Dagenham & Redbridge v Morecambe
Victoria Road / League Two / 5th April 2016
Well, I guess that title should read as solely ‘Lost in…Dagenham’ with the League Two’s home being situated there.
My Tuesday trip to the club was a happy coincidence. A rather quickly put together trip to Slovakia (which will be explained more in the next blog), meant I’d be flying to Central Europe from Luton Airport on Wednesday afternoon, but staying in London Tuesday evening. Immediately on booking flights, I began a search for Tuesday night football in London and the search was a short-lived one as I found my ideal fixture within minutes. A Dagenham & Redbridge conquest would further bolster my ’92 count’ (which now stands at 73/92) but there was one more key determiner on this Tuesday night: Morecambe. That’s right, my mind was made up almost instantly on seeing that the away team at Victoria Road that night would be the mighty Shrimps. For those unaware, Morecambe have become the ultimate ‘second team’ since I started this whole groundhopping thing – although, as I repeatedly insist, I don’t really believe in having a ‘second team’.
I arrived into the ‘Big Smoke’ at 2pm and after a brief drink in the superb Euston Tap just outside Euston station, I headed south-east to my pal Dai’s abode in New Cross Gate; his flat has regularly acted as a London base for me in the past 18 months or so and his hospitality is always very much appreciated. Dai actually works on Alan Brazil’s Talksport breakfast show, so with him having worked in the early hours of the morning, I dropped my stuff off at Dai’s and left him to his much-needed afternoon nap. I headed east and towards Dagenham – and it is a long way east.
The internet hasn’t exactly clarified things for me, but before heading off to Dagenham I had received mixed messages as to whether Dagenham is indeed counted as London at all, as it is located right on the outskirts and virtually in Essex. My train from Whitechapel saw me head past the Olympic Stadium, through Stratford, through West Ham and eventually onwards into the far-flung world of ‘Zone 5’ of London’s underground map (although this was very much an ‘overground’ journey).
On stepping out of Dagenham East station, there wasn’t really a lot to see and Dagenham didn’t exactly strike me as a place with a lot of hustle and bustle. I did spot a pub straightaway though and so I made a beeline there with there still being over 2.5 hours to go until kick-off.
The Pipe Major is located just down the road from Dagenham East and is your typical out-of-town, food serving chain pub with many families tackling the carvery as I stood at the bar sipping on some golden ale. My ale came in a dimple glass always a good thing), which I noticed the batman repeatedly referred to as a ‘jug’ to customers – it’s definitely not a ‘jug’.
I did have my Morecambe scarf with me and Morecambe pin badge on my jacket, so one Dagenham & Redbridge fan did approach me to ask had I made the long journey down from Morecambe, which led me onto a complicated story about how I had come from Manchester and I didn’t really support Morecambe and in fact supported Swansea. The gentleman looked confused and soon scuttled away; I figured it may just be easier for me to say ‘I’m a Morecambe fan’ for the rest of the evening to avoid over-elaborate tales.
If there is one thing I have heard repeatedly about Dagenham & Redbridge it is that it is very much the hub of the local area and a community club. With this in mind, I headed to the ground earlier than I usually do; also this was partly done as I was informed that pub options were scarce.
5 minutes after leaving the pub, I found myself outside the entrance to the football club, although I speculated whether I’d only found half the club with the sign welcoming me saying I was actaully at ‘& Redbridge All Club.’ “What you taking a photo of half a sign for mate?” shouted the car park attendant much to his own amusement.
Victoria Road has been a home to football since 1917, when a Sterling Works side, who’s factory was next door, played at the ground. When Brigg Sports moved in in 1955, the ground became fully enclosed and they were soon joined by Dagenham FC. It would be in the early 90s that the ground was brought up to Conference standard thanks to Redbridge Forest groundsharing and it would be this club and Dagenham FC who would merge to form the current club back in 1992.
Dagenham & Redbridge would yo-yo between the Conference and Isthmian leagues throughout the 90s and early 00s, before the legendary John Still arrived at the club and took them to the promised land of league football in 2007/08 and even up to League One for a season in 2010/11. After a few years resurrecting Luton Town, Still is now back at his former club and fighting to keep Dagenham & Redbridge in the Football League with them languishing at the bottom of League Two with one home win all season.
In regards of club bars, Daggers’ effort is impressive with two very spacious rooms housing the home and away support. Plus, I’d been told that the bar is open throughout the day, once again adding to the ‘community club’ feel. This wasn’t too much of interest on tap though and I did find it odd that Carling was priced at the strange price of £3.07 – round up please!
I did notice two lads at the bar who definitely did not have the local accent nor the Lancashire accent associated with Morecambe, so I queried where they had come from. It turned out the two lads were visiting London from Denmark or a university and they had decided they would take in some League Two football on this Tuesday evening. The two Brondby fans, Jannik and Johnny, were great company whilst I waited for my Morecambe pals to arrive into town. By the time the Morecambe minibus rolled in, I had convinced my two new Danish friends to join us in the away end and I joked that I formed the first ever Danish Supporters’ Branch of Morecambe FC.
30 Morecambe fans would be in attendance tonight and chief of the supporters’ club Paul joked to me that I had helped contribute 10% to Morecambe’s support tonight by bringing along myself and persuading the Danes to join the Shrimps. Beer was drunk and we were now joined by Paul’s Dagenham & Redbridge supporting mate ‘Daggers’ Dean’ as Paul referred to him as. Amazingly, Dean decided he was going to support his own team from the away end tonight, so one Welshman, two Danes and one Dagenham fan joined the 30 Morecambe fans around to the away end, where tonight it was £21 entry (I know this is fairly standard for League Two, but I still feel that it is so high for fourth tier football).
