Dagenham & Redbridge edged out of the relegation zone with a 2-1 home victory over mid-table Accrington Stanley. The hosts struck back with two late headers from Scott Doe and Brian Woodall after a sensational Bobby Grant strike gave Accrington the lead late in the first half.
In truth it was a poor but fast paced game, but no one could deny John Still’s men their deserved victory come 96 minutes.
Within the opening five minutes of the match the two sides traded blows. Medy Elito flashed a shot over Lee Nicholls’ bar, whilst at the other end poor play between Chris Lewington and Scott Doe gave Grant the chance to open the scoring. Fortunately for the Daggers, the on-loan Scunthorpe striker couldn’t sort his feet out in time meaning he miscontrolled the ball, and it went out for a goal kick.
A few minutes later and Mathieu Baudry came close to breaking the deadlock, but his header inside the box was blocked on the line to deny the on-loan Bournemouth centre half his first Daggers goal.
After a slight lull in play it was the turn of Accrington to attack, in particular winger Jamie Devitt who was causing left-back Damien McCrory all sorts of problems with his quick footwork and turn of pace. After menacing former Argyle full back McCrory once more, Devitt played the ball to a teammate who hit two powerful shots that were both blocked well by the consistent Baudry. In the same phase, Baudry and Danny Coid went head-to-head for the ball, unfortunately for Stanley it resulted in the aging Coid picking up an injury which forced him off; Will Hatfield came on in his place.
Paul Cook’s side were becoming increasingly dangerous and on the 20 minute mark Lewington had to be at his best to deny Grant’s goal-bound volley from outside the box, tipping it round the post for a corner. From the resulting corner, Dagenham managed to form a breakaway in the guise of Elito, but the two goal hero from a week ago could only drag his shot wide of the mark.
Just as it looked as though the sides would be going into half-time level pegging, Grant sprung up and unleashed a fabulous curling effort into the corner of the net that gave Lewington no chance. On the balance of play you could argue that Stanley deserved the lead, especially when you consider how much of a nuisance Grant had been in the previous 43 minutes, as he proved a constant threat to the hosts’ defence.
The Daggers restarted the play but instantly gave the ball away as Accrington looked to build upon their lead. Grant wasn’t content with his one goal and set about doubling his tally, the forward’s shot from a similar position to his goal was blocked by a Daggers defender to avert the danger.
In first half injury time Daggers nearly found a quick fire equaliser. Another corner on the far side found its way into the centre of the box where it was met by the head of Scott Doe, whose header looked to be heading in but for Lee Nicholls managing to scramble back to gather the ball safely.
Daggers went into the second half with a substitution from John Still. The somewhat anonymous Josh Parker was replaced by holding midfielder Billy Bingham as we looked to match Stanley in the midfield by reverting to a 4-3-3 formation. With ten minutes of a dull first half played, Jon Nurse picked up an injury after being taken down just outside the box; the Barbadian was eventually replaced by the club’s main striker Josh Scott.
The first half chance of the second period was from the boot of Mickey Spillane, who could only manage to hit the side netting from a very tight angle when crossing would have been a far better option.
After a Will Hatfield shot that went wide of the post, John Still decided to make his third and final change in an attempt to get that all important equaliser. He brought off the rather ineffective John Akinde in place of Daggers’ joint top league scorer Woodall. The game once again became fast paced with Doe blocking at one end, whilst minutes later Abu Ogogo fired a shot just wide of the post at the other. Accrington then made their second change of the match bringing off anonymous front man Craig Lindfield for Pacos loan player Padriag Amond, whom Paul Cook had worked with at Sligo two years previous.
Dagenham & Redbridge came closer and closer to scoring and on 73 minutes everyone thought we had made the breakthrough. Some neat play in the box saw the ball eventually fall to converted centre midfielder Ogogo, his fierce shot went just an inch over the bar when really it should have made the net bulge. During the build-up another Stanley man had gone down injured and was eventually stretchered off and forced Cook into his third and final change, eventually bringing on Ian Craney for the stricken Rob Kiernan.
As the temperature cooled down, Dagenham turned the heat up on Stanley once more with a Spillane daisy cutter from outside the area destined to go into the bottom corner but for a last ditch block from a brave Accy defender. With the home side exposed at the back, Accrington threatened to steal another goal down the left hand side, luckily though Doe was on hand to give a smart free-kick away and slow the pace of the game.
Just as everyone was beginning to lose hope, Woodall was on hand at the back post to head in a pin point Spillane cross, which sent the Daggers fans in the Traditional Builders Stand wild. A mixture of jubilation and relief had come upon us all, our next task was to make sure we didn’t concede again or against all the odds, push forward and snatch an unlikely win.
Straight from the restart the Daggers won a corner, it was whipped into the box towards the head of Baudry who got a clean header away, and alas it was saved on the line by Nicholls. A yard either side and we would have been celebrating another home goal.
Just as six minutes of injury time was announced on the fourth official’s board, the Daggers won a free-kick on the left hand side after Devitt made a poor challenge on Elito, for which he was booked. Before the free-kick could be taken by Medy, we had a pause in the play due to an apparent slap by Aristote Nsiala on Spillane. After consulting his official on the far side, Stuart Attwell decided that the only possible action that could be taken was to send Nsiala off, so the defender received his matching orders. In disbelief he trudged back to the dressing room about five minutes before the rest of his team mates.
The free-kick was eventually flighted towards the back post by Elito after several minutes of deliberation. The whole of the crowd looked over to see Doe rise up and head the ball between Nicholls and the post to send the Daggers 2-1 up. Doe wheeled off in celebration as the home fans went loopy. From nowhere it looked as though we would be sending Accrington back home to Lancashire with nothing.
A dejected Accrington Stanley restarted the game looking for an equaliser and forced two corners before the final whistle, but ultimately it was the day of the Daggers. A truly massive three points and a result that could have a serious bearing on the table come mid May.
Attendance: 1,476 (66 from Accrington)
Man Of The Match: Mathieu Baudry. A simply stunning performance from the on-loan Frenchman. He looked assured and composed at the back and had the courage and ability to get himself out of tight situations when it looked potentially disastrous. Not only that, but he even managed to be a valiant threat when attacking. The best centre-half Dagenham & Redbridge have ever had.