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25 Years


CFuller
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25 years in a long time, especially in football.

 

When my love for the beautiful game began, the sport looked quite different to what it has become now. In the 1970s, drinking was still a major part of football culture. Terracing was still preferred to seating at the biggest stadiums. The game wasn't as ethnically diverse, and the most exotic foreigners in the Football League generally came from Ireland.

 

I grew up in east London, but my parents were originally from the north of the city. My father was a lifelong Arsenal supporter who took me to my first game at Highbury when I was just 10 years old.

 

It was 2 October 1976, and the Gunners were hosting Queens Park Rangers. The visitors took the lead twice, but goals from the Irish trio of playmaking magician Liam Brady, veteran right-back Pat Rice, and goal machine Frank Stapleton sent us home celebrating a 3-2 victory. From that day, I wanted to be a footballer - and I wanted to play for the Arsenal.

 

After rising through the local youth leagues, and after several unsuccessful trials, my dream came true when I signed schoolboy forms with Arsenal as a 14-year-old in 1980. I was a central defender who wasn't afraid to get stuck into challenges, though I could also play at full-back if required. My regular partner in the youth and reserve teams during those early days was another boy in my age group: Tony Adams. You might have heard of him.

 

Adams broke into the senior team for the first time in 1983, though I had to wait a couple of years before Don Howe gave me my debut - at home to Hereford United in the second round of the League Cup. We won that match 2-1, and I went on to feature in three more cup ties until Howe stepped down in March 1986.

 

George Graham - a former Arsenal midfielder who was part of the 1971 double-winning team my dad would always wax lyrical about - took over as manager ahead of the 1986/1987 season. Graham's pragmatic, safety-first approach to football tactics wasn't universally popular, but it would soon deliver results.

 

To revitalise a Gunners team that had stagnated in 7th place in Division 1, Graham decided to ditch most of his ageing players and promote youth talent. Adams became an established starter and would be appointed club captain in 1988 - a role he still holds today - while still in his early 20s. Other youngsters who emerged as first-team regulars included Paul Merson and the late, great David Rocastle.

 

I was not so lucky. I never played a league match for Arsenal - and on one rainy day in January 1987, Graham summoned me to his office and told me I was no longer required. Instead, I was offered the chance to kick-start my senior career in Division 2 with Millwall, whom Graham had managed with distinction before returning to Highbury.

 

Based in New Cross in south-east London, Millwall were the only professional football club in London never to have played in the first division - but they weren't exactly regarded as plucky underdogs. The Lions' supporters had long been associated with hooliganism, with one particular night at Luton in 1985 going down in history for all the wrong reasons.

 

Following those darkest of days, my arrival at The Den coincided with an upturn in fortunes. With future club legends Alan McLeary and Keith Stevens playing alongside me in defence, and Tony Cascarino and Teddy Sheringham banging in the goals at the other end, we would produce arguably the greatest team in the club's history.

 

After slowly working my way into manager John Docherty's team during my first half-season, I became an established starter in the 1987/1988 season, which ended in us surprisingly winning the Division 2 title by four points. Millwall were promoted to Division 1 for the first time in their history

 

Despite being tipped for relegation, we defied all the odds with a fantastic start to the 1988/1989 campaign - even leading the table for a few days at the beginning of October. It didn't last, though, and we ultimately dropped to 10th place after failing to win our final 10 matches. That was a sign of struggles to come in 1989/1990, when our top-flight fairytale ended in us finishing rock-bottom - with just five victories to our name.

 

Millwall would not return to England's elite. For my final six years with the club, we were back in Division 2 - which was confusingly rebranded as Division 1 in 1992, after top-flight clubs broke away from the Football League to form the Premiership, which would transform the sport like never before.

 

We reached the second-tier play-offs twice - firstly in 1990/1991 under the disciplinarian regime of Bruce Rioch, and then in 1993/1994 under the more affable Mick McCarthy, which was our first season at our new all-seater stadium. The New Den never generated quite the same atmosphere as the old Den, which was renowned for its 'Millwall Roar' from the club's most passionate followers.

 

The 1994/1995 season was an unmemorable one spent largely in mid-table, but it delivered one of my career highlights. After holding Arsenal to a 0-0 draw at The Den in Round 3 of the FA Cup, we went to Highbury for the replay... and shocked the Gunners 2-0 with goals from Mark Beard and Mark Kennedy. We then knocked out Chelsea on penalties before falling to QPR in Round 5.

 

1995/1996 started promisingly enough, and we were top of Division 1 midway through the season until a crushing 6-0 defeat against Sunderland knocked us off our stride. Shortly after that, McCarthy resigned to become the new Republic of Ireland national manager. His successor Jimmy Nicholl was unable to steer our form out of a catastrophic tailspin, and within a few months, we had gone from promotion contenders to being relegated in 22nd place.

 

Millwall were now in the third tier, but I would not be joining them there. After playing over 300 matches for the Lions in nine-and-a-half years, the club would not renew my contract. That was partly due to financial problems which would eventually see them enter administration, but also because I was starting to suffer from chronic knee problems.

 

Instead, I dropped down another division - and moved back north of the River Thames to play for Leyton Orient in Division 3. However, I did not particularly enjoy my time at Brisbane Road, and after quickly losing my first-team place, I left Orient on a free transfer at the end of my first season.

 

I was now 31 years old and contemplating retirement... until I got a career-changing phone call from an affable old gentleman named Ted Hardy. He was the manager of Dagenham & Redbridge - a semi-professional club near where I grew up in east London - and had just taken them to the 1997 FA Trophy Final at Wembley, which they lost to Woking.

 

Hardy offered me the chance to play part-time for the Daggers in the Isthmian League - two divisions below the Football League - while also coaching the youth team. This was a young club (formed only in 1992 after the merger of Dagenham FC and Redbridge Forest), but one with ambitions of playing in the professional ranks. It was an exciting prospect, and one I wanted to be involved in.

 

The Daggers finished 4th and 3rd in the Isthmian League during my first two seasons at Victoria Road. Hardy retired at the end of the 1998/1999 season, and his successor Garry Hill immediately finished the job, leading us to the league title in 1999/2000. We would be heading back to the Conference for the first time since our relegation four years prior.

 

Sadly, my playing days would come to an abrupt halt when I tore my anterior cruciate ligament during a pre-season friendly in July 2000. At the age of 34, and with my right knee almost completely ruined, it was time to hang up my boots and concentrate on the next phase of my career.

 

I joined Hill on the first-team coaching set-up for our first season back in the Conference. It was a huge success, with a 3rd-place finish behind big-spending Rushden & Diamonds and perennial challengers Yeovil giving us hope that the Daggers would soon be playing in Division 3.

 

Everything changed on 7 July 2001. After a disagreement with chairman Dave Andrews over the club's transfer policy, Hill suddenly resigned. A week later, after considering several candidates to replace Hill, Andrews asked me if I would like to take over as manager. I couldn't accept the offer quickly enough.

 

At the age of just 35, I am heading into the unforgiving world of football management, and I will have to be prepared for the huge pressures that come with this job. Nonetheless, I am relishing the opportunity to (hopefully) finish the job that Hardy and Hill started - by leading the Daggers into the Football League.

 

In my first 25 years in football, I've experienced many of the highs and lows that come with being a fan, a player, and a coach. Who knows what the next 25 years will bring as a manager?

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It's been a while, hasn't it? Yes, folks, I'm delighted to be coming back to FMS - and with another Championship Manager story.

To mark the 20th anniversary of Championship Manager: Season 01/02, I will be chronicling my managerial journey on that game over the course of 25 years. I will also regularly keep you updated on what's happening in the wider game world, as well as real-life news events and pop culture of the time.

I'm running CM01/02 fully patched up to 3.9.68, with some extra user-made patches to improve long-term playability. I'm running a heavily-edited version of Luessenhoff's database, which massively expands on the original database. (Seriously, this DB has well over 100,000 players!)

This will be a journeyman career, not necessarily a one-club save. Just because I'm starting at Dagenham & Redbridge (I chose them as they're the closest Conference team to me) doesn't mean I will finish there.

As you can probably gather, we are in for quite a long journey, so please sit back and enjoy the ride!

 

Christopher Fuller (CFuller)
12 October 2021

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21 hours ago, neilhoskins77 said:

A new CFuller story makes it a good day on FMS. Great to have you back writing Chris.

Best of luck with this one.

 

21 hours ago, mark wilson27 said:

I echo what Neil says, its good to have you back writing and also writing a story with one of my favourite versions of the game

Thanks, fellas. I've been wanting to write a long-term Championship Manager story like this for a while now.

I mentioned in my 2002 World Cup story thread that I started something like this on CM97/98 but lost interest after two seasons. I then planned to do it on CM00/01, which was my favourite game from the Champ Man era, but CM01/02 made more sense as it was more stable and had some user patches that fixed some significant bugs in long-term saves.

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Dagenham & Redbridge squad - Start of 2001/2002 season

 

GOALKEEPERS

Paul Gothard - GK, age 27, English

Gothard is an agile goalkeeper who doesn't make many mistakes. After two years at Hayes, he has moved to Victoria Road as a backup.

Tony Roberts - GK, age 31, Welsh [2 caps]

Roberts is determined, authoritative, and a huge crowd favourite. He played for Wales and QPR before his Football League career was ended by injury.

 

DEFENDERS

Jason Broom - D/M L, age 31, English

Broom is Mr Dagenham & Redbridge. The fearless left-back has worn the red-and-blue since our formation in 1992, making over 200 league appearances.

Tim Cole - D RC, age 24, English

Cole has been a rock-like presence in the centre of our defence since 1997. He has loads of stamina and physical strength but is not the most convincing tackler.

Lee Goodwin - D R, age 22, English

Goodwin is our starting right-back, and one of the first names on the teamsheet. He's brave and energetic, if a little slow off the mark.

Lee Matthews - D C, age 28, English

Daggers captain Matthews is one of our longest-serving players. The central defender is strong in the air and rarely shirks a challenge.

Mark Rooney - SW/D RC, age 23, English

Rooney is a mediocre sweeper who isn't very quick, isn't very strong, and isn't very comfortable on the ball. Basically, he's not Franz Beckenbauer.

Mark Smith - D RC, age 33, English

Smith is our highest-paid player on £1,400 per week, but I'm not quite sure why. He can run pretty fast for an old fella but that's about it.

Ashley Vickers - D LC, age 29, English

Vickers is well-known for his teamwork and his commitment to the Daggers cause. Though mainly a left-back, he also has the aerial ability to fill in at centre-half.

 

MIDFIELDERS

Mark Brennan - M C, age 35, English

Midfield workhorse and set-piece specialist Brennan has been there and done that. He played over 100 league games for Ipswich in the 1980s.

Steve Forbes - M RC, age 25, English

Right-winger Forbes has two attributes higher than 8: Determination and Jumping. If he's "indispensable to the club", my name is William Hague.

Kieran Gallagher - AM R, age 24, English

Another mediocre right-winger. On loan at Boreham Wood.

Danny Hayzelden - AM L, age 19, English

Pacey wingman Hayzelden has just signed from Isthmian League side Grays Athletic. He also looks pretty useful from set-pieces.

Steve Heffer - M C, age 28, English

Heffer is an aggressive destroyer who does the basics well, even if his passing isn't the best. He certainly isn't somebody you want to mess with.

Danny Hill - AM C, age 26, English

Our most creative and flamboyant midfielder, Hill justifies his £1,000 weekly wage. He most recently did the league rounds with Cardiff.

Mark Janney - M R, age 23, English

Janney is a right-winger with some actual ability for once! The ex-Tottenham trainee is fast but also has the dribbling skills to complement that pace.

Matt Jones - M L, age 30, English

This fella probably isn't even the best footballer named Matthew Jones. Mind you, he is a fine left-winger who can cross the ball pretty well.

Tony Lock - AM/F L, age 24, English

Another new arrival at Victoria Road, Lock is a veteran of 102 league games with Colchester. As well as having good technique, this winger is a good finisher.

Paul Terry - M C, age 22, English

Energetic ball-winner Terry has been overshadowed by his younger brother - Chelsea defender John. I suspect that Paul probably won't cheat on his wife, though.

Steve Vaughan - M C, age 19, English

Stevie Vaughan is our sweet little thing, he's our pride and joy. He's an agile and technical young midfielder, I'm his little lover boy.

 

FORWARDS

Junior McDougald - S C, age 26, American

Texas-born speed merchant McDougald has an excellent scoring record at this level. He is also a part-time actor who's appeared on Sky One's "Dream Team".

Steve McGavin - AM/F C, age 32, English

Former Colchester and Wycombe ace McGavin is a strong target man with good aerial reach. He is also one of our few players who's comfortable on either foot.

Paul Piscopides - S C, age 17, English

A quick and very young striker. On loan at Heybridge.

Danny Shipp - S C, age 24, English

A Dagger since 1997, Shipp is one of our all-time top scorers. He may not be the quickest striker around but is often in the right place in the right time.

Mark Stein - S C, age 35, English

One-time Chelsea hotshot Stein is winding down his career in non-league football. Despite a few fitness concerns, he is still incredibly lethal on his day.

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I have very fond memories of Championship Manager. Chief among them. Being placed in a headlock by the the other lads in our game at school when I won the league on the last day of the season.

Good to see you back.

Looking forward to reading

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1 hour ago, Mandy42 said:

I have very fond memories of Championship Manager. Chief among them. Being placed in a headlock by the the other lads in our game at school when I won the league on the last day of the season.

Good to see you back.

Looking forward to reading

Being placed in a headlock by the other lads is one of your fond memories?! Man, your childhood must have sucked ;-)

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On 13/10/2021 at 12:33, Mandy42 said:

I have very fond memories of Championship Manager. Chief among them. Being placed in a headlock by the the other lads in our game at school when I won the league on the last day of the season.

Good to see you back.

Looking forward to reading

I was pretty much the only CMer at my school (the other boys were much more into FIFA 97 indoor football) so I can't say I have similar memories. :D

All my CM memories are from playing at home. Like my very first session on CM3 aged eight, when I was so hooked that I stayed up way past my bedtime. Or beating Finland on penalties to win my first World Cup with England.

Anyway, time to create some new ones...

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JULY 2001

My new career as a football manager began on Saturday 14 July 2001 - the first day of pre-season training at Dagenham & Redbridge.

 

I was immediately greeted at the training ground by assistant manager Terry Harris - a tough-as-nails 44-year-old who'd already been coaching for well over a decade. His links with the Daggers went all the way back to 1977, when he played - and scored - for the original Dagenham FC at Wembley in the FA Trophy Final. He smiled, "It's been nearly 25 years now. It'd be quite nice to get there again, wouldn't it?"

 

Terry then formally introduced me to the rest of the backroom staff. Craig Young was the only other coach on the payroll - and even by his own admission, he wasn't exactly a great one. On the plus side, we did have a knowledgeable scout in Mick Loughton, while Richard Harper was an expert physiotherapist. Mick and Dick, we call 'em.

 

I then met my players for the first time as manager. Obviously, I'd worked with most of them before as a coach (and even played with some of them), but I felt it was time to reset our previous relationships and start again from scratch. Two of the Daggers' most devoted servants - captain Lee Matthews and his fellow defender Jason Broom - led the introductions and would be my eyes and ears in the dressing room.

 

After just a few days assessing my players on the training ground, it became clear to me that a 4-4-2 was probably the wise choice for a starting tactic. I know all the cool kids love a 3-5-2 or a 4-3-3 or even a diamond, but when you're managing in the Conference, no-nonsense direct wing-play is king.

 

Almost as soon as I'd settled into my office, I was already on the move again. Our pre-season campaign began with a long journey north - to a training camp in southern Scotland, where we would play our first three friendlies. Our first stop was Stair Park - the home of Division 2 side Stranraer.

 

18 JULY 2001: Stranraer vs Dagenham & Redbridge

My managerial career got off to an impressive start against Stranraer. A couple of good first-half crosses from Tony Lock and Mark Janney were calmly finished by Junior McDougald, whose brace were the only goals in a solid win. We were so dominant that our hosts didn't even manage a shot at goal until second-half stoppage time!

 

Stranraer - 0

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (McDougald 23,38)

Friendly, Attendance 659

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts (Gothard); Goodwin, Cole (Rooney), Matthews (Smith), Vickers (Broom); Janney, Hill (Brennan), Terry (Jones), Lock (Forbes); Stein (Shipp), McDougald (McGavin).

 

After that game, we said a quick goodbye to winger Steve Forbes, who was sold to Dover for an initial £55,000 (potentially rising to £70,000). Someone call Kent Police, because Dover have been robbed!

 

As Forbes headed back to England, we travelled to Dumfries for our next match, against another team Division 2. Queen of the South, to be specific.

 

21 JULY 2001: Queen of the South vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Fun fact: Queen of the South are the only British football league team who are mentioned in the Bible. For a while, it looked like we would need some divine intervention to beat the Doonhamers, who were twice denied by Tony Roberts in the first half. I switched from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 in the second half, and the tactical change paid off when Junior McDougald finished a 66th-minute counter-attack. Though Mark Graham found the net for the home team late on, his goal was disallowed for offside, and we held on for a narrow victory.

 

Queen of the South - 0

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (McDougald 66)

Friendly, Attendance 299

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts (Gothard); Smith (Goodwin), Cole (Rooney), Matthews, Broom (Vickers); Janney (Heffer), Vaughan, Terry (Brennan), Jones (McGavin); Stein (Shipp), McDougald (Lock). BOOKED: Matthews.

 

While my search for a new right-winger continued, we finished our Scottish tour with a match against non-league Huntly. Surely this would be a walk in the park, right?

 

25 JULY 2001: Huntly vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Okay, maybe not. Huntly actually created more scoring opportunities than us, but their woeful shooting - and some assured goalkeeping from Paul Gothard - kept them at bay. We were much more devastating at the other end, with Mark Janney supplying a couple of assists from right wing. Junior McDougald's fierce shot in the 10th minute opened the scoring, while Mark Stein popped up late on to seal the win.

 

Huntly - 0

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (McDougald 10, Stein 77)

Friendly, Attendance 79

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Gothard (Roberts); Smith (Goodwin), Cole (Matthews), Rooney, Vickers (Broom); Janney, Heffer (Brennan), Hill (Vaughan), Lock (Hayzelden); Stein (Shipp), McDougald (McGavin). BOOKED: Cole.

 

As we returned home, we welcomed in two new coaches - 49-year-old Philip Holder and 29-year-old Richard Hall. I'm not sure what the goalkeepers will make of being coached by electronic musician Moby, but if they start complaining about having cardiac problems, I might have to rethink it.

 

Next on the schedule was our first home match of pre-season, against a Southend team who finished 11th in Division 3 last term. David Webb was in his third spell as manager of the Essex club, having previously managed Chelsea in the Premiership in the mid-1990s. Actually, I'm pretty sure he was Mark Stein's boss at Stamford Bridge at one point.

 

28 JULY 2001: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Southend United

This should have been our first real test of pre-season, but we got off to a flyer against Southend. Junior McDougald (yes, that man again!) volleyed in a killer ball from Paul Terry after just two minutes, before Mark Stein doubled our lead. The Shrimpers then started to fight back, with Jason Harris pulling one goal back just before half-time to ruin our spotless defensive record. David Webb's men couldn't find an equaliser after the break, and when McDougald scored his SIXTH pre-season goal in the 74th minute, another impressive Daggers win was secured!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (McDougald 2,74, Stein 27)

Southend United - 1 (Harris 42)

Friendly, Attendance 825

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts (Gothard); Goodwin, Smith (Matthews), Cole (Rooney), Vickers; Janney (Hayzelden), Hill (Brennan), Terry, Jones; McDougald (McGavin), Stein (Shipp).

 

Four games, four wins! Hey, this managerial lark is quite easy!

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ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Real Madrid smash the world transfer record, as Juventus midfielder Zinedine Zidane becomes a 'Galactico' for an eye-watering £45.8million. I mean, the 29-year-old Frenchman is a pretty handy playmaker... but surely no footballer is worth THAT much!
  • Manchester United begin their pursuit of a record fourth consecutive Premiership title by spending a British-record £28million on Lazio midfielder Juan Sebastián Verón. In what looks like another very smart move, Sir Alex Ferguson sells his star defender Jaap Stam back to PSV for £3.7million after the Dutchman makes some controversial comments in his new book.
  • A Copa America full of shocks ends with Ecuador beating Mexico 4-1 in Bogotá to win their first continental title. Eduardo Hurtado of Argentinos Junior scores twice in the Final, while Brazil wonder how the hell they failed to get out of their group.
  • After an unsuccessful spell at Nottingham Forest, former England icon David Platt takes his next managerial job - at Stenhousemuir in Scottish Division 2. Seriously? Whatever next? Chris Waddle becoming the new manager of Brechin... oh, you've got to be kidding me!
  • In other Scottish managerial news, renowned entertainer George Graham returns home to replace Billy Davies at Motherwell. However, reports that John Jensen would join him at Fir Park prove wide of the mark when the ex-Arsenal midfielder becomes player-manager of B 93 in his native Denmark.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • In one of tennis' greatest fairytales, Croatian wildcard Goran Ivanisevic wins the Wimbledon men's single title after beating Pat Rafter in a five-set classic. The West Brom fan had lost three previous Finals before injuries saw him fall to 125th in the world rankings.
  • Novelist and former Conservative MP Jeffrey Archer is jailed for four years for perjury. He is found to have perverted the course of justice during a libel trial against the News of the World in 1987.
  • Tim Burton's remake of the iconic 1968 film "Planet of the Apes" is released. For once, movie critics come to a unanimous agreement - the musical was way better.
  • Ricky Gervais' workplace sitcom "The Office" makes its debut on BBC Two and is immediately greeted with astounding...ly average viewing figures. Ah well. Maybe it'll do better on the other side of the pond.
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AUGUST 2001

With the new season looming large, I brought in my first three new signings of the season - all teenagers with bright futures ahead of them.

