Leaders defeat Trophy heroes
Dagenham and Redbridge 2 Stevenage Boro 0 PHIL RAVITZ reports from the Glyn Hopkin Stadium THE euphoria of winning a place in the FA Trophy final was slightly tempered as Boro lost ground in their quest for a play-off place on a freezing night in East Lon
Dagenham and Redbridge 2 Stevenage Boro 0
PHIL RAVITZ reports from the Glyn Hopkin Stadium
THE euphoria of winning a place in the FA Trophy final was slightly tempered as Boro lost ground in their quest for a play-off place on a freezing night in East London.
But for the 400 or so fans who made the journey to Dagenham, they will be contented in the knowledge that most of the other opposition Boro will meet in the run-in will not be of the quality of the champions-elect.
Daggers stretched away to a 12-point lead at the top of the table with this win that was gained on the back of a powerhouse second-half display.
The opening half saw the home side dominate the opening quarter, but Boro came back strongly in the minutes before half-time, when they enjoyed their best spell of the game.
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Unfortunately, they could not repeat the period in a second 45 minutes which the Londoners dominated and secured the points with two goals in the last 14 minutes.
Dagenham began in impressive form on a cold night that still attracted nearly 2,000 - an above average attendance despite the home side's lofty position and bolstered by Boro's strong contingent.
There were early appeals for a home penalty as a lively Chris Moore went down under challenge from Boro skipper Ronnie Henry but referee East waved aside all appeals.
Moore was proving a constant early threat and Boro full-back Barry Fuller earned himself an early booking for hauling the Dagenham forward down.
From the resulting free-kick, a neat set-up saw the ball laid off for Glen Southam to whip in a fine low effort, but Alan Julian got down impressively to hold on.
Moore again skinned Fuller easily and only a timely interception from Henry saved Boro as Daggers dominated the opening quarter.
An injury to central defender Jon Boardman side caused the home side to lose their impetus and the game went into a lull period until 10 minutes before the break.
Then Boro really flexed their muscles. A ball from Mitchell Cole found top scorer Steve Morison and it took a half-stop from Daggers keeper Tony Roberts and then a fine block from skipper Anwar Uddin to stop Boro taking the lead.
That close call really pepped up Boro and in the next attack another Cole cross was met by Jon Nurse to beat Roberts and Jake Leberl rescued Daggers, clearing off the line.
The half finished with a 25-yard effort from full-back Jon Nutter that deflected inches past Roberts' post.
But it proved Boro's best period of the match. Daggers took control from the early minutes of the second-half when the Conference's top scorer Paul Benson stung Julian's fingertips with a 25-yard effort.
Midfielder Dave Rainford also brought Julian into action, the keeper getting down well to hold a low drive.
Boro were unable to give Dagenham much in the way of worrying moments in the latter stages of the game, but the breakthrough seemed to be eluding the league leaders until 14 minutes from the end.
Rainford, who won the man of the match accolade, collected a loose ball and cleverly switched play to Southam with a long, raking pass.
Southam drove a low cross over the face of goal and Ben Strevens was on hand to ram the ball in past an helpless Julian.
Boro briefly threatened a response, largely through substitute Paul Hakim, but any thoughts of a revival were firmly snuffed out three minutes from the end. From a Vernazza corner, the ball flicked off a Boro defender on the near post, went across goal and Rainford gleefully stabbed home on the far post to secure the crucial points.