Dagenham & Redbridge 1
Reid 5, Alessandra 33
by RICK COWDERY
SUCCESSIVE away wins; successive first-half away goals for Reuben Reid and Lewis Alessandra – the Pilgrims’ victory against the Daggers ensured they remain in the Sky Bet League 2 play-offs carve-up.
Just as he had done at Northampton in the Pilgrims’ previous away game, Reid opened the scoring inside five minutes when he picked up the pieces of Conor Hourihane’s free-kick.
Alessandra, who had also been on target at Sixfields, ensured the Pilgrims went into half-time with the lead with a finish 12 minutes from the break that was as deliberate as his Northampton strike had been flukey.
In between goals, Dagenham had briefly been on level terms thanks to a second equalising goal of the season against the Pilgrims from Zavon Hines.
It took a massive rearguard action after the break to keep the three points, but the defence, which included an unheralded recall for an old Greens’ favourite, stood firm.
There was more than one surprise when the Argyle team-sheet was handed in to referee Michael Naylor, but surely none bigger than the return to colours of the man who has worn the green more than any other, bar Kevin Hodges and Sammy Black.
Paul Wotton, who is indeed worthy to be named in the same breath as those two Pilgrim greats, was called in for his 480th appearance for his hometown club, but only his fourth of an injury-hit season. His last on-field duty was in the 3-1 away defeat at Exeter. Which must have hurt him more than it would most.
Manager John Sheridan made four changes in all to the side that lost 4-0 at home to York the previous weekend, as well as tweaking the Pilgrims’ shape to accommodate wing-backs. Neal Trotman, whose 11th-minute sending-off in that game had contributed to the heaviness of the loss, was suspended, while Dominic Blizzard failed a fitness test on his groin. Ben Purrington and Rommy Boco were relegated to the substitutes’ bench.
As well as Wotton, 37 in August, in came Durrell Berry, Luke Young and, making his Argyle debut following his January move from Crystal Palace, Matt Parsons.
Dagenham & Redbridge whistled up former Torquay centre-back Brian Saah and forward -Hines, who scored in the Daggers’ 2-1 defeat at Home Park earlier in the season, from the bench to replace suspended Jack Connors and the injured Femi Ilesanmi.
For all the changes, it was two of the regulars who combined to get Argyle off to flier following the award of a free-kick on the right side right-angle of the Dagenham penalty area after Berry had been baulked.
Hourihane took it, lifting the ball over the wall and down again while curling it away from goalkeeper Chris Lewington. The skipper all but succeeded in the exact execution but was denied by the crossbar, which was still rattling as Reid reacted to the opportunity with swiftness and swept the ball home.
The Pilgrims had to rearrange soon afterwards when Jason Banton, who had shown signs that he is getting back to the form of last season in a free role behind front pair Reid and Alessandra, limped out of and was replaced by Andres Gurrieri.
The home side showed little to trouble Argyle, who put together some decent little moves in midfield with the aim of getting Parsons and Berry away, so the afternoon’s second surprise was when Dagenham levelled the scores midway through the half.
Having failed to prevent Adebayo Azeez from opening his legs and driving down their left flank, the Pilgrims were powerless to deal with his pluperfect driven low cross that Hines merely helped into the net from a couple of yards.
Argyle were behind for less than ten minutes as Alessandra netted his 10th – some would say 11th – goal of what is increasingly becoming his best ever campaign. Again, the action came down their left; again, there was a wonderful delivery. This time, the finish was awesome, rather than mundane. Alessandra leaping, kung-fu-like, to volley Parsons' cross home at the near post.
With the wind in their sails again, the Pilgrims began to rather enjoy themselves. One move, which saw fine movement and an insouciant backheel from Alessandra, ended with Reid teeing up Young for a shot that only juts cleared the crossbar, and Parsons went similarly close from long range soon afterwards.
Azeez was clearly the biggest threat in red and he came close to squaring the game for again shortly before the interval, coming in off his right wing and letting fly with a low drive that zipped across Jake Cole’s goal and only just wide.
Dagenham promoted Azeez to a more central role for the second half, and the change of shape allowed Parsons significantly more room on the left, from where he nearly marked his first Argyle start with a debut goal when he shot just wide after Reid had unsettled the Daggers’ back line.
It was a rare cogent attack from the Pilgrims, who had to weather considerable pressure from their hosts thereafter, and substitute Luke Norris had Cole scrambling across his goal to watch a low long-range shot scuttle past the post.
Dagenham kept up the intent and came even closer to a leveller when Hines burst into the box with pace and cocked the trigger, only for the outstanding Curtis Nelson block his move with a smothering tackle that displayed perfect timing and admirable bravery.
Cole fished a cross out from under his crossbar as Dagenham turned up the gas against an overworked defence who were not helped by the inability of their forward team-mates to keep the ball in the opposition’s half for any length of time.
Marvin Morgan came off the bench to try and help out in that department – like Wotton, making his first appearance since the St James’ Park reversal – while Purrington replaced the exhausted Parsons.
Still Dagenham came forward and Wotton needed all his cool experience to be in the right place at the right time with the right tackle to keep out a last-minute Daggers thrust.
Morgan might have settled nerves in the first of five minutes of added time, but just failed to turn a low cross goalwards before Cole beat out another ambitious shot from Norris which proved to be the home side’s last effort.
Dagenham & Redbridge
(4-5-1): 1 Chris Lewington; 4 Scott Doe, 2 Luke Wilkinson, 5 Brian Saah, 18 Gavin Hoyte; 27 Adebayo Azeez, 12 Lawson D’Ath (7 Medy Elito half-time), 8 Abu Ogogo, 6 Billy Bingham (20 Sean Shields 75), 41 Zavon Hines; 9 Rhys Murphy (33 Luke Norris 66). Substitutes
(not used): 14 Chris Dickson, 30 Jordan Seabright (GK).
: Bingham 58, Doe 88.
(5-4-1): 1 Jake Cole; 2 Durrell Berry, 4 Maxime Blanchard, 15 Paul Wotton, 17 Curtis Nelson, 26 Matt Parsons (25 Ben Purrington 86); 20 Jason Banton (27 Andres Gurrieri 14), 6 Conor Hourihane (capt), 14 Luke Young, 7 Lewis Alessandra; 9 Reuben Reid (10 Marvin Morgan 83). Substitutes (not used): 8 Rommy Boco, 18 Tyler Harvey, 28 Tope Obadeyi, 32 Cameron Dawson (gk).
: Berry 60.
: Michael Naylor.
: 2,027 (746 away).