Ground: London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Stadium
Date: Tuesday 12th February 2008, 7.45 pm
League: League Two
Result: Dagenham & Redbridge 6 Chester City 2 HT: 3-0 Att: 1,328
Strevens 13, 60 Uddin 15 Roberts 51, Murphy 90 (Chester scored 1st)
Rainford 23 Nurse 83 Hall 90
Additional: Entrance £15 Programme £2.50 Hot drinks £1.00
Luckily for me my work were sending me on a two-day conference in London, meaning an overnight stay. When I heard about it, I immediately started looking at the non-league fixtures in the area. I’d found that Northwood and Croydon Athletic were at home on the Tuesday night, but then it occurred to me that this could be an opportunity to pick up another one of the 92. I only had Arsenal’s Emirates, Charlton’s Valley and Dag & Red’s Glyn Hopkin Stadium to visit to complete my London league set.
It turns out I’d miss a Charlton home match by one day but as luck would have it, Dagenham & Redbridge were at home on the Tuesday, so I plumped for that one and, news to me, their newly named The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Stadium – a name so long they needed four separate panels to stick the name on the stand, and used the same sign writers as those that did Llanfairpwyllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch Station. Glyn Hopkin now reduced to a website address on a faded advertising board in the ground.
I got back to my hotel, just across from the conference, near Tottenham Court Road tube station, excited at the unusual but fortunate circumstances that would lead me to another ground. Yes, I was eschewing the traditional wiles of the Big Smoke, such as the theatre, the opera, the London Eye, west end musicals, museums and boat trips on the Thames to travel east to Dagenham!; to Dagenham East in fact, on the District Line.
With the Central Line temporarily inaccessible from Tottenham Court Road, I got the Northern Line three stops southbound to Embankment (I love the Underground, especially the maps – I think it’s a nerd thing). I exited at Embankment for something to eat before the game and came out onto a bustling pedestrianised area; but despite an abundance of eateries, cafés, gastro pubs, restaurants and bistros, there, somehow, wasn’t anywhere to just ‘get something to eat’. It reminded me of the line from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner ‘Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink’. I eventually plumped for a fairly self-conscious lasagne in one of the Italians, all the while wondering why on earth I didn’t just find a chip shop in Dagenham?
21 stops along the district line from Embankment, about 50 minutes later, I arrived at Dagenham East. It was comforting coming out of the underground onto a quiet London suburb, with a down to earth look, in contrast to the Central London I’d just come from and its Emperor’s New Clothes. Taking a left out of the station, you walk about 600 yards up the main road and past a parade of shops and come to Victoria Road on your left, which I believe used to be their ground name before the invasion of sponsors.
Dagenham & Redbridge FC is much more than just a marriage of its eponymous clubs; its genealogy is rich and goes back to 1881 with the formation of amateur club Ilford. In 1979 Ilford merged with Leytonstone (1886), to become the imaginatively titled Leytonstone/Ilford. In 1988 the new team took on struggling Walthamstowe Avenue(1900) to become Redbridge Forest. The final confluence was in 1991 when Redbridge Forest merged with Dagenham (1949) to become what they are today -Dagenham & Redbridge. After all that it seems somehow fitting that they have a long team name and extraordinarily long ground name. They must be the most merged club ever.
Chester City were founded in 1885, themselves a merger of Chester Rovers and Old King’s Scholars. They entered the league in 1931 and added City to their name in 1983. I have a particular fondness for Chester as they were kind enough to let me witness my biggest Brighton win – 7-1 at the Deva Stadium; Bobby Zamora, on loan from Bristol Rovers, scoring a hat-trick.
Going in to today’s game league newcomers and Champions of the Conference Dag & Red were struggling in their first season, lying second to bottom and having scored a poultry 24 goals in 30 games. Chester were in lower mid-table, having slumped fairly badly after a flying start to the season. Both teams had better away records than home; as have the majority of teams in League Two – something that is unheard of, this far into the season, in an English division. Theories have been put forward as to this anomaly, the most popular that teams are playing better on the break and home forms unable to penetrate defences playing a safe waiting game. If this is true it seems odd that this hasn’t happened before?!
I liked the ground a lot. It certainly didn’t look out of place in the league. A really nice covered terrace spanned the whole of one side; it went about 10 steps up and had a fairly low sturdy roof which gave it great acoustics.
Opposite was a medium sized covered stand stretching most of the way along, with a smaller stand appended on to it next to the away fans called the Barking College stand.
Behind both goals was shallow terracing. It reminded me a lot of Brentford’s Griffin Park. One thing that was slightly annoying about the evening was the pernicketyness of the stewards in the long terrace. They objected to the flash of my camera before kick-off which I couldn’t understand. They also told me to stand in front of the crush barrier; I thought they were for putting your elbows on. Well it did benefit me in that I figured another way to get night shots on my camera without flashing.
The home end terrace at the end of the match with happy Daggers fans
The game was an absolute classic! The Daggers certainly broke the away tradition of the division. To everybody’s surprise Dag and Red found their form, missing since last May, scoring three goals in quick succession. On 13 minutes Strevens turned and shot in the area, finding the corner; two minutes later Uddin fired in a header from a free kick and on 23 the crowd went berserk as Rainford scored with a powerful header into the top corner, from a throw in. They could have had more in an incredible first half.
In the second half Chester got one back quickly; so the next goal, which was inevitable at one end or the other, was going to be crucial. It was Strevens again who struck next, firing it from an angle into the roof of the net at close range. Goal number five was headed in from a corner, by Nurse. In the last minute Chester got a consolation with a close range header, but there was still time for the Daggers to have the final say when a sublime through ball left Hall one on one with the keeper, and he confidently slotted in number six. In one game they’d scored a quarter of all the goals they’d scored in all their previous 30 matches!
On the way out something happened that gave me the giggles all the way back to Dagenham East. The tannoy announcer gave the night’s attendance out and when he got to One thousand three… the gent next to me in his mid-thirties, pulled a face like he’d been goosed, sucked in breath sharply and winced ‘Faarking Hell’. Yes, it was a low crowd! Hopefully this night’s performance will bring the masses back to Victoria Road.
|L4 Dagenham & Redbridge – London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Stadium|