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CFuller
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JANUARY 2004

With his incredible work ethic and his equally impressive playmaking abilities, Ryan Carter had been THE breakout star of our first Football League campaign. There was perhaps no better way for him to start off the new year by finally signing a new long-term contract at Dagenham & Redbridge - £425 per week until June 2008, with a £300,000 release clause.

 

Since his senior debut in September 2002, Carter had provided six goals and eight assists in 42 competitive matches. That's a lot of football for a young man who only celebrated his 18th birthday three months ago. I sensed he needed a rest, which sadly meant he would sit out the biggest match of our season so far.

 

The Daggers had taken to League football remarkably well, but nothing could prepare us for the step up in class we faced in Round 3 of the FA Cup, when the mighty Middlesbrough came to town. The Boro started the defence of their trophy at Victoria Road, and manager Steve McClaren had brought along many of his Premiership stars, including Hamilton Ricard, Gareth Southgate and (ahem) Danny Mills.

 

3 JANUARY 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough's attacking stars immediately showed their greater class. Colombia striker Hamilton Ricard - who had become a Boro fan favourite since his arrival six years ago - headed in a Richard Johnson cross to break the deadlock after just six minutes.

 

Ricard's Croatian strike partner Alen Boksic then had a string of opportunities to double the Middlesbrough lead midway through the half. One flew over the bar, the other was stopped by Ian Bennett, but it was third time lucky for Boskic when he outjumped Dave Bayliss to reach a cross from Scotland winger Colin Cameron. With the Boro now 2-0 up, our FA Cup fairytale was surely over.

 

We tried to fight back late in the first half, when Bayliss and Neil Tarrant each got shots on target. Sadly, a defence captained by the evergreen Gareth Southgate proved just too smart for Tarrant and co to crack. On the plus side, we did avoid keep a clean sheet in the second half, so we could still exit the FA Cup with our heads held high.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Middlesbrough - 2 (Ricard 6, Boksic 23)

FA Cup Round 3, Attendance 5,958

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Attacking): Bennett; Bayliss (Goodwin), Clark, Spedding; Gledhill, Mayo; Selley, Lacey; Melton (Victory); Tarrant, McDougald (Platt). BOOKED: Lacey, Spedding.

 

After the match, we consoled ourselves with around £50,000 in gate receipts - and the belief that we really couldn't have given a better account of ourselves. Great effort, lads.

 

Carter returned to the team when we resumed our league campaign against the only team we hadn't yet faced this term. Halifax arrived at Victoria Road sitting in 18th place, though they were not in imminent danger of slipping into the relegation picture.

 

7 JANUARY 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Halifax Town

Instead of recalling Richard Knight, I kept Ian Bennett in goal for this game... and I regretted it when the veteran keeper was beaten by a soft header from Halifax forward Steven Kerrigan after just six minutes.

 

Our attack then toiled for over an hour looking for an equaliser. We eventually succeeded in the 39th minute, when Neil Tarrant powered in a header from Ryan Carter's long ball.

 

The second half was also a chore to sit through, but our persistence paid off when we took the lead 12 minutes from time. Substitutes Nick Weekes and Julian Alsop combined to great effect, with Weekes' pinpoint delivery being met by a typically power header from Big Jules. Had we stolen all three points?

 

No, we hadn't. With four minutes remaining, Halifax breached our defence again as Ashley Beech went one-on-one with Bennett, whose reckless challenge wiped the 18-year-old striker out. Bennett was sent off, and with no substitutes left, our biggest outfielder had to take his place in goal. Alsop is many things, but he's not a keeper, as he failed to keep out Halifax captain Andy Woodward's penalty and our lead slipped away.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Tarrant 39, Alsop 78)

Halifax Town - 2 (Kerrigan 6, Woodward pen87)

Division 3, Attendance 3,130 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 4th, Halifax 20th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Attacking): Bennett; Bayliss, Clark, Spedding; Goodwin, Mayo (Hanmer); Carter, Lacey (Weekes); Melton; Tarrant, Platt (Alsop). BOOKED: Lacey. SENT OFF: Bennett.

 

"WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU PLAYING AT?" I screamed at Ian Bennett at full-time. "Your stupidity cost us the game there! I'm docking you two weeks' wages and dropping you to the reserves!"

 

Bennett was up in arms about this, and several other players stood up for him, accusing me of being too impatient.

 

Once the dust settled down, Bennett went into my office the next morning and demanded a transfer, which I accepted. If you're one of my highest-paid players and your performances aren't up to snuff, then as far as I'm concerned, you need to get out.

 

Just look at Ian Selley. He's earning £1,000 per week, but he's hardly played since November because he's been absolutely useless.

 

While Bennett's future was in major doubt, another out-of-favour Dagger brought his time with us to an end. Right-back Mark Bailey joined Heybridge on a free transfer after making only eight appearances for us this season.

 

Richard Knight was back in goal for the foreseeable future, and a fit-again John Anderson also earned a recall when we went to Torquay. I rang a host of changes for this match, dropping most of the players who had backed Bennett in that explosive row.

 

10 JANUARY 2004: Torquay United vs Dagenham & Redbridge

We attacked Torquay with great regularity in the first half, but neither Neil Tarrant nor Julian Alsop were at their clinical best. To be fair, they were often frustrated by some strong goalkeeping from Tony Pennock. Our newly-appointed first-choice keeper Richard Knight also impressed, catching a 30th-minute header from Mark Nicholls.

 

The opening stages of the second half was a tale of two Scots. Just two minutes after the restart, Daggers defender John Anderson's injury woes resurfaced when he gashed his leg and had to come off early. With our vice-skipper gone, we were much more vulnerable to an attack from his compatriot David Graham, who opened the scoring for Torquay after 53 minutes.

 

The assist for Graham's goal had come from the Gulls' vice-captain Chris Barker. In the 68th minute, though, Barker went from home hero to villain by fouling Clive Platt in the penalty area. Defender Dean Clark volunteered to take the spot-kick, despite not having an impressive goalscoring record - but that didn't matter once he smashed it home to draw us level!

 

In our previous away league game against Peterborough, a Clark equaliser proved meaningless when the opposition scored a late winner. History would repeat itself at Plainmoor. A poor clearance from Lee Gledhill in the 86th minute was punished when Andrew Lee's low cross was lethally finished by Graham to grab a dramatic victory for Torquay. I hope you're happy, Helen Chamberlain.

 

Torquay United - 2 (Graham 53,86)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Clark pen68)

Division 3, Attendance 3,531 - POSITIONS: Torquay 5th, Dag & Red 4th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Attacking): Knight; Bayliss, Clark, Anderson (Gledhill); Goodwin, Mayo; Weekes (McLean), Lacey; Platt (McDougald); Alsop, Tarrant. BOOKED: Lacey.

 

Okay, hands up. Maybe I shouldn't have upset half the squad...

 

Anderson was back on the sidelines for another fortnight, so Duncan Spedding was restored to the defence for our midweek Football League Trophy tie. Midfielders Ryan Carter and Stephen Melton also returned to hopefully provide some much-needed creativity against a tough Bournemouth team who sat 16th in Division 2.

 

13 JANUARY 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs AFC Bournemouth

It didn't need a detective to work out that we had defensive issues, especially when Irish forward Jason Sherlock fired Bournemouth ahead in the very first minute. To be fair, we also had issues converting the most clear-cut chances, as attacking midfielder Stephen Melton showed in the 19th minute, as he struck the post when it was easier to find the net!

 

Bournemouth lost winger Wade Elliott to a twisted knee in the 36th minute, but that proved only a temporary setback for Sean O'Driscoll's cherries. Daggers keeper Richard Knight awkwardly punched away a cross from Sherlock, but nobody could save his bacon before the follow-up shot from Danny Bacon found the top corner.

 

With Knight having a nightmare, I took a huge gamble by subbing on reserve keeper Nick Baxter for the second half. The 20-year-old actually didn't have a lot of work to do, as the Cherries eased off and looked to see the game out. It almost backfired when a 74th-minute handball by left-back Zigor Aranalde allowed Ryan Carter to halve our deficit with a penalty, but we weren't good enough going forward to take our comeback any further. Our Football League Trophy run was at an end.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Carter pen74)

AFC Bournemouth - 2 (Sherlock 1, Bacon 38)

Football League Trophy South Round 2, Attendance 662

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Attacking): Knight (Baxter); Bayliss, Clark (Gledhill), Spedding; Goodwin (Grant), Mayo; Carter, Lacey; Melton, Alsop, Tarrant.

 

In just a matter of weeks, we had gone on a five-game winless run and been knocked out of both our remaining cup competitions. On the plus side, at least it meant we could now fully concentrate on the league.

 

Mid-table Rushden were the next team to visit Victoria Road. The Diamonds' results had been inconsistent to say the least.

 

17 JANUARY 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Rushden & Diamonds

After scoring against Bournemouth in midweek, Ryan Carter picked up from where he'd left off, netting from a left-wing Kerry Mayo cross after just nine minutes. We almost found ourselves 2-0 ahead five minutes later, but Junior McDougald's shot hit the post, summing up his fortunes in front of goal since our promotion.

 

At the other end, Richard Knight was determined to produce a much better performance than the one which saw him sacrificed at half-time against the Cherries. Rushden had 10 shots on goal in this match, 10 were on target... and Knight saved 9 of them. The odd one out came five minutes from half-time, when Knight stopped a fierce effort from winger Andy Lindegaard, only for Lewis Killeen's follow-up to go in off the post.

 

We hassled the Diamonds throughout the second period, desperate to restore our advantage. Sadly, Neil Tarrant wasn't up to the task, and he was subbed off for Michael O'Neill in the 74th minute. Another late change saw a tiring Carter replaced by another young(ish) midfielder in Nick Weekes.

 

An 86th-minute foul on O'Neill from Rushden full-back Jeff Kenna presented Weekes the opportunity to win us the game with a close-range free-kick. Unfortunately, Nick's effort was saved by Derek Stillie... but the referee had spotted an infringement in the Diamonds wall and offered a retake. At the second time of asking, Weekes bent it like Beckham right into the top corner, sending us 2-1 up - and rocking Victoria Road to the core!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Carter 9, Weekes 86)

Rushden & Diamonds - 1 (Killeen 40)

Division 3, Attendance 3,836 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 5th, Rushden 14th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Attacking): Knight; Bayliss, Clark, Spedding; Goodwin (Gledhill), Mayo; Carter (Weekes), Lacey; Melton; Tarrant (O'Neill), McDougald. BOOKED: Carter, Spedding, Mayo.

 

Buoyed by our first victory of the new year, we looked to build up more momentum in another home outing - this time against Leyton Orient, who were third-from-bottom. Orient were also the lowest scorers in Division 3, having netted only 25 times in 26 matches.

 

21 JANUARY 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Leyton Orient

We really didn't have to worry about Leyton Orient's attack in this game. Paul Tait and Gary Fletcher had scored 14 of their 25 league goals between them, but they were off-colour, each missing their only shots on target.

 

The Daggers attack fared little better. Junior McDougald was starved of service again, while three of Neil Tarrant's attempts were stopped by Roger Freestone. One of those, in the 54th minute, resulted in attacking midfielder Stephen Melton having a shot from the rebound, which did break the deadlock! And with the O's looking so 'opeless, Melton's goal was the only one we needed to claim the spoils.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Melton 54)

Leyton Orient - 0

Division 3, Attendance 3,753 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 4th, Leyton Orient 22nd

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Attacking): Knight; Bayliss, Clark (Goodwin), Spedding; Gledhill, Mayo; Carter, Lacey; Melton; Tarrant (Alsop), McDougald.

 

All good things come to an end, and that was sadly the end of Neil Tarrant's loan spell at Dagenham & Redbridge. The 24-year-old was keen to stay at Victoria Road after scoring 13 goals in 21 matches, but we sadly couldn't afford the wages to sign him permanently from Blackpool.

 

Tarrant's departure left us with huge boots to fill. Our other options up front were Julian Alsop (4 goals in 23), Junior McDougald (5 goals in 26 games this season), Michael O'Neill (2 goals in 12) and Clive Platt (4 goals in 20). It's not exactly great, is it?

 

Our Conference dream team of McDougald and Alsop got another chance to rediscover their magic when we took on play-off rivals Brighton. We also had Anderson back in the squad after his latest injury, but you could probably understand why I didn't want to rush him straight back into the starting XI.

 

28 JANUARY 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Brighton & Hove Albion

A competitive first half saw both teams severely test the opposition, with the breakthrough eventually coming just before half-time. Julian Alsop struck the ball low and hard from the edge of the Brighton area... and it was pushed behind by goalkeeper Stuart Jones. Sadly, Stephen Melton's corner delivery was very wasteful, and the Seagulls soon flew at us with a counter-attack which resulted in teenager Ian Gardiner making it 1-0 to the visitors.

 

Though he'd been our star man in midfield throughout the season, Ryan Carter still lacked the consistency and composure that would come with experience. After a sloppy first-half performance, I put Carter out of his misery and subbed on Nick Weekes, who duly teamed up with Julian Alsop to fire us level four minutes into the second period!

 

The rest of the match was largely Brighton's to win. They couldn't quite manage it, with attacking midfielder Carl Evans snatching at a chance to condemn us to only our second home league defeat of the season. But while Alsop had impressed me, a couple of ineffective displays from Junior McDougald and his sub Clive Platt suggested that neither was the right man to partner Jules up front.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Weekes 49)

Brighton & Hove Albion - 1 (Gardiner 45)

Division 3, Attendance 3,980 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 4th, Brighton 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Attacking): Knight; Bayliss, Clark (Anderson), Spedding; Gledhill, Mayo; Carter, Lacey; Melton; Alsop, McDougald (Platt).

 

Barely 48 hours later, we found the man who we hoped would fix our goalscoring problems.

 

Joining us from Peterborough for £30,000 was 24-year-old Victor Renner. The former Wimbledon youth striker was rapid, strong and energetic, but he also had plenty of technique and could even play in attacking midfield if required. Victor certainly had the talent (and an impressive goalscoring record in non-league football) but hadn't yet been able to showcase it consistently at a professional level.

 

Could Renner make an instant impact for his new club when we ended the month at Millmoor against a leaky Rotherham defence. Despite conceding at a rate of over two goals per game, Mark Wright's Millers were actually pretty decent going forward, hence they were 14th in the table rather than 24th.

 

31 JANUARY 2004: Rotherham United vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Captain Damien Lacey and debutant Victor Renner each had early chances saved by Rotherham goalkeeper Craig Forrest, who had brilliantly shut us out when the Millers visited Victoria Road in August. That match finished 0-0; this one would not.

 

Rotherham had an intriguing frontline consisting of two homegrown teenagers, both named Peter. The younger of them - 17-year-old Peter Browne - outjumped Duncan Spedding to head in the breakthrough goal after 13 minutes. Three minutes later, his 18-year-old 'mentor' Peter Cox doubled our agony.

 

We fought tooth and nail over the next 75 minutes or so to get ourselves back in contention, but just like last time out, it seemed like Forrest had an invisible forcefield around his goal. Nothing we tried seemed to work, and Renner's Daggers bow went so poorly that he was subbed 10 minutes from time. Defender Dave Bayliss' game had also ended early when he strained his knee ligaments midway through the second half of another disappointing away day.

 

Rotherham United - 2 (Browne 13, Cox 16)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Division 3, Attendance 3,242 - POSITIONS: Rotherham 12th, Dag & Red 4th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Attacking): Knight; Bayliss (Hanmer), Anderson, Spedding (Clark); Gledhill, Mayo; Weekes, Lacey; Melton; Alsop, Renner (McDougald). BOOKED: Bayliss.

 

To reiterate - Rotherham have the WORST defence in the league, and they've kept two clean sheets against us! And YET we are only outside the automatic promotion places on goal difference!

 

This Dagenham & Redbridge team, eh?! You've got to love us!

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DIVISION 3 TABLE (End of January 2004)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Northampton                     28   10   3    1    27   13   8    2    4    26   17   59   
2nd     Bristol Rovers                  29   12   2    2    32   15   6    3    4    24   19   59   
3rd     Plymouth                        30   6    3    5    23   19   10   2    4    34   21   53   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4th     Dag & Red                       30   9    5    1    23   11   6    3    6    23   22   53   
5th     Colchester                      29   10   2    3    20   11   6    3    5    21   23   53   
6th     Brighton                        30   8    4    2    26   21   5    6    5    28   27   49   
7th     Lincoln                         30   8    3    4    27   15   6    3    6    19   15   48   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
8th     Peterborough                    30   6    4    5    27   26   7    5    3    32   20   48   
9th     Torquay                         30   9    1    6    30   23   6    1    7    23   23   47   
10th    Oxford                          29   9    4    1    23   11   4    4    7    15   21   47   
11th    Mansfield                       30   6    8    2    28   21   4    4    6    22   22   42   
12th    Rotherham                       30   10   2    4    33   25   2    3    9    18   35   41   
13th    Cheltenham                      30   6    6    4    29   32   4    3    7    22   25   39   
14th    Scunthorpe                      29   6    1    7    31   32   5    4    6    27   26   38   
15th    Shrewsbury                      29   7    3    5    25   19   4    2    8    26   33   38   
16th    Hartlepool                      30   5    1    8    20   26   6    4    6    20   20   38   
17th    Macclesfield                    30   4    4    6    22   29   6    3    7    31   27   37   
18th    Rushden                         30   7    4    5    24   22   3    3    8    25   34   37   
19th    Leyton Orient                   29   6    1    7    16   17   3    3    9    14   24   31   
20th    Exeter                          30   5    4    7    18   23   2    5    7    10   20   30   
21st    Stockport                       30   6    5    3    25   26   1    3    12   19   32   29   
22nd    Halifax                         29   5    5    3    19   18   1    6    9    17   34   29   
23rd    Oldham                          29   5    2    8    29   33   2    1    11   13   26   24   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
24th    Swansea                         28   3    2    8    21   28   0    3    12   7    32   14   

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • There are growing calls for Michael Ricketts to be called up to the England squad after scoring a dozen Premiership goals for high-flying Bolton this season. Trotters boss Glenn Hoddle's former club Tottenham fall into the relegation zone, but managing director Daniel Levy insists that John Toshack's job as manager is safe.
  • Lazio re-sign midfielder Juan Sebastián Verón from Manchester United for £24million - a smidge less than they sold the Argentine for in 2001. Verón's Olimpico homecoming doesn't exactly go to plan, as the Biancocelesti suffer a shock 3-0 defeat to Atalanta and lose top spot in Serie A to bitter rivals Roma.
  • The biggest transfer of the season goes far sees German midfield general Michael Ballack leave relegation-threatened Leverkusen and join Milan for £37.5million. He makes an instant impact, scoring a debut goal set up by Gennaro Ivan Gattuso in a 1-1 draw at Sampdoria.
  • Scottish Premier League leaders Rangers secure a major transfer coup, nabbing Groningen's skilful winger Arjen Robben on a Bosman free transfer. The 19-year-old Holland international was apparently set to sign for Manchester United until compatriot Dick Advocaat made a last-minute bid to bring him to Ibrox. Apparently, the lure of playing alongside Barry Ferguson and Sebastián Rozental was just too great.
  • The bun-fight that is the Ligue 1 title race continues, as leaders Lille lose a 3-2 thriller at champions Marseille. After scoring two crucial goals for the hosts, Ivorian striker Didier Drogba is heard asking Lille midfielder Michael Essien about property prices in west London.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • The Hutton report is published, exonerating Tony Blair of any wrongdoing over the death of Dr David Kelly. The BBC is strongly criticised for its allegations that Blair's government sexed up a dossier on Iraq's nuclear weapons, prompting chairman Gavyn Davies and director-general Greg Dyke to hand in their resignations.
  • Pop star Britney Spears weds her childhood friend Jason Alexander in Las Vegas, only to change her mind and annul the marriage just 55 hours later. In fairness, that's still longer than most celebrity relationships last.
  • A German computer repair technician is jailed for eight-and-a-half years for manslaughter. Armin Meiwes - dubbed 'The Rotenburg Cannibal' - admitted to killing and then eating another man at his home in 2001.
  • In slightly less gruesome news, Dorset policewoman Clare Southern wins £97,000 after staying awake for seven days on Channel 4's social experiment "Shattered". If she'd been watching George Graham's Motherwell team, she wouldn't have lasted seven minutes.
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FEBRUARY 2004

Late last month, I recalled reserve striker Chris Griffiths from his loan spell at Port Talbot. The 17-year-old had struggled to make an impact with the Welsh Premier League strugglers, making only five appearances in just over four months. He was now back at Victoria Road (the one in Dagenham, not Port Talbot) and would instead get some first-team opportunities with us over the coming weeks.

 

On the other end of the age scale, 32-year-old goalkeeper Ian Bennett was also back in contention. Following an explosive row in the dressing room after a costly late red card against Halifax on 10 January, I'd banished him to the reserves and put him up for sale on request. But after serving his time in the stiffs (and a two-match ban), Bennett was willing to stay at the club and fight for his place.

 

And boy would Ian need to fight. His so-called understudy Richard Knight had been in superb form for us this season, recording a 7.57 average match rating over 21 matches, in which he'd conceded only 18 goals.

 

One of the few blips in Knight's Daggers career so far had come when we threw away a 3-0 lead at Cheltenham in September. As it so happened, our first game of February gave us the opportunity to exorcise those demons, as Steve Cotterill's mid-table Robins travelled to Victoria Road.

 

7 FEBRUARY 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Cheltenham Town

Victor Renner's home debut for Dagenham couldn't have gone much better. He linked up superbly with Julian Alsop, setting up two goals for the big target man in the first quarter-hour to give us an early 2-0 lead. Indeed, Alsop had scored as many goals against Cheltenham in 14 minutes as he had scored for them in the entire 2001/2002 season - his last at Whaddon Road!

 

The Robins tightened up after their slow start, with goalkeeper Sam Turner managing to deny Renner the goal his performance deserved. Midfielder Ryan Carter was unlucky not to score, while Alsop was also prevented from completing his hat-trick.

 

We didn't throw away a 3-0 lead this time around, as despite our best efforts, we never added a third goal to our tally. But after wasting several chances early in the second half, Cheltenham almost pulled off an even more incredible comeback. When Jamie Featherstone skipped past Daggers defender Dean Clark to pull one goal back in the 89th minute, we had to batten down the hatches to finish the job - and claim a valuable win that took us back up into 3rd.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Alsop 9,14)

Cheltenham Town - 1 (Featherstone 89)

Division 3, Attendance 3,569 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 3rd, Cheltenham 16th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Knight; Gledhill, Clark, Anderson, Spedding; Janney (Grant), Carter (Weekes), Lacey, Mayo; Alsop, Renner (O'Neill).

 

While Julian Alsop was still very much a Daggers hero, our other signing from Cheltenham last season had been much less successful. After 32 appearances without a single goal contribution (and with an average match rating in the 6.5s), the Jamie Victory experiment had come to a premature end. The versatile but erratic midfielder joined Margate for £20,000.

 

Alsop's new strike partnership with Victor Renner was up and running, so they got another game together a week later. Mansfield were the first (and so far only) team to have recorded a Football League victory over us at Victoria Road. The Stags looked to complete a double when we went to Field Mill, but I hoped Vic and Jules had other ideas.

 

14 FEBRUARY 2004: Mansfield Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge

You might recall that Chris Kiwomya had been a thorn in our side in our previous meetings with Mansfield. The evergreen 34-year-old struck once again after 14 minutes, converting Simon Wormull's cross for his 20th goal of the campaign. Things didn't go quite so well for Kiwomya's younger understudy Shayne Bradley, who was thwarted by Richard Knight four minutes later.

 

As for our attackers, it was just a bad day at the office. Victor Renner had two shots on target, both of which were saved by Stags keeper John Achterberg, and that was as close as we came to taking anything away from the game. Mansfield comfortably saw out a narrow win as our travelling supporters were once again left wanting.

 

Mansfield Town - 1 (Kiwomya 14)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Division 3, Attendance 5,683 - POSITIONS: Mansfield 12th, Dag & Red 3rd

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Knight; Gledhill, Bayliss (Clark), Anderson, Spedding; Grant (Melton), Carter, Lacey, Mayo; Alsop, Renner (McDougald). BOOKED: Anderson.

 

That was our seventh away defeat of the season. If we were to hold onto our automatic promotion place, or even just a play-off spot, we would need to tighten up on the road.

 

A few days later, we looked to continue our much more impressive home form against Exeter. Mind you, the Grecians were in pretty good nick themselves. Despite their lowly league position of 20th, they had won their last three matches, and their most recent league defeat had come on 3 January against local rivals Plymouth.

 

17 FEBRUARY 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Exeter City

The stage was set for a thrilling encounter when each team scored from their first shots of the game. Exeter drew first blood in the 13th minute, through a scorcher from midfielder Darren Bastow. Stephen Melton retaliated eight minutes later, curving in an excellent shot that made him only the second Dagger (after former loanee Neil Tarrant) to reach double figures for goals this season.

 

The rest of the first half was a difficult one for us. Left-back Duncan Spedding had to come off with a gashed leg, being replaced by the largely forgotten Gareth Hanmer. Meanwhile, Victor Renner missed his only shot of the match, while Junior McDougald was so anonymous that he didn't even get a sniff at goal before being subbed at half-time.

 

Exeter started the second half as strongly as they had the first, with 20-year-old striker James Mudge restoring their lead from a Bastow assist in the 54th minute. Were Stan Ternent's Grecians set to become only the second visitors to win a Division 3 match at Victoria Road this season?

 

No. Midway through the second half, Daggers captain Damien Lacey was replaced in midfield with 18-year-old Ryan Carter, who would soon celebrate his 50th senior game in style. A mazy run in the 74th minute took Carter past Exeter full-back Ryan Amoo before a ferocious shot beat keeper Björn Levin, saving us a 2-2 draw. Ryan got booked for a reckless challenge four minutes later, but I don't think he cared about that!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Melton 21, Carter 74)

Exeter City - 2 (Bastow 13, Mudge 54)

Division 3, Attendance 3,524 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 4th, Exeter 20th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Knight; Goodwin, Clark, Anderson, Spedding (Hanmer); Janney, Melton, Lacey (Carter), Mayo; Renner, McDougald (Platt). BOOKED: Lacey, Carter.

 

Despite his match-saving performance, Ryan Carter would have to start March with a one-match ban after collecting his 5th yellow card of the season. A more immediate concern was the gash on Duncan Spedding's leg, which ruled the left-back out for a fortnight.

 

After briefly switching to a 4-4-2, the 3-5-2 formation was back in action when we went to 2nd-placed Bristol Rovers. Despite having their manager Glenn Roeder poached by Rochdale on New Year's Eve, the Gasheads had continued to sustain a promotion challenge under new boss Pete Mahon.

 

21 FEBRUARY 2004: Bristol Rovers vs Dagenham & Redbridge

We were all over Bristol Rovers in the first half, as Stephen Melton hit the bar in the 5th minute, and then had a late effort saved by Scott Howie, just after Victor Renner had come close to breaking his Daggers duck. Guess what the half-time scoreline was? That's right: 1-0 to the hosts, thanks to a 26th-minute goal from Barbados full-back Mark Boyce.

 

After I fired my players up at half-time, they delivered the perfect response early in the second period. A 49th-minute free-kick from Damien Lacey deflected off the Rovers wall and fell kindly towards Julian Alsop, whose pot-shot drew us level.

