yet have a record this season to date of played 19, won 5, drawn 4, lost 10.

Of the wins, four of the five have seen the Daggers score four or more goals so when it works it works well. Three of the four draws have been achieved against clubs in the top five of the Conference, two of them away at Edgar Street and St James' Park. Then again we have lost to Leigh RMI, Tamworth, Accrington Stanley and Burton Albion and have won only once away from home.

So where are we?
Quite frankly, right now the Daggers look to be in a mess.

In the last four games Burton Albion came to Victoria Road with a pretty simple game plan to contain and break and executed it to perfection, albeit assisted by a fabulous performance on the day by keeper Matt Duke. Thurrock put us out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle with ex-Daggers playing major parts in running our midfield ragged, including Steve Heffer.

At Halifax the first half display was nothing short of shocking, possibly the worst by a Daggers team since Kidderminster away in 1996 when the Daggers were 5-0 down at half time. At QPR the lads were a little unlucky to lose but once again the Daggers lack of firepower meant another defeat.

With this weekend blank, a gap reserved for the FA Cup, the next game is at home next Tuesday against Farnborough Town, currently bottom of the Conference. With the Daggers just three points out of the relegation places and a third of the season now gone anything but a win in that game would be a catastrophe.

Lose that one and Garry Hill has to seriously look at his position before it is too late.


 

 

 

 

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