 

First in was former Manchester United goalie Nick Baxter (18), who will step between the sticks if anything happens to our senior keepers Tony Roberts and Paul Gothard. We've also recruited 19-year-old Irish midfielder Aodhan O'Donoghue, who last played for Bray Wanderers and has bags of energy.

 

Lastly, ex-Coventry trainee Martin Grant - a 19-year-old Scot with excellent crossing ability - has arrived to be the right-wing trainee to Mark Janney. To provide further cover for that position, I have also recalled Kieran Gallagher from his loan spell at Boreham Wood.

 

After beating Southend last time out, we looked to claim another significant scalp in our second home game of pre-season. After surviving their first season in Division 3, Kidderminster were looking to establish themselves in the Football League under Jan Mølby's management.

 

4 AUGUST 2001: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Kidderminster Harriers

The excellent form of Junior McDougald meant that Danny Shipp hadn't had many chances to shine so far this pre-season. The long-serving striker proved a point against Kidderminster, with a couple of well-taken goals putting us in a very strong position. But then the Harriers came out firing, as Stewart Hadley and Andrew Ducros retaliated with goals either side of half-time. It looked like we'd blown it, until captain Lee Matthews blasted home from a Matt Jones corner, swinging the match back in our favour. The Daggers juggernaut keeps on rolling!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Shipp 9,22, Matthews 63)

Kidderminster Harriers - 2 (Hadley 40, Ducros 54)

Friendly, Attendance 621

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts (Gothard); Goodwin (Rooney), Cole (Smith), Matthews, Broom (Vickers); Janney (Grant), Brennan, Terry (O'Donoghue), Jones (Lock); Stein (McGavin), Shipp (McDougald).

 

That made it five victories in five pre-season friendlies! Could we now make it a clean sweep by overcoming Boreham Wood of the Isthmian League?

 

11 AUGUST 2001: Boreham Wood vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Er, no, we couldn't. Former Mansfield and Doncaster striker Simon Ireland was the star of this Boreham Wood team, and two goals in the first 14 minutes unexpectedly put a second-string Daggers team on the back foot. It took hard work to get us back in the game, with Steve McGavin heading in our first goal before Danny Shipp levelled on the stroke of half-time.

 

Despite bringing on several regulars after the break, we couldn't complete the turnaround. Ireland even managed to complete his hat-trick and restore Boreham Wood's lead with ten minutes to go... but McDougald then came to the rescue and spared us from an embarrassing defeat.

 

Boreham Wood - 3 (Ireland 10,14,80)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (McGavin 25, Shipp 45, McDougald 87)

Friendly, Attendance 1,199

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Gothard (Baxter); Smith (Goodwin), Rooney (Matthews), Cole (Vickers), Broom; Gallagher (Grant), Hill (O'Donoghue), Heffer, Jones (Hayzelden); McGavin (Stein), Shipp (McDougald).

 

Should I really have taken Boreham Wood so lightly? Well... at least we could get away with a defensive meltdown in pre-season. But now we would need to tighten up and learn from our mistakes, because this was where the hard work would really begin.

 

The board expected a respectable finish in the Conference, and our league campaign kicked off at Chester. There were already rumours that City's madcap American owner Terry Smith was planning to ditch his manager Gordon Hill, and that a strong start by the Daggers would convince him to pull the trigger!

 

18 AUGUST 2001: Chester City vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Chester threw men forward in search of an early opener, but it was us who drew first blood in the 20th minute from an incisive counter-attack. Paul Terry's deep clearance cleared the City defence and allowed Junior McDougald to race through before prodding in the early opener.

 

Alas, our delight wouldn't last for long. The hosts upped their game after falling behind, and midfielder Darren Wright smashed home an equalising volley eight minutes from half-time.

 

The second half didn't quite live up to the excitement of the first. Chester were marginally the better side again, but veteran midfielder Andy Porter screwed wide their best scoring opportunity in the 69th minute. With the scoreline staying at 1-1, we were probably happier with our point than City were with theirs.

 

Chester City - 1 (Wright 37)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (McDougald 20)

Conference, Attendance 963 - POSITIONS: Chester 13th, Dag & Red 14th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Matthews, Broom (Vickers); Janney (Grant), Hill (O'Donoghue), Terry, Lock; Stein, McDougald.

 

A decent start to the season, then - and McDougald was looking really sharp up front. After scoring seven times in pre-season, a goal in his first match of the new campaign showed that he was ready to tear the Conference up!

 

Three days later, Victoria Road opened its doors for our first home league game of the campaign. The visitors were Telford, who had narrowly beaten Stalybridge on the opening day.

 

21 AUGUST 2001: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Telford United

Danny Shipp might have scored loads of goals in the Isthmian League, but I think the Conference is too big a step up for him. I gave the 24-year-old a start up front with Junior McDougald, but he wasted a couple of good scoring chances. One chance in the 29th minute was particularly frustrating, as McDougald was set up by an excellent flick-on from midfielder Danny Hill, only to stroke the ball inches wide.

 

From a defensive perspective, things were slightly better. Captain Lee Matthews was excellent, making several key tackles to keep Telford's attackers at bay. With both sides cancelling each other out, though, a goalless stalemate was pretty much inevitable. For an opening game, the Victoria Road faithful probably deserved a bit more entertainment than this.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Telford United - 0

Conference, Attendance 1,233 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 14th, Telford 8th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Matthews, Vickers; Grant, Hill (Terry), O'Donoghue, Jones (Lock); Shipp, McDougald.

 

As we rued our missed opportunities, one of our young prospects agreed to go out on loan. Attacking midfielder Steve Vaughan will play for Grays Athletic in the Isthmian League until April.

 

But forget about Stevie Vaughan for a moment. Would WE be singing the blues after a long journey to Doncaster, or would it be third time lucky in our search for a first league victory?

 

25 AUGUST 2001: Doncaster Rovers vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Though they too had started the season with back-to-back draws, Doncaster were among the title favourites for a very good reason. Tony Roberts faced the proverbial firing squad against a Rovers drive who constantly stretched our defence to its limits.

 

We eventually lost our marbles in the 27th minute. Doncaster's right-winger Simon Marples jinked past Tony Lock and unleashed a fierce shot that our other Tony couldn't quite keep out.

 

With Doncaster threatening to run riot, I had to change something in the second half. I switched from a 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2 and hoped the experience of Marks Smith and Brennan would inspire a comeback. Yeah, if only. Rovers were rock-solid at the back too, especially their centre-half Colin Hawkins, and they limited us to just one shot on target. Our first defeat of the season, and now we had real problems.

 

Doncaster Rovers - 1 (Marples 27)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Conference, Attendance 2,632 - POSITIONS: Doncaster 9th, Dag & Red 17th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Matthews, Broom; Janney (Brennan), Hill, O'Donoghue, Lock (Smith); Stein (McGavin), McDougald.

 

To try and fix our recent issues, I decided to seek inspiration from one of the great leaders of the last century - JFK.

 

Specifically, that's Joe F***ing Kinnear - the shy and retiring manager of Division 3 side Luton. Joe's assistant manager is Brian Stein, who happens to be the elder brother of our very own Mark Stein... but I'm digressing.

 

Anyway, I persuaded JFK to send Luton's 25-year-old frontman Steve Howard on loan to us until Christmas. The big north-easterner wasn't very quick, but he was a remarkably strong and energetic target man with great aerial ability. Howard was exactly the kind of target man who could complement our pacey poacher McDougald.

 

I decided to put this theory to the test when early pacesetters Margate paid a visit to Victoria Road. The newly-promoted Kent side had won their opening three matches under Chris Kinnear (no relation), but could Howard and McDougald close the Gate on their perfect start?

 

29 AUGUST 2001: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Margate

Erm... no. We were awful going forward in the first half, while Junior McDougald and Steve Howard's new strike partnership seemed to go together like cheese and ketchup. By contrast, Margate played much more like a team, and a strong first half display was rewarded seven minutes from half-time, when Paul O'Brien was headed home by sweeper Bill Edwards.

 

It was time to ditch the 4-4-2 again for another change of system. This time, I adopted a 4-3-3 and sent on Steve McGavin as an excellent attacker alongside McDougald and Howard. McGavin actually posed some kind of threat to the Gate defence, even drawing a save out of their goalkepeer Lee Turner.

 

However, we still lacked the creativity needed to make a breakthrough. Margate midfielder John Keister might have hobbled off with a twisted ankle in the closing stages, but it was our backsides that took a beating here.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Margate - 1 (Edwards 38)

Conference, Attendance 1,836 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 17th, Margate 1st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Smith), Cole, Matthews, Vickers; Grant (McGavin), O'Donoghue, Terry, Lock (Brennan); Howard, McDougald.

 

Four games. Two points. One goal. My managerial career really could not have got off to a worse start.

 

What the hell have I let myself in for?

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CONFERENCE TABLE (End of August 2001)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Margate                         4    2    0    0    7    2    2    0    0    4    0    12  
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Nuneaton Borough                4    1    1    0    4    3    2    0    0    5    3    10  
3rd     Yeovil                          4    1    0    1    2    3    2    0    0    4    2    9   
4th     Doncaster                       4    1    1    0    1    0    1    1    0    3    2    8   
5th     Farnborough                     4    2    0    0    6    2    0    1    1    2    3    7   
6th     Boston Utd                      4    1    1    0    5    2    1    0    1    2    2    7   
7th     Forest Green                    4    1    0    1    4    3    1    1    0    4    3    7   
8th     Chester                         4    1    1    0    2    1    1    0    1    4    3    7   
9th     Scarborough                     4    1    0    1    2    4    1    1    0    3    0    7   
10th    Telford                         4    2    0    0    2    0    0    1    1    0    2    7   
11th    Southport                       4    0    2    0    3    3    1    1    0    4    2    6   
12th    Hayes                           4    1    0    1    3    3    1    0    1    3    4    6   
13th    Leigh RMI                       4    1    1    0    4    2    0    1    1    2    4    5   
14th    Morecambe                       4    1    1    0    5    3    0    0    2    1    4    4   
15th    Hereford                        4    1    0    1    2    2    0    1    1    3    5    4   
16th    Stevenage                       4    1    0    1    3    5    0    1    1    1    2    4   
17th    Dag & Red                       4    0    1    1    0    1    0    1    1    1    2    2   
18th    Woking                          4    0    1    1    3    4    0    1    1    3    5    2   
19th    Stalybridge                     4    0    2    0    2    2    0    0    2    0    4    2   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th    Dover                           4    0    1    1    2    3    0    0    2    3    5    1   
21st    Barnet                          4    0    0    2    2    5    0    1    1    3    4    1   
22nd    Northwich Vics                  4    0    0    2    3    5    0    1    1    3    6    1   

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • The new season begins with a mad Charity Shield in Cardiff. Liverpool's backup goalie Sander Westerveld saves a penalty from Manchester United debutant Juan Sebastián Verón, after Jerzy Dudek is sent off just before half-time. However, Westerveld can't stop United from winning 4-1 on penalties following a 1-1 draw.
  • Fresh from that victory, the Red Devils win their first three games of the new Premiership season. Things almost go pear-shaped at Upton Park when Joe Cole puts West Ham ahead after 74 minutes, but late goals from David Beckham and Ryan Giggs turn the match in Manchester United's favour.
  • It's a beautiful day, as Des Lynam hosts the first edition of ITV's new programme showing match highlights from the Premiership. It is imaginatively named "The Premiership".
  • Real Madrid weren't satisfied with breaking the world transfer record to sign Zinedine Zidane earlier this summer. Florentino Pérez brings out the chequebook once again to make Inter striker Christian Vieri his newest 'Galactico' for a whopping £31.5million!
  • After missing out on Youri Djorkaeff, Ipswich have to make do with spending £3.4million on Paris SG's flamboyant Nigerian playmaker Jay Jay Okocha. In unrelated news, Bolton boss Sam Allardyce sensationally accuses George Burley of stealing his shortlist.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • American R&B star Aaliyah - best-known for her hit single "Try Again" - is one of nine people killed when a light aircraft crashes on takeoff in the Bahamas. She was only 22 years old.
  • In an awkward interview on "GMTV", the illusionist David Blaine refuses to speak to presenter Eamonn Holmes, and gives him the 'evil eye'. Blaine is probably just annoyed that Twiggy has been chosen to replace Richard & Judy on "This Morning".
  • Nicole Kidman was married to fellow Hollywood actor Tom Cruise for 11 years. But then she went and spoilt it all by saying somethin' stupid like, "I'm divorcing you. Also, I'm recording a duet with Robbie Williams."
  • England are bowled over by Shane Warne as Australia retain the Ashes after winning the third Test match in Nottingham. Liz Hurley doesn't know whether to laugh or cry.
Edited by CFuller
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6 minutes ago, Drogba11CFC said:

From my experience, I expect England to miss out on WC qualification and Chelsea to underperform before sacking Ranieri and bouncing back under their new manager. 

On my version of CM01/02, the 2002 World Cup groups are set as they were in real-life, as if the qualifiers had already taken place (so England are already safely into Group F with Argentina, Sweden and Nigeria). Therefore, any 'news' from the World Cup qualifiers will be taken from the actual results.

And without spoiling too much, I have a feeling that Claudio won't be staying at Chelsea for long... :p

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Ah so no hope of Netherlands sneaking into the world cup by not ****ing up every opportunity with a squad absolutely loaded with talent, possibly as much talent as they've ever had. RvN, Kluivert, F de Boer, Stam, Davids, Seedorf, Overmars, vd Sar...

 

Van der Sar badly underrated in cm01/02, all because he went to Fulham after losing the starting job at juve to some guy who probably never did anything meaningful in his life. What was his name again? Oh right,  Buffon. 

 

Love 01/02 though, and love the real life pop culture updates, a nice touch

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9 hours ago, Vossenoren said:

Ah so no hope of Netherlands sneaking into the world cup by not ****ing up every opportunity with a squad absolutely loaded with talent, possibly as much talent as they've ever had. RvN, Kluivert, F de Boer, Stam, Davids, Seedorf, Overmars, vd Sar...

 

Van der Sar badly underrated in cm01/02, all because he went to Fulham after losing the starting job at juve to some guy who probably never did anything meaningful in his life. What was his name again? Oh right,  Buffon. 

 

Love 01/02 though, and love the real life pop culture updates, a nice touch

Yes, Holland would absolutely have walked qualification. For my money, they and Italy always had the strongest national teams at the start of every save from CM99/00 to CM01/02.

I'm glad you are liking the references to real events. Just bear in mind that they will mostly be related to British pop culture (or occasionally American), so non-UK/US readers might not be too familiar with some of them.

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SEPTEMBER 2001

My introduction to football management had been a real baptism of fire. Two uninspiring draws, followed by a couple of narrow losses, suggested that I still had a lot to learn.

 

As I somewhat suspected, the 4-4-2 probably wasn't the right formation for this Dagenham & Redbridge team. On the plus side, after switching to a 4-3-3 for the second half of that last defeat against Margate, we got a firmer grip on midfield and looked much livelier going forward. I decided to use that from the start for our next couple of games.

 

First up - Nuneaton away. Boro were in 3rd place and would provide a real challenge, but they'd also conceded six goals in their opening four matches (twice as many as us!). Perhaps they had some frailties that our new three-pronged attack could give a good forking to?

 

1 SEPTEMBER 2001: Nuneaton Borough vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Steve McGavin got his first start up front, and he rewarded my faith in him in the 7th minute. After breaking through the defence, McGavin had his first shot at goal saved by Chris McKenzie, only to then bury the rebound. Junior McDougald also found the net three minutes later, but McGavin was flagged offside and the scoreline remained 1-0. Even so, I was thinking, "We could be onto something here!"

 

While the Boro defence was flimsy to say the least, their goalkeeper McKenzie almost single-handedly kept the scoreline down with some magnificent saves. Or at least he did until the 62nd minute, when Steve Howard flicked our right-back Lee Goodwin's cross into the path of McDougald, who at last doubled our lead.

 

That gave us a little bit of breathing room, though things got dicey when a low strike from Nuneaton's own Big Mac - striker Marc McGregor - pulled one goal back six minutes from time. Thankfully, we kept our nerve late on and got our first win of the season - at the fifth attempt!

 

Nuneaton Borough - 1 (McGregor 84)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (McGavin 7, McDougald 62)

Conference, Attendance 2,886 - POSITIONS: Nuneaton 5th, Dag & Red 17th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-3): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Matthews, Broom; O'Donoghue (Heffer), Terry, Brennan (Hill); Howard, McGavin (Stein), McDougald.

 

So... maybe the 4-3-3 was the answer to our problems!

 

Maybe we didn't need wingers! Maybe we didn't need Tony Lock anymore! After just four matches (in which he recorded an average rating of 5.75), the left-winger's brief stay in Dagenham ended with him being sold to Division 3 high-flyers Lincoln for £24,000.

 

Lock had also been offered the chance to join Lincoln's local rivals Boston United, but he sensed something was wrong about the terms they were offering. Before leaving us to link up with his new team-mates at Sincil Bank, Tony warned us, "I reckon something fishy is going on at Boston. I don't trust that Steve Evans fella at all. He seems pretty dodgy to me."

 

Anyway, can you guess who we hosted in our next match on Bank Holiday Monday. That's right, folks - Boston United.

 

3 SEPTEMBER 2001: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Boston United

It wouldn't be unfair to say that Boston's manager Steve Evans is a pretty big guy. Mind you, Steve Howard is even bigger, as our target man showed when he rose very high to head in Steve McGavin's chipped ball after just two minutes! (Now that's a lot of Steves.)

 

A great start, then, but it could have easily gone very wrong soon afterwards. Boston threatened to break through our defence a few times in the first half, but right-back Lee Goodwin and captain Lee Matthews were both resilient in stopping them. Matthews' centre-back partner Tim Cole also put his body on the line, and he had to come off hurt in the 28th minute after gashing his leg.

 

Despite suffering a few scares, we stayed strong and secured victory in the second half. 35-year-old midfielder Mark Brennan rolled back the years with an excellent through-ball to Junior McDougald, who smashed in his third goal in six matches! A 2-0 win left Evans red-faced, but as the Scotsman begrudgingly shook my hand at full-time, he scowled, "We'll be back, yer jammy get."

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Howard 2, McDougald 65)

Boston United - 0

Conference, Attendance 1,323 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 10th, Boston 13th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-3): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole (Smith), Matthews, Vickers; Hill, Terry, Brennan (Heffer); Howard, McGavin, McDougald (Stein).

 

Two draws, followed by two defeats, followed by two wins! It's a real Noah's Ark of results!

 

So, what on Earth could we expect when we went to Broadhall Way to take on Stevenage. The Boro had got their season off to a similarly erratic start and sat in 18th place with seven points from six games.

 

8 SEPTEMBER 2001: Stevenage Borough vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Stevenage were a much better team than their recent form suggested, so I wasn't surprised when they hit the front foot and scored after just 15 minutes. John Morgan's left-wing cross bamboozled our defence and was smartly finished by Martin Williams.

 

Indeed, the Boro were so impressive early on that we were lucky not to fall even further behind. Then, on the cusp of half-time, a rapid Daggers counter-attack ended with Steve McGavin finding an unmarked Junior McDougald, who lashed in a leveller.

 

Our front three caused more mayhem after the restart. Stevenage got a nasty taste of Double Steve in the 56th minute, as Howard held up the ball well in their penalty area before squaring to McGavin, whose simple finish made it 2-1 Dagenham! The Big Macs then linked up again, with McGavin sending McDougald through to double our advantage. Williams scored again for Boro in the dying moments, but we held on for a clinical 3-2 victory, in which we'd scored from our only three shots on target!

 

Stevenage Borough - 2 (Williams 15,89)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (McDougald 44,67, McGavin 56)

Conference, Attendance 2,953 - POSITIONS: Stevenage 18th, Dag & Red 7th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-3): Roberts; Goodwin, Smith (Rooney), Matthews, Vickers; Hill (O'Donoghue), Terry, Brennan; Howard (Stein), McGavin, McDougald.

 

Our next match took place just three days later, when an in-form Northwich Victoria were the visitors to Victoria Road.

 

11 SEPTEMBER 2001: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Northwich Victoria

Yeah... 9/11. Everybody here was shaken by events in America earlier that day, and for the first half-hour, it seemed like nobody was in a mood to play or even watch football. Eventually, Northwich were the first team to settle down and turn their focus to the job at hand. In the 36th minute, our goalkeeper Tony Roberts was beaten to a Vics corner by the head of Marcus Jones, which meant we trailed 1-0 at the break.