 

Alsop then completed the turnaround by scoring again four minutes later. The assist came from recent signing Lee Gledhill, who made an immediate impact after replacing a lacklustre Lee Goodwin at left-back.

 

Annoyingly, the classier Gasheads would soon get themselves back in the game. On 58 minutes, winger Stuart Brightwell swung in a deep cross that striker Martin Cameron rose high to head home. That meant we had to settle for another 2-2 draw, and while I was slightly happier with this solitary point, I couldn't help thinking we should've had more.

 

Bristol Rovers - 2 (Boyce 26, Cameron 58)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Alsop 49,53)

Division 3, Attendance 6,285 - POSITIONS: Bristol Rovers 2nd, Dag & Red 5th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Attacking): Knight; Clark, Bayliss, Anderson; Goodwin (Gledhill), Mayo; Weekes (Carter), Lacey; Melton; Alsop, Renner (McDougald).

 

Our growing defensive issues had been exasperated by the news that we needed to replace another goalkeeping coach. After just nine months at the club, Robert O'Connell had been signed by Bristol City for £50,000 compensation. Taking his place was 33-year-old Damian Matthew, who used to play for Chelsea and Crystal Palace... as a midfielder.

 

But let's be brutally honest - Bennett's still a liability, and Knight probably doesn't have the ability to be consistently relied upon in goal. Might we actually need to sign another goalkeeper as well?

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DIVISION 3 TABLE (End of February 2004)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Northampton                     34   13   3    1    37   17   10   3    4    32   21   75   
2nd     Bristol Rovers                  34   13   3    2    36   18   7    5    4    30   24   68   
3rd     Peterborough                    34   8    4    5    35   27   9    5    3    39   22   60   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4th     Colchester                      34   11   2    4    25   14   7    4    6    22   24   60   
5th     Dag & Red                       34   10   6    1    27   14   6    4    7    25   25   58   
6th     Plymouth                        34   7    3    6    26   22   10   2    6    37   27   56   
7th     Lincoln                         34   8    5    4    31   19   7    3    7    20   17   53   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
8th     Oxford                          34   11   4    2    27   13   4    4    9    17   26   53   
9th     Scunthorpe                      34   9    1    7    38   35   6    4    7    30   29   50   
10th    Brighton                        34   8    4    4    29   26   5    6    7    30   33   49   
11th    Torquay                         34   9    1    8    31   28   6    1    9    23   27   47   
12th    Rotherham                       34   10   2    5    34   29   4    3    10   24   37   47   
13th    Mansfield                       34   7    8    3    30   24   4    5    7    24   27   46   
14th    Macclesfield                    34   6    4    6    28   32   7    3    8    33   29   46   
15th    Shrewsbury                      34   8    4    5    27   20   5    2    10   32   41   45   
16th    Rushden                         34   8    4    5    26   23   4    3    10   28   40   43   
17th    Cheltenham                      34   7    6    5    31   34   4    3    9    24   32   42   
18th    Leyton Orient                   34   8    1    8    21   20   4    4    9    18   26   41   
19th    Hartlepool                      34   5    2    9    22   29   6    5    7    22   24   40   
20th    Exeter                          34   6    5    7    22   25   3    6    7    15   24   38   
21st    Stockport                       34   7    5    4    28   29   1    4    13   22   36   33   
22nd    Halifax                         34   5    7    4    22   22   1    6    11   17   37   31   
23rd    Oldham                          34   5    3    10   32   38   3    1    12   17   31   28   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
24th    Swansea                         34   6    3    8    29   32   0    4    13   9    35   25   

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Manchester United return to their ruthless best with three emphatic victories. After thumping Crewe 5-0 in the Premier League and Lyon 6-0 in the Champions League, they then overturn a League Cup Semi Final deficit against Division 1 outsiders Nottingham Forest, winning the second leg 4-0 at Old Trafford. The Red Devils also suffer a late 2-1 defeat at struggling Newcastle, but you can't have everything.
  • Sunderland are the latest big team to be dragged into a ridiculously competitive battle for Premiership survival. Manager Graham Rix loses his job after a 2-1 home loss to Southampton and is replaced by ex-Scotland midfielder John Collins, who had taken Portsmouth into the Division 1 play-off spots.
  • La Liga looks set to go to the wire. With a dozen games left to play, the top four teams - Barcelona, Valencia, Real Madrid and Deportivo - are separated by only one point. Barca regain 1st position on goal difference after 16-year-old Lionel Messi scores his first brace at home to Zaragoza.
  • Only six years after reaching the Cup Winners Cup Final, VfB Stuttgart hit a losing streak that leaves them just outside the Bundesliga relegation zone. Players are reportedly growing tired of Felix Magath's authoritarian coaching regime, which requires them to train for 27 hours a day, 8 days a week.
  • In a repeat of the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations Final, South Africa defend their title against Cameroon. After Cameroon midfielder Geremi opens the scoring in Khartoum, 20-year-old Elrio van Heerden steals an 89th-minute equaliser for Bafana Bafana, whose captain Lucas Radebe then seals a 4-3 shoot-out win.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • The New England Patriots win this year's Super Bowl, which is completely overshadowed by Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson's half-time show. Just after singing the line "bet I'll have you naked by the end of this song", Timberlake accidentally exposes Jackson's chest in front of 150 million TV viewers.
  • John Charles - one of Wales' greatest ever footballers - dies aged 72. 'The Gentle Giant' excelled as both a centre-back and a centre-forward for Leeds and Juventus in the 1950s, and was also a key member of the Welsh squad that reached the 1958 World Cup Quarter Finals.
  • Harvard University student Mark Zuckerberg launches a 'social networking' website, which he calls TheFacebook. Eh, sounds like yet another mediocre indie rock band. It won't catch on.
  • "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" wins a record-equalling 11 Academy Awards. Another cinematic masterpiece also reaps the awards, as Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck's "Gigli" claims SIX Golden Raspberries.
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MARCH 2004

After an erratic run of form which had seen us win one of our last seven matches, Dagenham & Redbridge's unlikely bid for successive promotions was flagging. We still found ourselves inside the play-off places with 12 games remaining, but if things didn't turn around, that wouldn't be the case for long.

 

We kicked off our March schedule at home to one of the teams looking to knock us out of that top seven. Scunthorpe were eight points behind us in 9th, and goals were almost guaranteed when the Iron came to Victoria Road. Brian Laws' team had scored and conceded in each of their last EIGHT games, of which five had ended in victories.

 

6 MARCH 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Scunthorpe United

Both captains had chances early in proceedings. Scunthorpe's skipper Richard Graham had the first crack after six minutes, but the Northern Irish midfielder's drive was tipped behind by Richard Knight. Daggers captain Damien Lacey would fare better 11 minutes later, cracking in a brilliant free-kick after a foul on Stephen Melton.

 

Scunthorpe were back on the attack in the 21st minute. Striker Lee Morris broke into our penalty area and had a dangerous effort stopped by Knight, who then somehow managed to save the rebound as well. No wonder Iron boss Brian Law was cursing his luck on the touchline!

 

We piled more misery on the visitors in the 31st minute, when Nick Weekes' midfield chip was headed into the net by Julian Alsop. That gave us a two-goal cushion, but only until the experienced Kim Grant grabbed one goal back for Scunthorpe eight minutes later. Had the tide turned?

 

Our newest signing Victor Renner settled any Daggers nerves four minutes into the second half, pouncing on a Lacey corner to score his first goal since arriving from Peterborough in January. Scunny had no answer to that, so I was confident enough to give late run-outs to a couple of teenagers. Midfielder Alan McLean looked a little shaky in only his second match, but striker Chris Griffiths thrived, heading in his first senior goal after 89 minutes to complete a 4-1 win!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 4 (Lacey 17, Alsop 31, Renner 49, Griffiths 89)

Scunthorpe United - 1 (Grant 39)

Division 3, Attendance 3,465 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 4th, Scunthorpe 9th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Attacking): Knight; Clark, Bayliss, Anderson; Goodwin (Gledhill), Mayo; Weekes, Lacey; Melton (McLean); Alsop, Renner (Griffiths).

 

No exaggeration: that was our BEST performance of the season. That was the kind of swashbuckling attacking display I'd always known we were capable of.

 

Four days later, we went to Layer Road for a big Essex derby against Colchester. Either team had the potential to jump into the automatic promotion spots with a victory, provided that 3rd-placed Peterborough couldn't get a result at 2nd-placed Bristol Rovers.

 

I'd spent some time analysing our away performances to see if I could do anything to improve our record on the road. After noticing that we were far leakier at the back whenever we left Dagenham, I decided to switch to a more defensive version of the 3-5-2 - with a defensive midfielder protecting the back three, instead of an attacking midfielder complementing the front two.

 

10 MARCH 2004: Colchester United vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Our more defensive-minded approach worked well in the first half, as we shut out Colchester superbly. Goalkeeper Richard Knight looked especially confident in saving an 11th-minute effort from young U's striker Dave Williams.

 

Meanwhile, Colchester's defence had a quiet night, even after centre-half Ross Johnson came off with a broken toe late in the first half. The few counter-attacks we managed to muster were very poor, and target man Julian Alsop was unable to make much use of the limited service he got.

 

While I was content with a 0-0 draw, I wanted us to push forward for a late winner, so I switched to the more attacking 3-5-2 for the closing stages. And sure enough, the deadlock was broken eight minutes from full-time... by Colchester midfielder Calem Connelly. After skipping past Ryan Carter, Connelly skimmed a low shot across the wet surface with enough pace to beat Knight and break our hearts.

 

Colchester United - 1 (Connelly 82)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Division 3, Attendance 2,285 - POSITIONS: Colchester 4th, Dag & Red 5th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Defensive): Knight; Clark, Bayliss, Anderson; Gledhill, Lacey, Mayo (Spedding); Weekes (Melton), Carter; Alsop, Renner.

 

I'll hold my hands up there. The new tactic was getting us a decent result, until I threw it away to try and chase a better one. And now we were five points off automatic promotion.

 

There would certainly be no excuses for a defeat in our next match. Having suffered four defeats in a row, Oldham were in awful form that they now found themselves only three points above rock-bottom Swansea.

 

13 MARCH 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Oldham Athletic

From the outset, it looked like it would be another of those games. I could have mistaken Oldham's Northern Irish goalkeeper David Miskelly for the new Pat Jennings after he made countless saves in the first half. Pretty much his only mistakes came in the 26th minute, when he brought down Stephen Melton in the area, then failed to keep out the resulting penalty from Dean Clark.

 

Other than that, Miskelly was almost unbeatable for the Latics. To be fair, John Anderson was pretty solid in the heart of the Daggers defence too, helping to keep Oldham's attacks at bay. You know what's coming, right?

 

Yep. After 70 minutes, Oldham equalised. Richard Knight tried his best to keep out a powerful shot from midfielder Paul Rickers, but he was unable to stop the rebound from teenage substitute David O'Donoghue. When Miskelly made one more wonder save eight minutes later to deny Victor Renner a Daggers winner, we were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Clark pen26)

Oldham Athletic - 1 (O'Donoghue 70)

Division 3, Attendance 3,479 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 5th, Oldham 23rd

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Attacking): Knight; Clark, Bayliss, Anderson; Goodwin (Gledhill), Mayo; Weekes (Carter), Lacey; Melton; Alsop, McDougald (Renner).

 

Not a defeat... but still a dismal result that effectively killed any hopes we had of going up automatically.

 

And now we found ourselves up against the league leaders on their own patch. Northampton were eight points clear at the top, and had a 15-point gap to 4th-placed Colchester, so it was surely only a matter of when the Cobblers' promotion as Division 3 champions was confirmed.

 

16 MARCH 2004: Northampton Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Northampton really didn't take long to make a mockery of our 'defensive' tactic. The most-feared team in the division went on the attack immediately, forcing Richard Knight into three saves in the first 10 minutes before Michael O'Byrne found the net. Thankfully, the offside flag went straight up against the Irish frontman.

 

It was only a temporary stay of execution. O'Byrne's strike partner Sam Parkin did break the deadlock just three minutes later, beating John Anderson to power in a header from Jeffrey Aubynn's cross. Aubynn caused us more agony in the 21st minute, as the one-cap Sweden winger doubled the Cobblers' lead with a cool low finish.

 

But from 2-0 down, we started to show all our experience. Within three minutes of Aubynn doubling Northampton's lead, Julian Alsop had halved it by heading in his 10th goal of the season. Meanwhile, John Anderson continued his surprisingly prolific record from centre-half, getting his 6th of the campaign to complete the fightback four minutes from half-time.

 

And then the pendulum swung back to Northampton. O'Byrne scored not one, but TWO goals in first-half stoppage time to leave us trailing at the break. Frankly, captain Damien Lacey was doing such a miserable job of playing the holding midfield role that I substituted him just before the half-time whistle!

 

While the second half lacked all the ridiculous drama of the first, it was much less painful for travelling Daggers fans. Midway through the latter period, Ryan Carter climbed above Cobblers keeper Joe Murphy to head in a free-kick from Nick Weekes, who had assisted all three of our goals. Sadly, we couldn't quite grab another, as Shaun Smith's last-ditch tackle on Victor Renner in the 86th minute effectively confirmed our defeat.

 

Northampton Town - 4 (Parkin 13, Aubynn 21, O'Byrne 45,45)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Alsop 24, Anderson 41, Carter 68)

Division 3, Attendance 4,097 - POSITIONS: Northampton 1st, Dag & Red 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Defensive): Knight; Clark, Bayliss, Spedding; Janney (Gledhill), Lacey (McLean), Spedding; Weekes, Carter; Alsop, McDougald (Renner). BOOKED: Anderson.

 

It had been 10 games since our last clean sheet. If anyone was wondering why our form had fallen off a cliff in recent months, that was another reason why.

 

With Richard Knight having lost his shining armour, and Ian Bennett still grumbling about our falling-out in January, I decided it was time to bring in another goalkeeper.

 

Ex-Northampton boss Nigel Winterburn - who's now at Division 2 high-flyers Wrexham - agreed to send the Dragons' veteran goalkeeper Mike Pollitt on loan to us for the next few weeks. Mike had made 377 Football League appearances in a journeyman career, and he was still quite agile for a 32-year-old.

 

Pollitt's Daggers debut came at home to Oxford, who would leapfrog us into 6th place with a victory. Captain Damien Lacey's form had taken such a dramatic turn for the worse lately that I dropped him from the squad completely, with John Anderson being chosen to lead the Daggers out instead.

 

27 MARCH 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Oxford United

After his hat-trick of assists the previous week, Nick Weekes wasted little time in extending his hot streak. On 19 minutes, a young midfielder played a superb ball into the Oxford area for Julian Alsop, who blasted in the opener - to the delight of the Victoria Road faithful!

 

Sadly, Alsop's strike partner Victor Renner was still waiting to add to his solitary Daggers goal. The crossbar denied him (and us) a second strike on the half-hour mark after some great build-up play from Jules. That miss would come back to bite us in the 35th minute, when Oxford winger Chris Hackett's cross was finished by striker James Newell for the equaliser. There wasn't much our debutant goalkeeper Mike Pollitt could've done about it.

 

After Pollitt made a couple of strong stops either side of half-time to keep us level, Alsop set about restoring our lead. Nine minutes after the restart, attacking midfielder Stephen Melton exchanged passes with Weeks and then knocked a through-ball ahead of Alsop, who showed his killer touch again to make it 2-1!

 

That goal would be the crucial one. Though U's goalkeeper Lionel Perez bravely stopped either Weekes or Renner from extending our advantage, we held enough control of the midfield to finish the job and return to winning ways.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Alsop 19,54)

Oxford United - 1 (Newell 35)

Division 3, Attendance 3,729 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 6th, Oxford 7th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Attacking): Pollitt; Clark, Bayliss, Anderson; Gledhill (Goodwin), Spedding; Weekes, Carter (McLean); Melton; Alsop, Renner (Griffiths).

 

No debut clean sheet for Pollitt, but what a precious victory for the Daggers! Might that be the one which fires us into the play-offs?

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DIVISION 3 TABLE (End of March 2004)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  Pl Northampton                     39   15   3    1    46   22   11   4    5    37   24   85   
2nd     Peterborough                    39   11   4    5    41   28   11   5    3    42   23   75   
3rd     Bristol Rovers                  39   13   4    3    38   21   9    5    5    38   29   75   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4th     Colchester                      39   12   2    5    26   15   8    5    7    25   26   67   
5th     Lincoln                         39   10   6    4    36   21   9    3    7    27   19   66   
6th     Dag & Red                       39   12   7    1    34   17   6    4    9    28   30   65   
7th     Oxford                          39   13   4    2    31   15   5    4    11   23   32   62   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
8th     Torquay                         39   11   1    8    38   31   8    1    10   29   31   59   
9th     Brighton                        39   10   4    5    36   30   6    6    8    35   40   58   
10th    Macclesfield                    39   8    5    6    34   36   8    4    8    37   32   57   
11th    Mansfield                       39   9    8    3    36   24   5    6    8    26   29   56   
12th    Plymouth                        39   7    3    9    27   29   10   2    8    38   31   56   
13th    Rotherham                       39   12   2    6    40   33   4    4    11   25   40   54   
14th    Scunthorpe                      39   10   1    8    41   38   6    4    10   34   40   53   
15th    Shrewsbury                      39   9    4    6    31   26   6    3    11   33   42   52   
16th    Hartlepool                      39   7    2    9    27   31   7    6    8    28   28   50   
17th    Leyton Orient                   39   10   1    9    26   24   5    4    10   19   28   50   
18th    Cheltenham                      39   7    7    6    31   36   5    3    11   28   40   46   
19th    Rushden                         39   8    4    8    29   32   4    4    11   31   44   44   
20th    Exeter                          39   7    6    8    26   30   3    6    9    17   28   42   
21st    Stockport                       39   8    7    4    33   31   1    4    15   25   41   38   
22nd    Halifax                         39   6    8    5    25   26   1    6    13   18   40   35   
23rd    Oldham                          39   6    3    11   35   41   3    2    14   18   39   32   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
24th    Swansea                         39   6    3    10   33   38   1    4    15   14   44   28   

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Tottenham finally lose faith in manager John Toshack after being thrashed 4-0 at White Hart Lane by Manchester United, in which Ruud van Nistelrooy bags a hat-trick. As they desperately try to avoid slipping into Division 1, Spurs weight up several exotic European candidates... and then give the job to Grimsby's Alan Cork.
  • United then cause more misery for the other half of North London, as a 2-0 home victory at Old Trafford effectively ends Arsenal's title challenge. Media reports suggest that Arsène Wenger has fallen out with Laurent Robert after the Gunners winger is subbed midway through the first half.
  • Bayern München put the rest of Europe on high alert by thrashing Inter 6-0 in their final Champions League Phase 2 group game... or at least they would have if they hadn't already been knocked out. Juventus also fail to reach the Quarter Finals, and with the Old Lady stuck in the middle of the Serie A table, it seems they'll miss out on Europe completely next season!
  • Barcelona also exit the Champions League, which actually helps them to consolidate top spot in La Liga. Four successive shut-out wins send the Catalans five points clear of Real Madrid, whose form has stuttered since everybody fell out with moody backup midfielder Flávio Conceição.
  • Having retired from playing two years ago, Wales head coach Mark Hughes gets bored and decides he fancies a more stimulating day job. Hughes takes a second managerial role at Cork City, who are bottom of the Irish Premier Division.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • Three days before the Spanish general election, terrorists carry out a series of coordinated bombings on four trains in Madrid. 193 people are killed and a further 2,000 are injured.
  • The Republic of Ireland bans smoking in all enclosed workplaces, bars and restaurants - becoming the first country in the world to enforce such a law. Meanwhile, a BBC poll finds that 73% of Britons would support a public smoking ban in the UK.
  • Academy Award-winning actor Sir Peter Ustinov dies aged 82. As well as starring in films such as "Spartacus" and "The Great Muppet Caper", he was a skilful storyteller and a UNICEF goodwill ambassador.
  • Usher's "Confessions" burns all its competition and becomes the first album by a solo R&B artist to sell 1 million copies in its first week. Yeah!
Edited by CFuller
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  • 2 weeks later...

APRIL 2004

The Division 3 season was into its closing stages, and the pressure was cranking up on Dagenham & Redbridge. Yes, we had done fantastically to stay in the top seven for virtually the entire campaign, but with 8th-placed Torquay just six points behind, a play-off spot was still far from secure.

 

Our defence had sprung a few leaks in recent weeks, and it had been 11 matches since our last clean sheet - at home to Leyton Orient on 21 January. We had to go even further back to find our last away win - at Lincoln on 27 December.

 

We had plenty to prove, then, when we travelled across the border into south Wales. Swansea had been effectively rooted to the bottom since losing their first six matches, and their situation wasn't much better now after conceding 15 goals in their last five. That said, the Swans did keep a rare clean sheet at Victoria Road in November, so we wouldn't underestimate them when we went to their Vetch Field ground for the rematch.

 

3 APRIL 2004: Swansea City vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Swansea's teenage goalkeeper Steve Dale initially put up strong resistance, making a couple of early saves. After 23 minutes, though, he was finally beaten by Daggers skipper Damien Lacey, who marked his return to the Vetch Field with a typical low drive.

 

The hosts got themselves back level after 35 minutes. Having had a couple of efforts saved by Mike Pollitt earlier on, it was third time lucky for Swansea's Malian frontman Mamady Sidibe. A minute after losing our lead, though, we restored it through just a second Daggers goal for our big January signing Victor Renner.

 

A nail-biting second half saw Sidibe waste a couple of opportunities to restore parity for the Swans. We eventually survived his onslaught, and Lacey eventually completed a 3-1 Dagenham win with a last-minute free-kick. Getting on the end of it was the experienced Ian Selley, who drove in his first goal for the club!

 

Swansea City - 1 (Sidibe 35)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Lacey 23, Renner 36, Selley 90)

Division 3, Attendance 3,578 - POSITIONS: Swansea 24th, Dag & Red 5th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Attacking): Pollitt; Clark, Bayliss, Anderson; Gledhill, Spedding (Mayo); Weekes, Lacey; Melton (Selley); Alsop, Renner (McDougald).

 

It's a miracle! An away win - AND a goal for Ian Selley! All we needed was a bloody clean sheet!

 

Awards season passed without any of our players making the PFA's Division 3 Team of the Year. At least we remained six points clear in the play-off places, with six games to play. The first home match of our run-in was against Shrewsbury, who still had an outside chance of breaking into that top seven.

 

10 APRIL 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Shrewsbury Town

A couple of young midfielders combined to give Shrewsbury the perfect start after just three minutes. Luke Hardy's low cross was finished by winger Nick Evans, who showed that wearing the number 13 shirt was not unlucky for him!

 

13 wasn't an unfortunate number for Julian Alsop either. It was Jules' 13th goal of the campaign that drew us level eight minutes from half-time. Victor Renner's header was spilled by Shrews keeper Ian Dunbavin, and Alsop pounced on the rebound - to the delight and relief of many at Victoria Road.

 

Sadly, one point would not be converted into three. Dunbavin was almost faultless for the rest of the match. When all was said and done, he had made seven saves en route to a 'man of the match' display. That's not bad for a goalie whose previous seven matches this season had seen him ship 9 goals and record a 6.14 average rating. It's also typical that his best performance just so happened to come against us.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Alsop 37)

Shrewsbury Town - 1 (Evans 3)

Division 3, Attendance 3,578 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 6th, Shrewsbury 16th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Attacking): Pollitt; Clark, Bayliss, Anderson; Gledhill (Janney), Mayo; Weekes (Selley), Lacey; Melton (Griffiths); Alsop, Renner.

 

Despite having a non-existent defence and a wasteful attack, we still managed to not only save a draw - but also extend our lead over 8th place to seven points!

 

Next up was a trip to The Shay to face third-from-bottom Halifax. I switched back to a 4-4-2 for this match, and I also restored right-winger Mark Janney and midfielder Ryan Carter after dropping them for recent games. However, I stopped short of a recall for goalkeeper Ian Bennett, who still hadn't caught a football since his game-costing red card against Halifax three months ago.

 

17 APRIL 2004: Halifax Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Such was the state of our defence that, even against one of the division's worst attacks, we quickly found ourselves on the back foot. Though Mike Pollitt tried his best to keep his sheet clean, it was eventually ruined in the 31st minute by a rocket from Neil Barlow. Ken and Gary would have been proud of that one, to be fair.

 

Halifax's on-loan Leicester goalkeeper Michael Price tipped behind a potential equaliser from Victor Renner in the 41st minute. Mark Janney swung the resulting corner into the box, and though it was blocked by a Shaymen defender, Julian Alsop was on hand to blast home the rebound and equalise. Turning point, perhaps?

 

Nope. A couple of substitutes that Halifax boss John Sheran made in the second half would swing the game firmly in the hosts' favour. Striker/commentator's nightmare Steve Oleksewycz opened up our defence in the 78th minute with a fantastic square ball to midfielder Bobby MacDonald. The tap-in beat Pollitt, and we had gone down to another late loss.

 

Halifax Town - 2 (Barlow 31, MacDonald 78)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Alsop 42)

Division 3, Attendance 2,266 - POSITIONS: Halifax 22nd, Dag & Red 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Pollitt; Gledhill (Clark), Bayliss, Anderson, Spedding; Janney (Grant), Lacey (Melton), Carter, Mayo; Alsop, Renner. BOOKED: Lacey.

 

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS BLOODY TEAM?!

 

[Sigh] We didn't have long to stew over that, because Plymouth came to Victoria Road just two days later. And after being given the cold shoulder for 18 matches straight, Bennett finally got another chance in goal.

 

19 APRIL 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Plymouth Argyle

We gave Plymouth a scare after just two minutes. Nick Weekes' free-kick into the Argyle box found Julian Alsop, whose header was tipped behind by Tony Warner. However, that would be the only time our attack even threatened the ex-Millwall goalkeeper in the first half.

 

Plymouth winger Martin Phillips then had a couple of early attacks before the game fizzled out a bit. Then, on the stroke of half-time, Phillips came alive again - dribbling past Daggers defenders Lee Gledhill and Dave Bayliss before unleashing a fierce shot. Ian Bennett almost kept it out, but another clean sheet had gone begging, and we once again found ourselves chasing an opposition lead.

 

This had been a difficult season for Junior McDougald, whose latest dry spell was extended by a strong Warner save in the 53rd minute. His Daggers strike partner Alsop had another crack at goal a quarter-hour later, beating Argyle full-back Jason Chewins to head in another potent Weekes free-kicks.

 

Plymouth now had to chew over losing two decisive points in their late push for the play-offs, though we weren't exactly delighted at only winning one point ourselves. This was a 1-1 draw that didn't really help either side.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Alsop 69)

Plymouth Argyle - 1 (Phillips 43)

Division 3, Attendance 3,322 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 6th, Plymouth 11th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Defensive): Bennett; Bayliss, Clark, Anderson; Gledhill, Lacey, Spedding (Mayo); Weekes, Selley, Alsop, McDougald (Griffiths).

 

Those recent slip-ups meant that, with three games remaining, our lead over 8th place was cut down to just four points.

 

That said, we now had our first chance to secure a play-off spot by beating Hartlepool, providing that other results went our way. We just needed to do it without right-back Lee Gledhill, who was out for three weeks with a calf strain.

