I tend to always end these articles with, to paraphrase, ‘if we don’t beat these, we’re going to get relegated’ and then we lose. Well, I’ll start that way now. Because, seriously, if we can’t beat Dagenham and Redbridge on Saturday, we might as well just give up now, lie down in front of our goal for the next few months and build for League Two.
I’m not quite that pessimistic, really. But Dagenham and Redbridge are not good.
I’ve seen them this season – a few months ago, admittedly – and they weren’t good at all. They let two soft goals in, scored two and then threw away a point in the last minute as their left-back, Damien McCrory, hauled down a pacey striker. And they were playing the club rooted to the bottom of tLeague One; Dagenham’s opposition had not won away until then.
Their form this season has been dire in League Two. Although they started reasonably, with two wins in August, against Macclesfield away, Swindon at home and Bradford away, that was the height of what fans seem able to expect.
They’re another team, like I nearly always cite now because Walsall did, who had an awful September, winning only one match in the Johnstone’s Paints Trophy after a mammoth penalty shoot-out against Leyton Orient (so if you want to be picky about it, they drew that game, 1-1), and losing the rest. Then, they opened October excellently – well, as rather as their form was poor at the time – by beating Crewe on the 1st, then lost in the Johnstone’s Paints Trophy and proceeded the lose the subsequent six games, conceding 17 goals.
The only wins they’ve had in the last couple of months is the aforementioned Crewe match and their win against Bath City last week, where they were taken to a replay and then extra time by the Conference’s bottom club before eventually winning, 3-1. Bath City have only won once in the Conference this season.
Their team is similar to the one we played at Victoria Road about a year ago. Their goalkeeper from last year, Tony Roberts, has retired and gone to work with Arsenal on a full-time basis as a goalkeepering coach, so Chris Lewington now keeps goal. But the rest of their defence remains similar to what it was in League One last season: Mark Arber and Scott Doe still marshal the Daggers’ defence – or let opposition strikers through, depending on which way you look at it.
Experienced midfielders in Peter Gain and Kevin Maher should be watched carefully, but if they’ve not been performing well in League Two, should Walsall really be that worried? (Actually, with no Mark Wilson, yes, probably they should be.)
As I say, we should beat them. And if we don’t after I’ve taken (although in truth I’m in the middle of taking) prolonged negotiations to get myself out of working that day to go to the match, I will be very unhappy. Even if I do think the FA Cup’s a bit of a waste of time because we’ll probably draw a mid-table League One club in the next round, lose and waste energy, a win against Dagenham should be in the bank before Smith and co get on the bus on Saturday.