It was Wembley weekend for me once again, which meant another weekend in London. I haven’t now got that many London clubs left to tick off on my 92 list. I did float the idea of visiting a non-league ground, but I decided against it in favour of my original mission. The two matches which caught my eye were Brentford v Walsall and Dagenham v AFC Wimbledon. I had been promising fellow blogger Nick that I would go to a Dagenham home match sometime, so that’s where I went.
I was staying at my Aunties for the weekend, which meant I didn’t have to rush down to Wembley on the Sunday… and I got to miss college on the Friday! I was really looking forward to going to Dagenham, and the day started off well. A McDonalds breakfast and a flurry of snow greeted me when I awoke. I tried my best not to bring the weather down South with me, but it appeared that I had failed. Although, to be fair, it was also snowing at home as the playlist at The Reebok apparently consisted of “Let It Snow”.
After having some Oyster Card problems, I set off from Brixton thoroughly expecting to have my Oyster Card confiscated by mayor Boris Johnson or something. Fortunately there were no problems, and I set off to Dagenham. The journey was pretty straight forward, and I only got lost once… which was at Bank. Not my favourite station for changing trains, but I got through the close shave by singing my favourite song from back home! – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8Yy4FS3Yco
I arrived at Dagenham East shortly before 13:00, and strolled along the road until I reached Victoria Road. There was a bitterly cold wind, and my Bolton shirt failed to keep me warm. It was time to bring the jackets out. Still, I was less wrapped up than some of the locals who appeared to be going on some sort of Arctic expedition.
Found in a fairly residential area, the ground is found down at the bottom of Victoria Road. Greeting you as you turn the corner is a huge sign which reads “Welcome to Dagenham & Redbridge Football Club”. It felt almost like Disneyland Paris when you walk under the huge sign which greets you into the Magic Kingdom.
I had a quick walk around, taking photos while I waited for Nick and Billy to meet me. I bought two matchday programmes off the lovely old woman who was sheltering in the ticket office, before collecting my matchday ticket which I had ordered online. It cost £6 advance which was brilliant.
The last time I had met Nick and Billy was on a grey, wet miserable trip to Accrington. Thankfully on this occasion they looked a lot happier and they were soon leading me into the clubhouse.
“The trick is to not make eye contact with the man on the door!”
This immediately made me think about “The Captain” who manned the door on Phoenix Nights. I was expecting an old man, with a patch for an eye to be poking me with his walking stick, forcing me to sign in the visitors book which was on show. It all seemed pretty old fashioned and unneccessary. I mean, why do they need the 50p? They charge enough for the drinks as it is.
We went upstairs as apparently it was nicer than the facilities downstairs. Up a cream staircase we went, until we reached the top and entered a red and blue suite. A large window looking over the entrance to the ground allowed a lot of natural light in, and almost shone in a way to guide you to the bar. Pints in, we watched Fulham v Stoke. It was whilst watching the match that Billy drew my attention to a strange looking bloke who was wearing shorts. I was going to take a photo, but even that crossed the line for my blog.
I then persuaded Nick to come to the club shop with me so I could buy a Dagenham shirt. I will eventually have a shirt from all of the 92… apart from Millwall, Cardiff and Tranmere… for personal reasons. It now means I have a more up to date Daggers shirt than Nick, who for some reason never buys his clubs shirt!
It was then time to enter the ground. In through Gate 1 I went, and the ground opened up in front of me. First impressions were that the ground was a bit bigger, and a bit nicer than what I was expecting. Although, it is hard to judge a ground off 30 seconds of highlights on the Football League Show when you’ve had a drink.
The ground had an open feel to it, and that is helped with the fact you can walk around half of it without segregation causing a problem. We walked around to the other side of the ground and stood in the North Terrace… or The Sieve as it is affectionately known by home fans. Presumably it once had a leaking roof?
To our left was the Bury Road Terrace. Found at this side of the ground is the electronic scoreboard. The terracing is around 5 steps deep, and reminded me of the old score board end at Salford City Reds old ground. Found at the back of the terracing are some wooden fencing panels which I felt added a bit of romance to that end of the ground.
To our right was the Traditional Builders Stand… or the Pondfield End. This is the newest part of the ground, having been constructed in the 2009/2010 season to replace the old open terrace. The stand now holds 1,200 visiting supporters who are provided with a brilliant view of the pitch.
Directly in front of us were two separate stands. To the left, and running three quarters the length of the pitch was the Main Stand. Comprising of only 6 rows of seats, the capacity of this stand is 800. It almost looked like an elevated version of the Main Stand at Accrington Stanley (If you don’t mind me saying Dagenham fans!) To the right of this stand, found in the corner, was the Family Stand. This small paddock holds around 200 fans.
The speakers around the ground were blasting out inspirational songs for the players. Classics such as covers by previous XFactor winners really did whet the appetite of the home faithful.