 

24 APRIL 2004: Hartlepool United vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Hartlepool winger Ian Clark had the first effort on goal after five minutes, but Daggers goalkeeper Ian Bennett confidently beat it away. That was a positive sign from Bennett, who also kept Graeme Lee and Adam Boyd off the scoresheet. After 15 straight games of watching a Daggers goalkeeper retrieve the ball from his net, our three-month wait for a clean sheet was finally coming to an end!

 

I wish there were more positives to share from this match but... quite frankly, our counter-attacking game never got going. Playmaker Nick Weekes and target forward Julian Alsop were two crucial parts of that plan, but when both men were having off-days, our chances of scoring were pretty much nil. A boring 0-0 was the best result we could hope for, really.

 

Hartlepool United - 0

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Division 3, Attendance 3,166 - POSITIONS: Hartlepool 16th, Dag & Red 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Defensive): Bennett; Bayliss, Rose, Anderson; Goodwin, Lacey, Mayo; Weekes (Melton), Carter; Alsop (McDougald), Renner.

 

Because 8th-placed Torquay won their match, they're now just two points behind us - with two games left to play. Either we're going to fall over the line, or this is going to be one of the most spectacular second-half collapses in recent Football League history.

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DIVISION 3 TABLE (End of April 2004)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  Northampton                     44   16   4    2    52   27   13   4    5    40   25   95   
2nd  P  Peterborough                    44   12   5    5    46   31   14   5    3    48   25   88   
3rd  Pl Bristol Rovers                  44   14   5    3    42   24   9    6    7    44   40   80   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4th     Colchester                      44   14   2    6    32   18   8    6    8    28   30   74   
5th     Lincoln                         44   11   7    4    40   24   9    6    7    31   23   73   
6th     Dag & Red                       44   12   9    1    36   19   7    5    10   32   33   71   
7th     Brighton                        44   12   4    5    40   31   8    6    9    46   48   70   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
8th     Torquay                         44   13   2    8    45   35   9    1    11   32   33   69   
9th     Mansfield                       44   11   8    3    40   24   6    7    9    31   34   66   
10th    Plymouth                        44   9    4    9    32   31   10   3    9    39   34   64   
11th    Oxford                          44   13   5    4    33   20   5    5    12   25   35   64   
12th    Macclesfield                    44   9    7    6    40   40   8    4    10   38   38   62   
13th    Rotherham                       44   13   3    6    45   37   5    5    12   29   43   62   
14th    Shrewsbury                      44   11   5    6    36   28   6    4    12   35   45   60   
15th    Scunthorpe                      44   12   2    8    48   42   6    4    12   36   46   60   
16th    Hartlepool                      44   9    3    10   33   35   7    7    8    29   29   58   
17th    Leyton Orient                   44   10   2    10   28   27   6    5    11   23   31   55   
18th    Rushden                         44   10   4    8    34   34   5    4    13   32   47   53   
19th    Cheltenham                      44   8    7    7    35   40   5    3    14   32   50   49   
20th    Exeter                          44   7    7    8    27   31   3    8    11   19   33   45   
21st    Stockport                       44   9    7    6    39   40   1    5    16   28   46   42   
22nd    Halifax                         44   8    8    6    31   32   1    7    14   21   44   42   
23rd    Oldham                          44   7    4    11   39   42   3    3    16   22   46   37   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
24th R  Swansea                         44   6    3    13   34   44   1    4    17   16   49   28   

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Despite having his knees held together by blu-tac and sellotape, Leeds playmaker Harry Kewell scores twice to defeat Manchester United 2-1 in the League Cup Final. As his manager David O'Leary lifts the trophy at the rebuilt Wembley Stadium, Whites chairman Peter Ridsdale proclaims, "Now I don't have to sell my goldfish!"
  • Roma recover from a 1-0 half-time deficit to beat Lazio 3-1 and take a clear lead at the top of Serie A. The eternal rivals remain on course to meet again in the Champions League Final, after defeating Arsenal and Manchester United respectively in the Quarter Finals.
  • After Juventus' worst league finish since the 1960s is confirmed, under-fire manager Marcello Lippi is finally shown the door. It's also a bad month for Martin O'Neill, whose two-and-a-half-year stay at Galatasaray ends after a humiliating 3-0 away defeat to arch-rivals Fenerbahce.
  • The big surprise of the Champions League Quarter Finals sees Real Madrid lose 4-0 on aggregate to Portuguese Primeira Liga runners-up. The Dragões stay in contention for an unexpected second European Cup, thanks to the managerial talents of their suave, sophisticated head coach - Octávio Machado.
  • Rangers regain the Scottish Premier League with three games to spare, ending three years of Celtic dominance. The Bhoys never really recovered after their star striker Henrik Larsson tore a groin muscle in October.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • West Indies batsman Brian Lara records the highest ever individual score in Test cricket - 400 not out - against England. Even his fellow Trinbagonian Dwight Yorke isn't that prolific!
  • A 13-year-old Norwegian chess prodigy named Magnus Carlsen becomes the second-youngest Grandmaster in the game's history. To put that into perspective, the great Bobby Fischer didn't achieve that rank until he was the ripe old age of 15. Let's hope Magnus doesn't end up spouting extreme conspiracy theories too...
  • After avoiding capture for six years, Shrek the sheep is finally shorn at his farm in Tarras, New Zealand. His huge fleece weighs 27 kilograms (60 pounds) and contained enough wool to make 20 large men's suits! And you think you have a hard time getting your children to have their hair cut!
  • Tina Fey's teen comedy film "Mean Girls" - starring a squeaky-clean Lindsay Lohan - is released in cinemas. It's met with positive reviews from critics and cinemagoers alike, though they won't think of buttered muffins in the same way again.
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MAY 2004

Back in December, Dagenham & Redbridge were flying high in the Division 3 promotion places. Now, we were struggling just to qualify for the play-offs. While this had already been a great Football League debut season regardless of the outcome, it would still be bitterly disappointing if we didn't even manage that.

 

Mind you, one of the main reasons why we were still in play-off contention at all was our solid home form. Though we had drawn a lot of games at Victoria Road, Mansfield were the only visiting team to have come away from Dagenham with maximum points - and that was all the way back in September.

 

Hoping to follow in Mansfield's footsteps were our last visitors of the regular season - Macclesfield. Though Danny Whitehead was comfortably leading the top scorer charts with an unbelievable 40 goals, Macc were in 12th place and had nothing to play for.

 

If we won this match, we would move onto 74 points, which would secure a play-off place with a game to spare. The two teams directly below us - Brighton (7th, 70 points) and Torquay (8th, 69 points) - were playing each other at the Withdean Stadium, so it was impossible for both of them to reach 74 points.

 

1 MAY 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Macclesfield Town

Though Danny Whitehead's pursuit of his 41st goal this season wasn't successful (with him missing a couple of early chances), Macclesfield did draw first blood after 22 minutes. The breakthrough came via left-winger Danny Coid, who drove in a through-ball from left-back Danny Adams to end our hopes of back-to-back clean sheets.

 

We were still trailing 1-0 at half-time, and our situation looked even more desperate when Julian Alsop came off with an ankle injury on 59 minutes. 18-year-old Chris Griffiths came on in Jules' place, but it was an earlier substitute who would change the game four minutes later. Nick Weekes - a half-time midfield replacement for the disappointing Stephen Melton - equalised with a clinical rebound shot after Macc goalkeeper Lee Martin had denied Ryan Carter.

 

Then, seven minutes from time, our third substitute helped to complete the turnaround. Dean Clark had also come on at half-time, taking Lee Goodwin's place at right-back. His pinpoint cross found Griffiths, whose point-blank header was a priceless - and very important - match-winner!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Weekes 63, Griffiths 83)

Macclesfield Town - 1 (Coid 22)

Division 3, Attendance 2,928 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 6th, Macclesfield 14th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Attacking): Bennett; Bayliss, Rose, Anderson; Goodwin (Clark), Mayo; Carter, Lacey; Melton (Weekes); Alsop (Griffiths), Renner. BOOKED: Carter.

 

Chris Griffiths, you fabulous Welsh angel! In our first season as a Football League club, Dagenham & Redbridge were into the Division 3 play-offs!

 

Griffiths was rewarded with an early 18th birthday present - a first senior start, when we visited lowly Stockport in our final game of the regular season. Unfortunately, top scorer Julian Alsop had to stay at home with a sprained ankle, and he was also set to miss the first leg of our Semi Final.

 

9 MAY 2004: Stockport County vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Chris Griffiths' full debut started with a brilliant assist for his more experienced strike partner Victor Renner, who drove us into the lead after four minutes. That should have settled us down nice and early and put us on track for victory, right?

 

Unfortunately, another rookie in the Daggers line-up had a less positive impact eight minutes later. 19-year-old defender Richard Rose was penalised for a needless push on Stockport midfielder Stephen Watson. Delapo Olaoye swung in the resultant free-kick, which Rose's Hatters counterpart Paul Deas headed home to ruin his day.

 

The rest of the match was surprisingly competitive for an apparent dead-rubber, with both teams going all-out for a winner. Unfortunately, in a mirror image of our previous game, our early lead was turned into a 2-1 defeat late on. Dean Clark's slide tackle on Stockport striker Jon Daley could only divert the ball to winger Scott Taylor, whose strike allowed the Edgeley Park faithful to end a disappointing season in a celebratory mood.

 

Stockport County - 2 (Deas 12, Taylor 81)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Renner 4)

Division 3, Attendance 5,175 - POSITIONS: Stockport 21st, Dag & Red 7th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Attacking): Bennett; Bayliss, Rose (Clark), Anderson; Goodwin, Mayo (Spedding); Carter, Lacey; Melton (McDougald); Renner, Griffiths.

 

That result pushed us down to 7th, and meant we would play the highest-ranked team in the Playoff Semi Finals - 4th-placed Lincoln. We actually had a pretty good record against the Imps, beating them both home and away. We were certainly happier to avoid Colchester and Torquay, who faced each other in the other Semi.

 

Even so, we would head into the play-offs as rank outsiders, having won just one of our last six matches, and having kept only one clean sheet in our last 18.

 

15 MAY 2004: Lincoln City vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Lincoln set about attacking us early on, with winger Tonton Zola Moukoko and midfielder Terry Dunfield both causing our defence real problems. Thankfully, John Anderson was as rock-solid as ever at centre-half, and our other team leader Damien Lacey protected the backline with several vital interceptions.

 

Meanwhile, our old goalscoring problems came back to bite us. Ryan Carter's effort just before half-time was well stopped by Lincoln goalkeeper Glynn Thompson. That summed up another miserable afternoon in which nothing we tried could beat Thompson, whose assured shotstopping was crucial in giving the Imps the best defensive record among the four play-off entrants.

 

Alan Buckley's side weren't too bad at the other end either. When centre-back and captain Richard Logan played an excellent ball to Moukoko in the 62nd minute, the silky Swede pounced to finally break our resistance.

 

And that was the game. Lincoln's defenders - in particular their long-serving right-back Jason Barnett - were just too resilient in the final half-hour for us to break through. We would have to go back home with a 1-0 deficit from the first leg of this Semi Final.

 

Lincoln City - 1 (Moukoko 62)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Division 3 Playoff Semi Final Leg 1, Attendance 6,975

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Bennett; Gledhill, Bayliss, Anderson, Mayo; Carter, Lacey, Weekes (Janney); Melton (Griffiths); Renner, McDougald.

 

We had it all to do, then, when Victoria Road staged its final match of the season four days later. Could we mount a comeback and secure a date at Wembley... or was this the end of our play-off dream?

 

19 MAY 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Lincoln City

Hopes were high that Julian Alsop would lead a home comeback, but after the opening 20 minutes, it looked very much like this wouldn't be the target man's night. Jules' first attempt on goal after six minutes was well stopped by Glynn Thompson, but two subsequent efforts didn't even get near the Lincoln keeper or his net.

 

Meanwhile, Ian Bennett was putting up a brave fight to stop the visitors from extending their first-leg advantage. Centre-back Shaun Garnett and midfielder Patrick McLaughlin were each thwarted by the 32-year-old, which meant we headed into half-time with our hopes still just about intact.

 

After a couple of promising early second-half attacks, we finally got what we wanted in the 63rd minute. Alsop might not have been in goalscoring form, but he did provide his strike partner Victor Renner with a fabulous through-ball that was clinically driven into the net. 1-0 Daggers on the night, 1-1 on aggregate!

 

But just three minutes later, Dagenham's captain made the biggest mistake of our season. With McLaughlin about to take Lincoln striker Lee Thorpe's through-ball into our penalty area, Damien Lacey carelessly stuck a leg out to bring him down. The referee pointed to the spot, and winger Paul Smith converted it to restore City's aggregate lead.

 

There would be no response to Lincoln's second goal of the tie. The Imps defended stubbornly again after doing exactly what they needed to, and while Jason Barnett was the man of the first match, it was Garnett who stood out in the second. He and Richard Logan did a fantastic job of keeping Renner and substitute Chris Griffiths in check for the closing stages - and with that, our season was over.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Renner 63)

Lincoln City - 1 (P Smith 66)

[Lincoln City win 2-1 on aggregate]

Division 3 Playoff Semi Final Leg 2, Attendance 5,977

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Bennett; Gledhill, Bayliss, Anderson, Mayo; Carter, Lacey, Weekes; Melton (Griffiths); Alsop (Griffiths), Renner.

 

At full-time, I let out a defeated sigh, shook Alan Buckley's hand and wished him the best of luck in the Final. Lincoln were definitely the stronger team over the two legs and deserved their place at Wembley, where they would beat Torquay and earn promotion to Division 2.

 

This was a very disappointing end to the season, but when all was said and done, I had to put things into perspective. This was our first season up, and our main objective was simply to survive. We didn't just avoid relegation very comfortably; we actually came pretty damn close to consecutive promotions.

 

And yet there were alarming signs of major problems that would need to be addressed before next season. We picked up 45 points in the first half of the season, but only 29 in the second half.

 

Much of the responsibility for that shocking decline had to go to the defence, who conceded a respectable 23 goals in our first 23 games, only to then ship 32 in our next 23. Keeping only two clean sheets since the turn of the year is unacceptable.

 

While centre-backs John Anderson and Dave Bayliss had been among our best performers (each posting average ratings on the right side of 7.00), they needed some proper support. We also needed a consistent goalkeeper between the sticks, as clearly neither Ian Bennett nor Richard Knight was the answer.

 

At the other end, we had another issue that had been prevalent throughout the season, even when we were getting results. 71 goals over 46 games might sound pretty decent... until you bear in mind that this is a very high-scoring league, and we were actually mid-table on the goal charts. The three teams who won automatic promotion all scored 90 or more.

 

Our top marksman Alsop only hit 13 goals, which placed him joint-30th in the golden boot standings. To put that into perspective, each of the four promoted teams had one striker who bagged 25+ (Sam Parkin for Northampton, Leon McKenzie for Peterborough, Nathan Ellington for Bristol Rovers, and Lee Thorpe for Lincoln).

 

We need our own goal machine, especially as Alsop and Junior McDougald haven't been able to recapture their Conference magic. McDougald found the step up particularly difficult, only finding the net five times. Even the man I signed as Junior's long-term replacement - Victor Renner - has been slow to get up and running since signing from Peterborough in January.

 

McDougald wasn't our only stalwart to struggle with League football. Right-back Lee Goodwin and right-winger Mark Janney have also become much less dependable. They are the last remaining links to the Daggers side I inherited from Garry Hill in 2001, but I fear their days as regular starters might be over.

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DIVISION 3 TABLE (End of 2003/2004 season)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  Northampton                     46   16   4    3    53   29   14   4    5    43   25   98   
2nd  P  Peterborough                    46   13   5    5    47   31   14   6    3    48   25   92   
3rd  P  Bristol Rovers                  46   14   5    4    44   27   10   6    7    46   41   83   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4th  P  Lincoln                         46   12   7    4    42   25   10   6    7    34   23   79   
5th     Colchester                      46   14   2    7    33   21   9    6    8    30   31   77   
6th     Torquay                         46   13   2    8    45   35   11   1    11   37   35   75   
7th     Dag & Red                       46   13   9    1    38   20   7    5    11   33   35   74   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
8th     Mansfield                       46   12   8    3    42   24   7    7    9    34   34   72   
9th     Brighton                        46   12   4    7    41   36   8    6    9    46   48   70   
10th    Rotherham                       46   14   3    6    46   37   6    5    12   31   43   68   
11th    Scunthorpe                      46   13   2    8    51   43   7    4    12   39   48   66   
12th    Macclesfield                    46   10   7    6    43   41   8    4    11   39   40   65   
13th    Plymouth                        46   9    4    10   32   33   10   3    10   39   35   64   
14th    Oxford                          46   13   5    5    34   22   5    5    13   25   36   64   
15th    Shrewsbury                      46   11   6    6    37   29   6    4    13   35   47   61   
16th    Hartlepool                      46   9    4    10   33   35   7    8    8    31   31   60   
17th    Rushden                         46   11   4    8    36   35   6    4    13   34   47   59   
18th    Leyton Orient                   46   10   3    10   30   29   6    5    12   24   34   56   
19th    Cheltenham                      46   8    8    7    38   43   6    3    14   34   51   53   
20th    Exeter                          46   7    7    9    27   34   3    9    11   20   34   46   
21st    Stockport                       46   10   7    6    41   41   1    5    17   29   48   45   
22nd    Halifax                         46   8    8    7    31   34   1    7    15   22   46   42   
23rd    Oldham                          46   7    4    12   40   44   3    3    17   23   49   37   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
24th R  Swansea                         46   6    3    14   34   47   1    5    17   19   52   29   

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • For the third year in a row, an Italian club wins the Champions League Final with a golden goal. This time, it's Roma who celebrate, as club icon Francesco Totti scores in the 102nd minute to leave Liverpool heartbroken once again. The Giallorossi's first European Cup caps off a tremendous season in which Fabio Capello's side also dethrone Lazio at the top of Serie A.
  • Gérard Houllier's decision to join Milan late last season pays off, as the Frenchman lifts his second UEFA Cup in four years. Paul Lambert's Italian cousin Lamberto Zauli scores one goal and sets up another for Andriy Shevchenko to see off 2002 winners Deportivo. The Rossoneri's triumph makes up for them losing out on a Champions League place to arch-rivals Inter.
  • Manchester United retain the Premiership title by 16 points from Liverpool, with three-time PFA Player of the Year Ruud van Nistelrooy scoring a whopping 32 goals. The champions' 2-1 win over Sunderland on the final day condemns their opponents to relegation, as the Mackems follow Coventry and Leicester into Division 1. Just two years after finishing 3rd, Newcastle narrowly survive in 17th.
  • Liverpool's first full season under Eric Gerets doesn't end empty-handed. Goals from Emile Heskey and Pavel Nedved see the Reds defeat Tottenham in the FA Cup Final. Spurs boss Alan Cork's decision to start German rookie Michael Schuster ahead of first-choice keeper Matteo Sereni leaves Sir Alan Sugar speechless.
  • Though only two points separate the top four teams in Ligue 1 when all's said and done, Monaco actually win the French championship with one game to spare. Egil Olsen's uncompromising brand of direct, disciplined football is clearly more at home on the Côte d'Azur than it was in south-west London.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • After 10 seasons and 236 episodes of "Friends", the last one airs. It's a particularly sad month for US television, as viewers also say goodbye to "Frasier" and "The Sharon Osbourne Show".
  • Piers Morgan is fired as editor of the Daily Mirror for publishing fake photographs of British soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners. With his reputation in tatters, he immediately scampers off to America.
  • "Fahrenheit 9/11" becomes the first documentary to win the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Festival. Directed by left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore, it is hugely critical of George W Bush and his invasion of Iraq.
  • It's also an uncomfortable month for Bush's pal Tony Blair. During Prime Minister's Questions at the House of Commons, Fathers 4 Justice campaigners throw a... 'packet' of purple flour at Blair, disrupting proceedings.
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DAG & RED PLAYER STATISTICS (2003/2004)

Goalkeepers                    Apps     Con    Asts   Yel    Red    MoM    Av R
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
25  Baxter, Nick               0 (1)    0      0      0      0      0      7.00   
1   Bennett, Ian               22       27     0      0      1      1      6.95   
13  Knight, Richard            29       31     0      0      0      2      7.31   
27  Pollitt, Mike              4        5      0      0      0      0      7.00   

Outfield Players               Apps     Gls    Asts   Yel    Red    MoM    Av R
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
10  Alsop, Julian              29 (11)  15     2      2      0      2      7.13   
6   Anderson, John             43 (1)   6      2      5      0      5      7.36   
*   Bailey, Mark               2 (6)    0      1      0      0      0      6.25   
5   Bayliss, Dave              48       0      3      3      1      2      7.08   
14  Carter, Ryan               39 (4)   7      6      6      0      3      7.02   
26  Clark, Dean                24 (5)   3      1      0      0      0      6.83   
21  Gledhill, Lee              16 (8)   0      2      0      0      1      6.96   
2   Goodwin, Lee               35 (3)   0      3      1      0      0      6.42   
16  Grant, Martin              5 (4)    1      0      1      0      0      6.44   
32  Griffiths, Chris           1 (8)    2      1      0      0      0      7.11   
23  Hanmer, Gareth             0 (4)    0      0      0      0      0      5.75   
7   Janney, Mark               17 (9)   0      1      0      0      0      6.73   
4   Lacey, Damien              52       4      9      5      0      3      7.06   
11  Mayo, Kerry                36 (10)  0      6      1      0      2      6.85   
9   McDougald, Junior          30 (8)   5      1      0      0      1      6.92   
31  McLean, Alan               0 (4)    0      0      0      0      0      6.25   
17  Melton, Stephen            41 (8)   10     5      0      0      2      6.86   
*   Moore, Neil                3 (3)    0      0      0      0      0      6.17   
22  O'Neill, Michael           2 (11)   2      0      0      0      0      6.69   
18  Platt, Clive               14 (8)   4      2      1      0      1      6.86   
12  Renner, Victor             16 (2)   4      3      0      0      0      7.06   
19  Rose, Richard              9 (2)    0      0      0      0      0      6.64   
8   Selley, Ian                9 (8)    1      1      0      0      0      6.47   
15  Spedding, Duncan           36 (7)   0      3      3      0      0      6.91   
*   Tarrant, Neil              19 (2)   13     2      0      0      5      7.57   
*   Victory, Jamie             6 (10)   0      0      0      0      0      6.44   
20  Weekes, Nick               18 (12)  4      8      0      0      0      6.93   

* [Player not currently at club]

 

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JUNE 2004

After a worrying decline in the last few months of our debut Football League season, there was a real fear that Dagenham & Redbridge would endure a sophomore slump. I had to make major changes ahead of the 2004/2005 campaign - but not so drastic that they would completely ruin any sense of team spirit.

 

Several players would leave Victoria Road over the summer to make room for fresh blood. The first man out the door was backup striker Clive Platt, who had never looked better than a mere speed merchant in League football. Just 18 months after joining us on an initial loan deal, Platt dropped back down to the Conference, joining Margate on a free transfer.

 

Also leaving on a free was third-choice goalkeeper Nick Baxter, who headed back to the north-west after three years, signing for Morecambe. His reserve team-mate Brett Gallagher - a left-back who came through the youth system a couple of years ago - went to Halifax, presumably because he's a big fan of those Howard Brown adverts.

 

Another left-back - Gareth Hanmer - was a semi-regular in our 2002/2003 promotion campaign but hardly saw any action after our rise to Division 3. The 30-year-old Welshman would now move to Scotland, playing in Division 1 for Inverness.

 

Non-league Atherton Collieries took not just one but TWO players off our hands. After buying goalkeeper Richard Knight for £18,000 (a 50% increase on the 12 grand we paid Oxford for him last summer), Atherton also got left-back Duncan Spedding for free.

 

Spedding had been a fairly solid presence in our defence after his arrival for Northampton. However, he was among the players who protested about my treatment of Ian Bennett after our bust-up against Halifax in January. While most of those had calmed down and moved on, Duncan was still furious over what had happened. Our relationship had been damaged beyond repair, so I decided to get rid.

 

Bennett was also on his way out. Despite briefly returning to the Daggers line-up after being cast out for three months, the 32-year-old goalkeepers's performances - and general happiness - had not improved. He wanted out, so I granted his wish by selling him to Bristol City for £20,000. I'm sure he was worth a lot more than that, but this was another situation where it made sense to sever ties quickly.

 

I made one more sale before the month was out. After scoring just seven goals in 39 games, striker Michael O'Neill probably wasn't going to make the grade as a regular starter. The 20-year-old was sold to non-league Christchurch City for £16,000.

 

With those sales, and another year's worth of TV revenue coming in, the coffers had swelled so much that the board gave me a very generous transfer budget - of £1.2million!

 

My first job was to bring in a couple of goalkeepers, mainly because... well, we'd sold all our goalies. For starters, I decided to sign Mike Pollitt permanently from Wrexham for a club-record £100,000. Pollitt only played four times during his loan spell and conceded five goals, but the 32-year-old's agility and experience should be of great use to us. He's now earning £1,300 per week, so I bloody hope so!

 

Mike's backup would be another 32-year-old. The much-travelled Londoner Andy Woodman joined us for £10,000 after spending the past two seasons warming the Exeter bench.

 

I beefed up our attacking options with the free signing of 31-year-old Sean Devine. The Republic of Ireland B international had scored over 100 league goals in nine seasons for Barnet and latterly Wycombe. People used to say Teddy Sheringham "had the first yard in his head", and they could probably say the same about Devine; his strengths lie less in his physicality and more in his intelligence and predatory instinct.

 

A second Irishman - Shaun Maher - arrived at Victoria Road in a £50,000 transfer from Bournemouth. The 26-year-old sweeper was known for his athleticism and his deadly heading ability, but he would also add some much-needed tactical expertise to our defence.

 

Our fifth and final signing (for the time being at least) was ex-Wimbledon full-back Peter Hawkins, costing us £65,000 from Rochdale. The tough-tackling 25-year-old is right-footed, but I'll mainly be using him on the left flank.

 

Of course, there were still some areas where we perhaps needed strengthening, so we brought in another scout to help with our recruitment. Joining Mick Loughton and Gary Reilly on the scouting team was Mark Lloyd - a 39-year-old Welshman who came to us from part-timers Conwy Borough.

 

Meanwhile, top scorer Julian Alsop was named Dagenham fans' Player of the Year for the second season running. He was rewarded with a new contract worth £1,200 per week over the next four years, which should keep him at Victoria Road up until his 35th birthday.

 

So that's the state of play as we head into my fourth season as Daggers boss. Will it be another season of success - or will reality finally bite us?

