Anthony Hesse on the turnaround at Dagenham & Redbridge.
As my fellow Pompey fans and I walked away from Victoria Road in good spirits, much of the talk was about how we’d all witnessed a ‘game of two halves’. Truth be told though, it was more like a game of two thirds and then a third. As dire as we were in the first half, we were little better as we came out in the second. If you were not present at the game and had taken a quick peek at the half time / full time score line you could be forgiven for thinking it was a rousing team talk that immediately changed things. In honesty, that didn’t seem the case and only a matter of seconds before we equalised the huge Pompey following were singing “This is embarrassing”.
Goals change games, and our first certainly did that! It came out of nowhere right on the hour mark. Michael Doyle’s cracking equaliser came at a time we were desperately short of invention. In a season where picking a player of the season is becoming harder and harder, surely Doyle is staking a convincing claim? Roberts was set free down the left with acres of space. As he was rapidly closed down he managed to cleverly evade the challenge of their defender to square the ball into the box for Doyle to left-footed volley the ball into the bottom left corner of the net, just beating their diving goalkeeper. A fantastic goal which obviously meant a great deal to our skipper who ran in front of cheering away fans punching the Pompey badge on his shirt.
Back to the first half. Whoever wrote the BBC report on the match obviously was not at the game as this is what was written: “The Daggers took the lead against the run of play on 34 minutes”. Their goal was certainly NOT against the run of play, it had been coming for a few minutes and was no less than the hosts deserved. If it hadn’t been for some great goalkeeping from Paul Jones we would have already been behind. Moments earlier, he had made a superb fingertip save, followed by a great punch away and another great block to defy the Daggers. Having said all this, I’m still not convinced about Jones though he could have done very little against their goal. How it wasn’t even included in Sky’s ‘Goal of the day’ is beyond me – it was an absolute corker – an overhead kick from Hemmings with his back to the goal. That said, if a Pompey player had bothered to stick his head in on the loose ball, we would have got a free kick for a high boot!
The only Pompey moment of note that I can recall in the first half was a shot from Michael Smith that fizzed across the goal mouth narrowly missing the target. As the players walked off the pitch at half time they had to walk under the stand housing the disappointed Pompey following. Whilst there were some muted boos from the away support, most of us were screaming “COME ON”. Hopefully, that had as much effect as Paul Cook’s half time team talk?
Once we had scored the equaliser, there was only ever one team in the game and my man of the match, Kyle Bennett, ran the show. Two brilliantly executed free kicks led to two headed goals; the first a very well guided nod from Christian Burgess and the second a determined head from Gareth Evans who had only been on the pitch for about 5 minutes. The icing on the cake came just before the 90 minutes were up. Kyle Bennett did one of his trademark mazey runs in the box, beating a couple of their players, and then did what he has failed to do on many previous occasions and thumped the ball in the back of the net. It was no more than he deserved. If he had played the way he has in the last three games, I think he would be a shoe-in for our ‘Player of the Season’.
I’ve only ever been to The Victoria Road ground twice, and both times have been lucky enough to witness a 4-1 Pompey win, but this was nowhere near as emphatic as the previous game which we dominated almost from start to finish. The away fans were at their loudest yesterday, and as witty as ever, chanting ‘This is embarrassing’ for the second time in the match when Bennett scored his goal.
A quick mention for Dagenham & Redbridge who are a team I will be sad to see drop out of the league if what looks like the inevitable happens. Victoria Road has to up there as one of the best grounds for away supporters in the lower leagues, and it is refreshing to have a club prepared to open a bar to away supporters before and during a game. Added to that, they had Sky TV showing the West Ham v Arsenal game. It’s just a shame they only had two people serving!
So, Pompey have managed to get that monkey off their back. Having at last managed to win three league games in a row, can we now make it four? Next week’s home game against Plymouth Argyle will be played out in front of a SOLD OUT Fratton Park, and I can’t wait!
Photo: Anthony Hesse