With The Sieve now filling up, the teams emerged on to the pitch. Dagenham were wearing their home kit of red shirts, and blue shorts. The Wombles were in their change kit of all yellow.
Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley handed Brennan Dickenson his full debut after his arrival on loan from Brighton. A big blow for myself was the fact that Peter Sweeney had been replaced by Sammy Moore after he picked up an injury in Wimbledons previous match. Sweeney had been one of my favourite players when he was playing at Bury, so I was really looking forward to seeing him. The blow was soon softened when I discovered that Femi was playing for Dagenham.
Dagenham were unlucky not to be in front within the first 20 seconds. Straight from the kick off, the ball was spread out wide to Ben Strevens. After beating the Wimbledon defender, his tame shot was eventually saved by goalkeeper Neil Sullivan.
The visitors made a bright start and had their first shot in the ninth minute. Jack Midson latched on to a searching through ball from Sammy Moore, but the striker fired the ball into the side netting after making room for the shot. The Wombles and Midson had another chance in the 18th minute, but he shot wide from 10 yards after great play by Gary Alexander and Dickenson.
Wimbledons best chance of the first half came on the half hour mark when Harry Pell – who I saw play for Hereford at Southport earlier on in the season – found Alexander at the back post. Alexander fired towards goal, but Daggers keeper Chris Lewington kept the ball out with a strong save.
Wimbledon were well in control of the match, but neither side had produced any kind of football that suggested to me that they’d go on to claim the three points. Dagenham were playing some nice intriquite football at times, but you have to remember, that this is League Two… and passing won’t always win you matches. Sometimes teams have to accept that a good old fashioned lump into the box will suffice.
Half time arrived, and it gave me opportunity to go for something to eat. I was really looking forward to my half time pie, but then it suddenly struck me… I wasn’t at home. I approached the hatch found at the back of the terrace, and saw that pies were on the list. Joy was short lived though, as the bloke said “We don’t do pies” with a blank expression on his face as if to say “Why on Earth are you wanting to order that Northern muck?” This meant I had to resort to a cheeseburger, which was quite nice in the end. No pie though.
Dagenham started the second half the better of the two sides. They came close to breaking the deadlock on 52 minutes when Matt Saunders turned on the spot, before unleashing a powerful strike towards the top left hand corner. Unfortunately it flashed just wide. You felt whichever team got the first goal would win the match, and it looked like Dagenham would snatch it.
Wombles boss Neil Ardley then changed the dimensions of the away side when he brought on Jesse Darko (On loan from Cardiff) and Kevin Saint-Luce who had also arrived from the Welsh side. They made an instant impact.
Just minutes later a long Mitchel-King throw in fell to the feet of Luke Moore. He shot from close range and hit the advertising boards next to the net… before rustling in the side netting. This brought loud celebrations and cheers from the away end, due to the fact the 800 travelling fans thought they had just scored. It definitely wins my award for the best non-goal celebration.
However, the travelling Dons faithful were celebrating a goal with 10 minutes of time left when Sainte-Luce scored his first goal for the club. Mitchel-King’s initial effort from a corner was cleared off the line. Another shot was scrambled away, before the ball fell to the French man on the edge of the area. He smashed the ball into the top corner of the net, and did a Nani-esque flip before running down the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the travelling Wombles.
Dagenham then piled on the pressure, and nearly grabbed an equaliser in the final minute when goalkeeper Chris Lewington went up for a corner. He leapt above everybody else and his header was cleared off the line by Hussey.
The match ended, and you could argue that Wimbledon just about deserved the three points in the end. They held on at times, but they defended superbly with a yellow blanket. Unfortunately I didn’t see my Femi score, but I will do one day.
We left the ground, and I made my way back up to Dagenham East station. The Wimbledon fans were in fine voice, singing songs such as ♫ We’ve gone to Zone 5! We’ve gone to Zone 5! We are the Wombles! We’ve gone to Zone 5! ♫ This song continued on a theme each time they entered a new zone on the Underground. The novelty soon wore off.
The day was nearly over, and then my Oyster card started playing games upon arrival at Clapham Common. I knew it was too good to be true. A Northerner surviving a day on the Underground without a map. I had no money left on it, despite my mum topping up with money before I left. Thatchers Britain.
It had been another good day out. The Dagenham fans were as nice as last time I met them. The ground was quite nice. I watched a match between two evenly matched teams. It wasn’t the greatest match in the world, but at least it wasn’t a 0-0. More importantly, Bolton had actually won a match… and Atherton Collieries had won 2-0 to keep up their promotion chase.
It was nice to meet Nick, Billy and Charlie again. Thanks for making me feel welcome, and showing me around. Hopefully I’ll get to a match with you again sometime soon.
You can have a read of Nicks Dagenham blog here – http://thedaggersscale.blogspot.co.uk/
- DISTANCE TRAVELLED TO GROUND: 217 miles
- ADMISSION: £6 as a student
- PROGRAMME PRICE: £3
- PIE: N/A