Dynamic Daggers Duo Blow Cards Down in East London

Nigel Beesley
12:00am, Tue 4th May 2021
Dagenham & Redbridge 3 Woking 1
Vanarama National League
Monday 3rd May 2021

The Cards made two changes at The Chigwell Construction Stadium in Dagenham’s Victoria Road from Saturday with Joe Leslie coming in for Ben Gerring and Sam Dalby replacing Zach Robinson.
The clouds above the ground were being blown along by a cool breeze which got stronger as the game progressed, although thankfully the rain stayed away until well after the match had ended.

Woking started brightly but fell behind when McCallum netted with the host’s first attack; he later converted a penalty to put them two goals to the good. The Cards played much better after the break and got back in the game through Sam Ashford, but again conceded late on as Balanta got on the end of a free kick and the home side ran out 3-1 winners.

The first chance of the match came after three minutes when Sam Ashford broke free down the right-hand side. Once inside the box, the on-loan striker found some space but saw his shot tipped away by Justham in the Dagenham goal.

The hosts had yet to get going and, shortly afterwards, Dowse’s Cards came close to taking the lead when an in-swinging free-kick somehow missed both Ashford and Kane Ferdinand at the far post and went harmlessly behind for a goal kick.

This sprung Dagenham into action and in the seventh minute, McCallum gave them the lead with their first chance of the game. He found space in the area to lose his marker before heading in an excellent cross, the ball looping over Craig Ross and into the net. This was a big blow to the Cards and clearly dented their confidence after such a good opening spell of possession.

Both sides were struggling with the windy conditions but in the 23rd minute, Joe Leslie almost levelled the score when his fiercely hit shot from outside the area forced Justham into another excellent save.

Their endeavours were sadly undone in the 26th minute when, without hesitation, the referee awarded a penalty to the Daggers after Vilhete was felled inside the box. McCallum confidently rolled the spot kick into the bottom corner to double the hosts’ advantage, with Ross static in goal.

Wright then went past several defenders but saw his effort blocked before McCallum and Balanta both saw goal-bound shots blocked in quick succession by Craig Ross, again showing his agility.
A good chance for the Cards arrived with five minutes left of the first half when Charlie Cooper’s well-struck effort almost found its way into the top corner, but the ball went agonisingly wide.

Half-time: Dagenham & Redbridge 2 Woking 0

The visitors started the second half as brightly as they had in the first and after 51 minutes, an excellent run from Joe Leslie who delivered the ball towards the waiting Sam Ashford, only for a timely defensive header to deny the forward a shot on target.

Despite playing into the ever-strengthening wind, the home side still posed a threat and, moments later, McCallum went through on goal seeking his hat-trick but Craig Ross again denied him the opportunity.

The second period was playing out like a game of chess as the Cards looked to find a way back into the match with the home side defending without too much risk. In the 66th minute, another save from Justham denied Moussa Diarra, who rose highest above the defence to get his head to another well-struck corner from Charlie Cooper.

Woking then made a double change after 70 minutes with Malachi Napa and Zach Robinson coming on to replace Joe Leslie and Paul Hodges. This spurred them on to finally make a breakthrough.

Three minutes later, Dagenham could do nothing to deny Woking their opening goal of the game. After a deep ball into the box from Napa, Ashford this time managed to find enough space to get on the end of the cross, directing it across the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner. A fitting reward for a positive performance from them since the break.

Dagenham then looked to restore their two-goal lead and, with 14 minutes left to play, Vilhete went on a mazy run but his eventual shot was directed over the bar. McCallum was in space and appeared to be annoyed that his teammate had chosen to ignore him.

With just under ten minutes left to play the Daggers gained a free-kick on the left-hand side. Wright’s swinging ball had an excellent trajectory and it found Balanta waiting there in the box; the Colombian gleefully turned the ball home past Craig Ross from six yards out.

Deep into injury time, McCallum went racing in at the far post and almost completed his hat trick but again Craig Ross saved well and the referee signalled an end to the game shortly afterwards.

For Woking this was yet another reverse in a long-running sequence but they showed glimpses of what they are capable of and, on another day, when 50/50 decisions go in their favour they will find a way to win again.

Chesterfield are the visitors on Saturday, for Woking's penultimate home match of the season. Dowse's side then make the short trip to title-chasing Sutton United, whose Manager was watching the game today, on the following Tuesday

Woking: 13 Craig Ross, 4 Charlie Cooper, 6 Moussa Diarra, 8 Kane Ferdinand, 14 John Freeman, 16 Koran Lofthouse, 24 Leo Hamblin, 25 Sam Ashford, 27 Joe Leslie (Malachi Napa 70’), 30 Sam Dalby (Sam Evans 84’), 32 Paul Hodges (Zach Robinson 70’)

Unused subs: 31 Mark Smith, 33 Jake Rumble

Goals: Ashford 73’

Bookings: Diarra 48’

Dagenham & Redbridge: 1 Justham, Wright, 2 Reynolds, 3 Johnson, 15 Eleftheriou, 23 Khan (Croll 84’), 26 Jones (Smith 65’), 12 Robinson, 22 Vilhete, 10 Balanta (Wilson 84’), 9 McCallum

Unused subs: 14 Saunders, 17 McQueen

Goals: McCallum 8’, 27’ (pen) Balanta 81’

Bookings: None

Referee: Daniel Lamport

Attendance: Behind Closed Doors

Man of the Match: Joe Leslie played well for seventy minutes but his performance was eclipsed by Charlie Cooper who put in a tireless showing, as well as taking the vast majority of the set pieces to gain my vote

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