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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Lowly Dagenham stun Carlisle Utd to claim shock win

Carlisle United 0 Dagenham and Redbridge 2: If this had been a boxing match, it may never have been sanctioned by the British Boxing Board of Control for fear of it turning into a contest as embarrassingly one-sided as David Haye against Audley Harrison.

Mike Grella photo
Mike Grella

In the blue corner was a Carlisle United team, who should have been brimming with self-belief and confidence after a November to remember, with a stunning club record of six wins and a draw, six goals in their previous two games and showing their promotion and Wembley credentials with knock-out performances and victories over Sheffield Wednesday and Southampton.

Staggering unsteadily out of the red corner was a punch-drunk Dagenham & Redbridge side, battered and bruised by three straight defeats and a record of just one win in their previous 10 games, leaving them languishing in the relegation zone.

Based on those statistics, this match should never have gone ahead. But this is not the lop-sided British heavyweight ranks; it’s League One – a division where form books are regularly chucked out of the window and where prize fighters can easily be left with bloodied
noses from sucker-punches from journeymen pros.

After seeing his side fail to pack any kind of punch on Saturday, it was no surprise boss Greg Abbott afterwards admitted he and his players are simply going to have to take the defeat and criticism on the chin after Dagenham hit them with late goals from Medy Elito and Danny Green.

In an afternoon of frustration and drudgery, Carlisle never came to terms with the ruthlessly direct, physical approach John Still’s side adopted.

A whole lot of learning went on at Brunton Park on Saturday – Dagenham realised they’re still in with a fighting chance of dragging themselves out of the mire and Carlisle now know they must master the art of winning ugly if they’re going to fulfil their promotion dream
because it’s what separates champions from the also-rans.

What matters just as much as possession, just as much as the attractive, free-flowing football they served up against Sheffield Wednesday 11 days earlier, is being able to match the dogged determination of teams like Dagenham who battled and scrapped, stuck men behind the ball and refused to lie down – just as bottom side Walsall did last month during Carlisle’s last defeat.

Take nothing away from Dagenham as they deserved this victory for their positive second-half performance that belied their lowly league position.

And maybe a sense of perspective is called for from Carlisle fans despite the obvious disappointment of Saturday’s shock result, which saw many heading for the exits before the final whistle and those who hung round until the end sending their team off to boos.

In mitigation, it was only their second defeat in 10 games. There was little damage done as Abbott’s men are still sitting pretty in the top half of the table and, with traffic bumper-to-bumper in League One, the Blues are only six points off an automatic promotion place.

It could have been so different for Carlisle, who looked purposeful and positive right from the first whistle and it was clear the game plan was to get an early goal.

They nearly got it as well. Francois Zoko’s crossfield ball to Gary Madine saw the young striker send over a lovely delivery into the box for Ben Marshall, but his shot was blocked by veteran Dagenham keeper Tony Roberts. Zoko was alert to the rebound but the big Ivorian striker fired wildly over the bar from eight yards. His reaction, head in hands, said it all.

It was the signal for Dagenham to seize control and establish a foothold in the game.

Bas Savage was just off target with a header after a great run and cross from Danny Green, Elito volleyed wide from seven yards and then the same player let fly with an effort which was deflected goal-bound by Carlisle defender James Chester but keeper Adam Collin rescued Carlisle.

It’s no wonder Abbott is so keen to hang on to Marshall as the on-loan Stoke teenager was at the centre of virtually very Carlisle attack and his threat was summed up by the fact that both bookings in the game were collected by Dagenham players – Green and Kayleden Brown – for bringing him down from behind.

But Marshall could have perhaps done better after his surging run was followed by a powder-puff effort on 26 minutes, before towering defender Lubo Michalik took matters into his own hands and attempted an audacious effort from virtually inside the centre circle, only to see it whistle past the post.

While Carlisle’s players looked as if they were still digesting their half-time cuppas, Dagenham were quickly out the blocks, with Savage nearly capitalising on some hesitancy in the home defence with a shot that rolled right across the face of goal.

Heart-stopping stuff but Carlisle had a few chances of their own to settle the nerves of the home fans.

A quickly-taken throw-in from Simek was helped on by Tom Taiwo to Marshall, who swivelled before trying his luck with a powerful effort that spun out of Roberts’ hands for a corner.

By now it looked as if it was heading for a frustrating draw as Carlisle just couldn’t break down the stubborn resistance of their opponents. If only.

Abbott started giving instructions to substitutes Mike Grella and Matty Robson, who were both sent on to try to spark the game into life.

Robson had a chance to be an instant hero with his first touch of the ball on 81 minutes.

Chester’s long ball forward was headed down by Madine and Robson let fly with a left-foot volley which flew agonisingly wide of the post.

Seconds later, Dagenham, who were by now going all out for a win, hit them on the counter-attack.

Brown’s cross to the near-post was met by Elito, who slid in fire past a diving Collin from a yard out.

Carlisle couldn’t offer a response and by now Dagenham had the scent of an upset in their nostrils.

Brown was given too much time and space by the Carlisle defence to pick up a long clearance and played the ball forward towards Elito, who stepped over it and it ended up in the path of Green, who had time to take a touch, steady himself and fire into the top corner two
minutes from time.

You could see the relief in the Dagenham team at the final whistle. Carlisle’s players trudged off into the night-time gloom after the trickiest of matches – the game everyone expects you to win.

ADAM COLLIN - Defence didn’t do him any favours with goals and kept cool under pressure.

FRANK SIMEK - Worked hard all afternoon.

TOM CRUISE -Quiet afternoon for the young full-back.

LUBO MICHALIK - Questions asked about whole defence but he could have scored with long-range effort.

JAMES CHESTER - Collectively defence should have done better for both goals.

TOM TAIWO - Ineffectual afternoon for the young midfielder.

JAMES BERRETT - Quiet afternoon for the midfielder.

BEN MARSHALL - Was at centre of virtually every Carlisle attack and Dagenham struggled with his pace.

FRANCOIS ZOKO - Could have done better with his early chance and faded in game.

PAUL THIRLWELL - Worked hard but couldn’t inspire the troops.

GARY MADINE - Quiet game by his standards but wasn’t presented with many chances.

Substitutes: Mike Grella (69 for Taiwo): Didn’t make any impact when he came on. Matty Robson (79 for Zoko): Missed chance to become instant hero when he volleyed wide. Subs (not used): Murphy, Hurst, Curran, Caig and Todd.

Dagenham & Redbridge: Roberts, Antwi, Arber, Green, Brown, Savage, Taiwo, Ogogo, Vincelot, Ilefanmi, Elito. Subs: Doe, Nurse, Scott, Palsson, Currie, Oshodi and Lewington.

Referee: Carl Boyeson

Crowd: 4,380

Bookings: Brown and Green (Dagenham, both fouls); Simek (Carlisle, foul)

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