The Daggers tonight moved to twelve points clear at the top of the Nationwide
Conference thanks to a nervy 2-0 win over Play-Off hopefuls and FA
Trophy finalists, Stevenage
John Still surprised the home fans with a very different
line up for this one, with the Sams, Sloma and Saunders, on the bench and all
three of the first choice front men in the starting team. This meant a 4-3-3
when attacking and a 4-5-1 without the ball and seemed maybe a defensive ploy
with Jake Leberl playing a holding role in front of the back four.
started well for the home team, pressing Boro back in the early stages. Chris
Moore (left) burst past the last defender, Fuller and was pulled back on the
edge of the box when clearly through on goal. Mr East decided it was just a
yellow though and the resulting free kick from Glen Southam struck the wall. A
second free kick shortly after from Southam did force a save from Julian in the
Boro goal but generally Glen disappointed with the dead ball on the night.
Benson was flattened shortly after this by McMahon and looked shaken up for a
while while Daggers looked on a little heart in mouth. It was Jon Boardman
(right) though that was forced off after 24 minutes when he damaged ankle ligaments and
could not continue. The re-shuffle that resulted,
Paolo Vernazza coming on and
Jake Leberl (left) dropping back to defence saw the Daggers lose the initiative
and some bright passing football from Boro forced them back for much of the rest
of the half.
As the break approached it looked like the visitors had to take the lead as
the ball bounced around the Daggers area blocked and hacked off the line at
least twice by Griffiths and Vernazza. It was with some relief that the Daggers
trooped off for the half time cuppa and some wise words from John Still.
The second half was more comfortable for the home team, possibly due to some
re-organisation with Ben Strevens pulled back more into midfield, and possibly
due to Boro's extra time exertions in the FA Trophy at the weekend.
It was still far from plain sailing though as Stimson rang the changes
looking for a spark in his team. The Daggers began to stretch the game more
though, Benson had a shot tipped over then Glen Southam just missed the
top corner with a drive from distance. Just past the hour mark Dave Rainford hit
a shot straight at Julian when found in space by Chris Moore.
The breakthrough eventually came on 76 minutes. A cross from the right from
Dave Rainford found Glen Southam who stooped to head back across the goal to Ben
Strevens (right) who thrashed home from 8 yards sending the home fans wild.
With two recent games drawn from 1-0 up the Daggers couldn't relax and went
forward once again looking for a clincher. Benson's shot again was too close to
Julian, then former Daggers triallist Paul Hakim forced a save out of Tony
Roberts to emphasise the game was not won yet.
With three minutes left in normal time, Dave Rainford
(left) sealed the win smashing
home Paolo Vernazza's corner to great celebrations on and off the pitch.
Rainford ran three quarters of the length of the pitch to be engulfed in Daggers
and Stevenage decided to take the kick off but shot wide of Roberts empty net
anyway before Mr East could call the play back.
The game was up for Boro then and time was played out without any real
further dramas to gleeful noise from the sieve who advised the visiting fans
where they could poke their Wembley FA Trophy final.
Twelve points clear with 24 to play for, the fat lady was definitely heard
clearing her throat at Victoria Road. Oxford visit Halifax on Wednesday with
nothing but a win needed to extend any semblance of a challenge.