Fixtures between Dagenham and York, both of League Two’s relegated sides last year, are always tight, and this proved to be no different. In a match vital for both teams, at separate ends of the table, one moment of magic from substitute Frankie Raymond settled the contest, consigning much-improved York City to a first loss on their travels since December.
John Still had labelled his side’s horrific first-half showing at Aldershot the previous Tuesday as ‘unacceptable’ and as a result made six changes for the visit of the Minstermen.
Shaun Donnellan joined Boucaud on international duty, while Maguire-Drew and Raymond were dropped to the bench, joined by Hawkins, Okenabirhie and Sheppard in being omitted from the starting lineup.
They were replaced by Curtley Williams, Staunton, Guttridge, Howell, Romain and Benson as the Daggers switched to a 4-4-2 formation.
The teams emerged to the simmering Essex sunshine and observed a peaceful minutes silence in tribute to the people affected by the Westminster terror attack last Wednesday.
The match failed to really get going, with stoppages, delays and a whistle-happy referee making for a stop-start contest, but after a cagey opening few minutes, it was the hosts who had the first chance when Whitely was allowed to get free and his strike was deflected just wide.
The Londoners were looking really threatening from corner kicks and, in the ninth minute, a decent delivery from the left was met by Benson’s firm header, only for Whittle to scramble it off the line.
Threatening to take control of the match, Dagenham then had another key opportunity when Howell pinched possession on the edge of the box and surged through, but delayed his shot which allowed Whittle again to prove City’s saviour and divert the ball out of play.
Another shot from the returning midfielder followed, this time lashed well wide, before the visitors had their first chance when Robson inadvertently powered a header back to his own keeper, but thankfully, Justham kept it out.
Whitely then dragged a shot harmlessly wide while, at the other end, Vadaine shot over and Parkin volleyed high and wide, before nodding a header wide.
Before the break, York would have the best sight of goal in the entire game. Failure to clear their lines led to another cross from the Minstermen that found Morgan-Smith, who flicked a header off the bar as the half drew to a close.
The visitors would have the first chance after the interval too. Bizarrely, Parslow played a hooked through ball from midfield which was well overhit, however, Justham badly misjudged it and the ball bounced off the post again before bobbling back into his grateful arms.
Both sides would then enjoy opportunities; firstly, Elliot Romain’s tireless running created what should’ve been a tap-in for Whitely but instead, it got caught under his feet, then Whittle headed over for the visitors at the back post.
In the 71st minute, Romain had a bullet header incredibly denied by debutant Loach but finally, an inspired substitution would eventually yield a Daggers winner.
Starting from keeper Justham’s long punt upfield and not being touched by a single opposing player until it went in, an intricate build-up of thirteen one and two touch passes found Raymond who, just two minutes after coming on, opened up his body and curled a delightful strike into the bottom left corner to earn what could be a vital three points.
They saw out the remainder of the game, including four minutes of injury time, to earn a result which wasn’t pretty nor that entertaining, but at this stage of the season, is all that matters.
They will also be boosted by the impressive performances of Williams and Howell, back from lengthy injury layoffs, and Elliot Romain, who put in a mature and dedicated performance that deservedly was awarded ‘Man of the Match’ on his home debut.
Next up for Dagenham is two important games in the space of three days. They host Eastleigh at the weekend before making the trip to Sincil Bank to play Lincoln City on Monday night in a televised BT Sport fixture.
With just seven matches left, there is all to play for, and John Still’s side will be hoping to grind out as many points as possible, beginning with Saturday’s game at home to the Spitfires.