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ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • England expects at the European Championship, and excitement only grows after they demolish Greece 4-0 in the Quarter Finals. But then a late Francesco Totti winner eliminates the Three Lions at the Semi Finals. The media immediately call for Sven-Göran Eriksson's head, criticising the England manager for selecting Michael Ricketts ahead of Andrew Cole.
  • Euro 2004 is an unusually low-scoring tournament, so it's no surprise when the Final - a rematch of the 2002 decider between Germany and Italy - finishes in a dire 0-0 draw. Italy somehow survive with nine men after captain Fabio Cannavaro is sent off and striker Filippo Maniero is injured, but they then fall apart in the penalty shoot-out as Germany lift the Henri Delaunay Trophy for a record fourth time.
  • Dutch centre-back Jaap Stam is on the move yet again, joining Barcelona for £11.75million after an early falling-out with new Juventus manager Bum-Kun Cha. Bitter rivals Real Madrid respond by re-signing left-back Roberto Carlos from Arsenal for £9.25million, while Valencia make a £10.75million swoop for Leverkusen sweeper Jens Nowotny.
  • Liverpool's chief executive Rick Parry bumps into Valencia boss Rafa Benítez while on holiday and asks him to recommend a signing. A few weeks later, Spanish playmaker Xabi Alonso is unveiled at Anfield after completing a £4.1million transfer from Atlético Madrid.
  • Barely a month after being sacked by Mallorca, Claudio Ranieri finds himself a new job - at PSV. The Italian tinkerman replaces Anatoly Byshovets, who mysteriously disappeared shortly after leading the Dutch giants to their fifth consecutive Eredivisie title.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • Ronald Reagan - the former Hollywood actor who served two terms as US President during the 1980s - dies aged 93. Though Reagan arguably played a key role in thawing the Cold War, Americans vow never to elect a big showbiz personality into high office again.
  • Tony Blair's Labour Party suffer significant defeats in Britain's local elections, though Ken Livingstone is re-elected Mayor of London. The anti-immigration UK Independence Party make major gains in the European elections... but is their success a flash in the pan, or a genuine sign of growing Euroscepticism?
  • The Killers are coming out of their cage and they've been doing just fine on their debut album "Hot Fuss". Though their brand of 'glamorous indie rock & roll' gets a modest reception in their native US, it becomes a HUGE success in Britain.
  • Five months after breaking up with Ben Affleck, the famously down-to-Earth pop superstar Jennifer Lopez marries her third husband Marc Anthony in Beverly Hills, California. Cleopatra is not amused.
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SEASON REVIEW 2003/2004

ENGLAND

NOTE: All goals and assist records relate to league matches only.

 

PREMIERSHIP

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  Man Utd                         38   18   1    0    51   7    10   5    4    29   14   90   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Liverpool                       38   13   5    1    30   12   9    3    7    24   20   74   
3rd     Chelsea                         38   14   3    2    33   14   6    4    9    26   34   67   
4th     Leeds                           38   11   8    0    36   12   6    7    6    33   34   66   
5th     Arsenal                         38   12   7    0    30   9    6    5    8    23   25   66   
6th     Blackburn                       38   12   2    5    34   19   5    5    9    19   31   58   
7th     Middlesbrough                   38   11   5    3    31   14   3    10   6    32   40   57   
8th     Aston Villa                     38   10   6    3    31   19   4    6    9    17   29   54   
9th     Ipswich                         38   12   5    2    38   20   3    3    13   15   32   53   
10th    Southampton                     38   10   4    5    32   23   4    3    12   16   31   49   
11th    Bolton                          38   8    6    5    32   25   5    2    12   28   44   47   
12th    Everton                         38   11   4    4    29   19   2    4    13   18   39   47   
13th    Stoke                           38   10   6    3    32   24   1    5    13   8    25   44   
14th    Tottenham                       38   7    5    7    23   24   5    3    11   19   33   44   
15th    Crewe                           38   10   1    8    34   33   3    3    13   18   45   43   
16th    W.B.A.                          38   5    4    10   29   33   7    1    11   21   29   41   
17th    Newcastle                       38   10   2    7    33   28   2    3    14   10   32   41   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
18th R  Sunderland                      38   7    5    7    33   27   3    4    12   25   41   39   
19th R  Coventry                        38   7    3    9    24   27   3    6    10   19   34   39   
20th R  Leicester                       38   5    5    9    27   28   3    5    11   17   30   34   

 

Top Goalscorer - Ruud van Nistelrooy (Man Utd): 32.

Most Assists - David Beckham (Man Utd): 13.

Highest Average Rating - Ruud van Nistelrooy (Man Utd): 8.14.

 

PFA Player of the Year - Ruud van Nistelrooy (Man Utd).

PFA Young Player of the Year - Jermain Defoe (Stoke).

 

DIVISION 1

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  Gillingham                      46   20   0    3    47   19   9    5    9    34   33   92   
2nd  P  Fulham                          46   14   7    2    52   31   10   4    9    31   27   83   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3rd     Charlton                        46   14   4    5    48   26   10   2    11   33   42   78   
4th     Man City                        46   15   4    4    46   30   8    4    11   37   39   77   
5th     Grimsby                         46   16   6    1    47   24   6    5    12   34   46   77   
6th  P  Bradford                        46   12   8    3    38   24   9    5    9    31   27   76   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
7th     West Ham                        46   16   7    0    57   26   3    9    11   36   46   73   
8th     Preston                         46   17   2    4    59   27   4    8    11   31   44   73   
9th     Wolves                          46   14   4    5    49   34   7    3    13   35   43   70   
10th    Derby                           46   14   3    6    42   26   7    3    13   29   40   69   
11th    Walsall                         46   15   4    4    47   27   5    5    13   28   44   69   
12th    Portsmouth                      46   11   7    5    38   27   7    7    9    26   35   68   
13th    Crystal Palace                  46   13   3    7    45   39   6    7    10   44   52   67   
14th    Nottm Forest                    46   13   6    4    52   28   4    6    13   31   48   63   
15th    Birmingham                      46   10   7    6    48   39   6    4    13   27   39   59   
16th    Brentford                       46   11   6    6    37   26   5    5    13   30   47   59   
17th    Sheff Wed                       46   9    7    7    39   37   6    7    10   35   45   59   
18th    Burnley                         46   8    10   5    32   26   6    4    13   28   43   56   
19th    Q.P.R.                          46   9    6    8    36   35   5    6    12   31   44   54   
20th    Millwall                        46   10   5    8    38   33   3    6    14   22   41   50   
21st    Sheff Utd                       46   9    6    8    40   34   2    7    14   28   50   46   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
22nd R  Port Vale                       46   8    4    11   34   39   3    5    15   34   58   42   
23rd R  Barnsley                        46   6    8    9    33   38   1    9    13   22   51   38   
24th R  Norwich                         46   4    5    14   28   44   3    3    17   22   48   29   

 

DIVISION 2

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  Chesterfield                    46   13   4    6    38   17   14   3    6    33   19   88   
2nd  P  Bristol City                    46   13   6    4    51   34   13   4    6    39   31   88   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3rd     Notts Co                        46   15   2    6    44   29   12   3    8    42   33   86   
4th  P  Hull                            46   14   4    5    46   26   12   2    9    37   32   84   
5th     Wrexham                         46   14   6    3    45   26   10   4    9    44   40   82   
6th     Rochdale                        46   15   4    4    41   26   7    7    9    32   35   77   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
7th     Kidderminster                   46   14   3    6    44   25   9    4    10   33   35   76   
8th     Wigan                           46   13   5    5    47   37   7    6    10   34   38   71   
9th     Blackpool                       46   12   4    7    49   34   6    8    9    33   37   66   
10th    Cardiff                         46   14   6    3    48   29   3    9    11   24   40   66   
11th    Luton                           46   13   5    5    37   23   3    12   8    20   29   65   
12th    Huddersfield                    46   8    10   5    33   27   9    4    10   25   27   65   
13th    Carlisle                        46   10   6    7    31   25   7    6    10   30   35   63   
14th    Reading                         46   13   4    6    40   27   3    9    11   19   35   61   
15th    Tranmere                        46   12   5    6    39   24   5    4    14   24   42   60   
16th    Watford                         46   10   6    7    38   34   6    2    15   27   53   56   
17th    Wimbledon                       46   11   5    7    40   29   4    4    15   28   57   54   
18th    Swindon                         46   12   3    8    38   30   2    8    13   30   53   53   
19th    Bournemouth                     46   11   6    6    41   32   2    8    13   24   48   53   
20th    Bury                            46   6    9    8    22   24   4    6    13   18   31   45   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
21st R  Darlington                      46   7    12   4    33   26   3    3    17   23   46   45   
22nd R  Cambridge Utd                   46   9    3    11   38   35   3    5    15   25   47   44   
23rd R  Doncaster                       46   6    7    10   29   37   4    5    14   34   49   42   
24th R  Wycombe                         46   6    5    12   31   43   3    4    16   21   51   36   

 

DIVISION 3

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  Northampton                     46   16   4    3    53   29   14   4    5    43   25   98   
2nd  P  Peterborough                    46   13   5    5    47   31   14   6    3    48   25   92   
3rd  P  Bristol Rovers                  46   14   5    4    44   27   10   6    7    46   41   83   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4th  P  Lincoln                         46   12   7    4    42   25   10   6    7    34   23   79   
5th     Colchester                      46   14   2    7    33   21   9    6    8    30   31   77   
6th     Torquay                         46   13   2    8    45   35   11   1    11   37   35   75   
7th     Dag & Red                       46   13   9    1    38   20   7    5    11   33   35   74   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
8th     Mansfield                       46   12   8    3    42   24   7    7    9    34   34   72   
9th     Brighton                        46   12   4    7    41   36   8    6    9    46   48   70   
10th    Rotherham                       46   14   3    6    46   37   6    5    12   31   43   68   
11th    Scunthorpe                      46   13   2    8    51   43   7    4    12   39   48   66   
12th    Macclesfield                    46   10   7    6    43   41   8    4    11   39   40   65   
13th    Plymouth                        46   9    4    10   32   33   10   3    10   39   35   64   
14th    Oxford                          46   13   5    5    34   22   5    5    13   25   36   64   
15th    Shrewsbury                      46   11   6    6    37   29   6    4    13   35   47   61   
16th    Hartlepool                      46   9    4    10   33   35   7    8    8    31   31   60   
17th    Rushden                         46   11   4    8    36   35   6    4    13   34   47   59   
18th    Leyton Orient                   46   10   3    10   30   29   6    5    12   24   34   56   
19th    Cheltenham                      46   8    8    7    38   43   6    3    14   34   51   53   
20th    Exeter                          46   7    7    9    27   34   3    9    11   20   34   46   
21st    Stockport                       46   10   7    6    41   41   1    5    17   29   48   45   
22nd    Halifax                         46   8    8    7    31   34   1    7    15   22   46   42   
23rd    Oldham                          46   7    4    12   40   44   3    3    17   23   49   37   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
24th R  Swansea                         46   6    3    14   34   47   1    5    17   19   52   29   

 

CONFERENCE

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  C  Northwich Vics                  42   15   3    3    50   22   13   3    5    39   21   90   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2nd     Bath City                       42   13   6    2    44   25   13   2    6    39   28   86   
3rd     Farnborough                     42   15   1    5    53   25   8    9    4    37   32   79   
4th     Morecambe                       42   11   7    3    40   26   9    8    4    45   32   75   
5th     Stevenage                       42   9    8    4    36   22   12   3    6    33   24   74   
6th     Barnet                          42   12   6    3    42   29   7    7    7    38   42   70   
7th     Boston Utd                      42   7    6    8    28   26   11   2    8    27   23   62   
8th     Yeovil                          42   10   4    7    42   36   8    3    10   39   44   61   
9th     Hereford                        42   12   5    4    37   23   5    5    11   32   45   61   
10th    Stalybridge                     42   9    5    7    50   44   9    2    10   40   47   61   
11th    Southend                        42   11   3    7    42   35   4    11   6    33   42   59   
12th    Dover                           42   10   6    5    33   26   5    7    9    22   36   58   
13th    Margate                         42   8    5    8    43   34   7    4    10   27   26   54   
14th    Slough                          42   12   3    6    35   18   3    6    12   17   40   54   
15th    Southport                       42   5    7    9    25   32   8    5    8    32   33   51   
16th    Scarborough                     42   10   5    6    39   29   4    3    14   28   42   50   
17th    Halesowen                       42   8    7    6    30   32   3    8    10   26   34   48   
18th    Nuneaton Borough                42   8    4    9    30   34   4    5    12   26   41   45   
19th    Telford                         42   4    8    9    32   42   6    3    12   30   46   41   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
20th R  Gateshead                       42   10   2    9    38   40   1    6    14   21   46   41   
21st R  York                            42   7    5    9    32   33   2    6    13   27   45   38   
22nd R  Hitchin                         42   3    4    14   25   41   1    2    18   16   57   18   

 

Promoted to Conference: Aldershot, Frickley, Stafford Rangers.

 

FA Cup: Liverpool 2-0 Tottenham.

League Cup: Leeds 2-1 Man Utd.

Community Shield: Man Utd 2-0 Middlesbrough.

Football League Trophy: Notts Co 2-1 Reading.

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OTHER LEAGUES

 

FRANCE

Ligue 1

Top Three: Monaco (1st), Lille (2nd), Marseille (3rd).

Relegated: Grenoble (18th), Nancy (19th), Nîmes (20th).

Promoted from Ligue 2: Rennes (1st), Metz (2nd), Ajaccio AC (3rd).

 

Top Goalscorer - Pauleta (Bordeaux): 23.

Most Assists - Juninho Pernambucano (Lyon): 12.

Highest Average Rating - Didier Drogba (Marseille): 7.97.

 

Coupe de France: Guingamp 1-1 Monaco (3-2 PSO).

Coupe de la Ligue: Monaco 3-2 Lens.

 

GERMANY

1. Bundesliga

Top Three: FC Bayern (1st), Dortmund (2nd), Schalke 04 (3rd).

Relegated: Rostock (16th), Mainz (17th), Cottbus (18th).

Promoted from 2. Bundesliga: Frankfurt (1st), Karlsruhe (2nd), SVW Mannheim (3rd).

 

Top Goalscorer - Ebbe Sand (Schalke 04): 22.

Most Assists - Sebastian Deisler (Hertha BSC): 15.

Highest Average Rating - Élber (FC Bayern): 8.03

 

DFB-Pokal: FC Bayern 2-1 Dortmund.

DFB-Liga Pokal: Schalke 04 0-0 Dortmund (3-0 PSO).

 

HOLLAND

Eredivisie

Top Three: PSV (1st), Ajax (2nd), Feyenoord (3rd).

Relegated: Eindhoven (17th, via play-offs), Telstar (18th).

Promoted from Eerste Divisie: Utrecht (1st), Fortuna (4th, via play-offs).

 

Top Goalscorer - Marcus Allbäck (Heerenveen), Mateja Kezman (PSV): 26.

Most Assists - Andy van der Meyde (Ajax): 19.

Highest Average Rating - Mateja Kezman (PSV): 8.23.

 

KNVB Beker: NAC 3-2 Feyenoord (aet).

 

ITALY

Serie A

Top Three: Roma (1st), Lazio (2nd), Bologna (3rd).

Relegated: Sampdoria (15th, lost play-off), Fiorentina (16th), Verona (17th), Brescia (18th)

Promoted from Serie B: Torino (1st), Empoli (2nd), Chievo (3rd), Bari (4th, won play-off).

 

Top Goalscorer - Andriy Shevchenko (Milan): 22.

Most Assists - Zinedine Zidane (Roma): 13.

Highest Average Rating - Cafú (Roma), Guilherme (Lazio): 8.19.

 

Coppa Italia: Milan 2-0 Vicenza (aggregate).

 

PORTUGAL

Primeira Liga

Top Three: Sporting (1st), Porto (2nd), Benfica (3rd).

Relegated: Beira-Mar (16th), Alverca (17th), Nacional (18th).

Promoted from Segunda Liga: Leixões (1st), Marítimo (2nd), Arrifanense (3rd).

 

Top Goalscorer - Jardel (Sporting): 35.

Most Assists - Gouveia (Boavista), Lito (Maia): 13.

Highest Average Rating - Jardel (Sporting), Cristiano Ronaldo (Sporting): 8.52.

 

Taça de Portugal: Vitória Guimarães 4-3 Benfica.

 

SCOTLAND

Premier League

Top Three: Rangers (1st), Celtic (2nd), Motherwell (3rd).

Relegated: Arbroath (12th).

Promoted from Division 1: Ayr (1st).

 

Top Goalscorer - Tore Andre Flo (Rangers): 33.

Most Assists - Bobby Petta (Celtic): 26.

Highest Average Rating - Barry Ferguson (Rangers): 8.37.

 

Scottish Cup: Celtic 1-0 Rangers.

League Cup: Rangers 2-1 Kilmarnock.

 

SPAIN

La Liga

Top Three: Barcelona (1st), Valencia (2nd), Real Madrid (3rd).

Relegated: Oviedo (18th), Extremadura (19th), Sporting Gijón (20th).

Promoted from Segunda División: Valladolid (1st), Real Sociedad (2nd), Numancia (3rd).

 

Top Goalscorer - Gabriel Batistuta (Espanyol): 19.

Most Assists - Kizito Musampa (Málaga): 14.

Highest Average Rating - Raúl (Real Madrid): 8.15.

 

Copa del Rey: Deportivo 1-0 Barcelona.

 

CONTINENTAL & INTERNATIONAL

 

CLUB

Champions League: Roma 1-0 Liverpool (aet) - in Glasgow.

UEFA Cup: Milan 2-0 Deportivo - in Lisbon.

Super Cup: Lazio 2-1 Dortmund.

 

Intercontinental Cup: Lazio 2-0 Vélez.

Club World Championship: Lazio 0-0 Valencia (5-4 penalties).

 

FIFA World Player of the Year - Hernán Jorge Crespo (Lazio & Argentina).

World Footballer of the Year - Hernán Jorge Crespo (Lazio & Argentina).

African Player of the Year - Julius Aghahowa (Schalke 04 & Nigeria).

European Player of the Year - Raúl (Real Madrid & Spain).

South American Player of the Year - Fernando Cavenaghi (River & Argentina).

Oceania Player of the Year - Mark Viduka (Leeds & Australia).

 

LEADING TRANSFERS (Premiership)

DATE       NAME                        POSITIONS     FROM                TO                  FEE
12/07/03   Fabio Cannavaro             SW/D C        Parma               Leeds               £20M
30/08/03   Gianluigi Buffon            GK            Juventus            Liverpool           £16.5M
12/07/03   Edgar Davids                DM C          Juventus            Arsenal             £13.75M
06/08/03   Alex                        AM/F LC       Cruzeiro            Middlesbrough       £13M
15/09/03   Andre Ooijer                D RC          PSV                 Liverpool           £12.5M
07/08/03   Dodô                        S C           Vasco               Chelsea             £11.75M
15/08/03   Juninho Paulista            AM C          Mallorca            Everton             £10M
25/08/03   Ariel Ortega                F RC          Juventus            Arsenal             £10M
01/08/03   Dimitris Eleftheropoulos    GK            Olympiakos          Chelsea             £8M
22/10/03   Richard Dunne               D RC          Man City            Blackburn           £8M

 

LEADING TRANSFERS (not including Premiership)

DATE       NAME                        POSITIONS     FROM                TO                  FEE
29/01/04   Michael Ballack             M C           Leverkusen          Milan               £37.5M
06/07/03   Ronaldinho                  AM/F LC       Paris-SG            Real Madrid         £27.5M
15/12/03   Christian Chivu             D LC          Ajax                Barcelona           £26M
02/01/04   Juan Sebastián Verón        AM C          Man Utd             Lazio               £24M
15/12/03   Claudio López               F LC          Lazio               Valencia            £19.25M
07/10/03   Jon Dahl Tomasson           AM/F C        Feyenoord           Juventus            £19M
01/07/03   Zinedine Zidane             AM C          Real Madrid         Roma                £16.75M
26/07/03   Figo                        AM/F RLC      Lazio               Real Madrid         £16.25M
20/07/03   Sami Hyypiä                 D C           Liverpool           Juventus            £12.25M
11/10/03   Juan Arango                 AM LC         Monterrey           América [MEX]       £12M

 

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Posted (edited)

EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP REVIEW: PORTUGAL 2004

 

GROUP 1

5 June [Lisbon]

Portugal - 1 (Cristiano Ronaldo 14)

Croatia - 1 (Dalibor Viskovic 23)

 

7 June [Lisbon]

Greece - 3 (Giorgos Karagounis 33, Angelos Basinas 45, Demis Nikolaidis 82)

Denmark - 1 (Jesper Grønkjær 90)

 

9 June [Lisbon]

Denmark - 3 (Jon Dahl Tomasson 22,78, Dennis Rommedahl 64)

Portugal - 2 (Simão 39, Rui Costa 59)

 

10 June [Lisbon]

Croatia - 1 (Zvonimir Deranja 82)

Greece - 2 (Dimitrios Grammozis 37, Grigoris Georgatos 53)

 

15 June [Lisbon]

Croatia - 1 (Alen Boksic 84)

Denmark - 0

 

15 June [Lisbon]

Portugal - 2 (Cristiano Ronaldo 54, Litos 77)

Greece - 1 (Nikos Liberopoulos 5)

 

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  Q  Greece                          3    2    0    1    6    4    6
2nd  Q  Portugal                        3    1    1    1    5    5    4
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
3rd     Croatia                         3    1    1    1    3    3    4
4th     Denmark                         3    1    0    2    4    6    3

 

GROUP 2

6 June [Lisbon]

England - 0

Germany - 1 (Michael Ballack 10)

 

7 June [Setúbal]

Republic of Ireland - 1 (Gary Doherty 77)

Austria - 1 (Dietmar Kühbauer 35)

 

10 June [Lisbon]

Germany - 0

Republic of Ireland - 0

 

12 June [Setúbal]

Austria - 0

England - 1 (Gareth Southgate 21, Steven Gerrard s/off28)

 

15 June [Lisbon]

Austria - 1 (Niko Kranjcar 51)

Germany - 3 (Miroslav Klose 24, Roy Präger 34, Michael Ballack 70, Frank Baumann s/off80)

 

15 June [Setúbal]

Republic of Ireland - 0

England - 2 (Michael Bridges 6, Emile Heskey 54)

 

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  Q  Germany                         3    2    1    0    4    1    7
2nd  Q  England                         3    2    0    1    3    1    6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
3rd     Republic of Ireland             3    0    2    1    1    3    2
4th     Austria                         3    0    1    2    2    5    1

 

GROUP 3

6 June [Porto]

France - 1 (Sebastien Frey s/off36, David Trezeguet 50)

Holland - 2 (Ruud van Nistelrooy pen37, John de Jong 43)

 

8 June [Lisbon]

Russia - 1 (Alexandr Panov 72)

Belgium - 0

 

11 June [Porto]

Belgium - 0

France - 2 (David Trezeguet 19, Patrick Vieira 27)

 

13 June [Lisbon]

Holland - 1 (Phillip Cocu 75)

Russia - 0

 

16 June [Porto]

France - 1 (Djibril Cissé 72)

Russia - 0

 

16 June [Lisbon]

Holland - 1 (Edgar Davids 20)

Belgium - 0

 

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  Q  Holland                         3    3    0    0    4    1    9
2nd  Q  France                          3    2    0    1    4    2    6
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
3rd     Russia                          3    1    0    2    1    2    3
4th     Belgium                         3    0    0    3    0    4    0

 

GROUP 4

6 June [Vila do Conde]

Spain - 0

Italy - 1 (Cristiano Doni pen58)

 

8 June [Braga]

Czech Republic - 1 (Pavel Nedved 10)

Finland - 1 (Aki Riihilahti 40)

 

11 June [Vila do Conde]

Italy - 1 (Fabio Liverani 3)

Czech Republic - 0

 

13 June [Braga]

Finland - 1 (Antti Pohja 18, Hannu Tihinen s/off81)

Spain - 1 (Fernando Torres 33, Gaizka Mendieta m/pen81)

 

16 June [Braga]

Czech Republic - 0 (Petr Cech s/off73)

Spain - 2 (Ismael Urzáiz 17, Xavi m/pen74, José Antonio Reyes 86)

 

16 June [Vila do Conde]

Finland - 0

Italy - 3 (Fabio Cannavaro 21, Filippo Inzaghi 45, Filippo Maniero m/pen79, Filippo Maniero pen88)

 

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st  Q  Italy                           3    3    0    0    5    0    9
2nd  Q  Spain                           3    1    1    1    3    2    4
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
3rd     Finland                         3    0    2    1    2    5    2
4th     Czech Republic                  3    0    1    2    1    4    1

 

QUARTER FINALS

19 June [Lisbon]

Germany - 2 (Oliver Neuville 4, Roy Präger 32)

Portugal - 0

 

19 June [Lisbon]

Holland - 1 (Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink 45, Niels Oude Kamphuis s/off81)

Spain - 2 (Capi 68, Fernando Torres 72)

 

20 June [Porto]

Italy - 1 (Gennaro Ivan Gattuso 105)

France - 0

[after extra-time]

 

20 June [Lisbon]

Greece - 0

England - 4 (Jermaine Pennant 6, Michael Owen 31, Frank Lampard 80, Seth Johnson 90)

 

SEMI FINAL

23 June [Lisbon]

England - 0

Italy - 1 (Francesco Totti 82)

 

23 June [Lisbon]

Germany - 2 (Miroslav Klose 47, Roy Präger 80)

Spain - 0

 

FINAL

27 June [Lisbon]

Germany - 0

Italy - 0 (Fabio Cannavaro s/off61)

[after extra-time, Germany win 3-1 on penalties]

PENALTY SHOOT-OUT (Germany, Italy): Bellucci 0-1, Ballack 1-1, Liverani missed, Böhme 1-2, Gattuso saved, Klose 1-3, Totti missed.

GERMANY (3-5-2 Attacking): Oliver Kahn [C]; Christian Wörns, Marko Rehmer (Jens Nowotny), Frank Baumann; Daniel Bierofka, Jörg Heinrich (Sebastian Deisler); Jens Jeremies, Michael Ballack; Roy Präger; Miroslav Klose, Oliver Neuville (Jörg Böhme). BOOKED: Bierofka, Wörns.

ITALY (4-4-2): Francesco Antonioli; Giuseppe Pancaro, Fabio Cannavaro [C], Alessandro Nesta, Luciano Zauri; Stefano Fiore (Claudio Bellucci), Gennaro Ivan Gattuso, Fabio Liverani, Cristiano Doni (Marco Delvecchio); Filippo Inzaghi (Francesco Totti), Filippo Maniero. BOOKED: Nesta. SENT OFF: Cannavaro.

 

Top Goalscorer - Roy Präger (Germany): 3.

Most Assists - Martin Jørgensen (Denmark): 4.

Highest Average Rating (at least 4 matches) - Juanito (Spain), Simão (Portugal): 8.25.

Edited by CFuller
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30 minutes ago, mark wilson27 said:

Germany win on penalties,.... theirs a surprise

A fitting end to one of the most boring tournaments in history too. Less than 2 goals per game. :D

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  • 3 months later...

JULY 2004

Dagenham & Redbridge's debut season in the Football League had surpassed all our expectations. Finishing 7th in Division 3 immediately after coming up through the Conference was a magnificent achievement, even if our dream of successive promotions had ended in bitter play-off tears.

 

And yet it could have been even better. Automatic promotion was a serious possibility had our defence not fallen apart from January onwards. A disappointing second half to the season had left some supporters wondering if our strong first half was just a fluke.

 

Though many pundits, punter and even the Dagenham board were anticipating a tough battle against relegation this time around, I was much more bullish. My squad and I were very much focused on consolidating our Football League status - and making sure we didn't suffer a nasty bout of 'second season syndrome'. But having reached the play-offs once before, there was also no reason why we couldn't launch another promotion challenge.

 

I had brought in five new senior players over the summer to try and take this Daggers team to the next level. Goalkeepers Mike Pollitt and Andy Woodman were joined at Victoria Road by full-back Peter Hawkins, centre-half Shaun Maher and striker Sean Devine.

