Two Mediocre Teams

Match report by ALREET at Victoria Road

Dagenham and Redbridge 0 Hartlepool 1 (League 2) 

Saturday October 17th 2015

A ‘home’ game in theory but, being on the opposite side of the capital from me, it necessitated a three hour journey involving four separate trains.

Included in the proceedings were discussions about the fantastic Oyster Card, which I have discovered over the years has several hidden edges, needless to say, usually unaware of by and at the expense (literally) of the paying public. I had heard that there is a time limit to complete a journey but having asked at both Barking and Dagenham East stations, I was given the same figure of two hours (which does not appear on the official blurb) before incurring a penalty charge “as this is the maximum time it would take to complete any journey on the London Underground/Overground system”. I beg to differ and if someone is unfortunate enough to encounter a delay or needs to have a word with a member of staff at the rapidly disappearing Ticket Office, well...

Daggers' ground is only a few minutes walk from the station but this was my first visit and it wasn’t immediately apparent where the visitors'entrance was. I remembered reading somewhere that it could be found by trekking around the ground so as there was only one way in, I wandered on through the car park and struck gold. A pleasant chat with the programme seller and the stewards and I was in.

The ground itself is traditional and what one would expect from a lower league team, but the end where Pools were located is a recent addition and is slightly unusual in that you have to walk past home supporters at ground level before climbing a set of steps to enter the visitors' section in the far corner.

Prior to kick off, their announcer twice said that Pools' team included Bradley Halliday at number 27, mystifying to put it mildly. Had there been a late change of plan even though we had brought in Hendrie from Burnley or was it just a Horlicks? Whilst mulling this over and easily confused as I was, I certainly didn’t recall the name of our new secret weapon being announced among our starting eleven. The announcer later corrected the Halliday error and this time, I thought I heard an unusual name but put it down to not really paying attention. I was, therefore, quite startled to see a huge unknown figure wearing the number 29 shirt when the teams emerged in front of us. He could have been King Canute for all I knew but as long as he could improve our performance, who cares.

Pools were kicking towards the home end but the first action of the game saw a shot which didn’t trouble Carson. Harrison then missed the ball which was picked up by their number10 (Chambers) who cut in from their left and fired in a shot which was parried by Carson. We won a throw-in on our right but the ball ended up with a harmless effort through to their keeper.

A move down the line on Daggers left saw the lively Chambers again work his way inside and he hit a low shot from the edge of the area which just cleared our left post. On ten minutes, Pools won a corner but it sailed harmlessly over the goal without troubling defenders or attackers.

Hendrie conceded a free kick out wide on our right, their number 2 (Passley) misjudged a chance from six yards and Paynter managed to block a cross for a corner following a dangerous run down our right flank as we came under pressure.

Raymond, their number 18 was allowed to run from our right flank to the edge of the area where he drilled in a low drive which Carson caught low to his right. We then allowed one of their defenders to run from box to box before putting in a tackle which deflected his shot for a corner. We eventually got the ball up the other end but the cross from our left evaded both of our strikers in front of goal.

Jones hit a long ball from our box up to Bingham but he fell over and we lost possession. Oates then put in a shot from long range but it was straight at the keeper.

Hemmings (number 23) attacked us on our left flank but luckily for us, their player just missed his tantalising cross at our near post. Finally, a long ball out of defence by Harrison in the region of their left flank was kept in by Bingham who took on a defender before laying it off to Carroll. He played it inside to Walker who found the advancing Jones. The latter launched a long ball to the back of their six yard box where Paynter got the better of his marker and he nodded the ball back over the keeper to see it nestle in the corner of the net. This was on thirty four minutes and I believe was the first decent ball we had played into their box.

Daggers' Ferdinand (number 25) found himself unmarked in our area but headed the ball over and the same player followed this up by mis-hitting a shot wide of our right post from the edge of the area. The ref then blew for half time, bringing an end to what had been a scrappy, rather dismal performance

The second half began with an early Daggers chance which came to nothing following some sloppy play by us. A ball into their box was neatly laid off by Paynter to Bingham who, under pressure from a defender and their diving keeper, put a left-footed effort over the bar from around five yards. Needless to say, this was met with less than complimentary comments from the travelling support.

A decent run from Oates saw the ball released to Bingham whose left-footer was blocked and went out for a corner. The ball in from our left found our new giant thundering in unmarked but he put his powerful header wide of their left post.

A deep cross found Bingham whose effort was mis-hit by a defender before being cleared to safety. A Daggers attacker then found himself through but he placed his weak effort straight at Carson.

We tried a long ball which was met by Paynter in space but his cross was put over the bar by Oates. Daggers retaliated and Ferdinand put in a skimmer from twenty five yards but it didn’t trouble Carson.
"this was hardly an electrifying performance and, in truth, was played out by two mediocre teams."

Another of our new boys, Banton, replaced Jones amid what appeared to be a lengthy drinks break. A right wing cross was headed out by our new giant before Ferdinand went on a long run, once again, hitting his shot at Carson.

Banton, who didn’t appear to have a footballer’s gait, showed pace and good control and was unlucky when he put a decent ball into the box only to find that no one was in a position to take advantage of it.

Some poor play near our left side line allowed a ball into our box which Harrison sliced over his own net in attempting to clear the danger. We then gave them acres of space in midfield to bring the ball forward and they passed a great ball inside our left flank to their overlapping player. His low first time cross was attacked at our near post by Cureton who, of all people, mis-hit it and the ball squirted harmlessly up and wide of our goal. A huge let off at the end of the game.

The announcer came on to say that there would be five minutes of added time which we saw out without further mishap.

Well, three points are three points but this was hardly an electrifying performance and, in truth, was played out by two mediocre teams.

Our defence turned up for once and looked reasonably secure but the midfield is woeful and we continually concede space and allow our opponents free rein to stroll around at will. Chambers, for one, particularly in the first half used his pace and trickery to weave his way into dangerous positions and bring others into play while the second half offered them yawning gaps across the park. In attack, we created a few decent chances and should have put the game to bed but, in typical Pools fashion, we didn’t and could have regretted it if Daggers had been more clinical with their finishing.

For our part, Carson made an impressive debut, showing a calm authority and collected crosses and shots with relative ease. Hendrie slotted in well on the right side and also made a good debut with a no frills display. He maintained his position and kept things simple but effective.

Harrison won plenty of headers and clearly benefitted from having Marcus alongside him as he seemed to have more confidence in playing his own game. Marcus was like a breath of fresh air bringing stability and strength to the back four. He looked about seven feet tall and with his impressive physique, dealt comfortably with everything that came his way. To put the icing on the cake, he really should have scored with his header from the corner but this did not matter in the end. He and Harrison formed a promising partnership but they weren’t up against some of the lumps that inhabit this division as Daggers forwards are more of the smaller, quick kind.

Jones did a capable job on the left and provided the important cross for the winner. Oates put in his usual workmanlike effort and created a couple of chances while Carroll was pushed forward to play in front of Jones on the left. Featherstone for all his neat touches, never seems to put in a meaningful challenge while Walker, despite some decent passes, seems to be of the same persuasion and therein lies the problem (or one of them). If Martin Peters was labelled “The Ghost” then Walker, on current form at least, is doing his best to play the part of “The Invisible Man”.

Bingham was his now usual self; finding space, using his pace to good effect and linking up well but somehow still failing to take his chances. Paynter, on the other hand, is less mobile but holds the ball cleverly, creating chances for others as well as regularly appearing on the scoresheet himself.

We still desperately need to add some snap into our play for the long haul ahead.