 

Noticing that Northwich were playing a narrow formation, I switched back to the 4-4-2 at half-time, and gave wingers Matt Jones and Mark Janney another chance to prove their worth. For a long time, though, it looked like the more direct approach would fail, and that our visitors would come away with a fourth straight win.

 

And then, in the final eight minutes, my last substitute single-handedly turned the game around. Having replaced Steve Howard up front, Steve McGavin had a point to prove, and his 82nd-minute header from a Matt Jones cross gave us fresh hope. Barely a minute later, McGavin was at it again, burying Danny Hill's through-ball to give us a fourth victory on the spin!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (McGavin 82,83)

Northwich Victoria - 1 (Jones 36)

Conference, Attendance 1,459 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 6th, Northwich 11th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-3): Roberts; Goodwin, Rooney, Matthews, Broom; Hill, Terry, Heffer (Jones); Howard (McGavin), Stein (Janney), McDougald.

 

Following an impressive comeback on an emotional night, we faced one of our longest away trips of the season - to Scarborough in the north-east. We were prepared for a fight...

 

15 SEPTEMBER 2001: Scarborough vs Dagenham & Redbridge

...but so were Scarborough! Almost as soon as the referee blew his whistle, the Seadogs' young striker Ben Sherwood completely lost his mind and clobbered Danny Hill with a right hook! The referee had no choice but to send Sherwood off, but going down a man didn't bother the hosts at all. Indeed, just two minutes later, a piledriver from midfielder Ross Atkinson gave the 10 men a 1-0 lead!

 

Angered by our opponents' early blows, we threw everything we had at them. John Achterberg's goal was peppered with shots aplenty, and though the Dutchman made several outstanding saves, a couple of shots slipped past him. Midfielders Steve Heffer and Paul Terry bagged their first goals of the season midway through the first half, putting us 2-1 ahead at the break.

 

Scarborough soaked up more pressure in the second half before hitting us on the break in the 69th minute. Daggers left-back Ashley Vickers was outpaced by Ashley Fickling, whose unexpected drive from defence ended with an equaliser. Not to worry, because Junior McDougald restored our lead within moments, and Heffer then secured victory with his second goal - our fourth - of the afternoon.

 

Scarborough - 2 (Atkinson 3, Fickling 69)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 4 (Heffer 18,85, Terry 21, McDougald 70)

Conference, Attendance 1,802 - POSITIONS: Scarborough 16th, Dag & Red 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-3): Roberts; Goodwin, Rooney, Matthews, Vickers; Hill (Janney), Terry, Heffer; Howard (Shipp), McGavin (Smith), McDougald.

 

Five wins in a row! How long could this incredible streak run for?

 

Probably not much longer if our next opponents were anything to go by. Hereford might have only been in mid-table, but they had more than enough qualify for the Conference - not least in their aptly-named former England striker Steve Bull.

 

22 SEPTEMBER 2001: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Hereford United

My fears were soon proven. Hereford were like Bulls in a china shop through the first half, wreaking havoc on our defence. They eventually got the chance to cause real damage in the 24th minute, when their captain Steve Bull was bundled over in the box by our skipper Lee Matthews. The visitors were awarded a penalty, which was confidently scored by Ian Wright (not that one).

 

Of course, we'd recently become pretty handy at fighting back from behind recently. Just before half-time, Mark Janney - playing in an unusual midfield role - drilled a low cross into the Hereford box for Steve McGavin, whose powerful strike delivered his fifth goal of the month!

 

With that equaliser on the stroke of half-time, all the momentum shifted our way. Seven minutes into the second period, McGavin returned the favour to Janney, who opened his account for the season and put our noses in front. Janney was absolutely bullying the Bulls now, and he produced a third goal for us midway through the half. Just moments after coming off the bench, Danny Shipp netted his maiden goal of the campaign from another killer Janney ball, sealing a 3-1 Daggers win!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (McGavin 45, Janney 52, Shipp 66)

Hereford United - 1 (Wright pen25)

Conference, Attendance 1,370 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 5th, Hereford 11th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-3): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Matthews (Smith), Vickers (Jones); Janney, Terry, Heffer; Howard (Shipp), McGavin, McDougald. BOOKED: Matthews.

 

Danny Shipp's goal came at just the right time, as I was thinking about selling him. We actually received a couple of offers - from Italy and Spain, of all places - but they didn't meet their £20,000 valuation. If Danny could net a couple of goals, that asking price would surely increase further.

 

Shipp would get a chance to really prove his worth in a midweek trip to relegation-threatened Dover. I chose him to start in our front three ahead of Howard, who hadn't really benefitted from our recent goal rush - finding the net just once in his seven games thus far.

 

25 SEPTEMBER 2001: Dover Athletic vs Dagenham & Redbridge

The gamble didn't really work, as Shipp went back to being... well, another word beginning with those first three letters. To be fair, our attackers struggled to make an impact in this match, as Dover's midfield outclassed ours and gave us very few counter-attacking opportunities. It also didn't help that Junior McDougald had to come off with a leg injury midway through the first half.

 

Against a tougher opponent, we would almost certainly have lost heavily. Luckily, Dover showed the kind of finishing you'd expect from a team who would finish the evening in the relegation zone. The result: a dull and disappointing 0-0 draw, but also a rare clean sheet for Tony Roberts.

 

Dover Athletic - 0

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Conference, Attendance 1,618 - POSITIONS: Dover 20th, Dag & Red 4th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-3): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Matthews, Broom; Janney, Terry (O'Donoghue), Heffer; Shipp (Vickers), McGavin, McDougald (Stein). BOOKED: Matthews.

 

With the six-game winning streak over, some signs of unrest were starting to emerge. Midfielder Paul Terry was first to come into my office and request a new contract. Paul wanted £1,200 per week - which would make him one of our highest-paid players - and threatened to send his brother around if we didn't meet his demands.

 

While the board tried to thrash out a deal with Terry, we finished the month with a home game against Stalybridge. Like our previous opponents, Celtic went into this match sitting just above the relegation zone, but we still had to be wary of a potential upset.

 

29 SEPTEMBER 2001: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Stalybridge Celtic

Even with top scorer Junior McDougald missing his first match of the season through injury, the attacking potential in this team was still very strong. Danny Shipp picked up the slack after 13 minutes, breaking the deadlock with a fierce strike from Paul Terry's assist.

 

Despite conceding early on, Stalybridge were playing some good attacking football of their own. 15 minutes later, winger Richard Peacock strutted across our penalty area to equalise.

 

Just before half-time, though, the match turned back in our favour. Peacock couldn't keep pace with the explosive Mark Janney, who restored our advantage with a furious shot. Stalybridge's New Zealand goalkeeper Jason Batty looked particularly mad on the hour mark, as Danny Hill made it 3-1 Daggers after another brilliant set-up by 'man of the match' Terry. Maybe Paul had a point about that new contract!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Shipp 13, Janney 41, Hill 60)

Stalybridge Celtic - 1 (Peacock 28)

Conference, Attendance 1,077 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 3rd, Stalybridge 19th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-3): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Matthews, Vickers; Janney (O'Donoghue), Terry, Hill (Rooney); Shipp, McGavin (Heffer), Howard.

 

Remember when we started the season with one goal from our first four games and slipped to 17th place. Well... we've now scored 19 goals in eight matches - of which we've won SEVEN - and fired ourselves up into the top three!

 

It had been a super September for the Daggers, and it ended with me being named as the Conference's Manager of the Month! Maybe I am cut out for football management after all!

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CONFERENCE TABLE (End of September 2001)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Doncaster                       12   5    1    0    7    0    5    1    0    17   10   32   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Margate                         12   4    2    0    18   8    5    0    1    9    3    29   
3rd     Dag & Red                       12   4    1    1    10   4    3    2    1    10   7    24   
4th     Nuneaton Borough                12   3    2    1    9    6    4    0    2    10   10   23   
5th     Northwich Vics                  12   4    0    2    11   6    3    1    2    12   10   22   
6th     Boston Utd                      12   3    2    1    14   9    3    1    2    9    7    21   
7th     Southport                       12   2    2    2    8    7    4    1    1    10   6    21   
8th     Telford                         12   4    1    1    7    5    2    2    2    5    7    21   
9th     Stevenage                       12   3    1    2    13   12   2    2    2    7    8    18   
10th    Forest Green                    12   3    1    2    10   6    2    1    3    9    11   17   
11th    Yeovil                          12   3    0    3    10   10   2    2    2    8    9    17   
12th    Morecambe                       12   3    2    1    13   10   1    1    4    7    12   15   
13th    Hereford                        12   3    1    2    7    7    1    2    3    7    11   15   
14th    Chester                         12   3    1    2    14   9    1    1    4    6    8    14   
15th    Farnborough                     12   2    2    2    10   8    1    2    3    5    7    13   
16th    Barnet                          12   2    1    3    8    9    1    3    2    8    10   13   
17th    Scarborough                     12   2    0    4    7    14   2    1    3    7    7    13   
18th    Hayes                           12   2    1    3    9    11   1    1    4    6    12   11   
19th    Stalybridge                     12   1    3    2    7    7    1    0    5    7    13   9    
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th    Dover                           12   1    2    3    6    9    0    2    4    7    12   7    
21st    Woking                          12   0    1    5    6    13   1    2    3    7    13   6    
22nd    Leigh RMI                       12   1    2    3    5    7    0    1    5    4    16   6    

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • England take a huge step towards World Cup qualification by sensationally thrashing Germany 5-1 in Munich. Carsten Jancker nets an early opener for the hosts before the Three Lions sensationally hit back, with Michael Owen scoring a hat-trick, and Steven Gerrard and Emile Heskey also getting on the scoresheet!
  • There is one major European nation who definitely won't be going to next year's finals in East Asia. Republic of Ireland midfielder Jason McAteer scores the decisive goal that eliminates Holland - and leaves their humiliated head coach Louis van Gaal looking like he's been Tango'd.
  • The Toffees are in a sticky situation. Not only are Everton struggling in 14th place in the Premiership, but they also appear to be heavily in debt and on the verge of administration. It doesn't help when they're paying a 34-year-old Paul Gascoigne £20,000 a week just to sit on the bench every now and then.
  • The Champions League group stage begins, but after thrashing Barcelona 4-1, Manchester United stutter to a couple of 0-0 away draws against Lyon and FC København. Sir Alex Ferguson criticises the Hungarian and Albanian referees for denying his team seven "obvious" penalties.
  • Meanwhile, a 19th-minute volley from Chris Sutton earns Celtic a famous 1-0 victory over Juventus. The Bhoys go on an incredible 11-game winning streak before ending the month with back-to-back defeats to PSV and Dundee, prompting the Scottish press to declare a crisis at Celtic Park.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • Nobody will ever forget where they were on Tuesday 11 September, when four American planes were hijacked by the militant group Al-Qaeda. Two crashed into the twin towers at New York's World Trade Center, one crashed into the Pentagon, and another was downed in Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives.
  • Just one week later, America is rocked by another terrorist attack when several senators and media figures are sent letters containing anthrax. 22 people are infected, of which five are killed.
  • In rather less significant news, Major Charles Ingram becomes only the second Briton to win the top prize on the quiz show "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" Not all is as it seems.
  • The satirical comedy "Mike Bassett: England Manager" - starring Ricky Tomlinson as a hapless football coach leading his country into the World Cup - becomes an unlikely box-office hit. "Ladies and gentlemen, England will be playing 4-4-f***ing-2."

Edited by CFuller
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Grrrr, ****ing van Gaal. :mad:

 

Meanwhile, on with the Mac attack :thup:

Shame to see you knock off poor old Hereford though, I had a long time save with them in 01/02. Steve Bull was about the only useful player in the side

Edited by Vossenoren
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On 22/10/2021 at 10:34, Vossenoren said:

Grrrr, ****ing van Gaal. :mad:

 

Meanwhile, on with the Mac attack :thup:

Shame to see you knock off poor old Hereford though, I had a long time save with them in 01/02. Steve Bull was about the only useful player in the side

Mac Attack. That's a good one... :D

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OCTOBER 2001

I suspect we might be becoming victims of our own successes. Midfield destroyer Paul Terry rejected our initial offer of a new contract, and he's not the only one who's been pestering me for a pay rise.

 

Defensive stars Tim Cole and Lee Goodwin want to talk about new deals too, and they've been so consistently impressive over recent weeks that I can understand why. I can't say the same for Mark Brennan, though. The veteran midfielder also wants to discuss fresh terms, despite only featuring five times since joining the club in July (and posting an average rating of 6.00). Dream on, Mark.

 

One player who won't be signing a new contract any time soon (not with us anyway) is Jason Broom. The stalwart left-back wants to leave for more first-team football, and I've promised Broom that he can be brushed aside once I can bring in a replacement brush... and maybe a new handle as well. I hear there's a fella in Peckham who's got plenty of those.

 

In the meantime, we kicked off October by hosting an inconsistent Forest Green side managed by one-time England goalkeeper Nigel Spink. Could we build on a magnificent eight-game unbeaten run that had lifted us into the top three?

 

6 OCTOBER 2001: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Forest Green Rovers

Spink played on until he was well into his 40s, so it seemed fitting that Forest Green had a quadragenian in goal. 42-year-old Michael Leonard (who made his league debut in 1976!) produced a couple of big saves for the Gloucestershire side early on. However, he was unable to stop Daggers captain Lee Matthews from heading in a Danny Hill corner to give us the lead in the 21st minute.

 

Forest Green suffered another blow just before half-time, when another of their veterans - former England and Aston Villa winger Tony Daley - broke a toe. Despite that, some wasteful finishing from Steve McGavin and Mark Stein meant we couldn't kill our wounded opponents off.

 

The visitors roared back into the game in the 78th minute. Tony Roberts did well to parry a powerful volley from winger Simon Futcher, but our Welsh goalie was beaten by the rebound from Jason Eaton. Things then went from bad to worse eight minutes later, when Roberts was beaten by Eaton's strike partner Carl Heggs, who brought our excellent run to a crashing halt.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Matthews 21)

Forest Green Rovers - 2 (Eaton 78, Heggs 86)

Conference, Attendance 1,745 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 5th, Forest Green 10th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-3): Roberts; Goodwin (Rooney), Cole, Matthews, Vickers; Janney (Jones), Terry, Hill; Shipp, McGavin, Stein (Howard).

 

After that game, the longest-serving player at Victoria Road finally said his goodbyes. We had agreed a £9,000 fee with Accrington for Broom, and so after over 200 league games in nine years, he would now move north to Lancashire to see out after his playing days.

 

Broom's replacement as our second-choice left-back - for the next four months anyway - was Scott Jones. Bristol Rovers manager Gerry Francis had agreed to loan us the 26-year-old, who is brave, determined, and hardly ever runs out of energy. He's like a Duracell bunny, only with a slightly less cool name.

 

Jones made his debut when we hosted Northern Premier League side Whitby Town in the FA Cup Qualifying Round. Could a largely second-string Daggers team take us through to Round 1, or would the Yorkshire minnows upset us?

 

13 OCTOBER 2001: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Whitby Town

This was a chance for some fringe players to make their mark - and for Mark Stein to show that the old dog could still have his day. After just five minutes, the 35-year-old pounced on a goalkeeping mistake to score a tap-in and settle any early nerves. We then coasted through the rest of the first half, with captain Lee Matthews making sure that goalkeeper Paul Gothard had no work to do in goal.

 

Six minutes into the second half, Stein was at it again. A cross from 19-year-old Scottish winger Martin Grant was perfectly weighted to the veteran poacher, who doubled his tally and secured our place in the FA Cup proper. Awaiting us in Round 1... a rather trickier contest away to Division 3 high-flyers Macclesfield.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Stein 5,51)

Whitby Town - 0

FA Cup Qualifying Round, Attendance 2,388

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Gothard; Goodwin (Cole), Rooney, Matthews, S Jones; Grant, Heffer (O'Donoghue), Brennan, M Jones; Stein (Howard), Shipp.

 

After a hectic start to the season, we now had two weeks until our next fixture, so I could take time to discuss contracts with some of our players. Terry agreed to lower his demands and signed a new £1,000-a-year contract until 2005, while Cole accepted a similar deal that would run all the way until 2007. However, striker Junior McDougald was holding out for better terms and rejected our offer.

 

Brennan didn't get a new contract either. Instead, the former Ipswich midfielder got a £2,000 transfer to Nantwich, which would help us free up some funds.

 

And having lost to a former England international at the start of the month, I hoped to avoid suffering a similar fate at the end of it. The visitors to Victoria Road this time were a Farnborough side who'd enjoyed a solid start under new manager Alan Ball, whose Three Lions was slightly longer - and a little more successful - than Nigel Spink's.

 

27 OCTOBER 2001: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Farnborough Town

Alan Ball had been everywhere and done everything, so I'm afraid it wasn't too surprising that he rather outsmarted me here. Farnborough's attacking 3-5-2 was difficult for us to get to grips with, as their back three countered our front three superbly. We were also dealt a major blow in the 14th minute, when Mark Janney sprained his ankle and had to be substituted.

 

An even bigger setback came seven minutes from half-time. Tony Roberts momentarily strayed off his goalline, but that moment was all Boro midfielder Gary Patterson needed to rifle the ball past him and put the visitors ahead. With our strikers struggling to get involved, we battled in vain through a turgid second half and then slumped to another home loss.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Farnborough Town - 1 (Patterson 38)

Conference, Attendance 1,420 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 6th, Farnborough 11th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-3): Roberts; Goodwin (Rooney), Cole, Matthews, S Jones; Janney (O'Donoghue), Terry, Hill; Stein (McDougald), Howard, McGavin.

 

Well then... brilliant in September, and then back-to-back league defeats in October. Is that the old 'Manager of the Month' curse working its dark magic again?

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CONFERENCE TABLE (End of October 2001)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Doncaster                       14   6    1    0    9    1    5    2    0    18   11   36   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Margate                         14   5    3    0    20   9    5    0    1    9    3    33   
3rd     Northwich Vics                  14   6    0    2    15   8    3    1    2    12   10   28   
4th     Nuneaton Borough                14   4    2    2    14   11   4    0    2    10   10   26   
5th     Boston Utd                      14   4    3    1    17   10   3    1    2    9    7    25   
6th     Dag & Red                       14   4    1    3    11   7    3    2    1    10   7    24   
7th     Stevenage                       14   5    1    2    21   14   2    2    2    7    8    24   
8th     Southport                       14   2    2    2    8    7    4    1    3    12   11   21   
9th     Telford                         14   4    1    1    7    5    2    2    4    7    13   21   
10th    Forest Green                    14   3    1    2    10   6    3    1    4    13   15   20   
11th    Farnborough                     14   2    2    2    10   8    3    2    3    9    7    19   
12th    Barnet                          14   3    1    3    11   11   2    3    2    11   12   19   
13th    Hereford                        14   4    2    2    9    8    1    2    3    7    11   19   
14th    Yeovil                          14   3    0    3    10   10   2    2    4    9    12   17   
15th    Morecambe                       14   3    2    1    13   10   1    2    5    8    14   16   
16th    Scarborough                     14   3    0    5    9    18   2    1    3    7    7    16   
17th    Chester                         14   3    1    2    14   9    1    2    5    7    10   15   
18th    Hayes                           14   2    1    3    9    11   2    1    5    10   15   14   
19th    Dover                           14   3    2    3    9    10   0    2    4    7    12   13   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th    Stalybridge                     14   2    3    3    11   11   1    0    5    7    13   12   
21st    Leigh RMI                       14   1    2    3    5    7    0    1    7    5    19   6    
22nd    Woking                          14   0    1    5    6    13   1    2    5    10   21   6    

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • England qualify for next year's World Cup in dramatic fashion. David Beckham's last-minute free-kick at Old Trafford secures a 2-2 draw against Greece, which means the Three Lions top their group ahead of Germany. The 'stupid boy' of France 1998 instantly becomes a national hero.
  • Manchester United look imperious in their Premiership title defence, winning 10 of their first 11 matches and only conceding five goals in the process. It's no surprise that Fabien Barthez is being hailed as the best goalkeeper United have had since Mark Bosnich.
  • As Norwich battle against relegation from Division 1, the cash-strapped Canaries are sold to local mustard salesman Kenny Bailey. In her final act as managing director, celebrity chef Delia Smith sacks manager Nigel Worthington and cries, "Where are you, Brian Horton? LET'S BE HAVIN' YOU!"
  • Late goals from Claudio López and Simone Inzaghi see Lazio defeat bitter rivals Roma 2-0 to kick off the Serie A season with eight consecutive victories, scoring 21 goals and conceding only 3. The Biancocelesti also qualify from their first Champions League group with a match to spare. In other words, they look pretty decent.
  • Unfancied Guingamp are the surprise leaders of Ligue 1 after 11 games, having been inspired by the impressive form of young midfielder Florent Malouda and former Newcastle icon Stephane Guivarc'h. Meanwhile, last season's runners-up are dragged into a relegation battle after some shocking away results for Lyon - or, as the kids might say, L'OL!

