The Fleet saw three points vanish from their grasp on the road as Alex Reid’s second-half goal wasn’t enough against a Dagenham side reduced to 10 men by the sending-off of Mitch Brundle with 20 minutes left.
After the win at Enfield, Fleet predictably recalled Myles Weston in place of Tomi Adeloye while John Goddard made a long-awaited return to the bench.
Once again, Dagenham’s new ex-Fleet signing Sam Deering was watching injured from the sidelines as the game kicked off amidst a sudden deluge of rain that rarely let up for the entirety of the 90 minutes.
It didn’t make for much pretty football, though the home side began brightly. And they had a glorious chance to go ahead within five minutes having forced a couple of set pieces. Jordan Holmes stretched well to palm Joe Quigley’s header out of the goal and he was relieved to see Ben House’s follow-up scrape the post.
Chike Kandi’s pace down the right caused the Fleet some problems but Jamie Grimes did well to get a foot in on several occasions to stop the Dagenham winger.
The home side enjoyed much of the territory for the opening half hour with Brundle increasingly influential in the middle. But for all Dagenham’s possession and occasionally crisp movement in midfield, they were often their own worst enemy with the final ball into Quigley and House lacking.
Fleet’s best efforts saw Tyler Cordner release Gozie Ugwu and his pass into Alfie Egan was fired wide. A better chance came late on in the half when Josh Payne’s cross to the far post held up for Lawrie Wilson who met it well but sent a header floating across goal.
In between, the lively Kandi’s run took him past three Fleet players before Grimes blocked him 12 yards out and the unfortunate Daggers man was penalised for handball as he tried to dig the ball back out to House.
It wasn’t entertaining fare and both managers made changes for the second half. Fleet brought Adeloye on for Egan, who had taken a blow to the head earlier on, while Bagasan Graham replaced Joan Luque.
Neither change made much difference to the attacking value in the game although the rain had eased off a little. Dagenham saw the earliest sight of goal when Holmes didn’t have to move to stop House’s shot through the middle but the Fleet goalkeeper had rather more to do on 52 minutes when Kandi got on the end of House’s pass and sent a shot on target that Holmes parried behind.
Quigley was inches wide with a turn and shot a few minutes later but it was Fleet who took the lead on 62 minutes. Weston won the visitors their first corner that was cleared as far as Adeloye. His shot back into the box was blocked but ran behind the Daggers defence and Reid was quickest to react, firing past Justham for 1-0.
Fleet defended well as the home side sought to get themselves back into the game but Dagenham made their job even more difficult on 69 minutes when Brundle received his marching orders. Diving in on Sutherland 25 yards out, the referee was quick to produce a straight red, much to Brundle’s bemusement as he claimed his innocence.
The visitors enjoyed a little more space in midfield as a result, with Payne having more time to supply the front runners and the returning Goddard coming off the bench to attempt a few through balls. Ugwu, without any support alongside him, could have put the game out of reach with a smart shot on target that tested Justham.
But Peter Taylor’s decision to send on Alex McQueen in an advanced central role was vital to the hosts getting a share of the points. His energy, with Kandi still creating down the right, was enough to unsettle the visitors’ defence and the two combined as a clearance to Sutherland was cut out in midfield. McQueen broke and although Holmes saved his shot, it gave Kandi a target and he hit it without needing any invitation.
Dagenham sensed they could win it and Fleet had to dig in. The referee waved away two penalty appeals, with Adeloye leaning in on Will Wright in the Fleet box while in the other area, substitute Josh Umerah just about managed to stay on his feet as he was impeded.
But Dagenham couldn’t find the extra they needed to arrest a winless run and the two teams will do battle again on New Years Day.
EUFC: Holmes, Wilson, Grimes, King, Cordner, Sutherland, Payne, Egan (Adeloye 46), Weston, Ugwu (Umerah 86), Reid (Goddard 66). Subs: Obileye, Palmer
DRFC: Justham, Wright, Croll, Onariase, Clark, Brundle, Robinson, Kandi, Luque (Graham 46), House, Quigley (McQueen 75). Subs: Grant, Stevenson, Seaden
Attendance: 1,402 (218 EUFC)
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