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New management team grab a point

Brian Caffarey - 7th April 2018

New management team grab a point Dagenham and Redbridge 1 Woking 1
Vanarama National League
7 April 2018

The new interim management team of Geoff Chapple and Jason Goodliffe – or should it be the other way around? – succeeded in halting a run of three defeats this afternoon at Victoria Road. Whether a point will prove enough only the next four games will tell. Fellow strugglers Barrow and Solihull Moors had mixed fortunes, the former losing at Leyton Orient but the latter grabbing a last-minute winner at Hartlepool. The Cards fought hard – no one could complain about the commitment or effort – and had to contend with the shock of conceding an early goal from a wonderful free-kick from Dan Sparkes before ex-Dagger Josh Staunton equalised immediately after half-time with a powerful header from a corner.

The results left Woking a point above Solihull Moors, who have a game in hand, with Barrow, four points behind the Cards and with two games in hand, now occupying the last relegation place. Both Barrow and Solihull have substantially better goal differences than Woking.

There was a certain sense of déjà vu as we made our way to Dagenham’s ground this afternoon with the possibility of relegation looming. Only a year ago, on the very last day of the campaign, a draw at Victoria Road had secured the Cards’ escape. That was also the occasion of Garry Hill’s farewell as he went into the Woking end at the end of the game to shake hands with the Cards faithful. That farewell led to the arrival of Anthony Limbrick, whose own departure was announced after the Cards’ defeat at Torquay United last weekend. Now it was Chapple’s and Goodliffe’s turn to see if they could manage another ‘great escape’.

As Geoff had intimated before the game, it was very much Jason who was visibly in charge on the day, with the latter, assisted by Matt Gray, an encouraging vocal presence in the technical area, while the former looked on, seated among his fellow Woking Directors in the stand. Only a few yards away sat a tanned and relaxed-looking Garry Hill – such a contrast with the haunted figure at the close of last season! – with a deep affection for both clubs.

Whether it was Geoff or Jason or both who decided the line-up, it was no great surprise to see a return to a traditional 4-4-2 line-up, with Louie Theophanous starting up front with Reece Grego-Cox. Matt Young was the other change, returning at right back, with Louis Ramsay at left back and Josh Staunton and Jordan Wynter at centre back. Midfield comprised Chez Isaac on the right, Regan Charles-Cook on the left and with Charlie Carter in an advanced midfield role, backed up by a deep-lying Kane Ferdinand. Joey Jones and Anthony Cook dropped to the bench.

On a mild spring afternoon the Cards, backed by a vocal contingent of some 250 fans, started comfortably enough, with the only incident of real note the flooring of Grego-Cox by the Daggers keeper as the latter punched clear. But, in the 9th minute, a Wynter foul – one of perhaps too many conceded by the Woking defence in dangerous areas – led to a superb strike from ‘man of the match’ Dan Sparkes. Crashing off the underside of the bar, it was adjudged to have crossed the line before bouncing out. The Woking fans weren’t convinced that it had crossed the line but Nathan Baxter and his team mates did not seem to protest overmuch.

Not surprisingly, the Cards looked pretty shell-shocked by this early unexpected reverse. The Daggers, in contrast, sought to press home their advantage and for a while it looked as though a second goal was likely as the home side buzzed around Woking’s penalty area, with all three front players, ex-Card Chike Kandi, top scorer Fejiri Okenabirhie and the imposing Mason Bloomfield combining well and looking threatening. Only a minute after Sparkes’s strike Okenabirhie hooked the ball across the Woking goal, while, three minutes later, a deep Kandi cross saw Bloomfield head a good chance down and wide at the far post. The pressure continued as the home side, winning most of the second balls, penned Woking back, with the Cards defence having to work hard to head clear on several occasions. And when Woking did get forward, their cause wasn’t helped by some wasteful use of the ball, with Charles-Cook’s cross behind the goal – after he had made an enterprising run down the left – being a notable example.

On 21 minutes, though, Woking had their best chance of the half. Ferdinand forced an interception, slipping the ball forward into Carter’s path. But the young midfielder dragged his left-foot shot wide of the far post.

Gradually gaining a bit more of a foothold in the game, the Cards won a free-kick out wide in the 26th minute. Isaac chose to shoot and his effort, bouncing awkwardly in front of the keeper, forced the latter to parry the ball away for a corner. But danger soon loomed again as Sparkes lined up another free-kick at the other end. A wicked delivery was somehow half-palmed away by Baxter.