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • Steve Jobs' Apple reveal their newest product - an ultra-portable music player called an iPod. It's probably just another fad that will soon die out, like the Walkman or the boombox.
  • Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants hits 73 home runs - the most by any player in a single Major League Baseball season. It's a mightily impressive record... almost too impressive.
  • In a golden year of music which has already seen Bob the Builder and DJ Ötzi hit Number 1, Afroman becomes the latest act to top the UK Singles Chart with "Because I Got High". Apparently, it's about his second career as a jet pilot.
  • 60s fashion model Twiggy is sacked as a presenter on "This Morning" due to poor ratings. Well, that didn't last long.
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On 26/10/2021 at 09:45, CFuller said:

CONFERENCE TABLE (End of October 2001)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Doncaster                       14   6    1    0    9    1    5    2    0    18   11   36   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Margate                         14   5    3    0    20   9    5    0    1    9    3    33   
3rd     Northwich Vics                  14   6    0    2    15   8    3    1    2    12   10   28   
4th     Nuneaton Borough                14   4    2    2    14   11   4    0    2    10   10   26   
5th     Boston Utd                      14   4    3    1    17   10   3    1    2    9    7    25   
6th     Dag & Red                       14   4    1    3    11   7    3    2    1    10   7    24   
7th     Stevenage                       14   5    1    2    21   14   2    2    2    7    8    24   
8th     Southport                       14   2    2    2    8    7    4    1    3    12   11   21   
9th     Telford                         14   4    1    1    7    5    2    2    4    7    13   21   
10th    Forest Green                    14   3    1    2    10   6    3    1    4    13   15   20   
11th    Farnborough                     14   2    2    2    10   8    3    2    3    9    7    19   
12th    Barnet                          14   3    1    3    11   11   2    3    2    11   12   19   
13th    Hereford                        14   4    2    2    9    8    1    2    3    7    11   19   
14th    Yeovil                          14   3    0    3    10   10   2    2    4    9    12   17   
15th    Morecambe                       14   3    2    1    13   10   1    2    5    8    14   16   
16th    Scarborough                     14   3    0    5    9    18   2    1    3    7    7    16   
17th    Chester                         14   3    1    2    14   9    1    2    5    7    10   15   
18th    Hayes                           14   2    1    3    9    11   2    1    5    10   15   14   
19th    Dover                           14   3    2    3    9    10   0    2    4    7    12   13   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th    Stalybridge                     14   2    3    3    11   11   1    0    5    7    13   12   
21st    Leigh RMI                       14   1    2    3    5    7    0    1    7    5    19   6    
22nd    Woking                          14   0    1    5    6    13   1    2    5    10   21   6    

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • England qualify for next year's World Cup in dramatic fashion. David Beckham's last-minute free-kick at Old Trafford secures a 2-2 draw against Greece, which means the Three Lions top their group ahead of Germany. The 'stupid boy' of France 1998 instantly becomes a national hero.
  • Manchester United look imperious in their Premiership title defence, winning 10 of their first 11 matches and only conceding five goals in the process. It's no surprise that Fabien Barthez is being hailed as the best goalkeeper United have had since Mark Bosnich.
  • As Norwich battle against relegation from Division 1, the cash-strapped Canaries are sold to local mustard salesman Kenny Bailey. In her final act as managing director, celebrity chef Delia Smith sacks manager Nigel Worthington and cries, "Where are you, Brian Horton? LET'S BE HAVIN' YOU!"
  • Late goals from Claudio López and Simone Inzaghi see Lazio defeat bitter rivals Roma 2-0 to kick off the Serie A season with eight consecutive victories, scoring 21 goals and conceding only 3. The Biancocelesti also qualify from their first Champions League group with a match to spare. In other words, they look pretty decent.
  • Unfancied Guingamp are the surprise leaders of Ligue 1 after 11 games, having been inspired by the impressive form of young midfielder Florent Malouda and former Newcastle icon Stephane Guivarc'h. Meanwhile, last season's runners-up are dragged into a relegation battle after some shocking away results for Lyon - or, as the kids might say, L'OL!

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • Steve Jobs' Apple reveal their newest product - an ultra-portable music player called an iPod. It's probably just another fad that will soon die out, like the Walkman or the boombox.
  • Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants hits 73 home runs - the most by any player in a single Major League Baseball season. It's a mightily impressive record... almost too impressive.
  • In a golden year of music which has already seen Bob the Builder and DJ Ötzi hit Number 1, Afroman becomes the latest act to top the UK Singles Chart with "Because I Got High". Apparently, it's about his second career as a jet pilot.
  • 60s fashion model Twiggy is sacked as a presenter on "This Morning" due to poor ratings. Well, that didn't last long.

I think it went downhill for Twiggy after she appeared in the Blues Brothers. Well actually while she appears in the blues brothers. Seen as she gets stood up at the motel near the end of the film.

I think I remember getting reprimanded at work for celebrating a bit too vehemently when hearing on the radio that, that David Beckham free kick had gone in. Didn't he have little to no hair at that point?

I unfortunately was also at work when I started hearing Chinese whispers about planes going into buildings. It wasn't until I got home that evening that I discovered what was actually going on!

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On 27/10/2021 at 12:27, Mandy42 said:

I think I remember getting reprimanded at work for celebrating a bit too vehemently when hearing on the radio that, that David Beckham free kick had gone in. Didn't he have little to no hair at that point?

I unfortunately was also at work when I started hearing Chinese whispers about planes going into buildings. It wasn't until I got home that evening that I discovered what was actually going on!

Yeah, Becks was in his number 1 phase at the time.

I don't really remember a lot about living through 9/11. I was 11 at the time and didn't really understand the scale of what had happened. All I know is that I was a great deal more upset that Arsenal lost to Mallorca in the Champions League later that evening.

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NOVEMBER 2001

18-year-old striker Paul Piscopides returned to Dagenham in November, after a loan spell at Heybridge in which he played five Isthmian League matches... and scored no goals. I hoped we wouldn't have to call him up to the first-team any time soon, but if our poor form from October spilled over into November...

 

Thankfully, our first match of the new month was away to another team who'd endured a rotten October. Yeovil had lost twice on the road and were even knocked out of the FA Cup by lower-league Halesowen. Perhaps this was our moment to get back on track?

 

7 NOVEMBER 2001: Yeovil Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Or perhaps it wasn't. Though we made the brighter start, it was Yeovil who struck first in the 27th minute, through captain and former Chelsea winger Nick Crittenden. That was another rare misstep from goalkeeper Tony Roberts, who was otherwise rock-solid once again.

 

At this point, I was getting so desperate to find a winning formula that I subbed off Steve Howard and switched tactics - from a 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2. The switch paid dividends just before half-time, as a superb solo effort from Danny Hill got us back on terms.

 

The 3-5-2 wouldn't last long, though. Right-back Lee Goodwin was nursing a knock, and with no obvious replacement on the bench, I changed tactics once again - this time to a direct 4-4-2. This seemed to shift the momentum back in Yeovil's favour, though they couldn't take their chances, and we were rather lucky to escape with a 1-1 draw in the end.

 

Yeovil Town - 1 (Crittenden 27)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Hill 45)

Conference, Attendance 2,686 - POSITIONS: Yeovil 14th, Dag & Red 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-3): Roberts; Goodwin (M Jones), Cole, Matthews, S Jones; Grant, Terry, Hill; Stein (McGavin), Howard (Vickers), McDougald.

 

Three days later, our search for a first victory since September took us to Barnet. The Bees were among the pre-season promotion favourites, but a few stinging defeats had left them in mid-table - and without a manager, following the sacking of John Still.

 

10 NOVEMBER 2001: Barnet vs Dagenham & Redbridge

What a mad game this was. Barnet quickly pushed forward for a goal, and it paid off when 21-year-old striker Wayne Purser half-volleyed in the opener after 13 minutes. Just a minute later, though, he was upstaged by our 19-year-old winger Martin Grant, who popped up to head home a Matt Jones corner and break his Daggers duck.

 

In reply, Barnet's attacking midfielder Mark Gower restored their lead with a 34th-minute rocket, only for Steve McGavin to get us back level on the stroke of half-time. A thrilling first period finished 2-2, but that wasn't the end of the drama. Far from it, in fact!

 

You see, the Bees took the lead once again two minutes after the restart, as Purser's chip into the box was finished by striker Neil Midgley. But lightning then struck not once, not twice, but THRICE! Some frantic Barnet defending from a McGavin header saw the ball fall to midfielder Steve Heffer, who thundered in our third equaliser of the net.

 

Alas, we soon ran out of luck. After Midgley scored again on 62 minutes, we couldn't deliver yet another leveller. We had tried virtually everything to fight off this swarm of Bees, but to no avail.

 

Barnet - 4 (Purser 13, Gower 34, Midgley 47,62)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Grant 14, McGavin 45, Heffer 49)

Conference, Attendance 1,703 - POSITIONS: Barnet 11th, Dag & Red 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Matthews (Vickers), S Jones; Grant, Terry (Hill), Heffer, Jones; McGavin, McDougald (Stein).

 

After a third defeat in four league games, I was losing patience with some of my players. I gave defenders Lee Matthews and Tim Cole - as well as midfielder Danny Hill - official warnings for their particularly poor displays.

 

Matthews and Cole accepted their warning, but Hill had the cheek to complain that he was being mistreated. I hope you enjoy reserve football, Danny, because that's where you're heading for the next few weeks!

 

In more positive news, goalkeeper Tony Roberts a signed new contract until 2004. But after letting in four goals at Underhill, the Welsh veteran would be under pressure to justify his new deal in our next match - against Macclesfield in Round 1 of the FA Cup.

 

17 NOVEMBER 2001: Macclesfield Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Yeah... about that. Tony Roberts' game got off to the worst possible start after 13 minutes, when he tipped Richard Eyre's shot right into the path of Macclesfield's 19-year-old striking prospect, who applied a simple finish. Remember the name: Rickie Lambert.

 

Another 13 minutes passed, and then things got even worse for Tony. As Eyres charged through on goal, Roberts charged from his area and cynically wiped out the Macc right-winger. The red card came out, Roberts was off, and backup goalkeeper Paul Gothard's first job after coming off the bench was to retrieve Eyre's penalty from the back of the net. 2-0 to the Silkmen.

 

I read the riot act again at half-time and demanded a much-improved performance after the restart. Our response was emphatic. Paul Terry fired a shot in off the post in the 63rd minute to halve the deficit. Five minutes later, Lee Matthews led by example to head in a free-kick from Scott Jones, thus levelling the scores and earning us an improbable replay at Victoria Road!

 

Macclesfield Town - 2 (Lambert 13, Eyre pen26)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Terry 63, Matthews 68)

FA Cup Round 1, Attendance 4,268

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-3): Roberts; Goodwin (S Jones), Cole, Matthews, Vickers; Grant, Terry, M Jones; Stein (Shipp), McDougald (Gothard), McGavin. BOOKED: Goodwin. SENT OFF: Roberts.

 

I wished I hadn't given Roberts that new contract now! I fined him a week's wages for his red card, and he would also have to serve a three-match ban from the start of December. For those of you who might not be aware, suspensions officially begin 14 days after they are issued, because the FA is apparently run by people who have as much common sense as Peter Mandelson.

 

Before the Macclesfield rematch, our focus turned towards another cup competition. We entered the FA Trophy in Round 2 with a home tie against Conference rivals Morecambe, who were fourth-from-bottom and winless in their last six games.

 

24 NOVEMBER 2001: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Morecambe

Facing a team that was so low on confidence, I ordered my boys to hit the front foot immediately. That was exactly what happened in the sixth minute, when Steve Howard lined up an excellent free-kick that was parried towards Junior McDougald, who tapped us into an early advantage.

 

More careless goalkeeping handed us another goal four minutes later, with Paul Terry the beneficiary this time. The midfielder then scored again in the 34th minute, as McDougald selflessly set him up to send us into the break with a comfortable 3-0 deficit.

 

Morecambe did try to get themselves back in the game after the break, and forward Perry Taylor even managed to pull one goal back. Thankfully, any fears of a Dagger collapse would be brushed away in the 65th minute, when McDougald followed Terry in scoring a brace. The woodwork then denied Junior what would've been a deserved hat-trick, but it didn't matter, as we breezed through to the last 16!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 4 (McDougald 6,65, Terry 10,34)

Morecambe - 1 (Taylor 58)

FA Trophy Round 2, Attendance 574

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-3): Roberts; Rooney, Cole, Matthews, Vickers (S Jones); Janney (O'Donoghue), Terry, Heffer; McDougald, Howard (Stein), McGavin.

 

We had to wait a while to find out our Round 3 opponents. We had been drawn away to either Boston United or Chester, who'd fought out a 0-0 stalemate at York Street. They would replay the fixture a few days later at the Deva Stadium... but that finished 3-3 after extra-time, which meant ANOTHER replay would have to be scheduled back in Boston!

 

I mean... why couldn't they just go to penalties, rather than keep playing the same match over and over again? It's not the 1980s anymore, for goodness sake!

 

Anyway, while that madness was going on, we were concerned with a replayed cup game of our own. After our magnificent comeback at Macclesfield, we welcomed the Silkmen to Victoria Road in the hope that we could finish the job. This was Macc's first match under new manager Sandy Clark, as their previous boss Gil Prescott had been poached by Oldham since our previous meeting.

 

28 NOVEMBER 2001: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Macclesfield Town

Macclesfield might have had a new manager, but they still had the same ruthless streak in the first half. Strike partners Damien Whitehead and Rickie Lambert worked together like a dream, setting each other up to give the Silkmen a couple of goals midway through the first half. We were trailing 2-0 again, but at least Tony Roberts hadn't suddenly decided to get himself red-carded this time.

 

After their strong start, Macclesfield decided to put men behind the ball and sit on their lead. No matter what we tried to break their defences down, nobody had the answer. While the Cheshire side advanced to a Round 2 meeting with Port Vale, our FA Cup run ended with a whimper.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Macclesfield Town - 2 (Whitehead 22, Lambert 23)

FA Cup Round 1 Replay, Attendance 5,456

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-3): Roberts; Goodwin, Matthews, Cole, S Jones; Janney (Grant), Terry, M Jones; Stein (McGavin), Howard (O'Donoghue), McDougald.

 

I don't quite know what has happened in the last two months, but something's clearly not right. We've won two of our last eight games, and in that time, we've kept just one clean sheet - against a lower-league team in the FA Cup qualifiers.

 

Having lost huge ground on the likes of Doncaster and Margate in the race of promotion, we're now in danger of potentially being dragged into a relegation battle. If we don't put things right next month, I fear that my head could be on the chopping block...

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CONFERENCE TABLE (End of November 2001)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Doncaster                       16   7    1    0    13   2    5    2    1    18   13   39   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Margate                         16   5    3    0    20   9    6    1    1    12   5    37   
3rd     Northwich Vics                  16   6    0    2    15   8    4    2    2    16   13   32   
4th     Boston Utd                      16   4    3    1    17   10   5    1    2    14   7    31   
5th     Nuneaton Borough                17   4    2    3    15   13   5    1    2    14   12   30   
6th     Dag & Red                       16   4    1    3    11   7    3    3    2    14   12   25   
7th     Farnborough                     16   4    2    2    13   9    3    2    3    9    7    25   
8th     Barnet                          17   5    1    3    18   15   2    3    3    12   14   25   
9th     Forest Green                    16   4    2    2    14   8    3    1    4    13   15   24   
10th    Stevenage                       16   5    1    2    21   14   2    2    4    9    15   24   
11th    Telford                         17   4    1    3    7    8    3    2    4    9    14   24   
12th    Southport                       16   2    4    2    11   10   4    1    3    12   11   23   
13th    Hereford                        16   4    2    2    9    8    2    2    4    12   14   22   
14th    Yeovil                          17   3    2    3    11   11   2    2    5    10   15   19   
15th    Chester                         16   4    1    3    17   12   1    2    5    7    10   18   
16th    Hayes                           16   3    2    3    13   13   2    1    5    10   15   18   
17th    Stalybridge                     17   3    3    3    13   12   2    0    6    9    15   18   
18th    Scarborough                     16   3    0    5    9    18   2    3    3    7    7    18   
19th    Morecambe                       17   3    3    2    14   12   1    2    6    9    16   17   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th    Dover                           16   3    2    3    9    10   1    3    4    10   14   17   
21st    Leigh RMI                       16   1    2    5    6    13   0    1    7    5    19   6    
22nd    Woking                          16   0    1    7    8    19   1    2    5    10   21   6    

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • In the biggest match of the Premiership season so far, champions Manchester United are held to a spirited 1-1 draw by nearest challengers Arsenal. At full-time, the teams' respective midfield generals Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira lovingly exchange flowers and teddy bears.
  • Leeds' carefree spending resumes when they fork out £7.75million for Newcastle's Peruvian attacking midfielder (and part-time musician) Nolberto Solano. Well... they do say that chairman Peter Ridsdale loves to play his own trumpet!
  • Martin O'Neill's career has taken a very strange turn. With Celtic eight points clear of Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premier League, their genial Northern Irish manager decides to go to hell - or as the locals call it, Galatasaray.
  • The knives are out for Barcelona head coach Carles Rexach after the Catalans are eliminated from the Champions League by FC København, and then fall nine points adrift of leaders Deportivo in La Liga. Incredibly, they also destroy Real Madrid 4-0 at the Nou Camp, with Real megastar Figo missing a late penalty against his old club!
  • After a run of defeats leaves them mired in the Bundesliga relegation zone, Wolfsburg regrettably part company with their manager Wolfgang Wolf. He is succeeded by the rather less alliterative ex-Brazil boss Carlos Alberto Parreira.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • A month after the United States invades Afghanistan in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, allied troops drive the Taliban out of Kabul. And they all lived happily ever after, the end.
  • The first Harry Potter film "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" is released, making $1billion at the box office. That's an awful lot of chocolate frogs.
  • Fresh from introducing Windows XP last month, Bill Gates continues his quest to take everybody's money when Microsoft give birth to their new Xbox video game console. It is first released in North America, with Europe getting its first chance to "play more" early next year.
  • Musician George Harrison dies from cancer aged just 58. After hitting superstardom with The Beatles, he enjoyed a prolific solo career, releasing such classics as "My Sweet Lord" and "Ding Dong, Ding Dong".
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DECEMBER 2001

So, your team is without a win in four league games, you're in danger of freefalling down the table, and the fans are getting reckless. Oh yeah, and your number 1 goalkeeper - who happens to be one of your best players - is about to serve a three-match ban.

 

That's the predicament my Dagenham & Redbridge found ourselves in as we entered the final month of 2001. Tony Roberts' ill-discipline in the FA Cup meant Paul Gothard would have to take his place between the sticks for our next few games - starting with a long away trip to relegation-threatened Morecambe.

 

1 DECEMBER 2001: Morecambe vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Having beaten Morecambe 4-1 at home in the FA Trophy just a week earlier, we were probably expecting another comfortable victory. Things looked to be heading that way after just 14 minutes, when Steve Howard scored just his second goal for Dagenham.

 

Howard narrowly missed out on a second goal just moments later after hitting the post. Fortunately, his strike partner Junior McDougald did double our lead on 32 minutes, returning to form after a relatively quiet November.

 

Just as we thought Morecambe were going to be pushovers again, though, their striker Andy Wright made us think again with a stunning volley nine minutes into the second half. That shook us back into life, as Paul Terry restored our two-goal cushion before a lethal header from Steve McGavin made it 4-1 Daggers!

 

While the three points were now surely ours, the Shrimps showed some signs late on that new manager Peter Jackson could yet turn their season around. An 87th-minute header from winger Courtney Naylor forced Paul Gothard into a tricky fingertip save which fell perfectly to Wright, who pulled us back to 4-2. Substitute forward Andy Gouck almost added a third goal in stoppage time, but we still came away victorious.

 

Morecambe - 2 (Wright 54,87)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 4 (Howard 14, McDougald 32, Terry 60, McGavin 69)

Conference, Attendance 1,786 - POSITIONS: Morecambe 20th, Dag & Red 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-3): Gothard; Goodwin, Matthews, Cole (Rooney), S Jones; Janney, Terry, O'Donoghue; Stein (McGavin), Howard, McDougald.

 

Get in! That could be just the result we need to get our season back on track! But could we follow it up with another victory, at home to 16th-placed Hayes?

 

8 DECEMBER 2001: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Hayes

Of course, we couldn't. Hayes had former Ipswich and Arsenal striker Chris Kiwomya in their ranks, and he put us behind in the 14th, when his header was tucked away by young winger Mark Hicks.

 

We then dominated the rest of the match, only to produce a masterclass in wasting scoring opportunities. Steve Howard, Steve McGavin and Junior 'Not Steve' McDougald all had attempts saved by Hayes' goalkeeping captain Andy De Bont. Not even Paul Terry could produce one of his occasional moments of magic, and so we went down to what was already our fourth home league defeat of the season.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Hayes - 1 (Hicks 14)

Conference, Attendance 1,307 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 8th, Hayes 15th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-3): Gothard; Goodwin, Cole, Matthews, S Jones (Vickers); Janney, Terry, Jones; McGavin (Shipp), Howard (O'Donoghue), McDougald.

 

For heaven's sake, we're so bloody inconsistent! You just never know what Daggers team will turn up from one game to the next!