 

I made another signing just before our first friendly - one that had our long-term future very much in mind. Mark Jones was a 16-year-old Welsh midfielder with fine passing and technical ability, not to mention a flamboyant streak. It might be a while before Mark is following the likes of Ryan Carter into the first-team set-up, but he certainly has a decent future ahead.

 

Hopes are also high for Alan McLean - the 18-year-old Scottish defensive midfielder who joined us last summer. After an impressive season in the reserve team, he was promoted to the senior side, where he would hope to add to his four league outings so far.

 

Before my first season as Daggers boss in 2001/2002, we went on a pre-season tour of Scotland. We headed north of the border again this summer, basing ourselves in Glasgow to kick off our preparations. Our opening friendly was against semi-professionals Pollok.

 

17 JULY 2004: Pollok vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Our pre-season preparations immediately hit some early snags. Mike Pollitt looked very shaky between the Daggers posts, as he conceded goals to midfielder Gary Madden and forward John Dickson within the first half-hour. Junior McDougald did pull one goal back, but we needed a strong comeback after the break to avoid a humiliating defeat.

 

Second-half salvation came through an unlikely source - Scottish midfielder Alan McLean, whose cross was headed in by Dean Clark for a 69th-minute equaliser. Summer signing Sean Devine then followed that up with a late brace to complete a 4-2 comeback win!

 

Pollok - 2 (Madden 8, Dickson 27)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 4 (McDougald 31, Clark 69, Devine 71,90)

Friendly, Attendance 228

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt (Woodman); Goodwin (Gledhill), Anderson (Bayliss), Maher, Hawkins (Mayo); Janney (Weeks), Lacey (McLean), Carter (Clark); Melton; Alsop (Devine), McDougald (Renner). BOOKED: Lacey.

 

We had been let off the hook, but any defensive disasters like that in the league would surely get us smashed to pieces. I hoped for a much more resolute performance when we took on Division 3 amateurs Queen's Park at the hallowed Hampden Park.

 

21 JULY 2004: Queen's Park vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Andy Woodman got the nod in goal for this match, but just like Mike Pollitt four days earlier, he was quite slow to get going. When Alex Bone fired Queen's Park into the lead after only five minutes, I feared another struggle. Thankfully, attacking midfielder Stephen Melton levelled the scores in the 33rd minute, finishing the rebound after Steven Gray had parried his initial header.

 

The fightback continued into the second half. Nick Weekes effortlessly ran the show from midfield, while a goal apiece from strikers Victor Renner and Julian Alsop ensured we went away with another victory, even if it wasn’t as comfortable as we were hoping for.

 

Queen's Park - 1 (Bone 5)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Melton 33, Renner 52, Alsop 89)

Friendly, Attendance 399

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Woodman (Pollitt); Clark (Gledhill), Anderson, Bayliss (Rose), Hawkins (Mayo); Selley (McLean), Lacey, Weekes (Carter); Melton (Janney); Devine (Alsop), Renner (Griffiths).

 

Okay... that was slightly better, but I still had questions about our defending. I reverted to the more conservative 3-5-2 formation for the last match of our Scottish tour, against Clydebank of Division 2.

 

24 JULY 2004: Clydebank vs Dagenham & Redbridge

The good news was that we didn't concede in the first half this time! The not-so-good news was that we never got close to threatening Clydebank at the other end. Yes, this was a dreadful match that saw no scoring chances for either team, and a 0-0 stalemate looked inevitable...

 

...until the 65th minute, when our new defender Shaun Maher suffered a serious groin strain that would rule him out for a month. Maher's injury left our defence much more vulnerable, and Clydebank took advantage three minutes later. Barry Lavety headed in a cross from ex-Kilmarnock stalwart Gus McPherson, thus securing victory from the game's only shot on target. Typical.

 

Clydebank - 1 (Lavety 68)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Friendly, Attendance 624

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Attacking): Pollitt (Woodman); Anderson, Clark (Rose), Maher (Gledhill); Goodwin, Hawkins (Mayo); Selley (Weekes), McLean (Lacey); Carter (Melton); Alsop (Devine), McDougald (Griffiths).

 

"You HAVE to cut out the defensive mistakes, guys!" I told the players at full-time. "I'm not afraid to bring in a whole new defence if it means we can actually keep a clean sheet every so often! So I suggest that you knuckle down and prove to me that you deserve to be in this team!"

 

To prove my point, I swiftly signed another left-back who would provide stiff competition for Hawkins and Kerry Mayo. The aggressive and athletic 24-year-old Sol Davis joined us on loan from Swindon until the end of November.

 

As we headed back to Dagenham, we learned about who would lie ahead in the first round of the League Cup. We were drawn at home to Rochdale, who reached the Division 2 play-offs last season under Glenn Roeder.

 

A tough test also awaited us in our first home game this term - which was a repeat of our final match of the previous campaign. Barely two months after being eliminated by them in the Division 3 Playoff Semi Final, could we get a taste of revenge against newly-promoted Lincoln?

 

31 JULY 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Lincoln City

You bet we could! We absolutely battered Lincoln with shots throughout the game, though the Imps' new goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann made several blinding saves to keep the deadlock intact for 51 minutes. The American was finally beaten by John Anderson's header early in the second half, and though we couldn't build on that goal, it didn't really matter. Any victory over higher-tier opposition was reason for celebration!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Anderson 51)

Lincoln City - 0

Friendly, Attendance 1,159

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Woodman; Goodwin (Gledhill), Bayliss, Clark (Anderson), Davis (Hawkins); Janney (Shaw), Weekes (Melton), Lacey (Selley), Mayo; Devine (Alsop), Renner (McDougald). BOOKED: Anderson.

 

If only we had performed like that against Lincoln in the play-offs! Having exacted sweet vengeance, we could now look forward to our opening league match in a fortnight’s time with rather more confidence.

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ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • The Arsenal exodus continues after their failure to qualify for the Champions League. After just one unspectacular year at Highbury, Dutch bulldog Edgar Davids heads off to big-spending Valencia for £8.5million. Argentine sweeper Roberto Fabián Ayala also leaves the Premiership after a single season, moving from Liverpool to Roma for £10.75million.
  • Roy Präger was the top scorer at Euro 2004, netting THREE goals for champions Germany. His relentless goalscoring form proves irresistible for Real Madrid, who stump up £2.7million to sign the hard-working forward from HSV.
  • Following his release by Real Madrid, former Italy left-back Paolo Maldini is offered a contract by Fulham's ambitious owner Mohammed El Fayed. The 36-year-old immediately decides to hang up his boots and become manager of newly-promoted Serie B side Ascoli instead.
  • Chelsea's pre-season preparations suffer a devastating blow when defender William Gallas shatters his pelvis. The French international stubbornly refuses all treatment and will instead sit on the training pitch sulking for the next seven months.
  • Derby manager Jim Smith retires, with Tony Adams becoming the new king of Pride Park. That's the same Tony Adams who led Barnsley to relegation from Division 1 last season. Suffice to say, Rams fans aren't too optimistic about the former England captain's appointment.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • Instead of reading the news, Natasha Kaplinsky becomes the news when she and dance partner Brendan Cole win the first series of the BBC’s new ballroom contest "Strictly Come Dancing". As presenter Bruce Forsyth might say, "Didn't they do well?"
  • Tennis wonderkid Maria Sharapova makes a huge racket at Wimbledon! The Russian thrashes reigning champion Serena Williams to win her first Grand Slam title - at the ripe old age of 17.
  • A memorial fountain for Princess Diana is unveiled in Hyde Park, London. It closes a few weeks later after three people slip in the water and hurt themselves.
  • Hollywood legend Marlon Brando dies at the age of 80 after struggling with multiple health problems in recent years. Best-known for playing Vito Corleone in "The Godfather", he was proclaimed "Actor of the Century" by TIME Magazine in 1999.
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Dagenham & Redbridge squad - Start of 2004/2005 season

 

GOALKEEPERS

1. Andy Woodman - GK, age 33, English

Woodman is a steady and determined goalkeeper with great agility. The former Northampton number 1 has been a benchwarmer in recent years.

 

13. Mike Pollitt - GK, age 32, English

League veteran Pollitt cost us a club-record £100,000 after an initial loan from Wrexham. He's a brave and strong shotstopper but struggles with consistency.

 

DEFENDERS

2. Lee Goodwin - D R, age 25, English

Energetic right-back Goodwin is one of the last survivors from our Isthmian League days. He lost his starting place late last season and is now a backup.

 

3. Peter Hawkins - D RL, age 25, English

Tough-tackling ex-Wimbledon star Hawkins can play full-back on either flank. He's pacey and can put in a good cross but has limited competitive experience.

 

5. Dave Bayliss - D C, age 28, English

Bayliss has been an underrated star in our defence in recent years. Though a little shaky positionally, his physical power and tackling ability are great assets.

 

6. John Anderson - D/M C, age 31, Scottish

We are so much weaker whenever Anderson is absent. The vice-captain organises our defence superbly and always poses a threat from set-pieces.

 

11. Kerry Mayo - D/DM L, age 26, English

Mayo is a crossing maestro and an invaluable presence on the left flank. He got six assists last term but will hope to increase his productivity.

 

15. Shaun Maher - SW/D C, age 26, Irish

Maher is a summer signing from Bournemouth, costing us £50,000. Sadly, a groin strain means we must wait to see the athletic two-footed sweeper in action.

 

18. Sol Davis - D/DM L, age 24, English

The strong and selfless Davis will provide cover for our other left-backs until late November. He is on loan from Swindon, where he's played over 150 league games.

 

19. Richard Rose - D C, age 19, English

Rose made 11 appearances for the Daggers last term but still awaits his big breakthrough. The tall and strong centre-half is rather erratic and has stalled in training.

 

21. Lee Gledhill - D RC, age 23, English

Gledhill has established himself at right-back since signing from Barnet last November. He's a solid tackler but can still improve his tactical awareness.

 

26. Dean Clark - D/M RC, age 24, English

Another mid-season signing from last term, Clark is a robust and versatile backup player. The former Brentford trainee has bundles of energy.

 

MIDFIELDERS

4. Damien Lacey - DM C, age 26, English

Captain Lacey is still the same tireless workhorse who keeps our midfield together. The goals have dried up, but he's made up for that with more assists.

 

7. Mark Janney - M R, age 26, English

Stalwart winger (and occasional midfielder) Janney doesn't see much action these days. He was prolific in the Conference but has yet to score for us in the Football League.

 

8. Ian Selley - M C, age 30, English

Selley was our most expensive signing last season, and by far our most disappointing. The ball-winner's game has declined sharply and is now transfer-listed.

 

14. Ryan Carter - M C, age 18, English

Despite his tender years, Carter is now a regular starter. The hard-working playmaker provided seven goals and six assists in his 2003/2004 breakthrough season.

 

17. Stephen Melton - AM C, age 25, English

Attacking midfielder Melton is a set-piece specialist who scored 10 goals for us last season. Consistency is a concern, as he tends to go missing in certain matches.

 

20. Nick Weekes - M C, age 22, English

Weekes is a box-to-box player who has steadily improved over the last couple of seasons. The ex-cricketer's technique and intelligence are his best assets.

 

31. Alan McLean - DM C, age 18, Scottish

Deep-lying playmaker McLean is hoping to break through soon. The creative teenager excelled in our reserves and made four league appearances last term.

 

FORWARDS

9. Junior McDougald - S C, age 29, American

McDougald's days as our top goal-getter might be numbered. The Texan rocket scored 20 goals in our promotion campaign, but only hit four in the Football League last season.

 

10. Julian Alsop - S C, age 31, English

Fearless target man Alsop has been our top scorer in each of the last two seasons. Whether it's with his head or his feet, the big Brummie knows how to finish.

 

12. Victor Renner - F RLC, age 25, English

Renner has the pace and technique to wreak havoc among Division 3 defences. If the ex-Peterborough striker can become more clinical, the goals will surely flow.

 

16. Sean Devine - S C, age 31, Irish [capped at B level]

I hope Devine will be divine up front after his free transfer from Wycombe. He certainly has the experience and all-round game to be a danger.

 

RESERVES

DEFENDERS: Nathan Betts (18), Jamie Cartwright (18), Lee Chaffey (20)

MIDFIELDERS: Mark Jones (16), Andy Scott (19), Bill Shaw (18), Kevin Sheridan (18), Mark Thomas (19), Jamie Weaver (19)

FORWARD: Chris Griffiths (18)

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AUGUST 2004

Despite some defensive wobbles, pre-season was going reasonably well for the Daggers. We had two more friendlies to negotiate before the Division 3 campaign got underway.

 

First off, we headed to Hampshire for a meeting with Aldershot, who had recently celebrated promotion to the Conference. Midfielder Nick Weekes started for the Daggers against the former club, while target man Julian Alsop took on the captaincy.

 

3 AUGUST 2004: Aldershot Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Our wingers got us off to a flying start after six minutes, with Kerry Mayo on the left flank setting up Mark Janney on the right to open the scoring. Despite being comfortably the better team, it took us until the 72nd minute to consolidate our advantage through Junior McDougald.

 

This would be a very comfortable win, though it ended on a sour note when veteran midfielder Ian Selley was sent off for pushing the visitors' ex-Daggers striker Paul Piscopides. Silly Selley.

 

Aldershot Town - 0

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Janney 6, McDougald 72)

Friendly, Attendance 1,531

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Woodman (Pollitt); Gledhill (Goodwin), Bayliss (Anderson), Rose, Davis (Hawkins); Janney (Selley), Weekes (Melton), McLean (Clark), Mayo; Alsop (Renner), Griffiths (McDougald). SENT OFF: Selley.

 

Since going back to basics with the 4-4-2, we had kept back-to-back clean sheets - the first time we'd done so since December. Was it just a coincidence, or a genuine step in the right direction?

 

We would probably get more of an idea once we played our final friendly match against Watford, who had fallen on hard times since their brief flirtation with the Premiership five seasons ago. The Hornets almost endured a second successive relegation last term, but Mark McGhee's side pulled themselves away from the Division 2 danger zone just in time.

 

7 AUGUST 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Watford

This big step up in class didn't faze young Ryan Carter, who headed us into a surprise lead after just seven minutes. I was even more shocked when Junior McDougald doubled it on the half-hour mark, with his third goal of pre-season! That said, Watford did pull one goal back through midfielder Gary Fisken not long afterwards, putting the upset in some doubt.

 

A nervy second half followed. Strikers Heidar Helguson and Gifton Noel-Williams tried to use all their top-flight experience to draw the Hornets back level, but their shooting just lacked the killer touch. With John Anderson and Dave Bayliss once again resilient in defence, and Carter delivering a midfield masterclass beyond his 18 years, we saw the job through and claimed a famous 2-1 win! Who cared if this was only a friendly?

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Carter 7, McDougald 30)

Watford - 1 (Fisken 35)

Friendly, Attendance 1,141

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Woodman (Pollitt); Gledhill (Goodwin), Bayliss, Anderson, Hawkins (Davis); Janney (Melton), Carter (Shaw), Lacey (McLean), Mayo (Clark); Alsop (Devine), McDougald (Renner).

 

Back in 1999, Dagenham & Redbridge were an Isthmian League club, while Watford were rubbing shoulders with Arsenal and Manchester United in the top flight. Going off that result, you wouldn't know it!

 

These were positive times for Daggers fans, and excitement levels will surely grow when they see our newest signing take to the pitch at Victoria Road. Mind you, they will have to wait a while to see him happen.

 

One of my scouts had alerted me to an established international striker based in Switzerland whose contract was expiring in six months, and who was very interested in a move to England. I flew out to Basel to meet him in person - and hopefully persuade him to join us on a Bosman free transfer.

 

After an intense afternoon of negotiations, the deal was done - he had turned down an approach from Dutch second-tier side Heracles Almelo to take up our offer instead. The mystery man will officially become a Dagenham & Redbridge player on 4 February... but I'm afraid I'll have to keep his identity a secret until then. (Yeah, I'm such a tease!)

 

In the meantime, we continued to turn to Alsop and Victor Renner for goals. They would need to be firing in our first match of the new Division 3 campaign - at home to a Macclesfield side whose star man Damien Whitehead won last season's Golden Boot by scoring 41 goals! If Whitehead could keep that astonishing form up, the Silkmen would be serious candidates for promotion.

 

14 AUGUST 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Macclesfield Town

I made a huge call before this match, starting Andy Woodman in goal rather than our record signing Mike Pollitt. Woodman justified his pick with a valiant first-half performance against a dominant Macclesfield save, including a stunning 34th-minute fingertip save to deny midfielder Luke Hardy. Sadly, Andy's resistance was finally broken just before the interval, as left-back Danny Adams fired the Silkmen into a half-time lead.

 

The closest we had come to scoring in the first half was when Ryan Carter hit the post in the 23rd minute. Our next big opportunity came about half an hour after that. Substitute Dean Clark's cross into the box found target man Julian Alsop, who got his season up and running with a stunning equalising volley.

 

Macc attacked again after seeing their lead slip, with Damien Whitehead unsurprisingly leading the assault. On 76 minutes, the goal machine produced a rare assist, as midfielder Eddie Barnes reinstated the visitors and left us staring at an opening-day defeat.

 

But just six minutes later, an unlikely hero saved the day. Left-winger Kerry Mayo's fierce drive was tipped away by Silkmen keeper Stephen Collis. Pouncing on the rebound was right-back Lee Gledhill, whose first ever Daggers goal secured our first point of the new season!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Alsop 54, Gledhill 82)

Macclesfield Town - 2 (Adams 45, Barnes 76)

Division 3, Attendance 2,873 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 10th, Macclesfield 12th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Woodman; Gledhill, Bayliss, Anderson, Hawkins (Clark); Janney (Weekes), Carter, Lacey, Mayo; Alsop, Renner (McDougald).

 

Not the ideal start, but at least we showed plenty of fighting spirit to come from behind twice. I hoped that would spur us on to produce another result a week later at Halifax. The Shaymen had lost their opening match at Scunthorpe, which hadn't exactly eased their fans' fears of another relegation battle.

 

21 AUGUST 2004: Halifax Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Halifax set out their stall by having four shots at goal in the first 20 minutes - all four of which were saved by Andy Woodman. Then, in the 21st minute, Junior McDougald gave us our first shooting opportunity by winning a close-range free-kick off Shaymen midfielder Paul Harsley. Kerry Mayo stepped forward to take the free-kick, which he fired into the top corner for his first Dagenham goal!

 

This was a very good time for our more defensive players to break their Dagenham goalscoring ducks. Ten minutes into the second half, having helped stave off a few more Halifax attacks, centre-half Dave Bayliss doubled our lead with his first club goal. A bullet header from captain Damien Lacey's corner put us in a commanding position.

 

The Shaymen now had a huge mountain to move - a task that Mark Janney made impossible in the 78th minute. The winger dribbled past a couple of visiting players, including ex-Daggers youth left-back Brett Gallagher, before scoring our third and final goal of the afternoon!

 

Halifax Town - 0

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Mayo 22, Bayliss 55, Janney 78)

Division 3, Attendance 2,626 - POSITIONS: Halifax 23rd, Dag & Red 4th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Woodman; Gledhill, Bayliss, Anderson, Davis (Hawkins); Janney, Melton, Lacey (Clarke), Mayo; Alsop, McDougald (Devine). BOOKED: Lacey.

 

A 3-0 win away from home, and only our third competitive clean sheet of 2004! That will do very nicely!

 

In other news, our young striker Chris Griffiths went on a season-long loan to Cwmbran Town in the Welsh Premier League. Hopefully the 18-year-old would see more action at Cwmbran than he did at Port Talbot, where he struggled so badly last term that I recalled him after only a few months.

 

Andy Woodman's assured goalkeeping performances had thrown down the gauntlet to Mike Pollitt, who hadn't yet justified the £100,000 we had paid to make his loan deal permanent. The veteran shotstopper made his first appearance of the season in midweek, when we hosted third-tier Rochdale in Round 1 of the League Cup.

 

24 AUGUST 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Rochdale

Mike Pollitt started to repay his transfer fee in the first half, shutting out Rochdale forward Gavin Holligan and Danny Schofield to keep the deadlock intact at half-time. Things hadn't gone so well for Pollitt's opposite number. Neil Edwards broke his toe hitting a long goal kick in the 18th minute, which meant Dale boss Glenn Roeder had to replace him with his backup keeper Paul Robinson (not that one!).

 

Eight minutes into the second half, though, Rochdale's greater class started to show. Ex-Sunderland winger Kevin Kilbane delivered a marvellous cross into the box, where Schofield met it with an unstoppable diving header. 1-0 to the visitors.

 

Midway through the second half, I decided to take the game to our opponents, abandoning the 4-4-2 for a more ambitious 4-3-1-2. Nick Weekes came on in the attacking midfield hole, and he made an instant impact, half-volleying in a Lee Gledhill delivery to restore parity on 73 minutes.

 

Rochdale didn't know what had hit them, and we grew even more confident as full-time neared. When Dean Clark fed a delicious aerial ball for Victor Renner to head home in the 88th minute, our fightback was complete. Unfortunately, centre-back Dave Bayliss got a bit caught up in the emotion and was sent off for pushing Holligan, but our remaining 10 players held on for a famous win!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Weekes 73, Renner 88)

Rochdale - 1 (Schofield 53)

League Cup Round 1, Attendance 4,597

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Pollitt; Gledhill, Bayliss, Anderson, Hawkins; Janney (Clark), Carter, Lacey, Mayo (Weekes); Alsop (Devine), Renner. BOOKED: Anderson. SENT OFF: Bayliss.

 

What a comeback! The reward for our first League Cup victory was another home tie in Round 2... against a little club in the north-east called Newcastle. That's right, folks! Zlatan Ibrahimovic and co will be coming to Victoria Road next month!

 

Dave Bayliss' needless act of violence right at the end resulted in a one-match ban, ruling him out of our trip to Brighton on 11 September. The centre-back was also dropped for our next league fixture at home to Darlington, with debutant Shaun Maher taking his place after recovering from a pre-season injury.

 

28 AUGUST 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Darlington

Darlington might have just come down from Division 2, but our attackers made their defence look like amateurs in the first half. In the 10th minute, Julian Alsop played in strike partner Victor Renner, who needed two attempts to score after his first was stopped by Stewart Kerr. Alsop was a bit more clinical when playmaker Ryan Carter played him through in the 28th minute, and we went into half-time leading 2-0!

 

Early in the second half, though, the Quakers had us quaking. Andy Woodman resisted Darlo's best attacks with several saves, but he finally came a cropper in the 54th minute. Rory Allen outjumped Woodman to get to Andy Williams' corner delivery and flick it towards visiting captain Ian Hughes, who cut our advantage to 2-1.

 

Woodman quickly regained his composure after that mistake, and an impressive save in the 61st minute denied Ashley White an equaliser. That marked another turning point, as Alsop provided another assist for Renner two minutes later to restore our two-goal cushion.

 

Renner was then rested for Sean Devine, who provided the inspiration for Alsop's second goal in the 73rd minute. That completed a resounding 4-1 win, in which Jules had played a key role in all four Daggers goals!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 4 (Renner 10,63, Alsop 28,73)

Darlington - 1 (Hughes 54)

Division 3, Attendance 4,860 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 3rd, Darlington 5th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Woodman; Gledhill, Maher, Anderson (Rose), Mayo; Weekes, Lacey, Carter (Janney); Melton; Alsop, Renner (Devine).

 

We were back in the automatic promotion places, but for how long? Just two days later, we were back in action against last season's losing Playoff Finalists. Torquay were still trying to get over their Wembley defeat to Lincoln three months ago, having failed to win any of their first four fixtures in this campaign.

 

30 AUGUST 2004: Torquay United vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Despite an excellent start to his season, right-back Lee Gledhill was dropped after slacking off in training. That gave the long-serving Lee Goodwin an opportunity to show if he could still do a job for us. By half-time, he had answered my query loud and clear.

 

Unfortunately, Goodwin was all at sea when pitted against Torquay's lightning-quick left-winger James Knowles. In the 25th minute, Knowles glided past Goodwin and put a low cross to the near post, where Gulls captain Roy Hunter popped up to break the deadlock. And when Knowles doubled the hosts' lead in the 43rd minute, it sounded the death knell for both Goodman and the equally awful Damien Lacey, who were substituted at half-time.

 

The introductions of Sol Davis and Dean Clark did little to fix our defensive issues, and the contest was over by the hour mark. Centre-back John Anderson (who'd taken the captaincy from Lacey) made an excellent saving tackle on right-winger Kieron Durkan, only to see midfielder Lee Snodin blast the loose ball into the net. Suffice to say, Torquay manager Chris Kamara was all smiles after an unbelievable 3-0 win for his team.

 

Torquay United - 3 (Hunter 25, Knowles 43, Snodin 60)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Division 3, Attendance 2,761 - POSITIONS: Torquay 14th, Dag & Red 4th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Woodman; Goodwin (Davis), Maher, Anderson, Hawkins; Janney (Clark), Weekes, Lacey, Mayo; Alsop (Devine), Renner. BOOKED: Janney, Mayo.

 

It was a long and hard journey back from the south-west. After such a strong start to the season, we had been given a much-needed dose of reality. There was still plenty of hard work to do defensively if we wanted to sustain another promotion challenge.

