Town 2-1 Dagenham
By David Mitchell
Despite going behind to an early penalty, Fleetwood Town responded to gain their first Highbury win for two months courtesy of goals from Junior Brown, his 12th of the season, and Gareth Evans, his first for the club.
With Southend not playing, Town moved up to 8th
in the npower League 2.
Following two disappointing away trips, Town manager Graham Alexander suggested that there would be changes and he made three. Ryan Edwards replaced injured Rob Atkinson in defence, Jamie McGuire returned to a five-man midfield and Jamille Matt started up front for the first time in ten games. There were no places for the strike partnership of Jon Parkin and David Ball. Paul McKenna was still suspended.
Dagenham and Redbridge were unchanged following a creditable draw with Burton Albion. Sam Williams, scorer of the late penalty that separated the sides in east London, was unavailable through injury.
Matt made a confident start, feeding Junior Brown before the midfielder gave an opportunity to McGuire whose shot went over. There was a further attack, involving Shaun Beeley, before the visitors countered. Both Josh Scott and Gavin Hoyte hit the crossbar with fierce shots before Beeley was adjudged to have handled and Medy Elito scored convincingly from the spot after just four minutes, the midfielder’s sixth goal of the season. It was the eleventh penalty conceded by Town this season. Two minutes later, Town were back on terms. Brown crossed from a tight angle on the right and was awarded the goal, despite Evans attentions at the back post, the former Rotherham player appearing to prod the ball over the line. Chris Lewington in the visitors goal will not want to see the replay.
Two minutes later, the Daggers hit the crossbar yet again, this time from a Matthew Saunders corner on the left. Town were already looking more creative than in the whole of the Barnet game on Tuesday. Matt, determined to make an impression in just his fifth start, was a noticeable threat with strong running and he set up Brown for a shot in the 16th minute.
Dagenham and Redbridge, still too close to the relegation area for comfort, showed some positive touches in the final third with strong running from their tall front men while the busy Brown was at the heart of much of Town’s approach work. The tempo died somewhat after the dramatic opening.
There was frustration for Town after 34 minutes. McGuire swept the ball past Lewington only to look on in anguish as referee Haines had already indicated a free kick to Town near the main screen. The midfielder’s protests were typically vociferous.
Anthony Barry began proceedings in the second half with a firm shot from distance but it was the Daggers who provided the early threat. Town responded, Brown testing the defence from the right with a left foot cross which Barry Nicholson almost got to before Evans gave Town a welcome lead with one of the best Highbury strikes of the season. His right foot shot from outside the box after 50 minutes beat a diving a Lewington to the right to delight the Cod Army faithful in the Memorial Stand behind the goal.
Soon after the restart, Brown was brought down by Luke Wilkinson in an attacking position and with the home crowd calling for a red, the referee opted for yellow. There was some good interplay from Town, the midfield linking well with Matt
Injured Lewington was replaced by substitute keeper Jordan Seabright just before the hour as the Daggers looked for the cutting edge to get them back in the game. Elito caught the eye while Scott was getting supply and testing Ryan Edwards but the young centre half looked calm under pressure. A double substitution for Dagenham after 70 minutes saw Jake Reed and Dominic Green on for Ben Strevens and Hoyte. Edwards cleared a Wilkinson shot wide for a corner in the 72nd
After receiving Town’s first booking, Nicholson had a shot blocked with a quarter of an hour left. One big striker replaced another, Jean-Michel Fontaine on for Matt, and the ex-Kidderminster front man received generous applause from the home fans in the 2019 crowd for his wholehearted efforts.
Dagenham and Redbridge worked hard without threatening Davies in Town’s goal. With four minutes left, Ryan Crowther replaced Brown and was soon to send a searching cross from the right which forced a corner. Dagenham failed to clear and Barry shot narrowly wide. His efforts throughout the afternoon deserved a goal.
There were anxious moments in added time as Town’s defence came under further pressure. They broke clear and saw time out in the attacking third for a morale-boosting victory.
TEAM: Davies (captain), Beeley, Pond, Edwards, Goodall, Brown (Crowther 86), McGuire, Barry, Nicholson, Evans, Matt (Fontaine 76).