 

A few days later, we played our first - and probably last - match in the Football League Trophy this season. We'd been drawn at home to a Luton side who were 12 points clear at the top of Division 3. On the plus side, this was a good opportunity for our on-loan Hatters striker Steve Howard - who'd scored just twice in 16 matches for us - to show Joe F***ing Kinnear what he was capable of...

 

11 DECEMBER 2001: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Luton Town

...and after 19 minutes, that was exactly what he did! Steve Howard unleashed a fierce shot that Luton goalkeeper Mark Ovendale couldn't keep hold of, allowing our loanee another chance to score against his parent club! A cool finish gave us the perfect start, and only the woodwork stopped Junior McDougald from making it 2-0 just three minutes later.

 

The rest of the match was pretty close, though Luton gradually grew stronger as full-time drew nearer. Eventually, in the 73rd minute, midfielder Kevin Nicholls managed to unlock our defence with a fabulous through-ball. It was emphatically finished by 19-year-old debutant striker Leeyon Phelan, who had signed for the Hatters from Wycombe just days earlier.

 

With the scores level at 1-1, the tie went to sudden-death extra-time. A couple of strong saves from Paul Gothard stopped Luton from getting a golden goal in the extra 30 minutes. Gothard would be the centre of attention again when this contest was finally settled by a penalty shoot-out.

 

Both teams scored their first three penalties, and although Paul Terry extended our perfect record, Chris Coyne blinked first by screwing Luton's fourth wide. Captain Lee Matthews couldn't secure victory with our fifth spot-kick, which was saved by Ovendale, but then Gothard made an even more important save of his own to stop winger Adrian Forbes from extending the contest. We had claimed a major scalp in the Football League Trophy!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Howard 19)

Luton Town - 1 (Phelan 73)

[after extra time, Dagenham & Redbridge win 4-3 on penalties]

Football League Trophy South Round 1, Attendance 658

PENALTY SHOOT-OUT (Dag & Red, Luton): McDougald 1-0, Skelton 1-1, McGavin 2-1, Valois 2-2, Howard 3-2, Johnson 3-3, Terry 4-3, Coyne missed, Matthews saved, Forbes saved.

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Gothard; Goodwin, Cole, Matthews, Vickers (S Jones); Janney (Grant), Terry, M Jones (O'Donoghue); McGavin; Howard, McDougald.

 

See what I mean about us being inconsistent? We can play like complete mugs against teams like Hayes, but then we survive a two-hour scrap with Luton before beating them on penalties! Not that I was complaining, mind, as this shock victory earned us a trip to Division 2 side Bristol City in the next round!

 

Meanwhile, we finally said good riddance to Mark Stein, who was on his way to St Johnstone on a free transfer. I'm not sure what a Scottish Premier League side saw in a 35-year-old striker who hadn't scored in 12 Conference matches for us, but at least we'd got his wages off the bill!

 

And despite his goalkeeping heroics against Luton, Gothard lost his place in the team when Roberts returned from suspension at home to Chester. There was also a recall for attacking midfielder Danny Hill, who'd spent the last few weeks training with the reserves after sulking about a fine.

 

15 DECEMBER 2001: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Chester City

For the win against Luton, I'd changed my usual 4-3-3 into a narrow 4-3-1-2 by dropping one of the strikers into attacking midfield. This had given us a bit more balance, and the new tactic would also help us to dominate the midfield battle against Chester. We peppered our visitors with shots in the first period and eventually broke through just before half-time, when Junior McDougald's cross was half-volleyed home by Paul Terry.

 

Chester were struggling to get back in the game... but one clumsy foul in the penalty area by Tim Cole after 58 minutes was all they needed. Darren Wright stepped up to take the penalty, which nestled into the back of Tony Roberts' net and restored our lead.

 

Five minutes later, though, the momentum shifted back our way as we won a penalty of our own! McDougald had his feet clipped by the onrushing City goalkeeper Wayne Brown, who was instantly shown the red card. Teenage debutant Louie Mackin replaced him in goal, and McDougald sent him the wrong way with his 10th goal of the campaign.

 

With a 2-1 lead, and an extra man, the match was now completely in our hands. Defender Mark Rooney came off the bench to score his first Daggers goal in the 73rd minute, converting the rebound after Mackin awkwardly parried a shot from Hill. Terry then found enough time to net his second of the afternoon and complete a 4-1 victory!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 4 (Terry 40,89, McDougald pen64, Rooney 73)

Chester - 1 (Wright pen58)

Conference, Attendance 1,713 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 7th, Chester 19th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole (Rooney), Matthews, S Jones; Janney (Grant), Terry, M Jones; Hill (McGavin); Howard, McDougald.

 

Sadly, our joy at winning back-to-back matches would soon disappear. You see, we'd managed to agree a new long-term contract with right-back Lee Goodwin... but captain Lee Matthews was a different matter. With his deal expiring in June, Matthews was weighing up offers from several Football League clubs and was reluctant to commit his future to an underachieving Daggers team that was nowhere near the promotion picture.

 

Eventually, Matthews made his mind up. After five years at Dagenham & Redbridge, he decided that his future would lie north. He signed a pre-contract agreement with Bury, who were in the Division 2 relegation places, and would head to Gigg Lane next season.

 

I was naturally disappointed that Matthews was leaving us, especially as he had a very high average match rating of 7.67 and had probably spared us from a couple of thrashings. A player of his quality would be almost impossible to replace in the Conference. That said, I reluctantly accepted Lee's decision and agreed to keep him on as captain for the rest of the season.

 

We would also soon be saying goodbye to Howard, whose four-month loan spell expired after our home game against second-from-bottom Woking. It hadn't exactly been the best of times for Howard at Victoria Road, but could he at least finish his stay with a bang?

 

22 DECEMBER 2001: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Woking

Woking might have been mired in the relegation zone, but they didn't make things easy for Steve Howard or the rest of our attack. Captain and right-back Michael Harle led a spirited defensive display for the Cards in the first half, as they constantly frustrated us and shut out everything we could throw their way. They even managed to put together the occasional counter-attack, but Lee Matthews and co were up to the task.

 

Eventually, after 70 minutes and nearly a dozen attempts at goal, our persistence paid off. Paul Terry collected a header from substitute midfielder Steve Heffer and looked in great position to shoot. Instead, he selflessly laid it off to Junior McDougald, who broke Woking's resistance with a confident finish. We then held our nerve to see out a narrow 1-0 win - our first clean sheet for over two months!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (McDougald 70)

Woking - 0

Conference, Attendance 1,055 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 6th, Woking 21st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Vickers), Cole, Matthews, S Jones; Janney, Terry, M Jones (Heffer); Hill (McGavin); Howard, McDougald.

 

No more goals for Howard, as he left Victoria Road and headed back home to Luton. While I scoured the loan market for another striker to partner a resurgent Junior McDougald, we travelled to Merseyside for a Boxing Day bout with mid-table Southport.

 

26 DECEMBER 2001: Southport vs Dagenham & Redbridge

We expected a quick start from the hosts, but perhaps not as quick as this! Tony Roberts had barely settled into our game when Southport striker Simon Parke cracked a laser into his top corner after just four minutes! Parke almost doubled his tally two minutes later, but Roberts was thankfully more alert that time and produced a great save.

 

The Sandgrounders suffered a blow in the 13th minute, when veteran left-back Tony Hemmings gashed his leg and was forced off. With our opponents wounded, we sensed blood and attacked with more confidence late in the first half. Junior McDougald drew us level with a low shot in the 38th minute, and things got even five minutes later, when midfielder Mark Janney powered home to build a 2-1 away lead!

 

The second half was a very tense affair. Young right-back Marek Szmid almost equalised for Southport in the 81st minute, when his free-kick flew inches wide. That would be a costly miss, as Janney's 86th-minute assist for the in-form McDougald sealed an impressive Daggers victory at Haig Avenue!

 

Southport - 1 (Parke 4)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (McDougald 38,86, Janney 43)

Conference, Attendance 1,606 - POSITIONS: Southport 10th, Dag & Red 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Rooney), Cole, Matthews, S Jones; Janney, Terry, Heffer (M Jones); McGavin (Hill); Shipp, McDougald.

 

McDougald's brace took him up to 11 goals for the league season, and with the American's contract also expiring in the summer, securing his long-term future was becoming increasingly important.

 

After much negotiating, we finally struck a deal that would keep McDougald in a Daggers shirt until 2005. We couldn't quite pay the £500-per-week wages Junior was asking for, but he agreed to knock that down to £425-per-week - in exchange for a minimum-fee release clause of £100,000. I mean, he's a good striker for this level, but I doubt anyone's going to pay that much for him... right?

 

With his future settled, could McDougald help us finish 2001 in style when we went to Telford? The Bucks might have been mid-table, but they had a few big names in Kevin Davies and Barry Ferguson. Thankfully, they were not the same guys who were playing regular top-flight football for Southampton and Rangers respectively.

 

29 DECEMBER 2001: Telford United vs Dagenham & Redbridge

...or at least I thought they weren't. Though we again bossed possession and created several scoring opportunities, we were frustrated by some top-quality defending from Telford. Danny Shipp was particularly unlucky not to find the net, having FIVE shots saved by goalkeeper Dean Williams. Perhaps the best of them came in the 59th minute, when a rocket from Shipp was clawed away from the top corner by Williams' fingertips.

 

We had 14 shots (8 on target), but to no avail against a Telford side who played like Gandalf - and outright refused to let anything get past them. Unsurprisingly, the 'man of the match' award went to a Bucks defender, in the form of tough-tackling centre-half Mark Albrighton. If that name sounds familiar... then I have no idea where it comes from, because I've literally never heard of anyone else called Mark Albrighton.

 

Telford United - 0

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Conference, Attendance 1,718 - POSITIONS: Telford 13th, Dag & Red 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Rooney), Cole, Matthews, S Jones; Janney, Terry, M Jones (Heffer); Hill (McGavin); Shipp, McDougald.

 

22 games played, 20 to go. For this mid-term report, I would probably give us... a B minus. There's a lot to like about us going forward, but the defence is still a bit too ropey for my liking.

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CONFERENCE TABLE (End of December 2001)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Doncaster                       22   10   1    0    23   5    7    3    1    27   17   55   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Margate                         22   6    3    2    22   13   8    1    2    15   7    46   
3rd     Northwich Vics                  21   8    0    2    21   11   6    3    2    26   18   45   
4th     Boston Utd                      22   5    4    1    22   13   7    1    4    22   14   41   
5th     Farnborough                     23   6    3    3    17   10   6    2    3    19   11   41   
6th     Dag & Red                       22   6    1    4    16   9    5    4    2    21   15   38   
7th     Forest Green                    22   7    2    3    19   12   3    3    4    15   17   35   
8th     Barnet                          23   7    1    4    22   17   3    4    4    15   17   35   
9th     Southport                       22   4    4    3    15   14   6    1    4    15   14   35   
10th    Nuneaton Borough                23   5    2    5    19   20   5    2    4    19   20   34   
11th    Hayes                           23   5    3    3    16   13   4    2    6    13   18   32   
12th    Hereford                        21   5    2    3    12   11   3    3    5    17   20   29   
13th    Telford                         23   4    4    3    12   13   3    3    6    11   18   28   
14th    Stevenage                       21   5    2    3    25   19   2    3    6    12   21   26   
15th    Yeovil                          22   4    3    4    15   15   3    2    6    13   17   26   
16th    Stalybridge                     23   4    5    3    18   14   2    1    8    9    19   24   
17th    Chester                         21   5    2    4    20   15   1    3    6    9    15   23   
18th    Dover                           22   4    3    4    13   14   1    4    6    11   20   22   
19th    Morecambe                       23   3    4    4    18   21   2    2    8    10   20   21   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th    Scarborough                     22   4    0    7    10   23   2    3    6    8    12   21   
21st    Woking                          21   2    1    8    14   23   1    2    7    10   23   12   
22nd    Leigh RMI                       22   1    3    7    7    17   0    1    10   5    23   7    

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • As Arsenal's good form takes them to the top of the Premiership table, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson furiously criticises his star striker Dwight Yorke for "spending too much time with that Page 3 girl". Yorke has scored 11 Premiership goals so far this season - the joint-most in the league, with Bolton's Rod Wallace.
  • 'Deadly' Doug Ellis lives up to his nickname once again - and fires John Gregory after Aston Villa tumble into the Premiership relegation zone. The new Villa manager? None other than jelly-legged Liverpool legend Bruce Grobbelaar!
  • Manchester City's bid for promotion from Division 1 hits a major snag, as they suffer a late 1-0 defeat at Watford. After the match, Kevin Keegan is heard singing Elton John's "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" in the Vicarage Road showers. He quits as City manager a few hours later.
  • Frings can only get better for La Liga frontrunners Deportivo after they sign Werder Bremen's powerful anchor man Torsten Frings for £11.75million. Also arriving in Spain is the legendary Italian defender Paolo Maldini, who ends his 17-year Milan career and completes a £4.5million transfer to Real Madrid.
  • After winning their first 12 matches of the Serie A season, it's unlucky number 13 for Lazio, who are held to a 0-0 draw by Fiorentina. The Biancocelesti 'ultras' trash Rome city centre and call for coach Alberto Zaccheroni to be sacked.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • After 11 years, the famous bell tower in the Italian city of Pisa reopens to the public. $27million was spent on the restoration work, and yet they still didn't fix the lean! What an incredible waste of money!
  • As Potter-mania dies down, filmgoers' thirst for more fantasy is quenched when "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" hits cinemas. To quote Motherwell manager George Graham, "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"
  • Hollywood actress Winona Ryder is caught shoplifting over $5,000 worth of merchandise at a luxury department store in Beverly Hills. Or to put it another way... Thief, Interrupted.
  • Elsewhere in California, actors Maggie Baird and Patrick O'Connell celebrate the birth of their baby daughter. With the middle name Pirate, it looks like an exciting future in buccaneering lies ahead for young Billie Eilish.
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On 03/11/2021 at 23:53, Vossenoren said:

Pop news strong as always. Wtf Maldin to Real Madrid? I thought he had a loyalty stat of 21 :D

 

Strong December for the Daggers, though it ended on a fart

I don't think the CM games do a great job of reflecting Loyalty. You often see Maldini and Totti leave their beloved clubs for Barcelona or Real, or club stalwarts become player-managers at random non-league clubs instead of seeing out their careers where they are.

The Telford match was just one of those games we all became used to as CMers. You will be 'super-keepered' every now and then, even if you apply patches to make goalkeeper performances more realistic.

(Also, just a heads-up, folks. Updates might be patchy over the next week or so due to a health crisis in the family.)

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JANUARY 2002

New year, same old problems at Dagenham & Redbridge. We already knew that one of our best defenders would be leaving Victoria Road on a free transfer at the end of the season, but now another will be following Lee Matthews out of the club this summer.

 

Once he heard that several Football League clubs were interested in signing him, Ashley Vickers called off talks about renewing his Daggers contract. Instead, he decided to accept an offer from Hartlepool - who were second-bottom of Division 3 and in danger of dropping into the Conference.

 

We had several loan offers rejected over the Christmas period but did manage to bring in one new face - former Rochdale wing-back Paul Lyons. The 24-year-old can't tackle, can't cross, and isn't very quick... but his passing and work rate are pretty good, so I'll try retraining him as a central midfielder.

 

If the Daggers were in disarray, things were arguably even worse at Leigh RMI, who had just sacked Steve Waywell after two wins in 23 matches left them rooted at the bottom of the Conference. They had also picked up just one point from 11 away games before their visit to Victoria Road. Surely this would be an easy home win?

 

9 JANUARY 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Leigh RMI

That being said, Leigh weren't complete no-hopers. They actually beat Southport 3-0 at home in their previous match, after a classy performance from former Manchester United youngster Michael Twiss. The unpredictable striker showed us what he was capable of after 22 minutes, when he buried a low cross from left-back Paul Robertson to give the Leythers a surprise lead!

 

We still trailed at the break, prompting me to bring out the 'hairdryer' and fire up my Daggers team. That seemed to inspire right-back Lee Goodwin, who suddenly morphed into a right-winger midway through the second period! After collecting the ball from striker Danny Shipp, Goodwin charged through into the penalty area and tapped a cool low finish beyond Leigh goalkeeper Craig Dootson.

 

Our fightback continued on 71 minutes. Left-back Scott Jones' first-time lob played in attacking midfielder Steve McGavin, who jinked through on goal and put us in the ascendancy. And with that, it looked like we were about to scrape home with all three points...

 

...until those hopes were cruelly scuppered in the 84th minute. After a lapse in concentration from the Daggers defence, Robertson smashed in an equaliser to ensure that Leigh left Victoria Road with a point. We've had quite a few poor home results this season, but that has to rank amongst the worst.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Goodwin 64, McGavin 77)

Leigh RMI - 2 (Twiss 22, Robertson 84)

Conference, Attendance 960 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 6th, Leigh RMI 22nd

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole (Rooney), Matthews, S Jones; Janney, Terry (Lyons), O'Donoghue; McGavin; Shipp (Piscopides), McDougald.

 

After back-to-back draws either side of the new year, we faced a daunting away match at promotion-chasing Margate. This would be a nice fun trip to the seaside...

 

12 JANUARY 2002: Margate vs Dagenham & Redbridge

...and as it happened, our defence looked as structually sound as a sandcastle in a tidal wave. Margate's Sierra Leone midfielder John Keister put us on our backsides in the 19th minute with a simple tap-in from a through-ball by his strike partner Mo Tako.

 

'Mo Tako' is the nickname of Mohammed Takalobigashi, who is the younger brother of boxing champion 'Takaloo'. Fittingly, the Iranian-born poacher would deal us a knockout blow nine minutes later, landing a proverbial right-hook from Paul O'Brien's left-wing cross. 2-0 to Margate.

 

We constantly struggled to take the ball off a dominant Margate half, even after they eased off a little more in the second period. The hosts would shut the Gate on this match in second-half stoppage time, when Lee Williams thundered home from a free-kick by Eddie Johnston that had deflected off our defensive wall.

 

Margate - 3 (Keister 19, Mo Tako 28, Williams 90)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Conference, Attendance 2,038 - POSITIONS: Margate 2nd, Dag & Red 7th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Matthews, Rooney, S Jones (Vickers); Janney, Hill, Terry (O'Donoghue), S Jones; McGavin, McDougald (Shipp). BOOKED: Matthews.

 

Our league campaign was continuing to fall apart, and we were bleeding money, even after selling backup striker Danny Shipp. Danny left the London suburbs to play in the slightly more exotic climes of northern Spain, having joined third-division side Alfaro for £18,000.

 

In a desperate attempt to cut the wage bill, I cancelled the contract of veteran defender Mark Smith. He was still earning £1,300 per week even though he had been transfer-listed and hadn't played for the first-team since September. What a colossal waste of money.

 

Another player who would soon be deserting this sinking ship was midfielder Steve Heffer. He rejected a contract extension with us and instead agreed to follow Matthews to Bury in the summer.

 

Next up... a Football League Trophy Round 2 match at Bristol City, who sat 5th in Division 2. Greeeat.

 

15 JANUARY 2002: Bristol City vs Dagenham & Redbridge

After just nine minutes, we had every reason to fear the worst. The Robins were bob, bob, bobbing along our half in the 9th minute, and when captain Louis Carey's cross flew perfectly towards midfielder Tony Thorpe, they celebrated an early opener.

 

But then something strange happened. City seemed to get complacent, and when Carey was beaten to a header by defensive counterpart Tim Cole in the 26th minute, we somehow found ourselves back level! That was Cole's first goal of the season - a feat matched matched 11 minutes later by Paul Piscopides. The 18-year-old striker celebrated his first career start in style, heading in a Steve Heffer cross to put us into an unlikely lead!

 

Things got even more incredible for us two minutes into the second half, home midfielder Tommy Doherty managed to dispossess Steve McGavin with a strong tackle, but the ball deflected nicely for Mark Janney to send us 3-1 up! From that moment, there really was no way back for Bristol City. They might have been strong favourites at kick-off, but for once, they were the victims of a robbin'!

 

Bristol City - 1 (Thorpe 9)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Cole 26, Piscopides 37, Janney 47)

Football League Trophy South Round 2, Attendance 7,695

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Gothard; Goodwin, Matthews, Cole, S Jones (Vickers); Janney, Heffer (Terry), M Jones; Hill (McGavin); Piscopides, McDougald.

 

How did we pull that off? Who cares, because we'd booked a date with Division 3 Torquay in the South Quarter Finals! Bring them on!

 

But could we now make further progress in another cup competition? Standing between us and the FA Trophy Quarter Finals were Steve Evans' Boston United, who needed to play Chester three times before finally booking their spot in Round 3! I'm sure many spectators at York Street were hoping that this tie would be settled within 90 minutes!

 

19 JANUARY 2002: Boston United vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Boston had been on a four-match winning streak before losing their most recent league game to Scarborough. They made the more confident start in the 7th minute, when player/coach Mike Marsh's header drew an awkward save out of Tony Roberts. Our Welsh keeper also had to get his fingers to another early effort from Marsh's strike partner Ben Eaton.

 

Following those early scares, we started to seriously attack the Pilgrims. In the 29th minute, 18-year-old Paul Piscopides delighted our travelling supporters again with a low cross that was expertly finished by Paul Terry. Five minutes later, Mark Janney dribbled past a couple of Boston defenders and doubled our lead to put us in a strong position.