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DIVISION 3 TABLE (End of August 2004)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Shrewsbury                      4    2    0    0    6    4    2    0    0    6    4    12   
2nd     Hartlepool                      4    1    1    0    5    4    1    0    1    7    3    7    
3rd     Wycombe                         4    2    0    0    6    1    0    1    1    4    6    7    
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4th     Dag & Red                       4    1    1    0    6    3    1    0    1    3    3    7    
5th     Oxford                          4    1    1    0    1    0    1    0    1    7    7    7    
6th     Cambridge Utd                   4    2    0    0    7    5    0    1    1    5    7    7    
7th     Cheltenham                      4    1    1    0    4    2    1    0    1    3    5    7    
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
8th     Brighton                        4    2    0    0    6    0    0    0    2    0    2    6    
9th     Stockport                       4    1    1    0    5    2    0    2    0    4    4    6    
10th    Macclesfield                    4    1    1    0    5    4    0    2    0    4    4    6    
11th    Darlington                      4    1    0    1    4    2    1    0    1    4    6    6    
12th    Scunthorpe                      4    2    0    0    2    0    0    0    2    4    6    6    
13th    Rotherham                       4    0    1    1    3    4    1    1    0    6    3    5    
14th    Torquay                         4    1    0    1    5    3    0    2    0    4    4    5    
15th    Mansfield                       4    0    1    1    2    3    1    0    1    5    5    4    
16th    Leyton Orient                   4    1    0    1    3    3    0    1    1    1    2    4    
17th    Exeter                          4    1    1    0    7    5    0    0    2    1    5    4    
18th    Rushden                         4    0    1    1    4    5    1    0    1    3    4    4    
19th    Colchester                      4    0    1    1    4    6    1    0    1    2    3    4    
20th    Oldham                          4    0    0    2    1    5    1    1    0    5    4    4    
21st    Doncaster                       4    1    0    1    5    8    0    1    1    2    3    4    
22nd    Northwich Vics                  4    0    1    1    5    6    1    0    1    2    5    4    
23rd    Plymouth                        4    1    0    1    6    5    0    0    2    1    6    3    
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
24th    Halifax                         4    0    0    2    1    5    1    0    1    2    2    3    

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Manchester United defeat Liverpool 2-1 in the Community Shield, and then kick off the Premiership season with three straight wins. Sir Alex Ferguson has not made any new signings since last December - but why would you when Andrew Cole and Ruud van Nistelrooy are ruthlessly tearing strips out of Crewe and Gillingham?
  • Chelsea do make a big move in the transfer market, signing Wales striker Craig Bellamy from Newcastle for £10.75million. This briefly takes media interest away from the Blues' central defensive talisman John Terry, who is reportedly holding out for a new contract that includes a big pay rise - and the option to sleep with one of this team-mates' wives.
  • 13 months into his new life in England, Fabio Cannavaro comes to a startling revelation - he hates Yorkshire pudding. The Italian defensive maestro immediately boards the next flight out of Leeds and completes a £12.75million transfer to Roma. Peter Ridsdale sighs, "At least we still have Jonathan Woodgate."
  • After finishing 8th in Serie A last term, Juventus' last hope of qualifying for the UEFA Cup comes through the Inter-Toto Cup. The Old Lady make it all the way to the Final round... and lose 3-2 on aggregate to Besiktas.
  • Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola makes his Serie A managerial debut with Chievo, having moved to Verona after managing third-division side Siena for just over a year. It could have gone better - Chievo are thrashed 5-0 away from home against a Perugia team captained by World Cup winner Fabio Liverani.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • Greece is the word when the Summer Olympics come home to Athens. Great Britain's Kelly Holmes claims two gold medals in the 800m and 1,500m, while rower Matthew Pinsent becomes a four-time champion. Sadly, Paula Radcliffe's marathon turns into a Greek tragedy.
  • Michael Schumacher's dominance of Formula 1 continues with a record seventh Drivers' Championship - his fifth in a row! Schumi won 12 of this season's first 13 races, which begs the question: who can stop him?!
  • In a watershed moment for transgender acceptance in Britain, Nadia Almada is overwhelmingly voted the winner of "Big Brother" series 5. She instantly becomes the country’s most popular Portuguese-British person since... er, Jay Kay from Jamiroquai?
  • The Edvard Munch paintings “Madonna” and “The Scream” are stolen from the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway. It is actually the second time Munch’s most famous work, which shows Pierluigi Collina shrieking in a sunset sky, has been stolen in just over a decade.
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SEPTEMBER 2004

Dagenham & Redbridge's second season in the Football League had started well enough, with us taking seven points from our first three games. However, a 3-0 tonking by Chris Kamara’s Torquay had exposed the defensive frailties that still existed in our team.

 

Our first match in September was against a team whose backline was in arguably even worse shape. Cambridge United arrived at Victoria Road having conceded 12 goals in their first four games. Then again, the U's had also scored 12 at the other end, with five of those coming from Swedish sensation Demba Traore.

 

4 SEPTEMBER 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Cambridge United

We made a bright start to this match, with Julian Alsop's 9th-minute header drawing an early save out of Cambridge goalkeeper Jonathan Gould. However, the former Scotland international was unable to keep out an effort from Stephen Melton five minutes later, with the attacking midfielder firing us into the lead!

 

The rest of the first half was pretty much non-stop attacking action at both ends. While Mike Pollitt produced a number of blinding saves to stop Cambridge drawing level, the crossbar was preventing Alsop from doubling our advantage. We eventually did go 2-0 up five minutes from half-time, when Gould spilled a Junior McDougald header to gift Melton the easiest of finishes!

 

But that wasn't the end of the first-half drama! Just before the break, Cambridge midfielder Luke Guttridge played an excellent ball into the area for 16-year-old striker Carl Martin, whose header was tipped behind by Pollitt. Mickey Bell's corner found U's captain Steve Harkness, but Pollitt made another cracking save to survive the first half with his clean sheet intact.

 

The second half wasn't quite as breathless as the first. United had run out of steam, and though there would be no hat-trick for Melton, we did put a couple more goals past Gould. Sean Devine came off the bench to open his Daggers account in the 64th minute, and he then provided a brilliant assist for midfielder Nick Weekes 12 minutes later. With that, a resounding 4-0 win was complete!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 4 (Melton 14,40, Devine 64, Weekes 76)

Cambridge United - 0

Division 3, Attendance 4,099 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 3rd, Cambridge Utd 14th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt; Gledhill (Hawkins), Bayliss, Anderson (Maher), Mayo; Carter, Lacey, Weekes; Melton; Alsop (Devine), McDougald.

 

After a staggering performance, there was more exciting news on the attacking front, as 17-year-olds Robbie Walsh and Bob Fowler joined our reserve team on free transfers. Walsh is a lightning-quick Irishman who looks the more exciting goalscoring prospect, while local boy Fowler is more of a target forward.

 

We went to Brighton a week later, making just two changes to the team that had just annihilated Cambridge. Shaun Maher started at centre-half in place of the suspended Dave Bayliss, while Victor Renner took Junior McDougald's spot up front.

 

11 SEPTEMBER 2004: Brighton & Hove Albion vs Dagenham & Redbridge

While Stephen Melton had been sensational in our last match, he looked a pale imitation of himself against his former club Brighton. An early half-volley skied over the bar, while a promising chip to Julian Alsop in the 11th minute amounted to nothing.

 

The latter attack had come just after Brighton's first offensive. Midfielder Chris Brandon had broken the deadlock with a powerful effort, which left Mike Pollitt flailing helplessly in his goal.

 

We continued to struggle throughout the match. Come the final whistle, we had mustered six shots at goal - and they were all off target, leaving Brighton goalkeeper Mark Clough untroubled. Victor Renner was especially wasteful, missing the target twice. Remind me - why did I spend £30,000 on this guy?

 

By contrast, the Seagulls had been on target with all three of their efforts - all from their trio of Chrises. Thankfully, winger Chris Holland and striker Chris McPhee were not as deadly as their namesake Brandon, as a couple of Pollitt saves meant we went back home having only lost 1-0.

 

Brighton & Hove Albion - 1 (Brandon 10)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Division 3, Attendance 6,410 - POSITIONS: Brighton 5th, Dag & Red 7th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt; Gledhill, Maher, Anderson, Mayo; Carter (McLean), Lacey, Weekes (Clark); Melton (Hawkins); Alsop, Renner.

 

Those last two results perfectly sum up this Daggers team: we can be fantastic one week, and ordinary the next.

 

We hoped to return to form in midweek, when an old foe came to town. After celebrating back-to-back promotions in 2002 and 2003, Doncaster had recently plunged back down into Division 3, where they sat in a disappointing 19th place.

 

15 SEPTEMBER 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Doncaster Rovers

There was controversy in the sixth minute, when Doncaster unsuccessfully claimed for a penalty after striker Richard Naylor was scythed down in the Daggers area by our right-back Lee Gledhill. The referee let play continue, and Rovers' anger grew when Melton's through-ball led to a milestone goal for Julian Alsop - his 50th in a Daggers jersey!

 

Steve Wignall's visitors felt so aggrieved that they attacked us relentlessly for the rest of the first half. Dagenham defender John Anderson sensationally cleared Wayne Brown's header off the line in the 23rd minute, while Jon Fisher-Cooke was superbly thwarted by Mike Pollitt seven minutes later. Rovers eventually broke through three minutes from half-time, when Naylor climbed above Anderson to head in a Steve Palmer cross.

 

There was more drama to come in the second half. Though Naylor came close to putting Donny ahead in the 61st minute, another big penalty decision went against them six minutes later. This time, Rovers defender Lee Brown was accused of pushing Alsop in the area, prompting the referee to award us a spot kick. Substitute Ryan Carter took it... but the 18-year-old midfielder was denied by a great save from Justin Shuttlewood.

 

While Wignall might have had other ideas, I wouldn't have complained had the final score remained level at 1-1. But there would be one final twist in the 89th minute, when Nick Weekes hit a long ball into Doncaster's area. Rising above Brown to get his head to it was another Daggers substitute - Sean Devine, who sent the Victoria Road faithful wild with a dramatic winner!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Alsop 7, Devine 89)

Doncaster Rovers - 1 (Naylor 42)

Division 3, Attendance 3,324 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 4th, Doncaster 20th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt; Gledhill, Bayliss, Anderson, Mayo (Davis); McLean (Carter), Lacey, Weekes; Melton; Alsop, Renner (Devine).

 

Had it not been for Sean Devine's late winner, we would have dropped to 9th place. His heroics ensured that we remained right in the thick of the play-off picture when we visited fellow contenders Stockport a few days later. Bobby Williamson's Hatters were one of only two teams to still be unbeaten after seven games - the other being leaders Macclesfield.

 

18 SEPTEMBER 2004: Stockport County vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Though Sean Devine was making a compelling case to start up front, I decided to keep Victor Renner and Julian Alsop as our strike partnership at Edgeley Park. Though both men missed chances to put us ahead early on, Renner would justify his selection just before half-time. A bullet header from Nick Weekes' corner was enough to send us into the break with the slimmest of advantages.

 

Stockport started to put up a fight midway through the second half. Right-back Keith Briggs' header in the 62nd minute was beaten away by our Mancunian goalkeeper Mike Pollitt. Four minutes later, though, Mike's opposite number Matthew Glennon made a meal of Kerry Mayo's free-kick, which allowed Renner to put us 2-0 up!

 

Our two-goal cushion only lasted a couple of minutes. Ryan Carter's disappointing run of form continued when his poor man-marking was exposed by Stockport defender Peter Clark, who headed home a Paul Deas corner and gave County fresh hope of extending their unbeaten start. That made for a nail-biting final quarter, but after shutting up shop, we eventually came away with another precious victory.

 

Stockport County - 1 (Clark 68)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Renner 44,66)

Division 3, Attendance 5,269 - POSITIONS: Stockport 7th, Dag & Red 3rd

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Pollitt; Gledhill, Bayliss, Anderson (Clark), Mayo; Janney, Carter, Lacey, Weekes; Alsop (Hawkins), Renner (Devine). BOOKED: Anderson.

 

A couple of hard-fought wins had got our promotion push back on track. Now, though, we faced arguably the toughest match in the club's dozen-year history.

 

Victoria Road was almost packed for our League Cup Round 2 clash with Premiership giants Newcastle. The shy and retiring Zlatan Ibrahimovic had sadly been left at home - which was good news for our defence at least - but Magpies boss Brian Quinn had still brought a strong team with him.

 

22 SEPTEMBER 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Newcastle United

I utilised my more defensive 3-5-2 formation for this match, hoping to frustrate Newcastle before hitting them on the counter-attack. Though we sadly lost left-back Kerry Mayo to injury after just eight minutes, the plan worked pretty well. Mike Pollitt was in fine goalkeeping form, keeping out a couple of early attempts from striker Tommy Smith, as well as one from left-back Mauricio Taricco.

 

We then gave the Magpies a few scares at the other end, with Sean Devine drawing two tricky saves out of their wobbly-legged Polish goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek. Sadly, we couldn't quite grab the lead... or even stop Newcastle from breaking through before half-time. Smith finally got the better of us in the 45th minute, when his centre was headed home by the veteran Portuguese midfielder Jordão.

 

With nothing to lose, I decided to switch to the more attacking version of the 3-5-2. Teenage midfielder Alan McLean was replaced with Nick Weekes, who moved into the hole behind Devine and Victor Renner. Opportunity knocked for Weekes in the 61st minute, when Peter Hawkins' volley was awkwardly parried by Dudek. Nick buried the loose ball, and we'd nicked an equaliser!

 

And there was more to come! As the game neared its climax and Renner started to tire, I decided to replace him with our big target man Julian Alsop. In the 85th minute, just three minutes after Alsop's introduction, a quickfire Daggers counter-attack ended with Devine playing an inspired through-ball to Jules, who powered it home! 2-1 to Dagenham & Redbridge! The dream was on!

 

Well... it was on for four minutes. Then Smith put a low cross into our penalty area, where Argentine midfielder Christian Bassedas skilfully swivelled on it before pulling the visitors level at 2-2.

 

Smith wasn't finished breaking our hearts, though, as he then shattered them with a pinpoint header from Lomana Lua-Lua's injury-time cross. The Magpies' late comeback was complete, and we had been cruelly knocked out of the League Cup.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Weekes 61, Alsop 85)

Newcastle United - 3 (Jordão 45, Bassedas 89, Smith 90)

League Cup Round 2, Attendance 5,989

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Defensive): Pollitt; Anderson, Bayliss, Maher; Gledhill, Lacey, Mayo (Hawkins); Carter, McLean (Weekes); Devine, Renner (Alsop). BOOKED: Gledhill.

 

Two minutes away from a sensational result... but it wasn't to be. Still, we could take heart from a very brave performance.

 

One of the few negatives to come out of that game was that Kerry Mayo had gashed his leg, ruling him out for a fortnight. Sol Davis then hurt his shoulder in training, which meant Peter Hawkins had to play at left-back when we hosted 2nd-placed Shrewsbury in our next league game.

 

25 SEPTEMBER 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Shrewsbury Town

Though Junior McDougald hadn't scored a competitive goal for us yet this season, he got the nod to start up front with Julian Alsop. Nonetheless, Junior knew how important it was to get off the mark before Daggers fans started questioning his place in the team. After 23 minutes, he answered those questions by pouncing on a mistake from Shrewsbury midfielder Chris McConville to open the scoring!

 

We continued to boss possession either side of half-time, though we didn't really make enough of it to pull comfortably ahead of Shrewsbury. Had it not been for our ever-reliable centre-half John Anderson winning a ludicrous number of defensive headers, the Shrews could well have capitalised on the counter-attack.

 

Town's hopes started to fade when right-back Darren Moss tore a groin muscle in the 77th minute. Before long, all three of our substitutes had taken advantage of the visitors' weakened defences. Ryan Carter played a beautiful knock-down to help get Sean Devine on the scoresheet again in the 83rd minute, and defensive midfielder Dean Clark completed a 3-0 win shortly afterwards.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (McDougald 23, Devine 83, Clark 90)

Shrewsbury Town - 0

Division 3, Attendance 4,849 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Shrewsbury 4th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt; Gledhill, Anderson, Bayliss, Hawkins; Janney (Carter), Lacey, Weekes; Melton (Clark); Alsop (Devine), McDougald.

 

Top of the table! It might still be early days - but I somehow don't think we'll be suffering from 'second season syndrome' any time soon!

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Posted (edited)

DIVISION 3 TABLE (End of September 2004)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Dag & Red                       9    4    1    0    15   4    2    0    2    5    5    19   
2nd     Cambridge Utd                   9    4    0    0    13   7    2    1    2    8    11   19   
3rd     Macclesfield                    9    4    1    0    17   10   1    2    1    8    9    18   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4th     Shrewsbury                      9    3    0    1    8    6    3    0    2    12   11   18   
5th     Wycombe                         9    4    1    0    13   4    1    1    2    8    12   17   
6th     Oxford                          9    2    1    1    5    3    3    0    2    13   12   16   
7th     Rushden                         9    2    1    2    8    8    3    0    1    8    5    16   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
8th     Leyton Orient                   9    2    0    2    6    8    3    1    1    6    2    16   
9th     Torquay                         9    3    0    1    10   4    1    3    1    10   10   15   
10th    Stockport                       9    2    1    1    8    4    1    4    0    10   9    14   
11th    Hartlepool                      9    2    1    1    9    7    2    0    3    11   8    13   
12th    Scunthorpe                      9    3    1    1    9    6    1    0    3    9    9    13   
13th    Brighton                        9    3    0    1    7    2    1    1    3    3    5    13   
14th    Cheltenham                      9    2    1    2    8    9    2    0    2    4    6    13   
15th    Darlington                      9    3    0    1    11   2    1    0    4    6    11   12   
16th    Mansfield                       9    0    3    2    7    10   3    0    1    9    6    12   
17th    Plymouth                        9    2    0    2    9    8    2    0    3    8    12   12   
18th    Exeter                          9    3    1    1    10   6    0    0    4    2    9    10   
19th    Doncaster                       9    2    0    2    7    11   0    2    3    5    9    8    
20th    Colchester                      9    1    1    3    6    11   1    1    2    5    9    8    
21st    Rotherham                       9    0    3    2    6    8    1    1    2    7    11   7    
22nd    Halifax                         9    0    0    4    2    9    2    1    2    7    8    7    
23rd    Northwich Vics                  9    0    2    3    7    12   1    0    3    2    9    5    
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
24th    Oldham                          9    0    0    5    6    13   1    1    2    6    9    4    

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Harry Kewell and Michael Bridges are in excellent form as Leeds' Premiership campaign starts with five victories from five matches. The Whites celebrate with another spending spree, filling their Cannavaro-shaped central defensive hole by signing Ledley King from Tottenham for £5.25million. Heaven knows how much King's medical bill will cost.
  • Premiership champions Manchester United go even better than Leeds by winning their first SIX league games. Indeed, the Red Devils' only blip so far is a 0-0 Champions League draw at Schalke 04, whose defender Darío Verón is so fearsome that even the mere mention of his surname has Sir Alex Ferguson coming out in hives.
  • Lazio's bid to regain the Serie A scudetto gets up and running when Hernán Jorge Crespo hits a sensational hat-trick against Inter. The Biancocelesti's four-game winning start is equalled only by one other team - unfancied minnows Venezia, who have yet to concede a league goal since signing 35-year-old defender Gianluca Festa from Arsenal.
  • Valencia's summer investments pay off, as they storm to the top of La Liga with a 1-0 win over Barcelona. By contrast, Barça look in rough shape after losing their first two Champions League matches to Porto and Celtic!
  • The World Cup qualifiers get underway, with Holland's Ruud van Nistelrooy scoring two goals against Bulgaria - and then another SIX in Andorra! Head coach Louis van Gaal describes the 28-year-old's form as "okay".

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • Former Derby and Nottingham Forest boss Brian Clough dies from stomach cancer aged 69. The outspoken Yorkshireman won the European Cup twice but is regrettably regarded by many football fans as the greatest manager England never had.
  • JJ Abrams’ new mystery drama series “Lost” makes its debut on American TV network ABC. The series follows the survivors of a plane that crashed into an island in the Pacific. Although heavily inspired by the Tom Hanks film “Cast Away”, it sadly does not feature any personified volleyballs.
  • A decade after their breakthrough, pop-punk icons Green Day are back on top with their new album “American Idiot”. Hmm... I wonder which warmongering right-wing politician that was inspired by?
Edited by CFuller
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OCTOBER 2004

We might have been flying high at the top of Division 3, but a packed October schedule would push a thin Dagenham & Redbridge squad to its limits. We had seven league matches to get through this month - and it all kicked off with a tricky trip to Oxford, who were three points behind us in 6th place.

 

2 OCTOBER 2004: Oxford United vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Worryingly, Oxford found the net after just seven minutes. I was thankful to see the offside flag save us after Mike Pollitt had failed to save James Newell's header from a premature right-wing cross by Jamie Brooks. Newell would have another chance on the half-hour mark, but he blazed it well over.

 

Otherwise, most of the attacking play in the first half came from us. Unfortunately, it turned out that Oxford's 17-year-old keeper Michael Turner was the next Gordon Banks, saving everything that Julian Alsop and company could fire his way. It was just another of those days where nothing we tried could get past the opposition goalie.

 

The U's caused us more agony in the 60th minute, when Dean Whitehead presented Newell with another scoring opportunity. This time, the pacey 18-year-old volleyed it home, and Turner held firm for the final 30 minutes to secure victory for Oxford. It just shows that Alan Hansen was wrong all along: you can win with kids.

 

Oxford United - 1 (Newell 60)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Division 3, Attendance 4,882 - POSITIONS: Oxford 6th, Dag & Red 5th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt; Gledhill, Bayliss, Anderson, Hawkins; Carter (Clark), Lacey, Weekes (Maher); Melton; Alsop, McDougald (Devine).

 

After tumbling from 1st place to 5th, there was more bad news when we heard more about Shaun Maher's injury. The Irish defender had strained his knee ligaments and was out for around three weeks.

 

Though that was our third away league defeat of the season, we were at least still unbeaten at Victoria Road (the League Cup game against Newcastle notwithstanding). We hoped to continue our impressive home form when 17th-placed Plymouth came to town.

 

9 OCTOBER 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Plymouth Argyle

Junior McDougald was still seething after being shut out at Oxford, so he took his anger out on Plymouth. After just three minutes, Junior ran onto a marvellous chipped ball from strike partner Julian Alsop and volleyed it beyond the reach of the Argyle keeper Tony Warner. Despite creating several more chances in the first half, we could not increase our lead before half-time.

 

The second half, however, was a different matter. Nick Weekes had broken through as our creator-in-chief this season, and his 56th-minute corner produced another assist when it was fired home by centre-half Dave Bayliss.

 

The Pilgrims had done well to survive relatively unscathed up to that point, but now their ship was sinking. McDougald added his second goal on 62 minutes, with Weekes the architect once again. Supersub Sean Devine completed the onslaught eight minutes later, and our fans left Victoria Road celebrating another four-goal victory!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 4 (McDougald 3,62, Bayliss 56, Devine 70)

Plymouth Argyle - 0

Division 3, Attendance 4,512 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 1st, Plymouth 18th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt; Gledhill (Clark), Bayliss, Anderson, Mayo (Hawkins); Carter, Lacey, Weekes; Renner (Devine); Alsop, McDougald.

 

14 shots, 12 on target, 4 goals. When we're on it, we are ON IT.

 

A week later, we made the long journey to the north-east to take on Hartlepool at Victoria Park. Despite being a quintessential mid-table team who had gone through four managers in as many years, the Pools were not a team to write off lightly.

 

16 OCTOBER 2004: Hartlepool United vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Both teams had opportunities early on, with Dagenham left-back Peter Hawkins and Hartlepool captain Ritchie Humphreys each having their shots saved. That set the tone for a competitive first period, in which both teams threatened to score without ever quite managing it. Perhaps the best effort came five minutes from half-time, when Humphreys' strike partner Joe Osei-Kuffour grazed the bar.

 

Dagenham defender Dave Bayliss looked shaky early in the second half, almost gifting Hartlepool a couple of openings. Sure enough, he would play a key role when the opening goal finally came after 63 minutes. Pools goalkeeper Martin Hollund saved Julian Alsop's close-range header but couldn't keep the loose ball away from Bayliss, who improbably fired us ahead!

 

Sadly, Dave's strike would be cancelled out 15 minutes before the end. Left-back Matt Robinson's cross broke through our defence and found substitute striker Bryan Caldwell, whose powerful header earned Hartlepool a hard-fought equaliser. Junior McDougald then rattled the side netting six minutes later as we unsuccessfully fought to regain our lead.

 

Hartlepool United - 1 (Caldwell 75)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Bayliss 63)

Division 3, Attendance 3,206 - POSITIONS: Hartlepool 12th, Dag & Red 4th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Pollitt; Gledhill (Davis), Bayliss, Anderson, Hawkins; Janney, Weekes (Carter), Lacey, Mayo; Alsop, McDougald (Devine). BOOKED: Gledhill, Davis.

 

Once again, a disappointing away result saw us lose top spot and fall out of the automatic promotion places. This battle to get out of Division 3 really was a free-for-all, with just THREE points separating the top nine teams after a dozen matches!

 

The FA Cup Round 1 took place the following afternoon - and much to my relief, we avoided a potential upset against non-league opposition this time. Instead, we would face an almighty tougher test away to Division 2 Huddersfield next month.

 

Meanwhile, we sought a sixth win in seven home league games in midweek. A mediocre Leyton Orient side provided the opposition in this east London derby.

 

19 OCTOBER 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Leyton Orient

Leyton Orient might have failed to score in either of our two meetings last season, but this local showdown was a much trickier affair. After 22 minutes, O's striker Richard May pounced on a mistake by Daggers skipper Damien Lacey and emphatically fired the visitors ahead.

 

May could even have doubled his money just before half-time, but his header from midfielder James Dicks' free-kick was well stopped by Mike Pollitt. Our struggles continued early in the second half, so I switched from the usual 4-3-1-2 to the more direct 4-4-2. Full-backs Sol Davis and Lee Gledhill both came on, with Kerry Mayo and Peter Hawkins both pushed forward onto the wings, while Julian Alsop was replaced up front with Sean Devine.

 

After unsuccessfully attacking Leyton Orient for nearly half an hour, the changes eventually paid off four minutes from the end. Mayo's clever cross played in Devine, who escaped his marker Leam Richardson and fired a shot in off the post to grab us a point!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Devine 86)

Leyton Orient - 1 (May 22)

Division 3, Attendance 4,918 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 7th, Leyton Orient 13th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt; Hawkins, Bayliss, Anderson, Mayo; Carter, Lacey, Weekes (Davis); Melton (Gledhill); Renner, Alsop (Devine).

 

Sean Devine had now scored five goals from substitute appearances. I'd now got the message loud and clear, and Sean made just his second Daggers start in our next away match. 9th-placed Scunthorpe would overtake us and knock us out of the play-off spots with a victory at Glanford Park.

 

23 OCTOBER 2004: Scunthorpe United vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Junior McDougald's renaissance continued after just 11 minutes, when he opened the scoring via a Stephen Melton through-ball. Our lead would last just eight minutes before Scunthorpe midfielder Steve Bushell equalised by heading in Kim Grant's corner delivery. Those two goals were a sign of all the excitement that would soon come.

 

Melton had mixed fortunes later on in the first half. A devastating cross from left-back Kerry Mayo set up Stephen to restore our advantage in the 35th minute... at least until Grant grabbed a second Scunny equaliser five minutes later. Not long after that, Melton suddenly pulled up with a calf strain, which would rule him out for the next fortnight.

 

As Mark Janney came on for the injured Melton, the Iron smelt an opportunity. When the hosts won another corner just before half-time, Grant swung in another killer ball. This time, our defence failed to pick up striker Lee Morris, whose header gave Scunthorpe a 3-2 lead heading into the second period.

 

Brian Laws' side restarted the match strongly as well. By the 58th minute, winger and captain Richard Graham had doubled their advantage to 4-2, skipping past Daggers defenders Dean Clark and John Anderson before blasting home. Incidentally, that was the Northern Irishman's 50th league goal for Scunthorpe.

 

Mind you, Sean Devine was rather clinical himself, having notched over 100 goals in League football. Seven minutes later, the in-form Republic of Ireland B international got his head onto Nick Weekes' cross and grabbed his sixth Dagenham goal - his first as a starter! Suddenly, we were back in the game at only 4-3 behind!

 

With our confidence restored, we took the game to Scunny in the closing stages. With two minutes to go, a promising header from Devine was superbly blocked by Iron defender Lee Collins. Anderson got to the loose ball first and tried a low drive, which beat goalkeeper Kevin Miller and stunned Glanford Park into silence. From two goals down, we had somehow salvaged a 4-4 draw!

 

Scunthorpe United - 4 (Bushell 19, Grant 40, Morris 45, Graham 58)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 4 (McDougald 11, Melton 35, Devine 65, Anderson 88)

Division 3, Attendance 3,454 - POSITIONS: Scunthorpe 9th, Dag & Red 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2 Attacking): Pollitt; Bayliss (Maher), Clark, Anderson; Gledhill (Hawkins), Mayo; Weekes, Lacey; Melton (Janney); Devine, McDougald. BOOKED: Maher.

 

Crikey. Need a bit more time to get your breath back?

 

We were now three points off the top three. That put us under pressure when we hosted Conference champions Northwich, who’d won just one of their first 14 Football League matches - and were only being kept off the bottom by an even worse Oldham side. Victor Renner slotted into the attacking midfield space vacated by Stephen Melton's injury.

