They’ve managed to retain a relaxed non-league atmosphere at their games, they give away fans the best stand in the ground, and they even sell decent food. Of course, the unavoidable downside is Dagenham itself, not really somewhere you want to be going on a wet Saturday in February, or, for that matter, ever.
The pitch was decidedly old-school, more mud than grass, and unknown to us had had to pass a lunchtime inspection, but it remained playable despite some heavy rain during the game. Reacting belatedly to getting overrun in midfield against Sheffield Wednesday Bradbury opted to bring in Partington to a holding midfield role at the expense of Ings, leaving Symes as the lone striker.
Jalal was the first keeper in action, saving a free kick from Green low to his left with Pearce on hand to get the loose ball away for a corner, but the best of the first-half chances went to Bournemouth. Feeney was left with a clear run on goal after McCrory misjudged a long ball, but took the ball a little wide and Roberts saved with his feet and blocked Feeney’s follow-up attempt. The veteran keeper as usual enjoyed a bit of banter with the away fans, although breaking in to a chorus of “Wendy Saints” wasn’t in the best possible taste. Later in the half he made an even better save low to his right from Hollands’ well directed header.
Honours fairly even at half-time, but the second half started poorly as Jalal started to go for Green’s free kick hit high to the back post before realising that he couldn’t get there and leaving the unmarked Nurse to head home. Minutes later another Green cross caused problems at the back post but Jalal made a partial block and was helped out by the conditions as the ball stuck in the mud behind him.
Ings replaced Partington and was quickly into the action, netting a glancing header that was disallowed for offside within a couple of minutes of coming on before scoring soon after with a legitimate header after Pugh picked him out with a perfect cross.
Both sides continued to plug away in conditions that demanded commitment more than finesse, but just as it seemed that the points would be shared another Bradbury substitution bore fruit. Fletcher had replaced Symes and with a couple of minutes remaining he nodded down Feeney’s cross and after a brief scramble the ball ran loose and Robinson was on hand to thump in the winner. Another game won without playing particularly well, and the enthusiastic celebrations from the players at full time reflected some potentially vital points gained.
Man of the Match: No-one was outstanding in what was essentially a workmanlike team performance, but nobody does workmanlike better than Anton Robinson so I’ll go with him.
AFCB: Jalal, Smith, Cooper, Pearce, Wiggins, Feeney, Hollands, Robinson, Pugh, Partington, Symes
Subs: Stewart, Baudry, Arter, Stockley, Ings (for Partington, 53 mins), Fletcher (for Symes, 77 mins), Purches (for Hollands, 94 mins)
Richie Barker, Leyton