 

We could hear Steve Evans raging at his players in the dressing room at half-time, and the Scot's ranting inspired us to kill the game off in the second half. Though the crossbar stopped Daryl Clare from getting one goal back, we dug in deep and ground out a solid 2-0 win that put us through to the Quarter Finals!

 

Boston United - 0

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Terry 29, Janney 34)

FA Trophy Round 3, Attendance 1,309

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Matthews, Cole, Vickers (S Jones); Janney, Terry, M Jones; Hill; Piscopides, McDougald (McGavin).

 

The Daggers were just two more victories away from the FA Trophy Final. To make us even more excited, the Round 4 draw gave us a favourable home tie against Hitchin - one of only three teams outside the Conference who were still in the competition!

 

But hey, let's not get ahead of ourselves! Just because we've beaten two higher-league teams in the Football League Trophy doesn't mean it can't happen to us!

 

Anyway, we didn't have to worry about cup competitions again for the next few weeks. Our league campaign resumed with a home game against Nuneaton, whose chaotic defence had shipped 12 goals in their last three matches. In a rare tactical move from me, I decided to use exactly the same starting XI that had just beaten Boston, in the hope that they could pick up from where they'd left off.

 

23 JANUARY 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Nuneaton Borough

During the first half-hour at a rainy Victoria Road, the state of Nuneateon's defence became perfectly clear. As Boro struggled to clear a Daggers attack away in the 23rd minute, Junior McDougald picked up the ball and drilled it across a slippery surface into the bottom corner. Seven minutes later, a shot from Danny Hill slipped out of goalkeeper Simon Addo's grasp and fell to Paul Terry, who made it 2-0!

 

Mind you, our defence wasn't exactly in great shape either. Just before half-time, Nuneaton finally put together a direct counter-attack, which ended with Sam Goodacre volleying their first shot of the match into Tony Roberts' net.

 

Nuneaton's goal gave us a much-needed wake-up call. We would dominate the second half, and although some outstanding goalkeeping from Ghana international Addo prevented McDougald from increasing our 2-1 lead, we'd still done enough to record a third victory in a row. The Daggers were back in business!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (McDougald 23, Terry 30)

Nuneaton Borough - 1 (Goodacre 45)

Conference, Attendance 1,814 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 6th, Nuneaton 11th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Rooney), Matthews, Cole, Vickers; Janney, Terry, M Jones; Hill (McGavin); Piscopides, McDougald.

 

Three days later, we went to Boston for the second weekend in a row, looking to complete a hat-trick of victories over the Pilgrims this season. I once again kept faith in the same 11 players who'd beaten them last time, because if it ain't broke, why fix it?

 

26 JANUARY 2002: Boston United vs Dagenham & Redbridge

After just two minutes, the match was going pretty much to form. Paul Terry might not have been a long-range specialist, but a hopeful punt from the 22-year-old still managed to get past Boston keeper Paul Newton. That was Terry's 10th goal of the season - not bad for a defensive-minded midfielder!

 

Unlike in our previous two encounters, though, Boston managed to hit back. Midway through the first half, 15-year-old Ben Eaton outjumped our centre-back Tim Cole to head in an incredible 20th goal of the season. Steve Evans was smiling smugly from ear to ear... or at least he was until Cole retaliated in the 34th minute with a clinical header of his own.

 

While we still had a narrow lead at the break, we now had to be prepared for a Boston backlash. Evans got increasingly irritable, and his language more coarse, especially after winger Gez Murphy - one of his star players - came off with a gashed leg early in the second half.

 

Evans' attitude rubbed off on his players, who started to antagonise ours in the closing stages. Mark Janney snapped in the 82nd minute and squared up to Pilgrims captain Mike Marsh, for which he was lucky to escape with a yellow card. Cole wasn't so fortunate four minutes later. Though a brutal collision with Eaton didn't get Cole sent off, it did give Boston a penalty, which substitute winger Mark Angel converted to steal a point for the hosts.

 

Boston United - 2 (Eaton 21, Angel pen86)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Terry 2, Cole 34)

Conference, Attendance 1,822 - POSITIONS: Boston Utd 4th, Dag & Red 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Matthews, Cole, Vickers (S Jones); Janney, Terry, M Jones; Hill (Heffer); Piscopides (McGavin), McDougald. BOOKED: Janney.

 

That was the final match of Scott Jones' four-match loan spell from Bristol Rovers. Jones hadn't exactly set the Conference alight, recording an average of 6.68 in 19 matches, but his return to the Gasheads would leave us light on left-back cover. As things stood, we only had Lyons as a realistic backup to Vickers.

 

While I scoured for a new left-back, I was able to recruit another defender. Kidderminster agreed to loan us Craig Hinton - a 24-year-old West Midlander who's quick, has load of stamina, and can play either at centre-half or right-back. Hinton was on the bench when we faced a tough-looking home game against league leaders Doncaster.

 

30 JANUARY 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Doncaster Rovers

So what if Doncaster were two points clear at the top of the Conference, with two games in hand on their nearest challengers Northwich? So what if Rovers had lost just two league games all season long? All that didn't mean a thing to Steve McGavin, who celebrated his return to the Dagenham starting line-up with an outstanding finish from Junior McDougald's through-ball in the 24th minute.

 

Dagenham goalie Tony Roberts was called into action nine minutes later, making an outstanding stop from Doncaster defender Kevin Sandwith. An equaliser could really have swung the momentum, but by half-time, we were in total control. Goal-hungry midfielders Paul Terry and Mark Janney both got in on the act just before the break to leave us with a THREE-goal cushion!

 

Whatever Steve Wignall said to his players at half-time, though, it clearly worked. Doncaster came out firing for the second period, and by the 48th minute, Welsh midfielder Gareth Owen had already clawed one goal back. The woodwork then denied right-back Simon Marples from adding another goal in the 62nd minute, but there was no such fortune for us when striker Justin Jackson's strike in the 77th minute crashed in off the bar. They couldn't possibly pull it off, could they?

 

As full-time neared, Donny were all rover us. Left-back and captain Dean Barrick came inches away from an equaliser just before Jackson found himself with an even greater chance, which Roberts somehow managed to parry away. Thanks once again to our much-loved goalkeeper, we had held on and pulled off a stunning result!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (McGavin 24, Terry 42, Janney 45)

Doncaster Rovers - 2 (Owen 48, Jackson 77)

Conference, Attendance 1,865 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 6th, Doncaster 2nd

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Hinton), Matthews, Cole, Vickers; Janney (Grant), Terry, Jones; Hill (Heffer); McGavin, McDougald.

 

Only Dagenham & Redbridge could start a month by drawing with the worst team in the Conference, and then finish it by beating arguably the best! But hey, at least we're going back in the right direction now!

 

Promotion is surely gone, with new league leaders Northwich now 13 points clear of us, but the aim for this season was always to achieve a respectable finish. If we can consolidate a top-six place - or even match last season's performance under Garry Hill by finishing in the top three - that would be a good outcome for us.

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CONFERENCE TABLE (End of January 2002)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Northwich Vics                  27   10   2    2    27   14   8    3    2    30   19   59   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Doncaster                       25   11   1    0    26   6    7    3    3    30   23   58   
3rd     Margate                         27   7    3    3    26   15   9    3    2    19   8    54   
4th     Boston Utd                      27   6    5    2    27   17   8    1    5    26   17   48   
5th     Farnborough                     26   7    3    3    21   11   7    3    3    22   13   48   
6th     Dag & Red                       27   8    2    4    23   14   5    5    3    23   20   46   
7th     Southport                       27   6    5    3    20   16   6    2    5    17   19   43   
8th     Forest Green                    26   7    2    4    20   15   5    3    5    18   19   41   
9th     Barnet                          27   8    2    4    24   18   3    4    6    16   22   39   
10th    Hayes                           27   5    3    5    17   17   5    3    6    17   21   36   
11th    Hereford                        26   5    4    4    15   16   4    3    6    23   26   34   
12th    Telford                         27   4    6    3    14   15   4    4    6    12   18   34   
13th    Nuneaton Borough                27   5    2    7    21   28   5    2    6    21   24   34   
14th    Stevenage                       25   7    3    3    31   21   2    3    7    12   23   33   
15th    Chester                         27   6    2    5    22   17   2    5    7    13   20   31   
16th    Dover                           27   6    4    4    21   18   1    6    6    14   23   31   
17th    Stalybridge                     27   4    6    4    18   15   3    1    9    14   23   28   
18th    Scarborough                     26   5    1    7    15   26   3    3    7    11   15   28   
19th    Yeovil                          26   4    4    6    15   19   3    2    7    13   18   27   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th    Morecambe                       27   3    5    5    20   24   3    2    9    12   23   25   
21st    Woking                          27   2    2    9    17   27   1    5    8    13   28   16   
22nd    Leigh RMI                       26   2    3    7    10   17   0    4    10   10   28   13   

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Sunderland boss Peter Reid goes ape after the Black Cats' FA Cup luck runs out in Round 3, where they suffer a shock 2-1 home defeat to Division 3 Carlisle. Manchester United also take on fourth-tier opposition... and Scunthorpe almost cause an even bigger upset before the Red Devils eventually prevail 5-3 in a replay at Old Trafford.
  • To make matters worse for the Mackems, their bitter rivals Newcastle leapfrog Arsenal to go one point clear at the top of the Premiership! The Magpies are now hoping that Bobby Robson's side don't suffer a repeat of their infamous 1996 collapse under Kevin Keegan, who is now managing Elgin City in the Scottish third division.
  • Trailing at the bottom are West Ham, whose awful form continues even after Alex McLeish replaces Glenn Roeder as manager. McLeish's son suggests that Dad should sign a 14-year-old Argentine striker who's making waves in the Barcelona youth team... but Big Eck decides to spend £22,000 on Hednesford Town's left-back instead.
  • Could Lazio be throwing the Serie A scudetto away? After their unbeaten run is finally ended by a 2-1 win for Inter at the San Siro, the Biancocelesti only have a nine-point lead over 2nd-placed Milan! Meanwhile, Fiorentina plunge into the relegation zone as the full scale of their financial mismanagement slowly comes to light.
  • The new form team in European football are Valencia, who lead La Liga by four points after winning THIRTEEN matches on the bounce. In a desperate attempt to get back in the championship race, Barcelona spend £8.75million on Sweden striker Mattias Jonson, who has been tearing up the Danish league with Brøndby.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • 12 European countries adopt the Euro as their official currency. The British Government still insist that they will not ditch the pound and follow suit.
  • President George W Bush chokes on a pretzel while watching television at the White House and briefly faints. The United States subsequently declares war on baked pastries.
  • Britons can start eating beef again, as the country's biggest outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease since the 1960s is finally declared over after 11 months. More than 6 million cows and sheep were slaughtered during the crisis, which even led to last year's general election being delayed.
  • Phil Taylor wins his TENTH World Darts Championship - his EIGHTH in a row - after whitewashing Peter Manley 7-0 in this year's Final. That sure puts Manchester United's Premiership dominance in the shade, doesn't it?
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13 minutes ago, CFuller said:

I don't think the CM games do a great job of reflecting Loyalty. You often see Maldini and Totti leave their beloved clubs for Barcelona or Real, or club stalwarts become player-managers at random non-league clubs instead of seeing out their careers where they are.

The Telford match was just one of those games we all became used to as CMers. You will be 'super-keepered' every now and then, even if you apply patches to make goalkeeper performances more realistic.

(Also, just a heads-up, folks. Updates might be patchy over the next week or so due to a health crisis in the family.)

I'd rather get super-keepered than the other CM trope, the one shot, one kill, or tragically underperforming keeper. I used to sub my goalie out in the first available break to avoid it, which was not convenient lol.

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1 minute ago, Vossenoren said:

I'd rather get super-keepered than the other CM trope, the one shot, one kill, or tragically underperforming keeper. I used to sub my goalie out in the first available break to avoid it, which was not convenient lol.

I've actually not noticed that many "one shot, one goal" games (either for or against me).

I have seen my goalies have a few bad days. Thankfully, it's never been as bad as that time on CM00/01 when I loaned in a keeper who marked his debut by conceding three goals in 20 minutes, then subbed him off and cancelled his loan immediately. :lol:

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FEBRUARY 2002

Ladies and gentlemen... the big man is back!

 

That's right! Steve Howard has rejoined us for a second loan spell from Luton, to add some brute force to our attack as the Conference season heads towards its latter stages. Howard only scored three times in 19 matches for us earlier this season, but he'll be itching to prove a point over the next few months.

 

Howard made his second Daggers debut from the start when we hosted Stevenage, who were in 14th place and looking to stay clear of relegation.

 

2 FEBRUARY 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Stevenage Borough

After winning four of our last five games, this looked like being a bridge too far when 18-year-old Mark Bridge put Stevenage ahead after just eight minutes. Our defence was caught out by an excellent cross from ex-Arsenal winger Adrian Clarke, which Bridge comfortably flicked home.

 

But then Howard kicked off his return in style, turning the match around with two important free-kicks. His first, after 18 minutes, deflected off the Stevenage and fell kindly to midfielder Mark Janney, who drove it past Boro's young goalkeeper Richard Lee. When we won another free-kick on the hour, Howard cut out the middleman - and powered it straight into the top corner from 20 yards!

 

By the midway point of the second half, we looked absolutely rampant. Janney scored his second goal from an excellent square ball by Paul Terry in the 69th minute. Moments later, he completed an unlikely hat-trick - thanks to yet another Howard free-kick - and gave us a seemingly insurmountable 4-1 lead. In fairness, Stevenage's defenders were probably struggling to maintain their composure after finding out that the referee's name was Stuart Beaver.

 

Mr Beaver was no joke, and things got serious when Daggers goalkeeper Tony Roberts committed a professional foul on Martin Williams nine minutes from time. Roberts was sent off, and with no substitutes left, Terry had to don the gloves and watch Andy Arnott score the Boro penalty.

 

Fortunately, Howard did restore our three-goal cushion shortly afterwards, finishing an incredible second debut with TWO goals and TWO assists! That begged the question: what on Earth did he do to upset Joe F***ing Kinnear if he couldn't get into the Luton team on this form?!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 5 (Janney 18,69,70, Howard 30,84)

Stevenage Borough - 2 (Bridge 8, Arnott pen82)

Conference, Attendance 1,300 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 6th, Stevenage 14th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Matthews, Cole (Hinton), Vickers; Janney (Heffer), Terry, Jones; Hill (McGavin); Howard, McDougald. SENT OFF: Roberts.

 

And here's another question for you: will Tony Roberts ever learn from his mistakes?

 

That was the Welshman's second red card of the season, which meant he would soon have to serve a four-match ban! With that in mind, I decided to promote Paul Gothard to the number 1 position... for a few weeks, at least.

 

Gothard's extended run in the line-up began with a Football League Trophy South Quarter Final. Could we continue our giant-killing run by beating Division 3 Torquay at Plainmoor, and reach the last eight?

 

5 FEBRUARY 2002: Torquay United vs Dagenham & Redbridge

You know the saying, "When it rains, it pours"? Well... Paul Gothard's tenure as our first-choice goalkeeper lasted exactly four minutes. Gothard clearly hadn't learned from Tony Roberts' mistakes, as he charged at a clean-through Mark Nicholls like a madman, wiped the Torquay forward out, and picked up a red card!

 

Roberts couldn't come on quickly enough, replacing attacking midfielder Danny Hill before trying unsuccessfully to save Nicholls' penalty. That was the only mistake Tony made all match, as he then produced seven marvellous saves to stop the Gulls from adding to their lead. In the end, though, his goalkeeping heroics would be in vain.

 

Having an extra man for 85 minutes, it was pretty much a given that Torquay would dominate. We couldn't even muster a single shot on target against them as our Football League Trophy run came to a bitter end.

 

Torquay United - 1 (Nicholls pen5)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Football League Trophy South Quarter Final, Attendance 2,181

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Gothard; Goodwin, Matthews, Hinton, Vickers; Janney, Terry, Jones (Hayzelden); Hill (Roberts); Howard (Heffer), McDougald. SENT OFF: Gothard.

 

I can't believe it! How on Earth can you have BOTH of your senior goalkeepers pick up red cards within four days of each other?! With Gothard receiving a three-match ban for his troubles, 18-year-old Nick Baxter would soon be in line for an unexpected debut... unless I could sign another goalie within the next fortnight!

 

Roberts' ban didn't take effect for another week, so he was back between the posts for our next cup game - an FA Trophy Quarter Final at home to lower-league Hitchin. If we were to avoid a cup upset, we would need to cope without our leading scorer Junior McDougald, who suffered a groin strain in training and was ruled out for a month.

 

9 FEBRUARY 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Hitchin Town

The first 27 minutes of this match were very dull, with neither team threatening the other... but then the next three saw us suddenly take control. Central midfielder Steve Heffer was the main beneficiary of Paul Terry being given a day off, as he struck a sweet half-volley from Steve Howard's through-ball to break the deadlock. That was soon followed by a 10th goal of the season from Steve McGavin.

 

To Hitchin's credit, the Isthmian League gave us a bit more of a fight in the second half. It wasn't enough to put them back in the game, though, as a 59th-minute strike from Howard completed a dominant 3-0 win and put us comfortably through to the Semi Finals! And to make victory even sweeter, we actually kept 11 players on the pitch this time!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Heffer 27, McGavin 30, Howard 59)

Hitchin Town - 0

FA Trophy Round 4, Attendance 564

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Rooney, Matthews (Hinton), Cole, Vickers; Janney (O'Donoghue), Heffer, Lyons; Hill (Piscopides); Howard, McGavin.

 

Only a two-legged Semi Final against Northwich in April now stood between us and a place in the FA Trophy Final. If we could come through that, either Farnborough or Barnet would await us at Highbury on 18 May.

 

The Semi Finals might have been two months away, but we had a a dress rehearsal well in advance. Our very next league match was at the Drill Field against Northwich, who were top of the Conference after going undefeated in 20 league games. Their last defeat came on 11 September, when Steve McGavin's late double earned us an emotional win at Victoria Road.

 

13 FEBRUARY 2002: Northwich Victoria vs Dagenham & Redbridge

This was also a day I wouldn't forget in a hurry. It all began in the fourth minute, when Steve Howard was tripped from behind by Northwich winger Steve Garvey, who was instantly shown the red card! Howard then rubbed it in by banging in a fabulous free-kick from just outside the penalty area!

 

With Vics down a man, we tried to make our advantage count with some hard pressing and even tougher tackling. That didn't work, as home striker Gregg Blundell exploited gaps in our defence to score not once but TWICE in the next 20 minutes. All of a sudden, the 10 men had come back to lead 2-1...

 

...and to make matters worse, our man advantage was wiped out in the 33rd minute. Paul Terry was accused of pulling on the shirt of Northwich striker Ian Wilkinson, and despite some strong protests, he was sent off! Incredibly, six minutes after we 'equalised' on red cards, we were back level on goals too, as Howard headed in a Janney cross to make it 2-2!

 

But then a ridiculous match took another turn in the 59th minute! After Daggers left-back Ashley Vickers sent Blundell crashing to the floor with a reckless tackle, the referee decided that Vickers should ALSO walk - and reduced us to NINE men! That second red card was just too much for us, as Northwich midfielder Ben Hickey scored what proved to be the winning goal 10 minutes later.

 

Northwich Victoria - 3 (Blundell 7,24, Hickey 69)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Howard 4,39)

Conference, Attendance 1,458 - POSITIONS: Northwich 1st, Dag & Red 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Rooney), Matthews, Cole, Vickers; Janney, Terry, Jones; Hill (Heffer); Howard, McGavin. BOOKED: Cole. SENT OFF: Terry, Vickers.

 

I couldn't believe what I'd just witnessed. Paul Terry and Ashley Vickers had picked up our third and FOURTH red cards in the space of a fortnight, and they would be suspended for our first three matches of March. Ashley's red card was probably justified, but our appeal against Paul's dismissal failed, because the FA clearly don't mind when a referee suddenly decides to give out more cards than Clintons!

 

Roberts' four-match ban officially started at home to 15th-placed Dover. This was Gothard's last game before he too would have to sit out the next three. Could he redeem himself?

 

16 FEBRUARY 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Dover Athletic

This wasn't a classic. Neither side could really get their games going, and Paul Gothard had very little to do until the 40th minute, when he pushed away a hopeful shot from Dover winger Steve Norman. That was actually the game's only shot on target, as Gothard's Whites counterpart Paul Hyde was a virtual spectator against a blunt Daggers attack.

 

The second half was very quiet, though both medical teams were given work to do. Norman broke his toe for Dover three minutes after the restart, while our right-back Lee Goodwin had to come off with a twisted knee at the halfway point. Otherwise, there was very little else to say about another goalless draw with Dover.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Dover Athletic - 0

Conference, Attendance 1,376 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 6th, Dover 17th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Gothard; Goodwin (Rooney), Matthews, Cole, Vickers; Janney, Heffer (Terry), Jones; Hill; Howard (Piscopides), McGavin.

 

That draw moved us on to exactly 50 points from our first 30 league matches. Doncaster and Northwich were now 15 points clear of us at the top, but at the very least, reaching a half-century surely meant that relegation wasn't anything to worry about even slightly.

