Morecambe 2 Dagenham 1
This match should have been played just before Christmas but a waterlogged pitch meant it had to be postponed. Tuesday - to the delight of people unlike Yours Truly who had already bought their tickets for the original fixture - the club decided to make entry free to all points of the ground, even the end normally reserved for the away supporters, which is where I personally decided to go. Hats Off to the management for this gesture because almost three times as many spectators as usual went through the turnstiles than have been doing so of late and for once, the Globe Arena actually felt like a football ground: the atmosphere was fantastic.
And so was the match. On a heavy, muddy pitch, Morecambe gained the first corner of the game after just three minutes and had the first effort on goal two minutes later when Kevin Ellison's decent try was cleared by the Daggers' defence.
The London team were sharp and fluent on the counter-attack though and there was a suspicion of a penalty when Chris McCready seemed to handle the ball in his own penalty area before conceding a corner kick. Matthew Saunders took it and Brian Woodall unerringly smashed the ball into the net when it eluded all the home team`s defenders as it slithered across the penalty area. Dagenham didn't seem to need any help at this point but Stewart Drummond's poor pass set up another visitors' attack after seven minutes and Andrew Wright was lucky not to be booked after ten minutes for a needless and petulant foul on Medy Elito - if he had been, he could have been sent off later when he actually was booked. From the resultant free kick, Drummond atoned for his earlier mistake with an excellent clearance which Oluwafemi Ilesanwi hit first time from about thirty yards - his volley only just missed Barry Roche's left hand post. The action swung to the other end of the pitch almost immediately with Lewis Allesandra linking-up well with Jack Redshaw for the diminutive Shrimps' player to swing over an excellent cross which Ellison got his head to but was unable to direct at Chris Lewington's goal. Within a few seconds, McCready was having to head a dangerous Daggers' cross away for a corner, a header from which Ellison did brilliantly to block on the line.
The match ebbed and flowed at this point with the Londoners looking perhaps marginally sharper but as the half progressed, the hosts started to play more like a team and gradually seemed to be getting on top. After twenty-five minutes, Allesandra was played-in on the Morecambe left and produced a peach of a cross which Jordan Burrow headed narrowly over the bar with the slightest of interventions by the Dagenham goalkeeper. From the resultant corner, Lewington was beaten but one of his defenders managed to scramble the ball off the line. As the pressure mounted, the goalkeeper produced one of several smart saves to keep out Allesandra's seemingly goal-bound shot after twenty-seven minutes at the cost of a corner which his defence had difficulty clearing before he was forced to make another tremendous stop within a minute, this time from Redshaw who had found himself well placed in the visitors' penalty area. Six foot tall Shrimps' defender Andy Parrish was the next Morecambe player to try and score with a volley which cleared the bar with about half an hour played.
Dagenham hadn't given up, though - from another corner, Roche did well to keep yet another unchallenged header out after 33 minutes. Six minutes later after another bad tackle by Wright, the visitors wasted a free kick and found themselves caught-out by a quick counter attack which led to the ever-eager Ellison being thwarted by yet another good save by Lewington. The Daggers were on the back foot again after 41 minutes when Luke Wilkinson was forced to head a dangerous ball out for a corner which his goalkeeper was able to deal with only at the second time of asking. Morecambe's clearest chance of equalising came and went in the penultimate minute when an unmarked Drummond managed to guide a header just the wrong side of the post from his point of view.
The second half continued much as the first one had left off. The Daggers were on the attack first but the play soon went to the other end of the field and when Allesandra's corner was cleared after 48 minutes, Ellison's shot was helped over the bar by Lewington's fingertips. Allesandra again took the resulting corner and when the ball found its way back to him, he slung over a cross which Fenton was within inches of bundling over the goal line. Morecambe's number nine was in the thick of the action again just three minutes later when he received the ball from a free kick taken from near the centre circle and produced another searching cross which Burrow was bravely able to force over the line for a deserved equaliser. But still the game ebbed and flowed - Dagenham had the next good chance when, following a lightning foray into Morecambe territory, Woodall nearly doubled his tally for the evening with a shot which only just missed Roche's left hand post.
With almost an hour played, Kevin Ellison tried his luck again, this time from about 25 yards out to the right of the Daggers' penalty area - Lewington came to his team's rescue once again. The home team continued to press and Dagenham conceded a succession of corners round about the hour mark. The ball was headed just over the visitors' bar after 64 minutes but Morecambe appeared to have taken the lead when a shot from Gary McDonald beat Lewington only for Gavin Hoyte to appear from nowhere and miraculously clear the ball with his head from right under the crossbar. The Shrimps' number nine had another go after 68 minutes when his shot from 30 yards went just to the right of the Daggers' goal and just two minutes later, McDonald's clever pass to Ellison resulted in another corner to the home team, from which Morecambe's number eleven tried his luck again, this time hitting his shot just fractionally too high.
The Shrimps' other outstanding forward finally swung the game with just twenty minutes left: Allesandra danced his way through the centre of the Dagenham defence before slinging a wicked cross towards their left hand post. And, charging up the Morecambe right flank was none other than full back Andy Parrish, who smacked the ball over the line to the euphoria of the watching thousands - and himself: this was the first time Andy had scored for the team he signed for as long ago as 2008. There were still a few chances for both sides before the match reached a controversial end when two people in fancy dress ran onto the field and managed to evade the stewards for a couple of minutes but when the final whistle finally blew, there is little doubt that the best team on the night had won. It must have seemed an even longer journey than usual for the Dagenham stalwarts who had made the journey from East London all the way to the Lancashire coast. Let's hope they all got home safely. Morecambe are now just three places and two points behind the Daggers, who are in fourteenth spot but have played one game more than their opponents.
If Tuesday's experiment proved anything, it is that Morecambe have a well of untapped potential support on which they might be able to draw if the management plays its cards properly. The Shrimps performed really well tonight and few people other than Dagenham & Redbridge supporters would have gone home disappointed. It is surely no coincidence that the team responded to the tremendous atmosphere inside the Globe Arena tonight. But it could be Catch 22 - if the home gate slumps again next time supporters are expected to pay for the privilege of watching Morecambe - will Normal Service Be Resumed? Answers on a postcard to Chairman Peter McGuigan please...
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 2 Nick Fenton (C) (Y); 22 Andy Parrish; 15 Chris McCready; 8 Andrew Wright (Y); 16 Stewart Drummond; 14 Jordan Burrow (17 Andy Fleming 77 mins); 9 Lewis Allesandra; 11 Kevin Ellison; 18 Gary McDonald; 27 Jack Redshaw (12 Dan Parkinson 68 mins).
Substitutes not used: 25 Andreas Arestidou; 3 Robbie Threlfall; 6 Will Haining; 7 Izak Reid; 19 Joe McGee.
Dagenham & Redbridge: 1 Chris Lewington; 2 Luke Wilkinson; 3 Oluwafemi Ilesanwi; 4 Scott Doe (Y); 10 Josh Scott (14 Jake Reed 66 mins); 12 Medy Elito; 15 Matthew Saunders (21 Jake Caprice 85 mins); 17 Luke Howell; 18 Gavin Hoyte; 19 Abu Agogo (C); 23 Brian Woodall (8 Rob Edmans 79 mins).
Substitutes not used: 30 Jordan Seabright; 6 Michael Spillane; 16 Kevin Maher; 24 Billy Bingham.
Ref: Kevin Wright.
Written by Morecambe fan Roger Fitton.