Match Report – Daggers 3 -1 Stones
3 - 1
Whilst there was much to admire from Wealdstone’s performance on Saturday, this Emirates FA Cup 4th Round tie at Victoria Road was always going to be a gigantean task with the luck of the draw two weeks previously being anything but lucky. And so it proved. Such are the fortunes of football, especially Cup football it seems.
24hrs before this huge game with high flying and full time professionals Dagenham & Redbridge of the National League, Gordon Bartlett was faced with starting the biggest match of the season without half his defensive line up. Definitely out were experienced centre backs Wes Parker and Tom Hamblin – both injured, Parker having been cruelly clobbered in training with Hamblin suffering from a flare up of a longer term leg problem. Who to play? In the end Bartlett chose to move the experienced David Hunt out of his anticipated midfield berth and into the centre half slot alongside the pacier Eddie Oshodi so as not to sacrifice the returned Guyana International Sam Cox in the middle. In the event the move worked well enough but pre-match plans were pretty much ripped up in an instant.
It is of course unduly defeatist to say this match was lost before kick-off but at times it almost felt like it and as though the odds were always massively stacked against a Cup upset, a feeling only added to when Jon North walked off with suspected concussion after 30 minutes play. This couldn’t be overtly felt in Stones magnificent loyalist support of well over 300 packed into the stand behind the goal. They were there to enjoy the day come what may. And enjoy it they did, out singing the home support of less than 1000 to the bitter end.
As for the details of this absorbing match, Stones started by far the brightest with the Daggers looking surprisingly coy in their approach to their lower league opponents.
The lively Johnny Wright should have opened the scoring as early as the 9th minute when he chipped agonisingly just over Mark Cousins’ cross bar. Daggers soon hit back with a succession of corners but Stones defended well and withstood the pressure.
Wealdstone, with the encouragement of their vociferous following continued to take the game to their loftier opponents with some decent forward play but matters changed on the half hour mark. Jonathan North went high to collect a difficult hanging ball – it was a great take – but the former Watford keeper slammed into the ground as he came down awkwardly. North was clearly out for the count but rallied and tried to carry on but he was soon substituted by Greek Futsal International Paschalis Xanthos – thankfully named as a specialist sub keeper.
But in between North’s injury and his coming off, Daggers took the lead. Former Hemel striker Oliver Hawkins did well to win the ball and sent Fejiri Okenabirhie racing through to finish with a shot across North and inside the far post.
The goal visibly lifted the home side and Hawkins again went close, but Danny Green should have scored when he broke free but the midfielder blazed over.
As half time approached Stones continued to plug away and on 45 minutes Matt Whichelow equalised. A great strike from outside the box took a deflection off a defenders head and into the top corner giving Cousins no chance to palm away and sending the away support into a frenzy.
In the second period, the Daggers came out from the off looking for blood, sensing that they needed to get serious and put the game to bed. As early as the 46th minute Xanthos pulled out a great stop but the keeper probably should have prevented Daggers second goal a few minutes later.
Xanthos was slow to come off his line and the menacing Hawkins had the simplest of headers to take his side into the lead, changing the complexion of the game.
Stones rallied from this heavy blow and again Green was frustratingly guilty of missed chances when put clear or wriggling clear himself.
The away side’s best chance to pull the tie back came in the 60th minute. Elliot Benyon who had toiled away magnificently all afternoon was hauled down just outside the box. Green’s free kick caused mayhem in the Daggers box and in the ensuing melee the upright was smashed but the chance was quickly gone and the danger was cleared.
In a scrappy period of play mid half, Corey Whitely came close for the home side but the striker hit the side netting as Stones started to tire a little.
The contest was sadly killed off with 15 minutes to go as the talented but rather stupid Jordan Maguire-Drew cut inside past Cox and dinked the ball expertly over Xanthos. The young Brighton Loanee incensed the away support with provocative gestures that were completely unnecessary and indeed unprofessional. The young lad did himself no favours.
Stones fought to the end with all their remaining substitutes brought on, but before that Wright almost pulled a goal back with a diving headed effort from Cousins save with 5 minutes remaining but it wasn’t to be.
All the players deserve to be thoroughly congratulated for their efforts against one of the best non leagues sides in the UK but the contest did serve to also underline some growing issues that Manager Gordon Bartlett knows that he needs to address as his focus now turns back to gaining league points, starting at struggling Gosport Borough next Saturday.
Wealdstone: North, Urquhart, Brown, Cox, Oshodi, Hunt, Wellard, Green, Benyon, Whichelow, Wright. Subs used: Xanthos (GK), Kabba, Koroma. Not used: Williams, Hutchinson, Godfrey, McGleish.
Report by Nick DuGard
Barking & Dagenham Post Report HERE
Attendance: 1224 (Wealdstone: 308)