 

A more pressing concern, though, was that both our senior keepers were now suspended until mid-March. This is a major problem for any team, let alone when you have literally zero transfer funds... AND especially when there are not even any free agent goalkeepers available to sign!

 

I now had no choice other than to give Nick Baxter his senior debut. The 18-year-old had produced some adequate performances in the reserves, but facing a mid-table Stalybridge side at Bower Fold would be a big step up in class. I couldn't help fearing the worst for the young lad...

 

23 FEBRUARY 2002: Stalybridge Celtic vs Dagenham & Redbridge

If Nick Baxter looked nervous in his first senior match, he didn't show it. Our teenage goalkeeper put up a stubborn resistance against some quickfire Stalybridge attacks, making a couple of saves to keep strikers Gerard Courtney and Winfield Steele off the scoresheet. At the other end, though, our attackers were struggling to even hit the target.

 

This was very much Celtic's match to win, then... and they did eventually win it 20 minutes from full-time. One outstanding pass from Craig Hutchinson managed to crack open our defence before Steele struck a spectacular volley that Baxter had no hope of saving. It had been a fine debut for Nick, but it ultimately wasn't enough.

 

Stalybridge Celtic - 1 (Steele 70)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Conference, Attendance 2,350 - POSITIONS: Stalybridge 14th, Dag & Red 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Baxter; Hinton (Rooney), Matthews, Cole, Vickers; Janney, Terry, Jones (Grant); Hill (Heffer); Howard, McGavin.

 

That's one point from our last three league matches. We could be slipping down the table here if we're not careful!

 

We will head into March with FOUR players serving suspension, and a fifth - defender Tim Cole - ruled out for a fortnight after hurting his chest in training. On the plus side, midfielder Matt Jones has extended his contract until 2005, so that's something to smile about... right?

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CONFERENCE TABLE (End of February 2002)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Doncaster                       31   14   1    0    35   6    8    4    4    34   29   71   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Northwich Vics                  31   11   3    2    32   18   9    3    3    32   22   66   
3rd     Farnborough                     31   10   3    3    29   14   8    3    4    24   15   60   
4th     Margate                         31   8    3    4    29   18   9    3    4    22   14   57   
5th     Boston Utd                      31   7    6    2    29   18   9    1    6    29   20   55   
6th     Dag & Red                       31   9    3    4    28   16   5    5    5    25   24   50   
7th     Southport                       31   6    6    3    23   19   8    2    6    21   22   50   
8th     Forest Green                    31   8    4    4    28   20   6    3    6    21   25   49   
9th     Barnet                          31   10   2    4    30   21   3    4    8    19   27   45   
10th    Stevenage                       31   9    3    3    36   21   3    3    10   18   33   42   
11th    Telford                         31   5    7    3    20   17   4    6    6    16   22   40   
12th    Nuneaton Borough                31   7    2    7    26   31   5    2    8    22   28   40   
13th    Hayes                           31   5    4    6    19   21   5    5    6    18   22   39   
14th    Stalybridge                     31   6    6    5    22   18   4    1    9    17   25   37   
15th    Dover                           31   7    4    5    24   21   1    8    6    17   26   36   
16th    Scarborough                     31   7    1    8    19   29   3    5    7    14   18   36   
17th    Hereford                        31   5    5    6    16   19   4    3    8    24   31   35   
18th    Chester                         31   6    2    6    22   19   3    5    9    18   27   34   
19th    Yeovil                          31   5    5    6    18   21   3    2    10   13   24   31   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th    Morecambe                       31   5    5    5    25   25   3    2    11   13   29   31   
21st    Leigh RMI                       31   4    3    8    16   21   1    5    10   15   32   23   
22nd    Woking                          31   2    2    11   20   32   1    5    10   13   31   16   

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Claudio Ranieri suddenly decides that he doesn't fancy leading Chelsea into a Premiership title challenge, and instead takes his tinkering to Mallorca... who are mid-table in La Liga. Ken Bates doesn't take long (or look far) to find a replacement, luring Fulham manager Jean Tigana over to Stamford Bridge.
  • Arsenal's bid for Champions League glory crumbles after a 3-0 defeat at Dortmund in the second group stage. Things look better for the Gunners on the Premiership front, as captain Patrick Vieira inspires them to retake top spot from Newcastle. The title race remains wide open, with Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea all within eight points of the leaders.
  • New manager Alex McLeish continues his efforts to save West Ham by taking a huge gamble... and dropping calamity-prone England goalkeeper David James in favour of 20-year-old Stephen Bywater. The Hammers lose five matches in a row.
  • After being photographed wearing a sarong, Manchester United winger David Beckham is accused of not concentrating enough on his football by an anonymous red-faced Scottish pensioner. 'Goldenballs' responds by leading United to a dramatic 4-2 aggregate win over Manchester City in the League Cup Semi Final - and setting up a Final showdown with Liverpool.
  • In France, the battle to win Ligue 1 takes a potentially decisive turn, as Marseille thrash 2nd-placed Auxerre 4-0 to go five points clear at the top. Dill scores twice at the Stade Vélodrome, delighting his older brother Tommy.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • Queen Elizabeth II marks her Golden Jubilee after 50 years on the British throne. Sadly, her celebrations are tempered when her younger sister Princess Margaret suffers a severe stroke and dies aged 71.
  • Over 8.7million votes are cast as Will Young wins the first series of "Pop Idol" ahead of Gareth Gates. Simon Cowell senses that there is money to be made in TV talent shows.
  • Great Britain celebrate their first Winter Olympics gold medal for 18 years, as Rhona Martin's success in Salt Lake City turns the whole country into curling fans... for a couple of weeks, at least.
  • Meanwhile in New Orleans, the New England Patriots - led by their young quarterback Tom Brady - defeat the St Louis Rams to win their first NFL championship at Super Bowl XXXVI. It probably won't be their last.
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Daggers face discipline problem: Laissez-Faire management to blame?

 

Dagenham & Redbridge players, especially goalkeepers, have been sent for a walk with the regularity of Victoria's Secret models. One can not help but wonder if perhaps the club lacks discipline at the senior management level?

 

Your reaction:

1. There's no discipline problem at the club, our players just play with passion

2. These issues are being addressed.

3. Throw your water bottle at the reporter.

4. It's whatever, bro.

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On 12/11/2021 at 11:26, Vossenoren said:

Daggers face discipline problem: Laissez-Faire management to blame?

 

Dagenham & Redbridge players, especially goalkeepers, have been sent for a walk with the regularity of Victoria's Secret models. One can not help but wonder if perhaps the club lacks discipline at the senior management level?

 

Your reaction:

1. There's no discipline problem at the club, our players just play with passion

2. These issues are being addressed.

3. Throw your water bottle at the reporter.

4. It's whatever, bro.

I'm giving my players official warnings every time they get sent off or get a match rating below 6. It's not my fault they're all nutters! :lol:

On 13/11/2021 at 10:56, Drogba11CFC said:

That's odd, normally in this game Ranieri gets the boot with Chelsea in mid-table.

That seems to be what usually happens in my saves too. I certainly wouldn't expect Ranieri to leave a Chelsea team flying high for another team that clearly isn't. But hey, managerial movements on CM are weird in general.

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MARCH 2002

As we went into the final quarter of the season, I welcomed three new teenage signings to the Dagenham & Redbridge ranks. 17-year-old left-backs Lee Chaffey and Ashley Probets were joined at Victoria Road by 16-year-old former Torquay right-back James Jones.

 

Probets wouldn't have to wait long for his first chance in the senior team. He made his debut at home to 16th-placed Scarborough as a replacement for Ashley Vickers, who sat out the first match of his three-match ban. Midfielder Paul Terry also began a three-match suspension, while goalkeepers Paul Gothard and Tony Roberts still had two games left on their bans.

 

My attempts to find another senior goalkeeper to provide Gothard and Roberts still weren't bearing fruit. I even though about asking the kitman to put on some gloves, but instead, I would have to keep faith in 18-year-old Nick Baxter. Could he shut out the Seadogs?

 

2 MARCH 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Scarborough

The busiest goalkeeper in the first half wasn't Nick Baxter, it was Scarborough's Elliot Jackson. Steves McGavin and Howard gave Jackson plenty of work, which he passed with flying colours. At the other end, the Seadogs didn't seriously test Baxter until the youngster had to push away a header from defender Ashley Fickling just before half-time.

 

The second period was a real battle, with both teams having chances to break the deadlock. The breakthrough eventually arrived in the 68th minute, when Mark Janney dribbled from the halfway line and powered in his 10th goal of the season. Not even an in-form Jackson could keep that shot out!

 

Scarborough pushed forward even more in the final 20 minutes, only to be frequently thwarted by some excellent heading from Daggers captain Lee Matthews and a mature goalkeeping performance from Baxter. It had also been a solid debut for Probets, and though it ended with him twisting his knee just before half-time, we still held on for a narrow victory.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Janney 68)

Scarborough - 0

Conference, Attendance 1,721 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 6th, Scarborough 16th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Baxter; Hinton, Matthews, Rooney, Probets (Lyons); Janney, Heffer, Jones; Hill (Grant); Howard, McGavin (McDougald).

 

Probets was ruled out for fortnight, which meant Chaffey now had an opportunity to make his name. Though a trip to Edgar Street looked daunting on paper, especially with all our suspension issues, we were actually strong favourites to beat a Hereford side who had lost six of their last seven league matches.

 

9 MARCH 2002: Hereford United vs Dagenham & Redbridge

After just seven minutes, Hereford proved they weren't full of bulls***. At 36, evergreen striker Steve Bull was twice the age of our goalkeeper Nick Baxter, but the Wolves legend rolled back the years to drive a low shot past the rookie. That was a rare blip in what was an otherwise good performance from Baxter, who managed to stop United from increasing their early lead.

 

Hereford lost midfielder Fraser Mclachlan to a bruised thigh after half an hour, and when Bull hurt his foot early in the second period, we sensed that the Bulls were vulnerable. We went more direct, and the tactical switch paid off in the 71st minute, when Mark Janney's chip from the right wing was half-volleyed home by Steve Howard.

 

That equaliser got us a well-earned point, though not before skipper Lee Matthews had to put his body on the line again to dispel some late attacks. Boy, we're gonna miss him next season...

 

Hereford United - 1 (Bull 7)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Howard 71)

Conference, Attendance 1,728 - POSITIONS: Hereford 19th, Dag & Red 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Baxter; Goodwin, Matthews, Rooney, Chaffey (Lyons); Janney, Heffer, Jones; Hill (O'Donoghue); Howard, McGavin (McDougald).

 

Baxter's run in the first-team hadn't actually gone as badly as I perhaps feared it would. In three games, he'd conceded only two goals and consistently posted 8/10 match ratings!

 

Though Roberts and Gothard were now back from suspensions, there was a compelling case to keep Baxter in goal for a little bit longer. I trusted Nick to start again when we played Forest Green at the New Lawn, with our regular number 1 Tony only making it onto the bench.

 

12 MARCH 2002: Forest Green Rovers vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Forest Green bossed the first half but struggled to convert their chances. Manager Nigel Spink got so annoyed that he substituted Robert Smith in the 23rd minute... and it turned out that another Rovers player had the cure. Carl Heggs' 36th-minute volley was just like heaven for the hosts, and though we were 1-0 down, our young goalkeeper Nick Baxter didn't lose his nerve. After all, boys don't cry.

 

Having started this match playing a 4-4-2, we switched to the narrow 4-3-1-2 midway through the second half to try and wrestle control of the midfield from Forest Green. Another tactical switch produced its rewards, as after 66 minutes, Danny Hill chipped an excellent ball for Steve McGavin to drive in an equaliser.

 

We were now all over Rovers, and with three minutes to go, our comeback was complete. Striker Junior McDougald nodded fellow substitute Aodhan O'Donoghue's left-wing cross down to Steve Heffer, who sent his diving header past 42-year-old Michael Leonard and made it 2-1 Daggers!

 

Forest Green Rovers - 1 (Heggs 36)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (McGavin 66, Heffer 87)

Conference, Attendance 1,761 - POSITIONS: Forest Green 9th, Dag & Red 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Baxter; Hinton (Goodwin), Rooney, Matthews, Chaffey; Janney, Hill, Heffer, Jones (O'Donoghue); McGavin, Howard (McDougald).

 

With that comeback win, we were now officially safe from relegation, leading third-from-bottom Morecambe by 25 points with just eight matches left to play. Granted, we were still a good 18 points off Doncaster at the top, but we were at least within a couple of wins of reaching Farnborough in 3rd place. Matching last season's top-three finish was the aim now.

 

Next on the schedule was a home game against 8th-placed Barnet - one of the more inconsistent teams in the Conference. Which Bees side would turn up for this one?

 

16 MARCH 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Barnet

It was hard to tell, going by the first half-hour. Steve Howard exploited some weak Bees defending to head in the opener after just three minutes, but that wouldn't be the first sting in this tale. Barnet hit back through young forward Ben Strevens in the 16th minute, before the prolific Neil Midgley gave them the lead with his 22nd goal of the season.

 

But that wasn't the end of the scoring - not even in the first half! Having steadily recovered from injury, Junior McDougald got his name back on the scoresheet 10 minutes from half-time, using his pace to run onto Howard's low cross and fire in his 15th goal this term! With the half-time scores level at 2-2, were we set for another thriller?

 

Having played almost non-stop throughout the season, Lee Matthews had looked very sluggish in the first half. Our centre-half and captain clearly needed a rest, so I subbed him off at half-time, along with the similarly disappointing Steve Heffer. We certainly looked more solid at the back after those changes, as we stopped Barnet's second-half attacks from building up any real momentum.

 

Then, with six minutes remaining, came the game's decisive moment. Barnet defender Mark Arber cleared away a corner from Paul Lyons, but only sent his header as far as Paul Terry. The returning midfielder flicked the ball on to centre-half Mark Rooney, whose powerful drive clinched a dramatic 3-2 victory for the Daggers!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Howard 3, McDougald 35, Rooney 84)

Barnet - 2 (Strevens 16, Midgley 28)

Conference, Attendance 1,975 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 6th, Barnet 8th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Baxter; Goodwin (Lyons), Rooney, Matthews (Hinton), Vickers; Janney, Hill, Heffer (Terry), Jones; McDougald, Howard.

 

That made it three wins in four matches for us... but after conceding twice in the first half, was Baxter's naivety beginning to show? I decided to reinstate the more experienced Roberts in goal for our trip to Farnborough, who still held a six-point lead over us in the top three.

 

23 MARCH 2002: Farnborough Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge

There was no early excitement to be found here. Both teams struggled to play their best football in rainy Hampshire, and the only shot either team had in the first period was fired well wide by Daggers winger Mark Janney.

 

We went for a more attacking approach in the second period, only to be stung by a couple of incisive Farnborough counter-attacks. Boro captain Steve Watson scored from his team's first shot on target nine minutes after the restart, heading home from right-winger Ryan Haigh's cross. Haigh would effectively secure a home win in the 69th minute, ghosting past Lee Matthews on his way to making it 2-0.

 

Haigh's goal came a minute after we'd lost substitute forward Steve McGavin to a shin injury. Our four-game unbeaten run was over, we'd lost crucial ground in our battle for the top three, and Tony Roberts was so disappointing in goal that I was wondering if I should've started Nick Baxter instead. A disappointing day all round.

 

Farnborough Town - 2 (Watson 54, Haigh 69)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Conference, Attendance 2,107 - POSITIONS: Farnborough 3rd, Dag & Red 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Rooney, Matthews, Vickers; Janney, Hill (McGavin (Grant)), Terry (Heffer), Jones; McDougald, Howard.

 

During the week before our next game, we welcomed in three new players from our youth team. Jamie Weaver (17) is a quick and flamboyant attacking midfielder, while Welshman Mark Thomas (also 17) is a technically gifted right-wing prospect. Perhaps the most exciting talent is big Bill Shaw (15), who can also play as a right-winger but has the aerial ability and physical power to be an even better target man.

 

Shaw's and Thomas' emergence meant we had no real need for reserve wing-back Kieran Gallagher anymore. The 25-year-old was sold to Scottish Division 3 side East Fife for £24,000, having made precisely zero appearances at senior level. A nice quick way to keep our finances in the black, if only for a few more weeks!

 

Our last match of this month was at home to a Yeovil team who still had serious relegation concerns. With Lee Matthews experiencing a minor dip in form, I decided to give my captain a rest and hand Roberts the armband instead.

 

30 MARCH 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Yeovil Town

Again, the first half didn't exactly deliver many highlights. Defences were very much on top, though Yeovil's was significantly weakened when centre-half Tom White strained his knee ligaments in the 32nd minute. That would prove to be a big loss for the Glovers.

 

Two minutes into the second half, Steve Howard tried to play a through-ball into the Yeovil box for Junior McDougald, who was knocked down in the area by left-back Glenn Poole. The referee awarded us a penalty, which Junior confidently fired past Jon Sheffield to give us the lead.

 

Giving Tony Roberts the captaincy paid dividends just two minutes after McDougald's penalty. The Welshman was in inspired form, making two saves in quick succession to keep midfielders Lee Johnson and Michael McIndoe off the scoresheet. Yeovil must have felt it wasn't their day, and it certainly wasn't after Steve Howard thundered in a 68th-minute free-kick to seal victory for the Daggers!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (McDougald pen47, Howard 68)

Yeovil Town - 0

Conference, Attendance 1,539 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 6th, Yeovil 17th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Hinton), Rooney, Cole, Vickers; Janney, Hill (Heffer), Terry, Jones; McDougald (Piscopides), Howard. BOOKED: Cole.

 

A strong end to an adequate month. The promotion dream might have long gone, but we're steadily getting back into shape as we head into the FA Trophy Semi Finals...

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CONFERENCE TABLE (End of March 2002)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Doncaster                       37   17   1    0    42   8    9    5    5    40   35   84   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Northwich Vics                  37   13   4    2    40   23   10   4    4    38   27   77   
3rd     Farnborough                     37   12   3    4    37   19   9    3    6    32   24   69   
4th     Margate                         37   9    5    4    32   20   10   3    6    25   19   65   
5th     Boston Utd                      37   9    7    2    35   21   9    2    8    31   24   63   
6th     Dag & Red                       37   12   3    4    34   18   6    6    6    28   28   63   
7th     Southport                       37   8    7    3    28   21   10   2    7    29   29   63   
8th     Barnet                          37   13   2    4    38   25   3    4    11   25   38   54   
9th     Forest Green                    37   9    5    5    34   26   6    4    8    24   32   54   
10th    Stevenage                       37   11   3    4    39   24   3    4    12   21   38   49   
11th    Telford                         37   6    9    3    26   22   5    6    8    17   24   48   
12th    Hayes                           37   7    4    7    25   25   5    8    6    23   27   48   
13th    Nuneaton Borough                37   8    2    9    31   37   6    3    9    27   33   47   
14th    Stalybridge                     37   6    7    6    26   24   5    3    10   25   33   43   
15th    Dover                           37   8    4    7    33   30   2    8    8    20   33   42   
16th    Hereford                        37   5    8    6    19   22   5    4    9    28   35   42   
17th    Yeovil                          37   6    6    7    22   26   5    2    11   17   27   41   
18th    Chester                         37   8    2    8    27   23   3    5    11   19   31   40   
19th    Scarborough                     37   7    2    10   23   35   4    5    9    19   24   40   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th    Morecambe                       37   5    6    7    30   33   5    2    12   19   34   38   
21st    Leigh RMI                       37   6    3    9    22   25   1    7    11   18   37   31   
22nd R  Woking                          37   3    4    11   25   35   1    7    11   17   36   23   

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United are all eliminated from the Champions League, leaving Lazio and Real Madrid as strong favourites to go all the way. However, the real story of the competition are Olympiakos, who reach the Quarter Finals despite missing out on a sixth consecutive Greek championship.
  • Manchester United lose an FA Cup Quarter Final replay to Liverpool, but have the last laugh over their bitter rivals in the League Cup Final 11 days later. Sir Alex Ferguson's Red Devils recover from a 2-1 half-time deficit as Ruud van Nistelrooy's 90th-minute volley secures a 3-2 victory.
  • Having gone 33 years without a trophy, Newcastle look set for an unbelievable TREBLE, as they continue to lead the Premier League while also reaching the Semi Finals in both the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup. Who knew that signing Wales striker Craig Bellamy last summer would be the answer to all the Magpies' problems?
  • Leeds crash out of the UEFA Cup to Celtic, sit 6th in the Premiership, and look set to miss out on Champions League football for a second straight season. None of that worries Peter Ridsdale, who insists that United are still living the dream as he spends £9.25million on Christian Poulsen - the 22-year-old breakout star of FC København's midfield.
  • There's a two-way battle for La Liga... but neither Real nor Barcelona are involved in it! As Valencia start to wobble at the top, Deportivo's run of five successive clean sheets sees them close the gap to just three points.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • A bittersweet Jubilee year for Elizabeth II continues when her beloved mum - Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother - passes away peacefully at the grand old age of 101. The United Kingdom is plunged into 10 days of national mourning.
  • A month after Spike Milligan's death, British comedy loses another iconic figure when Dudley Moore succumbs to pneumonia aged 66. Best-known for his partnership with Peter Cook in the 1960s, he subsequently enjoyed plenty of success in Hollywood.
  • Liverpool Airport is renamed after one of the city's most famous and beloved entertainers. However, the owners decide at the last minute that Liverpool Keith Chegwin Airport sounds just a little too corny, so they quickly replace Cheggers' name with John Lennon's.
  • ITV Digital collapses into administration, reportedly owing £150million to the Football League. Demand for knitted monkeys hits an all-time low.
Edited by CFuller
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APRIL 2002

Though the season wasn't quite over, the first week of April meant it was awards time! We had two players named in the Conference select team, with departing captain Lee Matthews making the first XI, and 14-goal striker Junior McDougald appearing on the bench. Surprisingly, title favourites Doncaster had only one player feature.