On the half-hour Grego-Cox tried to volley a loose ball but didn’t connect properly. The Daggers still had the better of the chances, though. Kandi made a forceful run into the area, with Baxter parrying for a corner. Okenabirhie then did well, following some concerted Daggers’ probing, to make space for a shot on the turn, which Baxter fielded comfortably. Sparkes spelled danger again after Staunton had been harshly punished for handball, but this time his effort was cleared. A Woking counter-attack faltered again through poor use of possession, Carter failing to find his team mate in a promising move.

The game rather petered out as half-time approached apart from a sharp effort from the lively Okenabirhie. In added time Theophanous, who had found it hard to get into the game, shot from the edge of the area from a Carter flick-on but his low drive went straight to the keeper.

As the Cards trooped off at half-time they could at least take some comfort from the fact that they had weathered the pressure exerted by the Daggers after their goal, although it was worrying that they had created so little themselves. But, at only a goal down, there was still all to play for.

Half-time: Dagenham and Redbridge 1 Woking 0

Perhaps stung or encouraged by their half-time team talk, the Cards immediately went on the offensive. Carter had the ball taken off his toes in the box but at the expense of a corner. Staunton rose splendidly to meet Isaac’s low delivery and headed powerfully home to level the scores at 1-1.

Buoyed by this equaliser, the Cards now looked more of a match for the home side and the two teams proceeded to largely cancel each other out, with the Daggers looking a bit less threatening up front following Kandi’s replacement by Luke Howell just before the interval.

Woking contrived to get the ball in the net again in the 60th minute when Theophanous shot home from a Young pass at the end of a well-worked move but he was clearly offside. Theophanous was again in action a minute later as he made progress down the left. However, his cross did not reach Grego-Cox. Goodliffe then made his first change, bringing on Jonny Edwards for Theophanous. The on-loan Hull City striker proceeded to make quite a good impression with several powerful runs.

The Daggers responded by bringing on Michael Cheek for Bloomfield and it was the former Chelmsford and Braintree striker who had two chances to claim all three points for John Still’s side. The first was a stooped header from a corner, which he met well but which flew straight to Baxter. The second was a much better chance when, with only Baxter to beat, he lifted the ball over the bar.

The Cards had another lucky break on 71 minutes when Okenabirhie got the better of Wynter and curled a right-footed effort which pinged off the top of the crossbar and away.

Having had that reprieve, Edwards led the charge at the other end. Making an excellent run down the right, it looked as though he had been thwarted but he managed to get down the byeline and fire over a cross. Unfortunately, it was too high for Greco-Cox, who was facing an open goal. Another effective ‘take’ and run by Edwards ended in a cross which was easily intercepted by the Daggers keeper.

With both teams looking for three points, the game moved into the final ten minutes. The Woking defence ‘lost’ Luke Pennell, but were relieved to see his header go wide. Away fans’ nerves were frayed as the Daggers gained successive free-kicks outside the box, one of which resulted in an excellent block by the Woking defence. At the other end there was a spectacular scissor-kick by Grego-Cox, but his effort flew straight to the keeper and he was in any case flagged for offside.

In three minutes of added time Carter had one last chance as the ball fell kindly to him just outside the area. Surging forward, he struck a low shot but, once more, it was straight at the keeper.

As the final whistle blew, the Woking fans showed their appreciation of a gutsy performance by their team. Anyone who was expecting some sort of miraculous turnaround would have been disappointed since much the same weaknesses were in evidence, notably a failure to create much in the way of coherent, well-worked attacks, but the side fought hard and defended well and showed enough spirit to make one think that they were still capable of conjuring up sufficient points to escape the drop. Let’s hope that they can build on this result at Maidenhead on Tuesday evening.

Dagenham and Redbridge: Mark Cousins, Ben Nunn, Luke Pennell, Craig Robson, Charlee Adams, Chike Kandi (Luke Howell 45), Fejiri Okenabirhie, Dan Sparkes, Andre Boucaud (Matt Robinson 85), Mason Bloomfield (Michael Cheek 67), Jake Howells

Unused subs: Lewis Moore, Bondz N’Gala

Scorer: Dan Sparkes 9

Woking: Nathan Baxter, Matt Young, Jordan Wynter, Josh Staunton, Louis Ramsay, Chez Isaac, Kane Ferdinand, Charlie Carter, Regan Charles-Cook (Anthony Cook 73), Louie Theophanous (Jonny Edwards 62), Reece Grego-Cox

Unused substitutes: Sam Mason, Joey Jones, Fabio Saraiva

Scorer: Josh Staunton 47

Booked: Anthony Cook, Jonny Edwards

My Woking MOTM: Josh Staunton (pictured)

Attendance: 1391 (244 Woking fans)
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