 

26 OCTOBER 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Northwich Victoria

Midfield orchestrator Nick Weekes was a thorn in Northwich's side throughout the first half. Nick's 16th-minute shot was parried by Vics goalkeeper Paul Gibson, while his 18th-minute free-kick crashed into the defensive wall. In the 24th minute, though, Weekes made his mark with a chipped delivery that big Julian Alsop nodded home!

 

Our dominance continued either side of the break. Alsop's aerial prowess and Junior McDougald's explosive pace wreaked havoc upon the Northwich backline. Had it not been for the robust tackling of Matthew Barrass and some excellent goalkeeping for Gibson, the final score could have been em-Barrassing for the visitors.

 

As it transpired, though, we would be left red-faced when Northwich launched a rare attack in the 76th minute. Their first shot on target was a peach of a volley from substitute midfielder Marcus Jones, which secured one point for Vics. They could have left with two more in stoppage time, but Ben Buckley's header hit the bar, denying them a shock smash-and-grab win.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Alsop 24)

Northwich Victoria - 1 (Jones 76)

Division 3, Attendance 3,756 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 8th, Northwich 23rd

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt; Gledhill, Bayliss (Maher), Anderson, Hawkins (Mayo); Weekes, Clark, Carter; Renner (Devine); Alsop, McDougald.

 

We had dropped out of the top seven after that match. Frankly, if you dominate one of the weakest teams in the league at home and still cannot win, you don't deserve to be in the play-offs.

 

After four consecutive draws, would our luck finally turn when Exeter came to Victoria Road? The Grecians' last twelve matches had yielded five wins and seven defeats, so another stalemate perhaps looked unlikely.

 

30 OCTOBER 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Exeter City

In a repeat of the Northwich game, we bossed Exeter in the first half, yet somehow had only one goal to show for our efforts. That too came in the 24th minute, but while Julian Alsop had found the target four days earlier, he instead provided the assist for Junior McDougald. That was Junior's fifth goal in 10 games this season - equalling his total haul from 38 matches last term!

 

McDougald was at it again after 62 minutes. After Exeter's Steve Rimmer messed up a defensive interception, our born-again American marksman smashed in his sixth goal of the campaign - drawing him level with both Alsop and Sean Devine. After all the problems we had up front last season, it was a delight to see three of our strikers banging in the goals!

 

What wasn't such a delight was seeing our fourth striker Victor Renner lose his cool in the 80th minute. A slagging match with David Wilson ended in Renner shoving Exeter's experienced defender to the floor - and getting a straight red card for his troubles! The Grecians had been so overwhelmed that they had no real chance of fighting back, but Victor's rush of blood put a damper on an otherwise solid Daggers win.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (McDougald 24,62)

Exeter City - 0

Division 3, Attendance 4,474 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 6th, Exeter 17th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt; Gledhill, Maher, Anderson, Mayo (Hawkins); Weekes, Lacey, Clark (Carter); Renner; Alsop, McDougald. BOOKED: Clark, Alsop. SENT OFF: Renner.

 

The Daggers were back in business, but Renner was in hot water after his moment of madness. Victor received a one-match ban, as well as a two-week fine (one week for violent conduct, the other for his sending off). He's not exactly been in great form either, so it may be a while before he gets back into the team.

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DIVISION 3 TABLE (End of October 2004)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Cambridge Utd                   16   7    0    0    18   7    4    2    3    14   16   35   
2nd     Oxford                          16   6    1    1    15   6    5    0    3    22   19   34   
3rd     Torquay                         16   6    1    1    19   9    3    3    2    18   13   31   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4th     Macclesfield                    16   6    2    0    23   11   3    2    3    15   17   31   
5th     Stockport                       16   5    2    1    19   9    3    4    1    18   16   30   
6th     Dag & Red                       16   6    3    0    23   6    2    2    3    10   11   29   
7th     Shrewsbury                      16   6    0    2    19   11   3    1    4    15   17   28   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
8th     Rushden                         16   4    1    3    16   14   5    0    3    16   14   28   
9th     Scunthorpe                      16   4    3    1    17   10   4    0    4    21   12   27   
10th    Wycombe                         16   4    4    0    21   12   2    3    3    13   17   25   
11th    Brighton                        16   4    2    2    11   6    2    3    3    8    8    23   
12th    Doncaster                       16   5    1    2    18   13   1    3    4    13   17   22   
13th    Mansfield                       16   1    3    4    11   20   4    3    1    17   13   21   
14th    Cheltenham                      16   4    2    2    13   12   2    1    5    7    14   21   
15th    Hartlepool                      15   4    2    2    15   11   2    0    5    13   12   20   
16th    Leyton Orient                   16   2    1    5    10   18   3    3    2    11   8    19   
17th    Exeter                          16   4    1    3    12   10   2    0    6    5    14   19   
18th    Plymouth                        16   3    1    4    14   16   3    0    5    12   20   19   
19th    Colchester                      16   3    1    4    15   17   2    2    4    8    14   18   
20th    Darlington                      16   4    1    3    18   9    1    1    6    8    16   17   
21st    Rotherham                       15   1    3    3    13   16   3    2    3    15   18   17   
22nd    Halifax                         16   1    0    7    6    18   2    1    5    10   17   10   
23rd    Northwich Vics                  16   0    3    5    10   19   1    1    6    4    21   7    
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
24th    Oldham                          16   0    0    8    10   22   1    1    6    9    22   4    

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Ten days after Manchester United lose their unbeaten record at Aston Villa, Leeds' own run of seven straight Premiership wins is broken by newcomers Gillingham. Leeds midfielder Lee Bowyer is sent off in the 17th minute for using his head to rearrange visiting defender Ben Thatcher's nose. Marlon King then wins the game after heading in a free-kick from yet another Gills hardman - Jamie Redknapp.
  • Leeds endure more heartache in the Champions League, where a shock defeat at Bulgarian champions Litex condemns them to finishing bottom of their group. Barcelona also face an early exit from the competition after another defeat to Porto. In hindsight, starting Mattias Jonson in midfield and subbing him off after 29 minutes was not Carlos Bianchi’s smartest tactical move ever.
  • Serie A leaders Lazio extend their 100% start in dramatic fashion, surviving a Javier Mascherano red card to twice come back from behind and defeat Vicenza 4-3. The architect of their excellent form is once again Juan Sebastián Verón, who has 10 assists in as many matches this season.
  • Stoke striker Robert Earnshaw puts Wales on the brink of a famous World Cup qualifying win over France... until Real Madrid's Robert Pires equalises with a free-kick two minutes from time. Meanwhile, England fans can't contain their excitement after Emile Heskey wraps up a stunning 1-0 win over nine-man Bosnia & Herzegovina.
  • South Africa soar to 2nd in the FIFA World Rankings (behind only Argentina), while Canada break into the top 10. Professor Stephen Hawking says he doesn't have the foggiest idea how the rankings work.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • A team of Ukrainian explorers reach the bottom of the world's deepest cave - the Krubera Cave in Abkhazia. At 2,080 metres, they plumb greater depths than Alan Cork’s Tottenham team.
  • Speaking of massive lows, pop star Ashlee Simpson is accused of lip-synching after a disastrous performance on "Saturday Night Live". Thankfully, her older sister Jessica shows little desire to embarrass the Simpson family name any further.
  • The Boston Red Sox whitewash the St Louis Cardinals to win their first World Series in 86 years, thus breaking the 'Curse of the Bambino'. They hadn't won a Major League Baseball championship since selling the legendary Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1920 - two years after their last triumph.
  • Superman is dead. Christopher Reeve - the actor who played the quintessential comic book superhero in four hit movies - passes away aged 52, nine years after being paralysed in a horse-riding accident.
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NOVEMBER 2004

With just four matches scheduled for November, I hoped that this month would be less stressful than a busy and often turbulent October. Oh, how I wished...

 

After his sending-off in our last game, Victor Renner was working hard in training to get into my good books. Unfortunately, the striker worked himself a bit too hard and suffered a serious calf strain. That ruled him out of pretty much all our November games, rather than just the one he was already suspended for.

 

In-form strike partners Julian Alsop and Junior McDougald stayed up front for the first of those games - away to 19th-placed Colchester. United's shaky defence had kept just two clean sheets all season, so this match felt like a great opportunity for us to strengthen our play-off position.

 

6 NOVEMBER 2004: Colchester United vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Steve Whitton's side had other ideas. Colchester won themselves a corner in the 15th minute, after Daggers keeper Mike Pollitt tipped behind Alex Higgins' free-kick. Pollitt also tried to deal with Marvin Bryan's corner delivery, but an unconvincing save gave veteran midfielder Pete Batey an easy opener.

 

With us trailing 1-0, I called Julian Alsop to the touchline and ordered him to impose himself more on the U's defence. He took my instructions a bit too literally, getting into a scuffle with home left-back Chris Beech in the 33rd minute. Alsop bundled Beech to the floor, and the referee showed him the red card!

 

Worse was to follow in the 54th minute, when we lost our heads from another Bryan corner. Nick Weekes carelessly bundled Colchester's substitute striker Leon Constantine over in the penalty area, prompting the ref to appoint to the spot. James Flood scored the penalty, and we had to battle hard for the next half-hour just to stop the floodgates from opening. A 2-0 defeat, and a huge blow to our play-off challenge.

 

Colchester United - 2 (Batey 15, Flood pen55)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Division 3, Attendance 2,437 - POSITIONS: Colchester 16th, Dag & Red 9th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Pollitt; Gledhill, Maher, Anderson, Hawkins; Janney, Weekes (Carter), Lacey, Mayo (Davis); Alsop, McDougald (Devine). SENT OFF: Alsop.

 

What a farce. Instead of consolidating our play-off place, we had dropped to 9th - our lowest placing since the opening day of the season.

 

Julian Alsop was fined a week's wages and suspended from our FA Cup Round 1 match at Huddersfield later in the month. Not that it would have mattered, as Jules conveniently strained his knee ligaments in training a few days later! I also fined left-back Kerry Mayo and midfielder Nick Weekes for their particularly disappointing performances.

 

Despite our rough patch, my performances as manager had attracted interest from abroad. Bohemian had approached me about becoming their new manager... but I didn't think the Irish Premier Division was a big enough step up for me to leave Dagenham & Redbridge just yet.

 

Instead, I turned my attention to our upcoming trip to bogey team Mansfield, where would need some luck of the Irish. Sean Devine stepped up to partner McDougald, while 17-year-old striker Robbie Walsh was in line to make his debut from the bench after showing some impressive form for our reserves.

 

13 NOVEMBER 2004: Mansfield Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Mansfield beat us home-and-away last season, but we were determined to put that right. After 26 minutes, Stephen Melton's through-ball to Sean Devine was met with a confident low finish from the Republic of Ireland B international, and we were 1-0 up.

 

Nine minutes later, though, the Stags were back level. Ex-Wales defender Kit Symons cleverly flicked Lee Williamson's corner on to his centre-back partner Bobby Hassell, whose volley proved too much for Mike Pollitt in the Daggers goal. Once again, our set-piece defending had been called into question.

 

We took the game to our opponents a bit more in the second half, with Devine, Nick Weekes and debutant Robbie Walsh having chances to restore our lead. Even full-back Peter Hawkins tried his luck in the 84th minute, when his long-ranger was pushed away by Mansfield captain Lee Harrison. Fortunately, playmaker Ryan Carter got to the rebound first, with a vicious strike not only breaking his season duck, but also breaking our Stags hoodoo!

 

Mansfield Town - 1 (Hassell 35)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Devine 26, Carter 84)

Division 3, Attendance 6,284 - POSITIONS: Mansfield 17th, Dag & Red 7th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt; Gledhill, Maher, Anderson (Clark), Hawkins; Janney (Weekes), Lacey, Carter; Melton; Devine, McDougald (Walsh).

 

The Football League Trophy Round 1 draw gave us one of the trickiest ties we could have had. We will travel to Vicarage Road to take on Division 2 mid-tablers Watford next month, and though we did actually beat them in pre-season, I'm sure the Hornets will be fired up for the rematch.

 

Before that, we kicked off our FA Cup Round 1 campaign - also against third-tier opposition. Huddersfield were 18th in Division 2 after an erratic run of form, so we had to believe that we could cause an upset at the Alfred McAlpine Stadium.

 

We arrived in West Yorkshire with a new signing - someone who knew the area very well. Bradford-born former Newcastle and Sheffield United midfielder Des Hamilton had just completed a club-record £100,000 transfer from Cardiff a few days earlier. The 28-year-old is an unflappable ball-winner with energy for days, and he can also hit a mean long shot.

 

20 NOVEMBER 2004: Huddersfield Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Things got off to an inauspicious start for Mike Pollitt after only five minutes. Our usually dependable goalkeeper tried to catch a powerful shot from Kenny Irons but could only spill it back to the 34-year-old midfielder, who scored at the second attempt.

 

Junior McDougald managed to spare Pollitt's blushes eight minutes later, volleying in Damien Lacey's chip to draw us level. Sadly, it would only be a temporary reprieve, as the Terriers were soon nipping at our defenders' heels again.

 

By the 29th minute, Irons had restored Huddersfield's advantage, finding the top corner again with a fierce shot from a low cross by attacking midfielder Chris Beech (not the same Chris Beech who got Julian Alsop in trouble against Colchester!). That lead was then doubled just before half-time by former Iceland Under-21s defender Reynir Leósson. Kerry Katona would have been proud.

 

Dave Bayliss replaced the disappointing Shaun Maher at half-time, but I would soon have to make another change to my defence. Lee Gledhill pulled up clutching his knee just two minutes into the second half, which meant Peter Hawkins took his place at right-back. Despite those changes, we at least stemmed the bleeding and stopped Town from pulling further ahead, even if we never came close to mouting a fightback from 3-1 down.

 

Huddersfield Town - 3 (Irons 5,29, Leósson 45)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (McDougald 13)

FA Cup Round 1, Attendance 6,038

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt; Gledhill (Hawkins), Maher (Bayliss), Anderson, Mayo; Hamilton, Lacey, Carter; Melton; Devine (Walsh), McDougald.

 

We were out of the FA Cup, and Lee Gledhill was out for three weeks with strained knee ligaments. Not a fun day at all.

 

Given that our away form was so much worse than our home form, I was pleased that we got to finish the month back at Victoria Road. Or at least I was until I realised that our next visitors were Rotherham, who were the only team to keep two league clean sheets against us last season. Thankfully, Canadian goalkeeper Craig Forrest was no longer playing for them... otherwise I would have asked the referee to check his gloves for magnets before kick-off.

 

27 NOVEMBER 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Rotherham United

Des Hamilton's home debut for the Daggers got off to a mixed start. The ball-winner got a little carried away in the third minute, getting booked for a holding foul on his Rotherham midfield counterpart Craig Russell. In the 30th minute, Des had the perfect excuse for losing his cool, celebrating wildly with the Victoria Road faithful after his pot-shot from 20 yards out broke the deadlock!

 

Rotherham went into this game sitting fourth-from-bottom, and going off their pitiful response to falling behind, I was not surprised. After one woeful shot from Murray McDowell just before half-time, the Millers pretty much folded in the second half.

 

United's new first-choice goalkeeper Gareth Powell was no Craig Forrest, put it that way. The loanee from Crewe conceded a left-footer from Stephen Melton in the 52nd minute and a header from Junior McDougald in the 55th, as we put the result beyond any doubt. Hamilton's robust tackling and equally impressive passing helped us see out a 3-0 win, and he rightfully got the 'man of the match' award at full-time.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Hamilton 30, Melton 52, McDougald 55)

Rotherham United - 0

Division 3, Attendance 5,034 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 6th, Rotherham 21st

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt; Hawkins, Bayliss, Anderson, Mayo (Davis); Hamilton (Carter), Lacey, Weekes; Melton (Walsh); Devine, McDougald. BOOKED: Hamilton.

 

As we celebrated another impressive home win, full-back Sol Davis said his goodbyes before returning to Swindon at the end of his four-month loan. Davis made seven appearances for the Daggers (all but one as a substitute) and posted an average rating of 6.57. Erm... so long, Sol... I guess.

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DIVISION 3 TABLE (End of November 2004)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Oxford                          19   8    1    1    20   6    5    0    4    22   22   40   
2nd     Cambridge Utd                   19   8    0    1    22   10   4    3    3    14   16   39   
3rd     Macclesfield                    19   7    2    0    26   11   4    2    4    21   23   37   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4th     Shrewsbury                      19   8    0    2    23   12   4    1    4    18   18   37   
5th     Rushden                         19   5    1    3    20   16   7    0    3    20   16   37   
6th     Dag & Red                       19   7    3    0    26   6    3    2    4    12   14   35   
7th     Stockport                       19   6    3    1    24   13   3    4    2    19   20   34   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
8th     Scunthorpe                      19   5    3    2    21   14   5    0    4    24   12   33   
9th     Torquay                         19   6    2    1    21   11   3    3    4    22   20   32   
10th    Brighton                        19   5    2    2    16   8    2    4    4    10   12   27   
11th    Doncaster                       19   6    2    2    22   16   1    4    4    15   19   27   
12th    Wycombe                         19   4    5    0    22   13   2    3    5    15   23   26   
13th    Leyton Orient                   19   4    1    5    14   18   3    4    2    12   9    26   
14th    Hartlepool                      19   5    3    2    18   12   2    1    6    16   17   25   
15th    Mansfield                       19   2    3    5    13   22   4    4    1    17   13   25   
16th    Cheltenham                      19   5    2    2    15   13   2    2    6    7    15   25   
17th    Colchester                      19   4    1    4    17   17   3    2    5    10   16   24   
18th    Plymouth                        19   4    1    5    19   21   3    0    6    13   22   22   
19th    Exeter                          19   4    2    4    13   12   2    1    6    6    15   21   
20th    Darlington                      19   5    1    3    22   10   1    1    8    9    21   20   
21st    Rotherham                       19   2    3    4    16   20   3    2    5    17   24   20   
22nd    Halifax                         19   1    0    8    7    21   2    1    7    12   24   10   
23rd    Oldham                          19   0    1    8    12   24   2    1    7    11   24   8    
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
24th    Northwich Vics                  19   0    4    6    11   22   1    1    7    6    25   8    

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Manchester United turn on the afterburners and go eight points clear at the Premiership summit. So of course, the Red Devils start their Champions League Phase 2 with a shock 1-0 defeat at Club Brugge. After the match, Sir Alex Ferguson claims the referee gave United midfielder Roy Keane a yellow card for "looking at him funny".
  • Leverkusen's hopes of a Bundesliga title push fizzle out, amid an alarming dip in form - and reports of a player mutiny against manager Klaus Toppmöller. The final straw comes with the sale of popular left-back Diego Placente to Werder Bremen for £5million. Toppmöller is sacked a few days later.
  • There is also unrest at Arsenal, who drop to 7th in the Premiership after several players fall out with Argentine forward Ariel Ortega and urge manager Arsène Wenger to sell him. You know things are bad when Laurent Robert asks to leave after saying he can't play with someone as arrogant as 'El Burrito'!
  • After starting their Serie A challenge with a perfect 10 wins in a row, Lazio finally come a cropper at Torino. Biancocelesti goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi is sent off for a professional foul after 19 minutes, and Torino's Cristiano Lucarelli scores the resulting penalty past 20-year-old substitute Alessandro Boccolini.
  • Rangers stay unbeaten at the top of the Scottish Premier League, as Dick Advocaat continues his quest to build an all-Dutch team. Having signed defender Michael Reiziger from Barcelona in July, Advocaat lures defensive midfielder Giovanni Van Bronckhorst back to Ibrox in a £7million transfer from Arsenal. Fierce rivals Celtic respond with a big signing of their own - Leeds centre-back Michael Duberry.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • George W Bush is somehow re-elected President of the United States after defeating John Kerry. That presidential election goes much more smoothly than the one in Ukraine, which Viktor Yanukovych wins amid allegations of electoral fraud and the poisoning of his rival Viktor Yushchenko, leading to widespread protests and the ballot eventually being re-run.
  • Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat dies aged 75. Depending on who you speak to, he was either a Nobel laureate who brought peace to the Israel-Palestine conflict, or a terrorist who engaged in corrupt financial dealings.
  • Sci-fi first-person shooter Half-Life 2 goes on sale, and instantly becomes one of the most acclaimed video games in history. Developers Valve promise that they will release the third game in the series very, very soon.
  • A big month for animated kids’ films starts with the release of “The Incredibles”, starring Iain Dowie as the father of an all-superhero family. Two weeks later... “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” hits cinemas.
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DECEMBER 2004

The fixture list can get a bit quirky, especially around the Christmas period. Of the seven matches we had scheduled for December, SIX were away from home. You know just how poor our record outside of Victoria Road is, so I certainly wasn't looking forward to this run of games!

 

First up... mid-table Wycombe, at Adams Park. Julian Alsop had recovered from injury and was back on the bench, though fellow striker Victor Renner and right-back Lee Gledhill were still in the treatment room.

 

4 DECEMBER 2004: Wycombe Wanderers vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Des Hamilton's madcap start to his Daggers career continued midway through the first half. The midfielder headed us into the lead in the 19th minute after a brilliant assist from captain Damien Lacey. Barely a minute later, though, Hamilton also collected a yellow card for a mistimed slide tackle on Wycombe's Peruvian midfielder José Pereda.

 

At the other end, the Chairboys struggled. They might have had the division's top scorer in Mozambique striker Manuel Bucuane - better-known as Tico-Tico - but some tight marking from John Anderson ensured he didn't even get a shot at goal. Tico-Tico's team-mates fared little better in front of goal, with midfielder Stewart Talbot being especially wasteful.

 

By contrast, we were much more clinical. Though Sean Devine didn't score against his former club, his second-half substitute Julian Alsop did find the target - twice. A 68th-minute header from Nick Weekes' corner was followed five minutes later by a simpler tap-in, and so we left Buckinghamshire with a comfortable 3-0 win.

 

Wycombe Wanderers - 0

Dagenham & Redbridge - 3 (Hamilton 19, Alsop 68,73)

Division 3, Attendance 2,949 - POSITIONS: Wycombe 15th, Dag & Red 4th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt; Hawkins, Bayliss, Anderson, Mayo (Goodwin); Hamilton, Lacey, Weekes; Melton (Carter); Devine (Alsop), McDougald. BOOKED: Hamilton.

 

This result made us just that little bit more secure in the play-off places, putting us four points clear of Stockport in 8th. We were also only two points off the automatic promotion spots!

 

In midweek, we travelled to Vicarage Road to take on Watford in Round 1 of the Football League Trophy. Mark McGhee's Hornets were right in the middle of the Division 2 table, but they were still strong favourites for this match.

 

7 DECEMBER 2004: Watford vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Watford's chairman might not have been in the Vicarage Road stands (I guess Elton John isn't that interested in the LDV Vans Trophy), but his team had a rocket man up front. Heidar Helguson fired the Hornets in front in the 6th minute, and the Icelander added another goal from Imants Bleidilis' cross in the 31st.

 

In truth, Watford were so dominant in the first half that they looked like a Premiership team who had no right to be playing as low as the third tier. Though we tried to go toe-to-toe with them after the break, cracking a back four full of international players - and Alan Wright - proved easier said than done.

 

By the 65th minute, the contest was effectively done. Just like Helguson, Gifton Noel-Williams had stayed loyal to Watford in spite of their recent relegations, and he showed his top-flight class in the 65th minute with a beautiful header from Peter Ndlovu's cross. Noel-Williams then twisted his knee 10 minutes later, prompting Dave Bayliss and the rest of our defence to breathe huge sighs of relief!

 

At 3-0 up, the Hornets decided to ease off. Our midfielders took advantage, with Des Hamilton and the excellent Nick Weekes each pulling goals back in the final five minutes. Unfortunately, we had left it too late to complete the comeback, and so our Football League Trophy campaign ended after just one match.

 

Watford - 3 (Helguson 6,31, Noel-Williams 65)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Hamilton 85, Weekes 90)

Football League Trophy South Round 1, Attendance 10,017

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Pollitt; Goodwin, Bayliss, Anderson, Hawkins (Clark); Janney (Weekes), Hamilton, Lacey, Mayo; Alsop (Devine), McDougald.

 

Out of all the cups before Christmas. Well... at least we could now solely focus on winning promotion.

 

We also had a nice week-long break before our next match. In the meantime, out-of-favour midfielder Ian Selley finally left the club, moving to Rushden & Diamonds on a free transfer. The 30-year-old had cost us £60,000 last summer, but he had been such an unmitigated disaster that I just wanted his £1,000-per-week wages off the books. Good riddance.

 

So... would you like to guess who our next match was against? That's right! Rushden & Diamonds, who sat just one point behind us ahead of our clash at Nene Park!

 

This match would see both Gledhill and Renner return from injury. Renner's comeback was particularly timely, as Sean Devine was now out until the new year with a calf strain.

 

15 DECEMBER 2004: Rushden & Diamonds vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Rushden rushed into the lead after just eight minutes. Andy Burgess' cross from the left wing was finished by midfielder Ben Sedgemore, but the Diamonds still wanted more!

 

In the 22nd minute, a handball from Julian Alsop gave Rushden a free-kick just outside our penalty area. Sedgemore provided an excellent delivery for striker Scott Partridge, whose header left our goalkeeper looking more like Alan Partridge. Mike Pollitt's positional awareness was comical, to say the least.

 

Things had got so bad that I changed tactics midway through the half, replacing attacking midfielder Stephen Melton with wideman Peter Hawkins. To be fair, we played a bit better after going wider and more direct, certainly in terms of preventing Diamonds from pulling even further ahead...

 

...but our big second-half issues came at the other end. Neither Junior McDougald nor Julian Alsop could get their shots anywhere near the target, and substitute Victor Renner looked like a more ill-fitting right-winger than Arthur Scargill. Frankly, it was such an appalling performance all round that a 2-0 defeat was probably the best result we could've had.

 

Rushden & Diamonds - 2 (Sedgemore 8, Partridge 22)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 0

Division 3, Attendance 2,611 - POSITIONS: Rushden 4th, Dag & Red 5th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt; Gledhill, Bayliss, Anderson, Mayo; Hamilton (Weekes), Lacey, Carter (Renner); Melton (Hawkins); Alsop, McDougald.

 

Well, that was about as bad as we've ever played in the Football League. Goalkeeper Mike Pollitt and midfielder Ryan Carter were so shocking that they were both fined and dropped for our next away trip - to 13th-placed Cheltenham. You probably remember what happened the last time we went to Whaddon Road. I would rather not.

 

18 DECEMBER 2004: Cheltenham Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge

After an encouraging start to the match, we started getting sloppy with our passing, which allowed Cheltenham to assume control. By the 28th minute, Steve Cotterill's Robins had pulled ahead, with young striker Scott Forrester racing past our vice-captain John Anderson before slotting a cool finish beyond goalkeeper Andy Woodman.

 

Within eight minutes, though, we were back level - and no prizes for guessing who scored our equaliser. Yes, it was Des Hamilton who got his head to Damien Lacey's corner - the midfielder scoring his fourth goal in six matches since signing for us last month! Unfortunately, Cheltenham regained the lead just before half-time through on-loan Charlton midfielder David Fox, and so we trailed 2-1 at the break.