 

It probably won't surprise you that second-from-bottom Leigh RMI didn't have anyone in the dream team. It had been a nightmare season for the Leythers, who would be pushed closer to relegation if we could defeat them at Hilton Park.

 

6 APRIL 2002: Leigh RMI vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Leigh had nothing to lose except their pride, but an attacking approach saw them lose exactly that in the opening stages. They were horribly exposed in the 10th minute, when Ashley Vickers suddenly marauded from left-back to drive in his first goal for Dagenham. As he's joining Hartlepool in the summer, it will likely also be his last.

 

That began a first-half blitz from the Daggers, as every shot we had at goal seemed to make its way into the Leigh net. Right-back Lee Goodwin provided a couple of excellent assists for Steve Howard and Paul Terry, and then Junior McDougald (who else?) made it 4-0 after just 34 minutes. To make matters even worse for the doomed Boltonians, defender John Mackie had been forced off midway through the first half with a broken toe.

 

We couldn't add to our lead in the second half - not that there was any need to - as Leigh toughened up their defence. 15-year-old substitute striker Bill Shaw did come quite close to scoring a dream debut goal in the 90th minute, but a strong save from Anthony Malessa denied him his moment.

 

Leigh RMI - 0

Dagenham & Redbridge - 4 (Vickers 10, Howard 14, Terry 21, McDougald 34)

Conference, Attendance 814 - POSITIONS: Leigh RMI 21st, Dag & Red 5th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Rooney, Matthews (Cole), Vickers; Janney, Terry, Jones; Hill (McGavin); McDougald (Shaw), Howard.

 

48 hours later, we were back in action for an Easter Monday meeting with another relegation-threatened team. Could we get another win on the board and send Morecambe deeper into the abyss?

 

8 APRIL 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Morecambe

Morecambe put up much more of a fight than Leigh, as striker Andy Wright hit the crossbar for them after just two minutes. Junior McDougald immediately went up the other end and put us ahead, but that didn't last, as the Shrimps' 18-year-old winger Kevin Cunningham equalised in the 10th minute with his first senior goal.

 

We then cranked the pressure up on Morecambe as we sough to take control of the game. Their captain Chris Lightfoot got a very heavy touch to a McDougald shot in the 23rd minute and deflected it into his own net. Two minutes later, Junior completed a hat-trick of sorts, and we found ourselves 3-1 up at the break!

 

If we had dominated the first half, then the second half was all Morecambe's. Right-winger Courtney Naylor pulled a second goal back in the 64th minute, before his team-mates missed several chances to equalise. They also had several penalty claims waved away as we narrowly held on for a third successive victory.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (McDougald 3,25, Lightfoot og23)

Morecambe - 2 (Cunningham 10, Naylor 64)

Conference, Attendance 1,629 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 4th, Morecambe 20th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Hinton, Cole, Matthews (Rooney), Chaffey; Grant (Janney), Heffer (Terry), O'Donoghue; McGavin; McDougald, Howard.

 

Those latest victories had edged us up to 4th place - just one point behind Farnborough in 3rd. But now it was time to focus on 2nd-placed Northwich, because they were the only team that stood between us and the FA Trophy Final.

 

This Semi Final was a two-legged affair, with Northwich hosting the first leg at the Drill Field, where they had lost just twice all seasn long. While I wasn't expecting us to change that, our aim was to at least keep the scoreline close, so that we would still have a chance going into the return fixture.

 

13 APRIL 2002: Northwich Victoria vs Dagenham & Redbridge

It didn't go to plan. Northwich were comfortably the better team in the first half, making several chances to break the deadlock before Michael Meaker eventually did so on the stroke of half-time. Gregg Blundell's through-ball opened up our defence, and the Welsh midfielder did the rest.

 

That goal forced us to come forward and challenge Vics in the second period. Alas, their defence did a mighty fine job of shutting out Junior McDougald and co, leaving midfielder Paul Terry as our most potent goal threat. But not even Terry could get the better of Paul Gibson, with the Northwich goalkeeper in sublime shotstopping form. While we had at least kept the scoreline close, our inability to score an away goal was a real blow as we headed back to Essex.

 

Northwich Victoria - 1 (Meaker 45)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

FA Trophy Semi Final Leg 1, Attendance 1,571

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-3): Roberts; Goodwin (Hinton), Cole, Matthews, Vickers; Janney, Terry, Jones; McGavin (Hill), Howard, McDougald.

 

Ahead of the second leg, we had a midweek league match at Hayes, who were comfortably in mid-table. Victory for the Daggers would potentially lift us into 3rd place, depending on Farnborough's result at Leigh RMI.

 

17 APRIL 2002: Hayes vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Captain Lee Goodwin was rested, but there was no day off for our star striker. After seven minutes, a couple of clever lay-offs from Danny Hill and Steve Howard played in our American hotshot Junior McDougald, who confidently drove it home. That was Junior's 20th goal in all competitions this season - his 18th in the Conference.

 

McDougald returned the favour to Howard in the 14th minute, as Big Steve blasted home for 2-0. Four minutes later, Howard added another goal to his tally, rising above young Hayes defender Kris Taylor to head in a long throw from midfielder Martin Grant. Leading 3-0 at half-time, it seemed like nothing could go wrong...

 

...but we had another think coming. Michael Currie stirred up a surprise with a lethal half-volley three minutes into the second period, reducing our advantage to 3-1.

 

Currie almost scored again in the 62nd minute, but Mark Rooney's saving tackle was for nothing, as Jason Brissett took the ball and grabbed a second goal for Hayes. We had to batten down the hatches for the final half-hour to see the win out, though it wasn't enough to take us up to 3rd, as Farnborough had won 2-0 to relegate Leigh.

 

Hayes - 2 (Currie 48, Brissett 62)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (McDougald 7, Howard 14,18)

Conference, Attendance 1,508 - POSITIONS: Hayes 10th, Dag & Red 4th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Hinton), Cole, Rooney, Vickers; Grant (Terry), Heffer, Jones; Hill (McGavin); Howard, McDougald. BOOKED: Hill, McDougald.

 

Three days later came the most important match of our season so far, as we tried to overturn a first-leg deficit against Northwich to reach the FA Trophy Final. We needed a victory in front of the Victoria Road faithful - and if Vics scored an away goal, we would have to win by at least two. If away goals counted more, obviously. Away goals do count more in this competition, right?

 

20 APRIL 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Northwich Victoria

While we were wondering what we exactly needed to do to reach the Final, Steve Howard decided to just get on with it. After his strike partner Junior McDougald won a foul off Northwich defender Steve Walsh in the sixth minute, Howard stepped up to take a 20-yard free-kick. As soon as goalkeeper Paul Gibson took a brief glance away from the goal, the big man powered his set-piece right into the corner to level the tie!

 

Forward Ian Wilkinson and midfielder Ben Hickey each missed chances to get Northwich back into an overall lead before we won another promising free-kick on the hour mark. This time, Gibson managed to stop Howard's effort, only for McDougald to fire in the rebound! We led 2-0 on the night, 2-1 on aggregate, and were on our way to the Final...

 

...or at least we were until six minutes into the second half. Vics looked lively after the restart, and when Darren Knowles' hanging-ball corner was tucked away by Michael Meaker (who'd scored their winner in the first leg), the tie was back level. Squeaky-bum time.

 

Dagenham middleman Mark Janney sought a response in the 57th minute, but his low drive was well caught by Gibson. Janney was involved in our next chance three minutes later, as he lofted a corner kick into Northwich's penalty area. Rising high above Wilkinson to get his head onto it was our captain marvel Lee Matthews, whose bullet header sent Victoria Road rocking! The Daggers were leading on aggregate once again!

 

Home fans then faced a nail-biting half-hour as we fought bravely to not concede again. Matthews made some vital challenges at centre-half, and even when our defence was breached, Tony Roberts stayed strong to save a Meaker volley in the 72nd minute. About 20 anxious minutes later, the referee blew his final whistle... and Dagenham & Redbridge were in a Cup Final!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Howard 6, McDougald 30, Matthews 60)

Northwich Victoria - 1 (Meaker 51)

[Dagenham & Redbridge win 3-2 on aggregate]

FA Trophy Semi Final Leg 2, Attendance 1,895

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Hinton), Cole, Matthews, Vickers; Janney, Terry, Jones (Heffer); McGavin; Howard, McDougald. BOOKED: Jones.

 

Set the date, Daggers fans: 18 May 2002! We are off to Highbury!

 

Mind you, we still didn't know who we would be playing in the FA Trophy Final. Barnet and Farnborough had drawn their Semi Final 3-3 on aggregate, but instead of giving Boro a victory on away goals (having scored in a 3-1 defeat at Barnet), the teams were ordered to play each other for a third time. I'm quite glad we avoided the same fate!

 

As we celebrated our victory, reserve midfielder Steve Vaughan returned from a loan spell at non-league Grays, for whom he'd provided five goals and 11 assists. I was tempted to offer the 20-year-old a new contract, but his demands were too high for my liking, so it looks like he'll be singing the blues when his current deal expires next month.

 

We then looked to give our Victoria Road faithful a victorious send-off for the season, when we played our last home game against Southport. The 7th-placed Sandgrounders were among several teams battling with us for 3rd spot, and they would leapfrog us if they prevailed here.

 

27 APRIL 2002: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Southport

Southport gave us an almighty scare in the first minute. Right-back Ross Davidson's free-kick was headed against the woodwork by striker Tony Sullivan, who then missed another chance after nine minutes. The Sandgrounders would rue those early misses after our first attack in the 12th minute, which ended with Matt Jones' left-wing cross being headed home by attacking midfielder Steve McGavin.

 

The rest of the match was a bit of an anti-climax, as neither team seriously troubled the other again. Southport were particularly wasteful going forward, and Tony Roberts only had a single save en route to another victory.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (McGavin 12)

Southport - 0

Conference, Attendance 1,598 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 3rd, Southport 7th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin (Hinton), Rooney, Matthews, Vickers; Janney (O'Donoghue), Terry, Jones; McGavin (Lyons); Howard, McDougald.

 

Four league wins out of four - that would surely get me the Manager of the Month award for April, right?

 

Nope! In their infinite wisdom, the Conference awards committee gave it to Jimmy Quinn, whose Northwich side had won two and drawn two - with those four dropped points allowing Doncaster to win the league title with a game to spare.

 

But hey, I can't be bitter! With one game to play, we're up into 3rd position - though we're only a couple of points ahead of Farnborough, who still have two matches left. There's still some work to do if we're to secure a place on the Conference podium.

 

Even if that doesn't quite happen for us, though, we still have an FA Trophy Final to look forward to. And we'll be battling Farnborough in that as well, as Alan Ball's side finally saw off Barnet 2-0 in their Semi Final replay. It's sure to be an incredible occasion when we face off at Highbury to finish off the season!

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CONFERENCE TABLE (End of April 2002)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  Doncaster                       41   17   3    0    46   12   10   6    5    45   37   90   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Northwich Vics                  41   14   5    2    44   25   11   5    4    43   31   85   
3rd     Dag & Red                       41   14   3    4    38   20   8    6    6    35   30   75   
4th     Farnborough                     40   12   3    5    37   20   10   4    6    36   26   73   
5th     Boston Utd                      41   11   7    2    38   21   10   3    8    35   27   73   
6th     Margate                         41   11   5    4    37   22   10   3    8    25   23   71   
7th     Southport                       41   10   7    3    34   25   10   3    8    30   31   70   
8th     Barnet                          40   14   2    4    44   27   4    4    12   31   42   60   
9th     Forest Green                    41   9    7    5    38   30   7    4    9    27   33   59   
10th    Telford                         41   7    9    4    28   24   6    7    8    21   27   55   
11th    Hayes                           40   8    4    8    30   29   6    8    6    26   28   54   
12th    Nuneaton Borough                41   9    3    9    35   39   6    3    11   30   38   51   
13th    Stalybridge                     41   7    7    7    29   28   6    3    11   30   37   49   
14th    Stevenage                       41   11   3    6    41   30   3    4    14   21   42   49   
15th    Dover                           41   9    4    8    36   35   3    8    9    21   34   48   
16th    Hereford                        41   5    9    7    22   26   6    4    10   33   38   46   
17th    Yeovil                          41   6    7    8    25   33   6    3    11   20   29   46   
18th    Scarborough                     41   8    3    10   27   36   4    5    11   21   30   44   
19th    Morecambe                       40   6    6    8    34   37   5    2    13   21   37   41   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th    Chester                         41   8    2    10   28   28   3    5    13   21   37   40   
21st R  Leigh RMI                       41   6    3    11   22   31   1    8    12   22   45   32   
22nd R  Woking                          41   5    4    11   29   36   1    8    12   20   40   30   

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Craig Bellamy is Newcastle's hero in the FA Cup, scoring a hat-trick against Arsenal to set up a Final showdown with Leeds. Craig Bellamy is also Newcastle's villain in the UEFA Cup, missing a crucial penalty in a Semi Final shoot-out defeat to Deportivo.
  • Meanwhile in the Premiership, Newcastle suffer back-to-back defeats against Liverpool and Chelsea, conceding top spot to Arsenal. Well... it was always going to happen, wasn't it?
  • Dutch destroyer Ruud van Nistelrooy is named PFA Player of the Year after scoring 27 goals (so far) in his first season at Manchester United. He just beats out Chris Perry - a centre-back at mid-table Tottenham.
  • A 1-1 draw at Fiorentina confirms Lazio as champions of Serie A with three games to spare. Alberto Zaccheroni's free-scoring Biancocelesti are also involved in an Italian clean sweep of the Champions League Quarter Finals, with Juventus, Parma and city rivals Roma joining them in the Semis.
  • Celtic successfully defend their Scottish Premier League title after a 1-1 home draw with Rangers, in which Henrik Larsson scores just his 32nd goal of the season. Chris Sutton is so upset at not being the Bhoys' main man that he has a strop and gets himself sent off.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • American rapper and singer Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes - who was a member of R&B girl group TLC - dies in a car crash in Honduras. The 30-year-old was recording a documentary when the accident happened.
  • Holly Valance becomes the latest Australian soap star to branch out into music, with her cover of the Turkish pop song "Kiss Kiss". It's accompanied by a... ahem, very suggestive music video that makes Kylie Minogue look like Madge Bishop.
  • Golf superstar Tiger Woods claims the seventh major title of his career, winning the Masters by three strokes. As is tournament tradition, he duly receives a green jacket from the previous year's champion - Tiger Woods.
  • A few weeks after the passing of the Queen Mother, Britons finally have a reason to celebrate again. Jim Davidson's "Generation Game" has been cancelled by the BBC.
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MAY 2002

It was the final day of my first league season as a manager. Dagenham & Redbridge had little to play for except pride - and perhaps a place on the Conference podium.

 

Farnborough had beaten Morecambe 3-2 in midweek, which meant they leapfrogged us into 3rd by a single point - and with a superior goal difference. In order to overtake them on the final lap, we realistically needed to win our last match at Woking - who had long been doomed to relegation - while also hoping that Boro didn't beat Hayes. There was also a chance that Steve Evans' Boston could bump us down to 5th if they overcame Nuneaton and we failed to defeat Woking.

 

Of course, there was nothing meaningful at stake here. Doncaster were already confirmed as champions and would be the only team promoted to Division 3. Even so, finishing above Farnborough in the table would give us a slight mental edge going into our FA Trophy Final showdown at Highbury a fortnight later.

 

4 MAY 2002: Woking vs Dagenham & Redbridge

The season might have been over, but our players still looked very much up for it. Junior McDougald was in red-hot form against a leaky Woking defence, scoring twice in the first half to bring his tally up to 20 league goals for this season (23 in all competitions).

 

Both those goals were set up by Steve Howard, who then completed a hat-trick of assists before half-time. His free-kick into the Cards' box was turned in by captain Lee Matthews, who effectively put the game beyond all doubt.

 

Woking put up a bit more of a fight in the second half, but they had little hope of troubling Tony Roberts in our goal. Now all we needed to do was to get through the closing stages without anyone getting injured or doing something stupid. Of course, right-back Lee Goodwin didn't listen, and when he barged over a clean-through Cards striker James French in the 87th minute, he was shown a red card. Goodwin would have to miss the FA Trophy Final!

 

Despite that, we still coasted to a 3-0 away victory which ended our league campaign on a seven-match winning run. And with Farnborough losing 1-0 at Hayes, it meant we had done enough to retake 3rd place!

 

Woking - 0

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (McDougald 27,36, Matthews 45)

Conference, Attendance 4,566 - POSITIONS: Woking 22nd, Dag & Red 3rd

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Roberts; Goodwin, Cole, Matthews (Rooney), Vickers (Jones); Janney, Terry, Heffer; McGavin; Howard (Shaw), McDougald. SENT OFF: Goodwin.

 

Finishing in the Conference's top three wasn't just a huge psychological boost - it was also a big financial boost. We picked up £100,000 worth of prize money for our high finish... and there was the potential to gain further riches at Highbury.

 

After two weeks of hard graft at the training ground, we made our way to Islington, looking to add the first significant piece of national silverware to our cabinet. Dagenham & Redbridge had played in the FA Trophy Final before - in 1997, when Ted Hardy's Daggers were beaten at Wembley by Woking in extra-time.

 

Five years later, we faced another almighty challenge. Farnborough had done the league double over us this season, and they were one of only four teams to beat us at Victoria Road. The Hampshire side also had one of non-league football's most fearsome strike partnerships in Rocky Baptiste and Miguel De Souza.

 

As for their manager, Alan Ball practically had a second home at Highbury, having played there with distinction for Arsenal in the 1970s. From a tactical perspective, his high-pressing 3-5-2 often caused problems for our usual narrow 4-3-1-2, though it was a bit more vulnerable to a flatter, wider 4-4-2. With that in mind, I decided to go down the Mike Bassett route for this game.

 

With Lee Goodwin forced onto the sidelines through his own inanity, on-loan Kidderminster right-back Craig Hinton replaced him in the Daggers line-up for our big season finale. The only other change came in midfield, where an out-of-form Steve McGavin was bumped out for Danny Hill.

 

18 MAY 2002: Farnborough Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Farnborough set out their stall quickly and had the game's first shot after four minutes. Darren Annon - a sweeper playing in midfield - tried to volley in a cross from right-back Ian Butler, only to be stopped by a strong save from Tony Roberts. Another early effort from defender Matt Hillyer shortly afterwards missed the target completely.

 

We launched our first attack after eight minutes, and it was fraught with controversy. An excellent run towards goal from midfielder Paul Terry ended with him sweeping the ball home, but the referee inexplicably ruled it out. Instead of playing advantage after Boro defender Mark Harper had pulled Junior McDougald's shirt in an off-the-ball incident, the official decided to award us a penalty! I would have been furious had McDougald not scored the spot-kick, but he made light work of it, and we were 1-0 up after all!

 

After Roberts saved a couple more efforts from Farnborough, we sought to hammer down our advantage. In the 19th minute, right-winger Mark Janney rode the challenge of opposing captain Steve Watson and dribbled into the box, where he made it 2-0 with his 11th goal of the season.

 

By contrast, our left-winger Matt Jones hadn't scored a single goal at all... but that all changed five minutes later. Janney ran onto a long ball from right-back Craig Hinton and then drilled it low to Jones, who lobbed goalkeeper Steve Farrelly and sent us into dreamland! 3-0 to Dagenham & Redbridge!

 

Everything had fallen into place for us, and when Roberts made several more saves before half-time, Farnborough looked spent, and Alan Ball - for all his experience - looked bereft of ideas. The second half was a complete non-finale, and we were hardly challenged again before the ref's final whistle kicked off our celebrations! Dagenham & Redbridge had WON the FA Trophy!!

 

Farnborough Town - 0

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (McDougald pen9, Janney 19, Jones 24)

FA Trophy Final, Attendance 8,400

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Roberts; Hinton, Cole (Rooney), Matthews, Vickers; Janney, Hill (Heffer), Terry, Jones; Howard (McGavin), McDougald.

 

What a way to finish my first year in management! An epic 54-match campaign had ended with departing captain Lee Matthews lifting the FA Trophy in front of around 4,000 travelling Dagenhamites.

 

We had gone one step further than Hardy's boys in 1997, and Terry Harris' Dagenham FC team from 1977. Exactly a quarter of a century after scoring at Wembley, my assistant manager patted me on the back and grinned, "You did it, boss! You've made Dagenham history!"

 

I replied, "No, Terry. WE did it. And this ain't the end. Next year, I want promotion."

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