Late Heartbreak As Moors Hold Promotion-Chasing Daggers
Automated Technology Group Stadium
23.09.2017 // 15:00
Bemoaning luck in football can become a chore. It's an excuse that the victim(s) can never really be vilified for, an often meaningless statement used to avoid criticism of the team and personal frustration seeping out after a disappointing result.
At Solihull Moors we have done our fair share of that this season. We have lost games thanks to one lapse in concentration. We have dominated for periods and failed to make the most of it. And then there is the ridiculous number of injuries - and they are rarely little muscle strains.
Luck well and truly was against us on Saturday. The lads have been outstanding and are withstanding real pressure from one of the National League's leading lights. The four minutes of added time are almost up and we are defending another set-piece. Jake Howells swings it towards Nathan Vaughan and as the keeper goes up for it, he receives the slightest of nudges that puts him off his stride mid-flight. The ball lands in the net.
The players could scarcely believe it. The fans next to us looked on in silence. Keith Bertschin turned towards the dugout. Liam McDonald, stood on the edge of his technical area, never moved a muscle. Hands in pockets, head cocked to the right. What can you say?
It virtually the final kick of a pulsating 90 minutes. This was a hard-fought, pulsating 90 minutes of football. Both sides were set up in 4-4-2 systems attempting to make the most of the wide areas and going direct when possible in a bid to turn the opposition defence. Yet once in the final third, some good football was being produced.
McDonald was able to go 4-4-2 thanks to his signing of Richard Brodie who joined Oladapo Afolayan in attack while Joe Payne made a Moors debut having joined on a one-month loan. Jordan Liburd and the stricken George Carline missed out.
While McDonald finally ended his search for a target man to take the pressure of young Afolayan, Dagenham already had theirs in the form of Mason Bloomfield. A giant of a man who stood about the same height of Liam Daly, he headed wide in the opening moments.
The Daggers striker opened the scoring after six minutes, shortly after Wes McDonald went down in the area to no avail. Andre Boucaud's free-kick was sent into the back post where Bloomfield beat Kristian Green to the ball to head into the far corner unchallenged.
Four minutes later and we were level. Courtney Richards, making his home debut, Green and Shepherd Murombedzi linked up to find Oladapo Afolayan. His touch took him wide but his cross was perfect for the on-rushing Darren Carter to guide a header into the bottom corner.
Brodie almost marked his debut with a goal when he headed Carter's free-kick off the post at the back stick. Corey Whiteley's first involvement was to fire over the bar before the National League's top scorer was one of a few that failed to convert during a session of pinball in the Moors box.
Afolayan was gradually becoming more prominent in the game and he could have put Moors ahead when found by McDonald, cutting inside and forcing Cousins into a low save. He then stole possession and found Brodie but the burly forward struck way wide of the target.
On 40 minutes Afolayan was on the scoresheet. It was a superb move that involved Richards playing an incisive pass through the Daggers defence to Murombedzi. The Moors number 7 took his time, weighed up the options and pulled the back for Afolayan whose first time strike nestled in the bottom corner. Moors 2-1 Dagenham. Get in!
The young striker started the second half in a similar vein, jinking into the box but attempting to beat the entire Dagenham midfield and defence before getting a strike away. At the other end, Whiteley fired over from close range again before Vaughan was called into action for the first time.
The Daggers were on top for the most of the second half but the hosts were looking dangerous on the counter-attack. Murombedzi's cross almost fell for Brodie, Carter blazed over from 20 yards and McDonald beat a couple of players before firing wide.
Moors were dropping deeper as the pressure continued. Howell's shot was deflected before Romaine headed a free-kick back across goal - how Moors escaped the flurry of efforts at goal that followed was most impressive.
Chances were few and far between from that moment as The Moors defence stood firm under increasing pressure - Liam Daly on the frontline heading everything away. The closest the visitors got was when Nathan Vaughan dropped the ball under strong pressure in injury time, Joe Payne thankfully on the line to clear away a close-range strike.
Then came the corner that led to the equaliser.
It was a painful end to what was otherwise probably our best performance all season. And that's what the players should take from the game.
Defensively we were outstanding after Bloomfield's goal. We got back in numbers, won our 50-50's and made life incredibly difficult for a side that at the least will finish in the top seven. Kristian Green and Liam Daly won almost everything aerially while Joe Payne had an outstanding debut.
Yet this wasn't all about the defence. Murombedzi and Richards provided a real composure in midfield, McDonald consistently tried to drive the team further up field while Brodie's presence allowed Afolayan to do what he does best - be a real nuisance and create chances from nothing.
It's very cliché but if the players continue to apply themselves in that manner then we will survive.
Vaughan; K.Green, Daly, Kettle, Payne; Murombedzi, Richards, Carter, McDonald (Fox); Afolayan (Campbell); Brodie (Maye)