by RICK COWDERY
WATCHED by Olympian – and Green Army member – Greg Searle, it required a Herculean effort by Argyle to come away from the home of the recent Games with a point.
As every manager worth his salt will tell you, they do not give out medals at this stage of the season. If they did, Argyle goalkeeper Jake Cole would win the gold.
The 26-year-old brought a string of superb saves out of his locker to ensure that the Pilgrims remain historically undefeated at the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Stadium, and, crucially, got their collective foot on the 2012-13 league ladder.
Argyle manager Carl Fletcher had made one change to the side beaten 2-0 by Aldershot at Home Park four days earlier, calling Luke Young in to the right side of midfield.
Young replaced Andres Gurrieri positionally, but Johnny Gorman nominally, the Northern Ireland international dropping to the bench to accommodate the Argentinean on the left flank of the middle rank.
The only other change to the Argyle squad was on the substitutes’ bench, where goalkeeper Ollie Chenoweth replaced the injured Rene Gilmartin, who joined two other summer signings, Jamie Lowry and Rhys Griffiths in the treatment room.
The home side had also lost 2-0 at the weekend, going down to Cheltenham at Whaddon Road, but manager John Still resisted any temptation he might have had to tinker by naming a same-again 18.
The Pilgrims, wearing their new yellow Puma away kit for the first time, stated as brightly at a ground where they had won on their previous two visits.
With Nick Chadwick winning his flick-ons, they posed a decent threat to the home side, and their most potent sustained attack ended with Chadwick heading Gurrieri’s cross over the crossbar.
The Argyle defence stood firm in the face of the home side’s direct thrusts, and limited the Daggers to a couple of long-range stabs, from captain Abu Ogogo and the namesake of a former Pilgrims’ manager, Billy Bingham.
They came much closer a few minutes later on the counter. Michael Spillane stopped Argyle in fill-flow with some delicate skills, and then played a thrilling ball into the path of Dwight Gayle.
Gayle did everything right in cutting in on goal and firing off a goalbound shot that Cole saved wonderfully, instinctively sticking out a left paw to deflect the powerful drive away for a corner.
Gayle forced Cole into more heroics minutes later, when he breezed in at the far post to get an equally powerful head on Bingham’s swinging delivery only to find the Argyle goalkeeper equally impassable.
The Pilgrims then had one of those seem-’em-given-but-probably-not penalty appeals when Matt Lecointe went down under challenge from Spillane, before Cole made it a hat-trick of important saves after Ogogo had broken through to loose off a shot.
Both sides threatened with crosses from wide right into the dangers area, Medy Elito’s for Dagenham finding no takers and Lecointe’s for Argyle being headed away from the lurking Chadwick by the ubiquitous Spillane.
The half ended with Argyle countering quickly, Conor Hourihane setting up Lecointe for a shot from outside the area which the young England international drilled wide of the post.
Lecointe did not appear for the second half, his place up front going to Paris Cowan-Hall, as Argyle showed a renewed vigour after the break.
Their own snappiness seemed to spur on the home side, however, and the Daggers’own early substitute, Sam Williams, made space on the left to send over a low cross that scudded across the face of the Pilgrims’ goal.
If that was close, what happened next was closer still, Scott Doe chipping the ball into the box, past Cole, just past the outstretched leg of Gayle, and passing within inches of the post.
The intense pressure somehow brought the best out of Argyle’s last line of defence – even if some of their play further up the field was less decisive – which was good to see after some recent aberrations.
A Daggers’ corner swung in by Gavin Hoyte was headed bravely away by Onismor Bhasera, heroics which were subsequently repeated by Young.
Cole made another save, low to his left, to thwart Danny Green, as Dagenham pressed forward in search of a heartbreaker.
Dagenham & Redbridge (4-3-3): 1 Chris Lewington; 18 Gavin Hoyte, 4 Scott Doe, 6 Michael Spillane, 3 Femi Ilesanmi; 19 Abu Ogogo (capt), 17 Luke Howell (21 Danny J Green 70), 24 Billy Bingham; 12 Medy Elito, 20 Dwight Gayle, 23 Brian Woodall (7 Sam Williams 57). Substitutes (not used): 2 Luke Wilkinson, 10 Josh Scott, 14 Jake Reed, 26 Louis Dennis, 30 Jordan Seabright (gk).
Booked: Ogogo 29, Gayle 90.
Argyle (4-4-2): 1 Jake Cole; 17 Curtis Nelson; 5 Darren Purse (capt), 4 Maxime Blanchard, 14 Onismor Bhasera; 8 Luke Young, 15 Paul Wotton, 6 Conor Hourihane, 27 Andres Gurrieri (28 Johnny Gorman 80); 21 Matt Lecointe (7 Paris Cowan-Hall half-time), 9 Nick Chadwick (11 Warren Feeney 59). Substitutes (not used): 3 Robbie Williams, 13 Ollie Chenoweth (gk), 18 Ladjie Soukouna, 19 Joe Lennox.
Booked: Nelson 28, Young 51.
Referee: Graham Scott.
Attendance: 1,878 (545 away).