A close-range strike from Danny Johnson was enough to settle this clash between two promotion rivals in the North-East. With the league’s most in-form side playing host to it’s best away outfit, the fixture promised to be a very entertaining contest and delivered as both sides hit the woodwork in the first half. Gateshead, however, gradually seized control and ground out their fifth win in a row thanks to Danny Johnson’s scrambled winner.
After an early pitch inspection, the match was deemed playable following hours of heavy rainfall. The Daggers arrived in Gateshead having lost two of their last three and were showing signs of returning to the shocking form that saw them smashed 5-0 by the same opposition in November’s return fixture.
They made two changes from their last outing, a 2-0 reverse to Maidstone, with Guttridge and Justham coming in to replace Maguire-Drew and Cousins respectively.
Gateshead began the match on top but it was Dagenham who had the first real chance after six minutes. Fejiri Okenabirhie took the ball wide and delivered a cross that was turned just wide by Frankie Raymond.
The hosts, however, began to take advantage of the space in midfield and themselves came close to testing Justham in the away goal. After a goalmouth scramble, Burrow swivelled and smashed wide before latching onto a York pass and flicking towards goal, with Justham saving.
Wes York then had what was Gateshead’s best chance of the first half as he raced at defenders and hit a powerful shot that was tipped onto the bar.
At the other end, the Daggers were getting into some good positions but yet again were let down by their final ball, with Okenabirhie finding Hawkins with deliveries that ultimately didn’t test Montgomery.
Their best chance came moments later from an unlikely source, Craig Robson picking up the ball and driving at the Heed defence before hitting a stinging drive that skimmed off the post.
Half-time arrived with very little separating the two sides, although the hosts were the better of them as they looked more threatening in attacking positions. They were perhaps unlucky not to have gone in at half time ahead, although that changed within just three minutes of the second half.
It was an excellent move from the home side. Starting from Manny Smith and involving several passes including a one-two, the ball was threaded through to Bolton, who squared for Johnson to squeeze home his sixteenth goal of the campaign.
48 minutes had gone and, for the fourth game in a row, Dagenham would have to come from behind. This appeared to shock the East Londoners into action and almost instantly they thought they had found the equaliser when Hawkins slotted in after Guttridge’s shot was well blocked, but an offside flag prevented the tall striker from netting his 19th goal of the season.
They then made a couple of substitutions with Maguire-Drew being introduced to the action, and within seconds the loanee almost made an instant impact with a curling effort that just sailed over the bar.
Two more Maguire-Drew strikes from distance forced Montgomery into good saves as the visitors urgently looked to force the issue but time was against them.
Raymond then nearly found the net as his speculative attempt only just went astray of the target, while Okenabirhie also did the same with similar results.
But, with John Still’s team throwing men forward, this left them vulnerable at the back and this led to the Heed having a spate of late chances to kill off the game.
A corner was firstly poked goalwards by Johnson with Justham getting down well before Gateshead’s leading scorer also tested Daggers’ stopper at his near post.
Then, substitute Brundle blasted over the bar from close-range and Tom Beere had an effort blocked, but they wouldn’t be made to rue those misses as the referee’s whistle confirmed another frustrating result for Dagenham, who could spend the long trip back to Essex reflecting on another limp, underwhelming display.
It marks a disappointing start to a huge month that could prove to be make or break for Daggers’ promotion hopes. Continuing the trend of massive fixtures, second placed Forest Green are the visitors to Victoria Road next Weekend (11th March).