The last time ourselves and Dagenham met, Fleet were led out by Paul McCarthy on the last day of the 2006/07 season with Dagenham preparing to ascend into the Football League and us still in with a shout of following them should we seize the very slim thread that was our remaining play-offs hopes.
That was as near to the Football League as Fleet have ever come. Since then, the Daggers have been up to League One and back again and with John Still once more at the helm, are one of the favourites to regain that League status once more.
Fleet fans with longer memories might recall an evening game under the Stonebridge Road floodlights during our first season back at this level in 2002 when Garry Hill’s promotion favourites just about took three points in a really engaging fixture and the travelling supporters on Tuesday night will be hoping for another engaging 90 minutes to follow on from three decent games of football so far this season.
Daryl McMahon, once of Dagenham’s coaching staff himself, knows this game will be a real marker of how far his side have come and said on Saturday that his side’s admirable spirit and character needed to be backed up with a little more steel in defence after the first-half against Fylde. With our first three games having been played against (a) relegation strugglers for the past two seasons; (b) a side that was at our own level just over a season ago; and (c) a team that was promoted from the same level as ourselves, this trip to Victoria Road is arguably the first real test against a strong, established outfit.
“They’ll be one of the favourites with Tranmere, Orient, Hartlepool, etc,” McMahon told FleetOnline. “John Still is a great manager, he gets teams out of this league and he’s done it for a long time. I know the club and their staff really well – they’ll be aggressive, fit, get forward quickly and load the box with crosses and set pieces, very good on second balls and they can certainly play a bit as well.”
With that list of superlatives, Fleet – looking for their 27th league game without defeat – will need to be at their very best against a team who finished fourth last season and made it to the play-off semi-finals. This season, the Daggers started with two wins and drew Saturday’s game at Eastleigh to leave them in second place.
McMahon isn’t the only one returning to a former club, with both Jack Connors (pictured) and Sean Shields having signed from Dagenham, while Anthony Cook also had a very brief spell over the water.
We have faced a number of their side before with strikers Michael Cheek (Chelmsford, Braintree), Morgan Ferrier (Bishop’s Stortford), Elliott Romain (Eastbourne Borough) and Oli Hawkins (Hemel Hempstead) all having turned out against the Fleet in the South, while Jake Howells of course played one game on loan for us last season. Summer signings for the Daggers include Kevin Lokko (Maidstone, by way of Stevenage), Charlee Adams (Birmingham City), Bondz N’Gala (Dover) and Dan Sparkes (Torquay United).
Minus Dave Winfield, McMahon will once again have to mull over his defensive formation although his options elsewhere have been given a boost by the return of Cook from suspension. Dean Rance is nearing fitness, but it may be this game comes a little too early for him.
Victoria Road has changed a deal since Fleet’s last visit, with the 1,240-capacity west stand completed in 2009 alongside new floodlights and changing room/tunnel area.
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