Dagenham & Redbridge 3
(Oliver Hawkins x3)
Chigwell Construction Stadium (Victoria Road)
Having worked for Wrexham as part of their media team on and off since December 2014, an early kick off in the capital was a no brainer, and also a great chance for me to link back up with the visiting side for the first time since Eastleigh away in January.
With this game scheduled to finish at 2pm, I set myself the challenge of making it a full day out by busting a gut to get to a 3pm kick off game- Charlton v Bolton was the chosen second destination of the day and for £10 I couldn’t complain.
So off I went, a 9:30 train from Southampton was the start of my day trip excited at the prospect of two games and two new grounds.
I arrived at the Chigwell Construction Stadium a little pushed for time, a quick pin badge purchase as well as picking up my press pass I headed straight into the ground to find my seat with about 20 minutes to spare.
A short five minute from the tube station, the stadium is tucked away at the end of a terraced street (Victoria Road, the more recognised name for the stadium).
Victoria Road is a typical non-league/ lower Football League ground, with half standing and half seated it had a very old school feel to the place. I was situated at the back of the main stand to the left of the dugouts in the press area.
Opposite me on the far side was covered terracing and to my right behind one goal there were some hardy fans stood in the uncovered terrace, I wonder if they would be stood there on a wet and windy night in November.
To my left was a very impressive stand that also housed the players tunnel and a bar (I was told) where the away fans were sat for the game. There were a few home fans in the stand but they sat in their respective colours and didn’t ‘mix with the enemy’.
Oliver Hawkins bagged a first half hat-trick to put Dagenham & Redbridge top of the National League with a 3-0 win over Wrexham.
The former Hemel Hempstead Town striker put the Daggers up in the opening ten minutes before doubling the lead on 22 minutes. When Luke Guttridge won a penalty in first half stoppage time, there was only one man to take it and Hawkins claimed the match ball, sending ‘keeper Shwan Jalal the wrong way.
Under the spotlight of the BT Sport cameras, Wrexham didn’t show up for the first half, trying to hold off the Dagenham onslaught. The home side soon found themselves ahead when a looped pass from Andre Boucaud found Guttridge on the edge of the box. The number ten scuffed his effort on goal but Hawkins was on hand at the back post to poke the ball over the line.
Hawkins was causing havoc for the Wrexham back three winning a lot of the aerial battle. Daggers loanee Jordan Maguire-Drew then forced a good save from Jalal with a low drive towards the corner of the goal, which the Iraq international tipped around the post. However Wrexham made a real hash at defending the resulting corner and Hawkins rose highest to direct his header into the back of the net.
Wrexham were trying a lot of long ball to young striker Gerry McDonagh but it was a tactic that wasn’t working against a Dagenham defence that hadn’t conceded a home goal this season.
Sean Newton wasn’t to believe what effect his foul throw was to have on the score when referee reversed possession close to the half way line in first half stoppage time. Dagenham re-took the throw and found Guttridge who dropped his shoulder and let the ball roll across him in the box, inviting the foul from Hamza Bencherif, leaving the referee no option but to give a penalty.
Having hit a brace already, Hawkins was the man to step up and take the spot kick, rounding off his impressive hat-trick in style and giving Wrexham a very difficult task of getting anything from the game in the second half.
Gary Mills made two changes at the interval, changing his two strikers with Bradley Reid and McDonagh making way for Shaun Harrad and Tyler Harvey.
The change and possibly strong words at half time gave Wrexham some impetus after the restart. Harrad had an instant impact when he forced a good save from Elliot Justham when he won a header from John Rooney’s free kick.
Dagenham were dealing with a significant spell of Wrexham pressure as the away side threw men into the box to pull a goal back. Rooney and Paul Rutherford linked up well for another chance but the brother of England captain Wayne Rooney couldn’t keep his shot on target.
Bencherif had been pushed into midfield for the second half and he nearly scored a 35-yard screamer but his well-hit effort just went high of the Daggers cross bar.
Wrexham had a penalty claim turned down for hand ball, but the referee had no chance of seeing it and the linesman didn’t seem to think much of the appeal as Dagenham slowly got a hold back on the game.
Injury to Guttridge dented Wrexham’s momentum before Corey Whitely replaced him from the bench and giving the home side the chance to take in some fluids on the touchline and for managed John Still to give his side some direction.
Jalal then was on call to put in a string of good saves to keep the score at three, tipping over Maguire-Drew’s effort. Whitely had picked up where Guttridge had left off and was causing the defenders problems sitting just behind Hawkins. The attacking midfielder weaved through before stinging the fingertips of Jalal who managed to parry the ball away.
Maguire-Drew then struck a beautiful free kick that looked destined for the top corner but an inspired Jalal reached up high to keep the ball out.
Dagenham were enjoying their best spell of the game and Curtis Tilt headed one off the line from Craig Robson. Jalal then denied Hawkins a fourth late on when he saved from a close range header to end the game 3-0.
2016/17 Games: 21
2016/17 Grounds: 22
Total Grounds Visited: 164