Sunday, 19 February 2012

Motoring to a five-star win

So much for a blip...
Having seen the side backfire a few times in recent games, Mark Yates had a little tinker under the bonnet, and we moved through the gears on to the fast lane to victory.
So, it would appear that, rather than the season being a write-off, it has just stalled a little and hopefully, with a reconditioned Steve Elliott back in the engine room, we will be purring nicely again.
I am sure that the naysayers will brand Dagenham a poor side, which they were on this showing, but, as ever, you can only play what is in front of you and we put in as ruthless an away performance as we have all season.
They will also point to the sending-off of the goalkeeper, but by that time we were already 2-0 up and had missed two or three other decent chances before that incident, so we would have won the game anyway.
Scott Brown had another quiet afternoon, and posed more of a threat to the opposition goal than the Dagenham forwards posed to his all game.
The defence was secure with Elliott's return, although it was the perfect game for him to come back, and Yatesy even had the luxury of taking him off with 15 minutes left as the game was won.
Our midfield got the space to cut them open, and with Kaid and the returning Josh Low doing well on the wings, we were able to attack at will.
Jeff Goulding did well up front but after getting  dead leg he went off and it was good to see Jimmy Spencer come on and get back among the goals.
It was also another sign of just what a good job Mark Yates has done.
Think back to December 2009, when we went to Dagenham for his first away game.
They were flying high, heading for promotion to League One, we were at a low ebb with a new manager picking up the pieces from the previous (now unemployed again) imcumbent of the post.
We won 2-0 with Josh Low outstanding and now, a little over two years on, the roles have been reversed.
It was just about the perfect afternoon as we equalled our best-ever league win - but, more importantly, boosted our goal difference and let the teams around us know that we are not going away that easily.
The bookies had started to lose faith, moving us out to 14-1 or longer for the title, but that's fine - people have been writing us off all season so let them carry on.
We are still in there fighting and yesterday's win is testament to that.
People wanted to see some resilience, some bottle and some ruthlessness, and we showed all that - Dagenham away is the sort of game we need to be winning if we are serious about lasting the pace and being there for the chequered flag in May.
Forget about other teams having games in hand - they have to win them. At this stage it is about getting points on the board.
Crawley have Swindon, Torquay and Shrewsbury to play in the next two weeks, other teams in the top six have to play each other.
Points will be dropped and picked up everywhere - look at Torquay losing to Bradford, that wasn't expected so it's going to be impossible to predict what will happen.
Anyway, back to yesterday - and we just did everything well, good defending, good passing, good link-up, good movement and good finishing.
It would be too simplistic to say that Elliott's return sparked it all off, but it has to be a factor.
He hasn't played since Spurs, and in the six games he has missed we have picked up seven points from 18. Make up your own mind.
That's nothing against Keith Lowe, but with a statistic like that you can see why Mark Yates went looking for some cover for Elliott's role as the dominant centre-half, and it's surely not a coincidence that he comes back with a 5-0 win and a clean sheet.
Hindsight is great, but I suspect with Elliott in the side, Delroy Facey would not have been left at Hereford and Brian Saah would not have had a free header against Torquay last Tuesday, but those things are gone now and we are pleased to have him back.
You could see right from the off that the defensive unit, and Alan Bennett in particular, looked much happier with Steve back in there and as soon as he won the first header of the day the chests seemed to pump out all over the pitch and the confidence level rise.
It grew even higher when Luke Summerfield smashed in the first goal after 20 minutes, and he is making a habit of these goals.
He seems to be able to pick up space 20-25 yards out and hit these efforts so truly, like he did at Rovers and at home to Aldershot, and the keeper had no chance.
Then came Scott Brown's moment as his clearance nearly caught Lewington out and he backpedalled to tip it over the bar.
From the corner, twinkletoes Elliott found the ball at his feet and picked his spot expertly for number two.
Game over basically, and when the keeper got red-carded we could definitely have retired to the bar.
He came out to block Josh Low's run, and having seen it on the TV I am not sure he was outside the box, but the linesman was and off he went.
Medy Elito was sacrificed having touched the ball once in 42 minutes and Dave Hogan, the 'portly' sub keeper, with games this season against Bowers and Pitsea United, Stanway Rovers and Brightlingsea Regent entered the fray.
His first job was to block Luke Garbutt's free kick into Kaid Mohamed's path, and that was 3-0 at half-time.
The second half it was all about the clean sheet, and the goal difference with Jimmy Spencer and an own goal (sorry Mo...) finishing it off - then in the closing stages it all turned a bit nasty and became about leaving without serious injury as the Daggers players lost their heads completely.
How Abu Ogogo stayed on after going straight through Alan Bennett, over the top of the ball, on the halfway line I will never know.
The referee went to his back pocket for the red card at first, then after being surrounded by Daggers players and with the crowd yelling at him, bottled it and kept the player on - tellingly though, John Still took him straight off. After one minute or 90, and at 0-0 or 5-0, it was a red card.
The crowd were a disgrace, calling Benno a cheat - he was lucky not to end up with a broken leg.
With a tighter scoreline and without the goalkeeper's red card earlier, Ogogo would surely have been off - it was a shocker of a 'tackle' and could have seriously injured Benno.
Then Jon Nurse went through the back of Mo on the touchline in front of the main stand, and it was relief to get our team out unscathed - those sorts of challenges have no place in the game.
But don't let that detract from a good team performance, and now we have three home games to try to cement ourselves in the mix before our tough March kicks in.
People say our home form is poor - in fact it matches our away form, but we have lost our last two at Whaddon without scoring so let's hope we have saved some goals for Wimbledon, Burton and Northampton. Nine points would be wonderful, but six or seven not a disaster.
Mark said afterwards he still wants reinforcements, and may have something before Tuesday's game, so we wait and see - however when you can win 5-0 with your record signing and top scorer sat on the bench, do you need them...?

Player by player
Scott Brown - Absolutely nothing to do. Daggers had one shot over the bar in each half. Would have been a great moment had his clearance gone in!
Sido Jombati - Comfortable game defensively but usual busy self going forward.
Luke Garbutt - Set-pieces much better as we scored from two of his corners. Defensively sound.
Steve Elliott - Immense in both boxes. Won every header at the back and took his goal like a striker. Great to have him back.
Alan Bennett - Just pleased he survived intact after a late horror tackle. Happier with Steve back, and also turned up on the right wing at one point.
Marlon Pack - Better game, with his full range of passing on show. Also good that we could take him off with 20 minutes left.
Luke Summerfield - Keeps producing these spectacular goals and that one got us up and running. Usual busy game.
Russ Penn - Our driving force as usual. Close to getting a goal but doesn't seem to be feeling effects from his niggling injury.
Josh Low - Surprise to see him start but did well. Linked up well and gave an option out wide. Shows the value of having a decent squad.
Kaid Mohamed - Another good away performance and up to nine goals now - our leading league scorer, and a constant threat.
Jeff Goulding - Unlucky to have to limp off but I thought he did well. Nearly got a goal and was a good target man.

Substitutes
Jimmy Spencer (for Jeff Goulding 45 mins) - Good to see him back in the goals and what a thumping finish it was.
Junior Smikle (for Marlon Pack 72 mins) - Played a vital role in the 20-minute keep ball session after the fifth goal.
Keith Lowe (for Steve Elliott 76 mins) - Back on the bench but the scoreline enabled Mark to give Steve Elliott a rest. A comfortable last few minutes.