Victoria Road is a simple league ground, but one that fits its purpose for the level and support. Tonight the away fans were positioned in the newest stand in the ground, the Traditional Builders Stand (or Pondfield End) – a stand which used to be an open terrace, but is now an all-seater, sheltered stand for 1,200 fans. I really liked this stand because of its steepness and from our position on the back row we had a great view of the action below us. Opposite, behind the other goal, is an open terrace and a sizable scoreboard in the middle of it; to our right was the Main Stand housing the dugouts, more seating, the press area and a couple of small executive boxes; and, finally, opposite that was another small, sheltered seating stand housing 200 seats.
We had entered the ground in time for kick-off and I even got a quick thumbs up photo with Welsh Premier League legend and Morecambe Assistant Manager, Ken McKenna. Our route to our seats was obstructed for a few seconds by the player’s tunnel blocking the way, before we then headed up to the top of the away end.
Dagenham & Redbridge’s home record had been dire all season and generally the Shrimps fans seemed fairly confident of an away win tonight. However, it was the away team who came flying out the blocks and kept Morecambe under a lot of pressure.
Dagenham & Redbridge’s Joss Labadie went close with a long-range shot, but, then minutes later and via some good fortune, Labadie scored with another effort from outside the box. His effort looked fairly harmless and I’m still unsure as to what exactly happened with the ball seeming to bounce strangely and leaving keeper Barry Roche red-faced as it looped over him. 1-0 to the Daggers.
The home team were all over an abject Morecambe, even though Morecambe went close with a Jamie Devitt effort. Soon though, it was 2-0 to Dagenham & Redbridge and to be honest it was a goalscorer who I was quite happy to see score.
I grew up watching football in the mid-90s and so I remember the days of Jamie Cureton scoring freely for Bristol Rovers and then later for Reading, before going onto have the ultimate footballing journeyman career taking in 13 Football League clubs (two spells at Norwich City and Exeter City). Undoubtedly my respect for him heightens further for the fact that in the mid-2000s he played a season for Korean club Busan Icons. Utter hipster. Anyway, I have a huge soft spot for Cureton and so the moment he skipped past Roche and slotted into the empty net, I did smile a little bit even if my Morecambe pals were not happy around me. More impressive, Cureton is still playing as a striker in the Football League and he’s now 41. Fairplay to that man.
The Morecambe fans’ ire led to Scott shouting out his disapproval that they had travelled for hours and spent good money on their trip tonight. This prompted goalie Roche to shout, “Well don’t bother coming then.” Now, like everyone else present, I felt this wasn’t a great act by the keeper, but there can be nothing held against him as he did apologise and admit his act was stupid on Twitter immediately after the game. It was easy to understand why he would be so frustrated in the middle of the action as Morecambe were truly second-rate in the first half to put it kindly.
Half-time: Dagenham & Redbridge 2 – 0 Morecambe.
There had been no bar open for Morecambe fans during the second half, so after such an abject showing from their team, I’m sure they were delighted to see the bar in the stand open up for half-time. I joined them for a beer.
My good Morecambe pal Dom had snubbed me this evening for the more glamorous surroundings of the commentary box, as he was making his debut on lead commentary for Morecambe’s Shrimps Player alongside fellow fan James. But, him being a true Lost Boyos fanboy, he made the effort to run down at half-time, pose for a thumbs up photo and run back up to his commentary post. He came with chips too and on stealing some of his I realised that they offered some pretty awesome chips here at Victoria Road. Chips were duly purchased to join me in the stands for the second half.
It couldn’t get worse for Morecambe in the second half and their performance did improve, especially following the introduction of the legendary Kevin Ellison (“He’s got no hair, but we don’t care!”) It would be Ellison who would come so close to dragging Morecambe back into the game when his header beat the keeper only to hit the post and come back out.
The Morecambe substitutes were making a difference with both Barkhuizen and top goalscorer Shaun Miller adding a bit more cutting edge to the team. And Barkhuizen would get the away team a goal in the 76th minute when some ricochets in the box saw the ball fall to him to tap into an empty net. It was definitely 2-1 now, although the scoreboard seemed determined to keep at 2-0. I broke into chanting “Scoreboard, what’s the score?! Scoreboard, scoreboard, scoreboard what’s the score?!”to get it to sort its act out. When it did eventually change, it was greeted with cheers, only for us to realise we were cheering a scoreboard that ultimately said that Morecambe were losing.
Despite grabbing the goal, Morecambe struggled to breakdown a rather resolute Daggers’ defence in the past 15 minutes and the home team held on for all 3 points.
Full-time: Dagenham & Redbridge 2 – 1 Morecambe.
At the final whistle, there was anger expressed towards the team from the Morecambe faithful and no-one really seemed in the mood for one last drink in the club bar. I had a busy day the next day too, so I opted to begin the neverending train journey back into Central London accompanied by my Danish pals.
My evening finished in the ever excellent Rose Inn in New Cross Gate, fast becoming my favourite London bar. It had been a different night for me in Dagenham with a strange atmosphere in the ground on this Tuesday evening, although, as ever, it was good to catch up with the Morecambe fans.
Next up: Slovakian football…
Highlights: good club bar, community club, meeting the Danish lads, Jamie Cureton, good chips.
Low Points: didn’t see much of Dagenham, poor showing from Morecambe.
See all my photos from m trip to Dagenham & Redbridge here.