 

An edgy second half saw few chances, as we struggled to get back in the game. Cheltenham eventually sealed victory in the 89th minute, with midfielder Paul Bedder teeing up a second goal for Forrester. Ex-Robins striker Julian Alsop did hit back in stoppage time, but we still went down by the odd goal in five.

 

Cheltenham Town - 3 (Forrester 28,89, Fox 43)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Hamilton 36, Alsop 90)

Division 3, Attendance 3,703 - POSITIONS: Cheltenham 12th, Dag & Red 7th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-4-2): Woodman; Goodwin (Gledhill), Maher, Anderson (Bayliss), Hawkins; Janney, Hamilton, Lacey, Mayo; Alsop, Renner (McDougald).

 

That was our third defeat in a row - the worst run the Daggers have had since I became manager.

 

It wasn't likely to get better any time soon, as our next match on the schedule was against Macclesfield at Moss Rose. The Silkmen's promotion challenge was going as well as many people had expected pre-season, as Damien Whitehead had continued to bang in the goals, firing them up to 3rd place. Some Daggers fans were probably fearing a pre-Christmas stuffing.

 

Fortunately, the good old British weather came to our rescue. We arrived in Cheshire to find that the Moss Rose pitch was frozen up, and that the match had been postponed until mid-January. A stay of execution, perhaps?

 

Relieved, we went back home to have a much-needed Christmas break. Sadly, it wasn't a particularly jolly time for our new hero Des Hamilton, who spent Christmas Day with his arm in a sling after a nasty fall in training. Des was out of action for a fortnight.

 

We then made a welcome return to action at Victoria Road on Boxing Day. We had the last unbeaten home record in Division 3... but what odds on that run being broken by lowly Halifax, who had lost 10 of their last 11 matches and were in a three-way battle to avoid relegation?

 

26 DECEMBER 2004: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Halifax Town

The first half-hour was a real struggle for both teams - especially at the full-back area. Halifax lost their right-back Craig Smith to a gashed leg in the unlucky 13th minute, while a thigh strain forced our left-back Kerry Mayo off six minutes later.

 

In terms of scoring chances, things didn't pick up until the half-hour mark, when Dagenham midfielder Nick Weekes' half-volley from Junior McDougald's through-ball broke the Halifax resistance. Captain Damien Lacey doubled our lead two minutes later, with his furious long-ranger exposing the fragilities in the Shaymen defence. It was easy to work out why they were only ahead of Oldham and Northwich in the standings.

 

The few signs of quality in this Halifax team were further up the pitch. After we wasted some early chances to kill the game off, we were punished with an incisive 66th-minute counter-attack. 19-year-old striker Ashley Beech gave fresh hope to the travelling supporters after our defence failed to clear James Howarth's right-wing cross away from danger.

 

Beech's goal came just moments after I brought Victor Renner on for Stephen Melton, hoping that he would inject some fresh energy to our attack. Vic did that - and more! A couple of quickfire goals in the 70th and 72nd minute nipped Halifax's fightback in the bud, and he then completed his hat-trick with a 76th-minute penalty after Julian Alsop had been fouled by Town defender Troy Douglin.

 

Our final goal was a homage to our first. Weekes played a one-two with McDougald before bursting through the backline and comfortably beating a despairing Colin Hunwick in the Halifax goals. We had scored SIX goals in our most emphatic Football League win ever!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 6 (Weekes 30,78, Lacey 32, Renner 70,72,pen76)

Halifax Town - 1 (Beech 66)

Division 3, Attendance 3,666 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 6th, Halifax 22nd

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt; Gledhill, Bayliss, Anderson, Mayo (Hawkins); Weekes, Lacey, Carter (McLean); Melton (Renner); Alsop, McDougald.

 

Kerry Mayo's thigh strain ruled him out for a fortnight. Adding to that growing injury list was backup winger Mark Janney, who gashed his head in training and was out for 10 days.

 

After winning 6-1 at home, I fully expected us to return to our erratic ways when we made the long trip to Durham two days later. After all, six of our dozen away league games this season had ended in defeats. Awaiting us at Feethams was a Darlington side now managed by the former Leeds, Newcastle and Wales midfielder Gary Speed.

 

28 DECEMBER 2004: Darlington vs Dagenham & Redbridge

After playing a key role in our last victory just two days earlier, Nick Weekes looked ready to deliver another midfield masterclass. Less than three minutes after kick-off, the ex-cricketer bowled Darlington over with a killer ball to Julian Alsop, who batted in his 50th league goal for Dagenham!

 

Darlo responded with a barrage of attacks, one of which led to them winning a corner in the 26th minute. As Welsh winger Andy Williams swung the corner to the near post, ex-Tottenham striker Rory Allen leaped ahead of Mike Pollitt to flick in the equaliser. Though Victor Renner came close to restoring our lead later on, the scoreline remained 1-1 at the break.

 

The Quakers had their oats during the interval and came back a more fearsome team. Their other striker Lenny Walker had two attempts to beat Pollitt on 57 minutes, firing home the second after the initial effort was parried back to him. Darlington were now 2-1 up... but only until Junior McDougald single-handedly took on their defence before equalising nine minutes later!

 

The hosts' substitute winger Ashley White looked on at McDougald's solo goal and thought, "Anything you can do, I can do better." After collecting the ball in the 69th minute, the Irishman went on a mazy dribbling run that took him past four Daggers, before stroking a deft left-footer into Pollitt's net! 3-2 to Darlington, and we were heading for another away defeat!

 

Having made two changes earlier, my last resort was to bench a tiring Alsop - and bring on an Irish supersub of my own. Sean Devine's impact was almost instant. In the 77th minute, he left the Darlo defence chasing shadows as he latched onto Damien Lacey's slide-rule pass and made it 3-3.

 

I would have been perfectly happy with a point after such a close contest, but Devine didn't want to settle for a draw. As the game entered injury-time, we launched one last counter-attack against a Darlington team who'd thrown everything at us after losing their lead again. Devine eventually took the ball into their penalty area... and fired his shot against the crossbar... but then McDougald thundered in the rebound! Dagenham had WON 4-3 - right at the death!!

 

Darlington - 3 (Allen 26, Walker 57, White 70)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 4 (Alsop 3, McDougald 66,90, Devine 77)

Division 3, Attendance 4,533 - POSITIONS: Darlington 18th, Dag & Red 6th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt; Gledhill, Bayliss, Anderson (Maher), Hawkins; Weekes, Lacey, Carter; Renner (Melton); Alsop (Devine), McDougald.

 

God bless these wonderfully mad fellas. They can be a joy to watch and a nightmare to manage, but you can't help loving them!

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DIVISION 3 TABLE (End of December 2004)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Cambridge Utd                   25   12   1    1    37   16   5    3    3    16   17   55   
2nd     Oxford                          24   8    2    1    20   6    7    0    6    29   30   47   
3rd     Shrewsbury                      26   11   0    3    30   17   4    1    7    19   27   46   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4th     Scunthorpe                      25   6    3    2    24   14   8    0    6    35   23   45   
5th     Torquay                         25   9    3    2    33   19   4    3    4    25   22   45   
6th     Dag & Red                       24   8    3    0    32   7    5    2    6    21   22   44   
7th     Rushden                         24   6    1    4    24   19   8    0    5    25   23   43   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
8th     Cheltenham                      25   10   2    2    30   17   2    3    6    9    17   41   
9th     Macclesfield                    23   8    2    2    34   20   4    2    5    23   26   40   
10th    Doncaster                       26   7    4    2    27   19   3    4    6    23   27   38   
11th    Brighton                        25   8    3    3    23   12   2    4    5    13   16   37   
12th    Leyton Orient                   25   5    1    5    17   19   5    5    4    22   18   36   
13th    Colchester                      26   6    2    4    28   23   4    4    6    14   22   36   
14th    Wycombe                         24   6    5    1    28   19   3    3    6    20   29   35   
15th    Stockport                       26   6    3    5    26   21   3    4    5    21   27   34   
16th    Hartlepool                      24   6    3    2    23   14   3    3    7    19   20   33   
17th    Rotherham                       24   6    3    4    28   24   3    2    6    17   26   32   
18th    Darlington                      24   8    1    4    33   15   1    1    9    9    23   29   
19th    Plymouth                        25   5    1    5    22   21   4    1    9    22   34   29   
20th    Mansfield                       26   2    3    7    16   29   4    5    5    21   23   26   
21st    Exeter                          24   5    2    4    15   12   2    2    9    12   25   25   
22nd    Halifax                         25   3    0    11   14   30   2    1    8    13   30   16   
23rd    Oldham                          24   1    3    9    18   31   2    1    8    13   28   13   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
24th    Northwich Vics                  25   1    4    6    15   25   1    1    12   8    42   11   

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Manchester United's relentless pursuit of a third consecutive Premiership title continues, despite suffering their second league defeat of the season. Everton secure a famous 2-1 win at their new Kings Dock stadium after a stunning performance from 19-year-old Wayne Rooney. Even Sir Alex Ferguson admits he is impressed.
  • The Red Devils' closest rivals Leeds undergo a mid-season reshuffle. The Whites sign ex-France forward Sylvain Wiltord from Rangers, and Sweden defender Olof Mellberg from Aston Villa... but legendary captain Lucas Radebe is released after 10 years at Elland Road. I predict a riot.
  • The Arsenal exodus continues, as Sol Campbell makes a £5.75million move to Real Madrid, while winger Laurent Robert agrees a £3.3million deal with Milan. The Gunners bring in two experienced centre-backs to replace Campbell, with Teddy Lucic and Alpay arriving from Newcastle (of course) and Aston Villa respectively.
  • Leverkusen unveil their new manager - 51-year-old Fatih Terim, who leaves Marseille just before they crash out of the UEFA Cup with a shock Round 3 defeat to Motherwell. Despite that, Marseille are still in the thick of a five-way fight for the Ligue 1, with Bordeaux sitting top after a goal glut from Portuguese striker Pauleta.
  • There's drama at Parma, who are in a battle to stay in Serie A after their finances spiral out of control. To make matters worse, their big summer signing - Romania striker Adrian Mutu - has scored just once in 14 games. Mutu also may or may not have a drug problem.

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • A huge earthquake strikes just west of Indonesia, leading to a series of massive tsunami waves that devastate the surrounding coasts of the Indian Ocean. Over 200,000 people in 14 countries lose their lives in one of the worst natural disasters in history.
  • 36-year-old crooner Steve Brookstein from south London looks destined for superstardom after winning the first series of ITV's "The X Factor". In the final vote, he defeats opera quartet G4, who aren't to be confused with former England midfielder (and current Hartlepool scout) Paul Gascoigne.
  • Clint Eastwood directs and stars in the year’s last big box-office smash - “Million Dollar Baby”. Hilary Swank plays the lead role as an amateur boxer who aspires to turn pro, enlisting the help of Eastwood’s elderly trainer.
  • Heavy metal guitarist ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott is shot dead by a deranged fan while performing with his band Damageplan at a nightclub in Columbus, Ohio. Three other people are killed before the gunman is taken out by a police officer. Abbott was just 38 years old.
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JANUARY 2005

Midway through the Division 2 season, we were still on course to reach the play-offs again - sitting in 6th place. However, it hadn't been a great season for two of our most loyal players, who had both lost their spots as first-team regulars.

 

Right-back Lee Goodwin had found life especially difficult in the Football League. After recording a 6.42 average rating last season, he had made just four appearances this term - and averaged just 5.75. Goodwin's passing and tackling abilities were sadly not good enough for this level, and with less than six months remaining on his contract, I reluctantly told him that he was free to leave the club.

 

Lee went on the transfer list, along with right-winger Mark Janney, whose 35 appearances for us at this level had yielded just one goal and one assist. Janney's contract was due to run until 2007, but if any clubs were interested in signing him before then, I wouldn't stand in their way.

 

With Janney no longer in the first-team picture, I decided to bring in a right-sided midfielder who could actually hack it at this level. 26-year-old Alex Neil arrived on a four-month loan from Barnsley, where he had spent the last couple of seasons stuck in the reserves. The small but tenacious Scotsman was an exceptional dribbler with equally fine crossing ability, and he could also play in central midfield, adding further depth to that position.

 

Neil wasn't yet sharp enough to start, but he did at least make it onto the bench in time for our big play-off clash on New Year's Day. We put our unbeaten home league run on the line against Chris Kamara's Torquay, who were one position and one point ahead of us in 5th, albeit having played one game more.

 

1 JANUARY 2005: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Torquay United

My only Daggers original who was still playing regularly was striker Junior McDougald. The hotshot striker was back in form, as he showed 36 minutes into a tense match. Attacking midfielder Stephen Melton's killer ball sent McDougald through on goal, and Junior smashed in his 11th of the season!

 

The match had been pretty close up until that point, but we blew Torquay with two more goals either side of half-time. Vice-captain John Anderson found the net with a strong header from Damien Lacey's corner just before the break. Then, a minute into the second period, Melton made it 3-0 with an astonishing solo effort.

 

At the other end, the Gulls had mixed fortunes. Till Furthmann - a defender/striker nicknamed the 'German Dion Dublin' - hardly got a sniff at Mike Pollitt's goal and wasted the only chance he had. Furthmann did make his mark in the 58th minute with a superb flick-on to ex-Aston Villa midfielder Michael Standing, whose volley left Mike... well, standing.

 

After losing our clean sheet, we set about stopping the Torquay fightback in its tracks. Though visiting goalkeeper Tony Pinnock denied McDougald a second goal on 66 minutes, he couldn't stop midfielder Dean Clark from burying the rebound - and wrapping up a 4-1 win for the Daggers! It was going to take a mighty team to breach Fortress Victoria Road!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 4 (McDougald 36, Anderson 45, Melton 46, Clark 66)

Torquay United - 1 (Standing 58)

Division 3, Attendance 5,256 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 3rd, Torquay 7th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt; Gledhill, Bayliss, Anderson (Maher), Hawkins; Weekes (Neil), Lacey, Clark; Melton; Alsop (Devine), McDougald. BOOKED: Anderson.

 

Back in the automatic promotion places, just like that! A lot of credit had to go to Dave Bayliss, who had put in another solid central defensive performance. He was another player whose contract was due up for renewal, so I though it was high time the popular Scouser was offered a new, improved deal.

 

After comfortably beating one of the best teams in the division, I named the same starting XI for our next home match, against one of the worst. Oldham had spent much of the season lagging behind everyone else, but a late-autumn upturn in form had lifted them to the giddy heights of 23rd. They were also one of the few teams whose away record was better than their home record, so we had to beware their counter-attacking threat.

 

5 JANUARY 2005: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Oldham Athletic

Dagenham’s target man Julian Alsop made a confident start to this match, charging through the Oldham defence in the 10th minute before blazing a shot over the bar. A more clinical strike from Big Jules could have opened the floodgates...

 

...but just eight minutes later, the Latics hit us with a mighty counter-punch. 18-year-old midfielder Stephen McCarthy unleashed a fierce strike to give them an unlikely away lead, which they managed to protect until half-time.

 

Needless to say, I was an exasperated man at the interval. I tore strips into my players during the break, benched attacking midfielder Stephen Melton, and brought on a third striker in Victor Renner. We were going direct, and we were going to break Oldham's resistance - no matter how long it took.

 

The answer was ten minutes. In the 55th minute, our set-piece specialist Nick Weekes delivered a sublime corner to Alsop, who towered over Oldham keeper Saliou Diallo and headed home.

 

Nick then provided another assist two minutes later, deftly sliding the ball through for Junior McDougald to give us the lead. While Weekes could not complete the set by getting Renner on the scoresheet, his playmaking skills had made all the difference and helped us squeak home with all three points!

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Alsop 55, McDougald 57)

Oldham Athletic - 1 (McCarthy 18)

Division 3, Attendance 4,949 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 2nd, Oldham 23rd

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt; Gledhill, Bayliss, Anderson (Maher), Hawkins; Weekes, Lacey, Clark (Neil); Melton (Renner); Alsop, McDougald.

 

After that match, we were delighted to announce that Bayliss had indeed signed a new contract. After some tough negotiations, he had agreed a £1,000-per-week deal running until the summer of 2008.

 

We also welcomed pacey forward John McGlynn to the reserve team after his promotion from the youth set-up. Unfortunately, John can't finish - and he isn't even the most promising 17-year-old Irish striker at the club (Robbie Walsh has been a very prolific scorer for our reserves). I probably wouldn’t expect McGlynn to make the grade any time soon.

 

Fortunately, I have much higher hopes for another youth team promotee. Simon Warren is an aggressive holding midfielder with fantastic passing ability and a high work rate - and he's only 15!

 

Our first match since rising back up to 2nd place was - of course - away to the only team now ahead of us. Cambridge United were the runaway leaders by eight points and had only lost one league game at the Abbey Stadium so far this term (against Colchester).

 

For this match, I switched to a conservative 3-5-2 - but with a flat midfield three, rather than having one player play either in defensive or attacking midfield. I also brought left-back Kerry Mayo and midfielder Des Hamilton back into the squad after their recent injuries.

 

15 JANUARY 2005: Cambridge United vs Dagenham & Redbridge

This Cambridge team had a very different outset to the side which had shipped four goals at Victoria Road back in September. John Beck's long-ball merchants were on a run of six wins from seven matches, and after 29 minutes, the league leaders were on course for another. Scott Bannerman's left-wing cross was finished by 35-year-old midfielder Ray Wallace (the lesser-known brother of Rod and Danny).

 

We had been playing defensively up until that point, but the opener forced us out of our shell. 12 minutes later, Junior McDougald bore down on the Cambridge goal, only to be denied by a parry from keeper Michel Kuipers. Fortunately, the rebound was smashed in by perhaps the last player we expected to score - left-back Peter Hawkins, who had somehow broken his Daggers duck!

 

Cambridge took the game to us again after the break. It looked like they'd regained the lead after 55 minutes, when leading scorer Demba Traore fired in a flick-on from his strike partner Carl Martin... and then an offside flag went up against Martin. We then had to hold firm against everything the U's threw at us, with Traore wasting a couple of golden chances to win the game late on.

 

Cambridge United - 1 (Wallace 29)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (Hawkins 41)

Division 3, Attendance 2,643 - POSITIONS: Cambridge Utd 1st, Dag & Red 3rd

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2): Pollitt; Bayliss, Maher, Anderson; Gledhill (Clark), Hawkins; Weekes, Lacey, Melton (Hamilton); Alsop, McDougald (Renner).

 

A day later, we said goodbye to Goodwin, who moved on a free transfer to Heracles Almelo. I'm not quite sure why a Dutch second-division club was even interested in signing a 26-year-old right-back who'd spent most of his career in the English lower leagues... but okay!

 

Lee made 127 appearances for Dagenham & Redbridge after I became manager in July 2001, and spent six-and-a-half years at Victoria Road all in all. He will go down as a club stalwart, but it's a shame his Daggers career has ended on a bit of a whimper.

 

We had to move on quickly, as next up was our rearranged match at promotion rivals Macclesfield. The Silkmen had actually slipped out of the top seven since the original fixture was postponed just before Christmas, but with their firepower, they would surely be back up there before long.

 

19 JANUARY 2005: Macclesfield Town vs Dagenham & Redbridge

Des Hamilton was back in our starting line-up, and the midfielder almost instantly continued his scoring form, breaking the deadlock after 17 minutes. Sadly, it took Macclesfield just six minutes to counter. Richard Eyre might have provided an eye-watering 20 league assists already this season, but a silky daisy-cutter showed that the right-winger could also score the goals himself!

 

Macc almost pulled ahead in the 37th minute, when strikers Rickie Lambert and Damien Whitehead were denied by an astonishing double save from Mike Pollitt. That was a massive turning point, as within four minutes, the momentum was back with us! Nick Weekes added yet another assist to his record, weighting a cross just right for Junior McDougald to volley us into a 2-1 lead!

 

Six minutes into the second half, the Silkmen were back on the offensive, as Whitehead looked to find his captain Lambert with a through-ball. Daggers right-back Lee Gledhill was the last man between Lambert and Pollitt, and he desperately pulled on the back on the striker's shirt. Gledhill knew straight away that he was a goner, heading for the tunnel before the referee drew his red card!

 

Down to 10 men, we now faced an almighty struggle against one of the deadliest strike duos in the league. But then we got a huge stroke of luck in the 61st minute, when Lambert sustained a dead leg and had to come off. A weakened Macc side would only threaten us once in the final half-hour, when midfielder Danny Venables scooped over the rebound after Pollitt had stopped Whitehead's header. A narrow escape, and another narrow victory!

 

Macclesfield Town - 1 (Eyre 23)

Dagenham & Redbridge - 2 (Hamilton 17, McDougald 41)

Division 3, Attendance 2,594 - POSITIONS: Macclesfield 9th, Dag & Red 2nd

DAG & RED LINE-UP (3-5-2): Pollitt; Bayliss, Anderson, Anderson; Gledhill, Hawkins (Mayo); Weekes, Lacey, Hamilton; Alsop (Carter), McDougald. BOOKED: Carter. SENT OFF: Gledhill.

 

Lee Gledhill's dismissal meant he was banned for our first three games of February. I usually drop a player anyway after a red card, but as we were so short on full-back options, Gledhill was merely relegated to the bench for our next match. We were at home to Stockport, who sat in 15th spot.

 

22 JANUARY 2005: Dagenham & Redbridge vs Stockport County

Stockport goalkeeper Gary Martin was kept busy early on, with the England Under-21s international keeping out early strikes from Daggers midfielders Des Hamilton and Stephen Melton. Our third shot on target was the lucky one, though. Just as the game reached the half-hour mark, Junior McDougald grabbed his fourth goal in five games by hitting an unstoppable volley from Julian Alsop's lobbed pass!

 

The visitors hadn't come close to scoring at any point before that goal - and midway through the second half, it looked like Mike Pollitt would have an unusually quiet afternoon. Then, in the 68th minute, the Hatters pulled out a rabbit from nowhere. A string of impressive and incisive passes ended with experienced wideman John McQuade heading in their first shot on target!

 

Substitute midfielder Andy McKenzie was the man who provided the assist for McQuade's equaliser. McKenzie also had a chance to win the game for Stockport with a powerful strike in the 86th minute, but Pollitt caught it well and kept the final score at 1-1.

 

Dagenham & Redbridge - 1 (McDougald 30)

Stockport County - 1 (McQuade 68)

Division 3, Attendance 4,753 - POSITIONS: Dag & Red 3rd, Stockport 15th

DAG & RED LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Pollitt; Hawkins, Bayliss, Anderson, Mayo; Hamilton, Lacey, Weekes (Carter); Melton (Renner); Alsop, McDougald.

 

A disappointing end to an otherwise fine month, but we still went unbeaten - and we're still in the top three! If we can just shore up those defensive issues that have crept back into our game lately, then I have a feeling February could be even better.

 

Oh yeah, and we have that new international striker who's coming over from Switzerland! I can't wait for you to meet him!

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DIVISION 3 TABLE (End of January 2005)

Pos     Team                            Pld  Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Won  Drn  Lst  For  Ag   Pts
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1st     Cambridge Utd                   29   12   2    1    38   17   6    4    4    23   22   60   
2nd     Oxford                          29   10   2    2    23   7    8    1    6    34   34   57   
3rd     Dag & Red                       29   10   4    0    39   10   6    3    6    24   24   55   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4th     Rushden                         29   8    1    5    31   24   8    2    5    27   25   51   
5th     Scunthorpe                      29   7    4    3    29   20   8    1    6    36   24   50   
6th     Shrewsbury                      29   12   0    3    32   18   4    2    8    23   32   50   
7th     Brighton                        29   9    3    3    26   13   5    4    5    20   16   49   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
8th     Torquay                         29   10   3    2    38   21   4    3    7    27   30   48   
9th     Macclesfield                    29   9    2    4    39   27   5    3    6    27   30   47   
10th    Cheltenham                      29   10   3    2    33   20   3    3    8    17   25   45   
11th    Wycombe                         29   9    6    1    35   22   3    3    7    22   32   45   
12th    Colchester                      29   7    3    4    31   25   5    4    6    17   23   43   
13th    Doncaster                       29   8    4    2    30   20   3    5    7    26   32   42   
14th    Leyton Orient                   29   6    1    7    22   26   5    6    4    24   20   40   
15th    Stockport                       29   6    4    5    27   22   4    5    5    24   29   39   
16th    Hartlepool                      29   7    4    2    28   18   3    3    10   21   27   37   
17th    Darlington                      29   8    3    4    36   18   2    2    10   13   26   35   
18th    Rotherham                       29   6    4    5    30   27   3    3    8    23   37   34   
19th    Exeter                          29   7    3    4    24   18   2    2    11   13   29   32   
20th    Plymouth                        29   6    1    7    26   29   4    1    10   23   37   32   
21st    Mansfield                       29   2    5    7    20   33   4    5    6    22   26   28   
22nd    Halifax                         29   4    0    11   16   31   3    3    8    21   37   24   
23rd    Oldham                          29   2    4    9    21   33   3    1    10   16   32   20   
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
24th    Northwich Vics                  29   1    4    9    19   33   1    1    13   9    44   11   

 

ELSEWHERE IN FOOTBALL...

  • Ruud van Nistelrooy takes his season tally up to 27 goals in 32 matches, as Manchester United thrash Arsenal 3-0 in Round 4 of the FA Cup. The Gunners lose all hope when the usually placid midfielder Ray Parlour is sent off for doing the one thing all his Arsenal team-mates secretly wanted to do - clobber Ariel Ortega in the face.
  • Leeds' star forward Mark Viduka is seen as the only man who can stop van Nistelrooy from being named PFA Player of the Year for a fourth straight season. The 29-year-old Australian soon starts to believe the hype - and slaps his manager David O'Leary with a transfer request.
  • Could Chesterfield soon be playing Premiership football? Managed by ex-England captain Bryan Robson, and with Romanian international forward Bogdan Mara wreaking havoc on the pitch, the Spireites climb into the Division 1 play-off places as they seek back-to-back promotions.
  • Juventus go on a £29million spending spree and sign FIVE new players, including goalkeeper Franco Costanzo and centre-back Martín Demichelis from Argentine champions River Plate. With the Old Lady still struggling in the middle of the Serie A table, manager Bum-Kun Cha must hope that his gambles pay off.
  • After finishing 7th, 6th and 5th in the previous three seasons, Atalanta climb into the top four - and emerge as unlikely challengers to Lazio's and Roma's recent scudetto dominance. They also have the best defensive record in Serie A, which is even more surprising when you realise that their goalkeeper is Massimo Taibi!

 

IN OTHER NEWS...

  • Adriana Iliescu - a university lecturer from Romania - gives birth to her first daughter Eliza in Bucharest. At the grand age of 66, Iliescu is believed to be the oldest birth mother in history.
  • You’re hired! New York entrepreneur and fake tan enthusiast Donald Trump marries his third wife - Slovenian model Melania Knauss - in Florida. Aged 34, Melania is just seven years older than Trump’s first son Donald Jr.
  • Former England and QPR forward Rodney Marsh is sacked as a Sky Sports pundit after making a joke about Newcastle, David Beckham, and last month's Indian Ocean tsunami. Forget that the joke was in very bad taste; Sky would probably have sacked Marsh regardless, just because it was such a very bad joke!
  • Speaking of very bad taste, Prince Harry is photographed wearing a Nazi uniform - complete with swastika flag - at a fancy dress party in Wiltshire. The 20-year-old royal is forced to apologise, and questions are asked about whether he should be allowed to attend the Sandhurst military academy later this year.
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