Swindon 4 Dagenham 0: Daggers’ dawn cut short by red & white army
Having been unable to breach the triple-decker bus parked in the triple-sided stadium on Saturday, Tuesday’s game could not come quick enough to put the Swindon Town TGV firmly back on the tracks heading at speed towards League One, writes STFC007.
In the build up to the game the level of optimism from most Swindon Town fans was refreshing – as usually after a defeat in the past, doom and gloom lurked just around the corner. As the clock moved closer to kick-off time though, there were some doubters pointing out the recent good form of Dagenham & Redbridge against whom Swindon had never recorded a victory. But surely the team riding high in the division should be able to brush aside a team languishing near the bottom of the table with ease…
When the teams came out you could sense the Swindon team meant business with concentration on each of their faces, focussed on the task of continuing their immense run in becoming League Two Champions. Despite Di Canio’s indications that he was considering introducing quite a number of changes, there were only two in the starting line up – De Vita replaced Rooney and Bodin was favoured to partner ex-Daggers Benson up top.
Dagenham’s intentions were clear from the outset; to prevent Swindon’s midfield from playing their usual passing game and with it forcing the Swindon backline to reach their front pairing of Benson and Bodin with the long ball. Not only did this tactic work well initially, as Dagenham’s sturdy centre back pairing dealt with most what they were served with, Swindon seemed not to be firing on all cylinders in the early stages of the game either.
A host of inaccurate passes, half clearances, and some ricochets made it difficult for the Swindon players to create any sort of momentum. Di Canio in his post-match interview described the start the team made as ‘shy’. In fact, it was a scrappy and nervous, affecting some players more than others.
The referee, who in general had a good game, also had his moments. Bodin just missed out on controlling a long ball which ended up with the goalkeeper. The linesman did not raise his flag, nor did the referee blow his whistle, but the goalkeeper walked out of his area with the ball in his hand ready to take a free kick, which was never awarded in the first place. It clearly should have been a free-kick against the ‘keeper for handball, but suddenly the linesman raised his flag and offside was given instead with the referee pointing profusely to his headset several times as some sort of apology.
Had Dagenham come to the County Ground with a different game plan and approached the game more positively than their one shot on goal all game indicated, I am sure they could have caused Swindon some issues during those early exchanges. As it stood, the only real chance in the first 15 minutes fell to Benson, who was able to flick the ball up and volley it towards goal only for his effort to get blocked.
Having highlighted – the day before the match – that realistically only injuries could negatively affect the outcome of our season, our captain – the most constant beacon of steadfastness till now – limped off. He was replaced by Jonathan Smith, while Oliver Risser moved to centre back and McCormack to right back. Despite being able to walk back to the dressing room, the injury looked serious and hopefully the scan planned for Thursday concludes that Caddis will be back soon.
The forced changes seemed to destabilise the team somewhat and they were under the cosh for a little while. Dagenham enjoyed a little pressure but the few corners they had in quick succession, came to nothing, as none of their efforts managed to be on target.
Benson, playing against his old team where he enjoyed immense success, was marked very closely and the defenders were able to get away with a lot of pushing and holding. When he was wrestled to the floor in the centre circle once more, he was seemingly annoyed. His frustration was channeled in a positive way, as he seemed to up his contribution.
Initially, twinkle-toed Bodin managed to outwit the defence with some moves that could have been choreographed by the street dance act Diversity, only for his effort to end up against the post. But less than a minute later, Benson, this time breaking free on the right hand side, delivered a nicely weighted pass across goal to the back post, far enough out of reach of the goal keeper but accurate enough for Bodin to slide the ball into the back of the net to make it 1-0.
There was relief as Swindon took the deserved lead despite not being at their best. Ferry started to drop deeper and demanding the ball more from the defence, which provided for some better, varied play.
Some nice interplay between Bodin and McCormack on the right, saw the new right back whip in a cross at speed, only for Smith to head over the bar as he tried to adjust his neck position, being in the air already and somewhat ahead of the ball.
Dagenham at this stage were not able to wrestle themselves back into the game and this was made even more difficult as their #10 Scott saw red after a two footed tackle on Risser.
As Dagenham tried to adjust their formation, more space became available on the flanks as gaps started to appear. Ritchie took advantage of this and as he picked up the ball in midfield, ran towards the defence and passed to De Vita who found himself in acres of space. However, Raffa’s touch let him down, as the ball ended up too close to the goalkeeper who managed to stop the shot.
The second half was better and the introduction of Rooney on the left in place of Devita, created more of a threat as defending became more difficult for Dagenham as the game got on.
A Rooney corner seemed to be going going out for a goal kick, but Devera who had a very good game again, jumped up highest to head the ball into the back of the net to make it 2-0. The game was over at this stage as Dagenham did not manage to put up any real fight and had their hands full trying to contain Swindon and keeping the score down.
A nice bit of skill from Ritchie on the right saw a his cross, left by Bodin’s dummy, reach Rooney who rifled his shot into the roof of the net to make it 3-0.
The best bit of skill in the second half came from Cibocchi, who did have a few funny minutes in the first half. He picked the ball up on the left and the onrushing Dagenham #23 Woodall had his legs spread out just enough to be nutmegged as Cibocchi delivered an accurate pass to Rooney.
Alan Connell had his name sang out loud by the crowd when he was waiting to come on to replace Bodin. The Fans’ favourite almost made an immediate impact as the ball ended up at his feet, after a controlled double header from Benson. With his back towards goal, he turned the defender inside out, but saw his effort go just wide of the post. Connell was lively and combined well for the remainder of the game with Benson and the rest of midfield.
Rooney continued to terrorise the left hand side and a shot on goal was met by Benson whose tap-in meant the rout was complete, 4-0. It could have been more had Rooney looked up a few times and passed the ball to a team player in a better position, rather than going at it alone too often. The frustration from some of his team mates was visible as they continued to make make the runs into the box even at this late stage of the game. It didn’t really matter as the 3 points were secured, but on another day when the scores are even, he should be aware he may get a different treatment if he does reach a team player in a better position than himself.
There were smiles all round with our closest rivals dropping points, the lead on Cheltenham in second place, who will be visiting the County Ground on Saturday, is now 6 points with a game in hand.
And while John Still kept his players on the pitch for a pep talk as Dagenham continue their quest for Football League survival, Paul Benson – who spoke so highly of his time with Dagenham in the match program – went over to the visiting 87 Dagenham supporters to applaud them and show what true gent and genuine professional he really is.
Being a Swindon Town supporter is great at the moment with a tasty encounter to look forward to on Saturday when Cheltenham Town are the visitors.
Man of the Match Result: Joe Devera 42%, Rooney 17% and Bodin 14%