Phil Tooley takes a look at the game and its context
Dagenham & Redbridge 2 Chesterfield 2 National League
Apart from supporters, a dog on the pitch and a penalty, this game had everything!
Four goals, two disallowed, hit woodwork and the thing that influenced the game the most, the tenth minute dismissal of Tom Whelan. Before referee Tom Reeves had brandished his red card, he’d already denied George Carline getting his first Spireites goal, a fourth minute header from Whelan’s left-wing corner. There may have been a bit of pushing and shoving, not by the ‘scorer’ though, as there was at every subsequent corner in the game, but no fouls were given from any of them.
Whilst the number of minutes on the clock were low, the quality of Chesterfield’s opening play was high and they were dominating the early stages, but Whelan’s attempt to control a high ball at full stretch saw him catch home skipper Callum Reynolds. Was it deliberate? Definitely not. Was it dangerous play? It didn’t look that way to me and, seemingly, many others, but whatever our individual views, he saw red and it meant that Spireites were up against it for the vast majority of the contest.
For ten more minutes, you’d have not known the visitors were short-handed. They continued to play with speed and endeavour and deservedly took the lead. Carline’s long throw wasn’t attacked by the defence, the ball fell to Will Evans on the box-edge who hit home his first goal since the critical win at Havant & Waterlooville 22 months ago. The yellow card he picked on Saturday up was his 20th since that goal in Hampshire!
Home keeper Elliot Justham hit a clearance against his own player almost enabling Marcus Dinanga to make it 2-0, but Daggers regained the ball and quickly counter-attacked. Andrew Eleftheriou crossed in for Scott Wilson to neatly finish at the near post, the first time Chesterfield’s goal had been threatened.
However, that blow didn’t dent Chesterfield’s ambitions and they continued to more than hold their own and just before the break, another Carline throw caused defensive mayhem, Haydn Hollis nicked it, back to goal on the by-line and the defender suddenly morphed into Johann Cruyff to turn and beat his man and drive the ball into the danger zone. The keeper got a touch and the loose ball fell invitingly for Akwasi Asante to stab home to make it seven in nine National League games for Spireites.
The Daggers boss rang the changes at the break and brought two on including regular Chesterfield tormentor Sam Deering who before you knew it had forced Adam Przybek to push a long-range shot onto the post and the hit a peach of a shot into the top corner to equalise.
From then on, odd foray apart, the game was played predominantly in Chesterfield’s half. Paul McCallum headed onto the upright, sub Liam Gordon had an effort ruled out for offside and Przybek had to make a couple of terrific outside the box sweep-ups and well as deal with plenty in the area where he could use his hands. He sailed close to the wind on occasions after picking up a yellow for time-wasting, but his handling was faultless.
On the final whistle, there wasn’t anyone in white and green who’d left anything on the pitch. The effort had been monumental and the run through a brick wall mentality there for all to see.
This was a very different performance to any of the previous eight National League games under James Rowe, but it was arguably right up there with the Barnet or Sutton United wins in terms of character and I, for one, can’t wait for our first ever meeting with King’s Lynn Town on Tuesday.
Phil’s Positive: You have to mark down any away game when you’re down to ten men for 80 minutes but get a point as being positive.
Spireites next game is on Tuesday, February 2 at home to King’s Lynn in the National League, kick-off 7pm.
Team v Dagenham & Redbridge (3-5-2 to start): Przybek; Evans, Hollis, Maguire; Carline, Gunning (M.Smith 79), Weston, Whittle; Dinanga (Mandeville 63), Asante.
Subs (not used): Yarney, Taylor, Clarke
Goals: Evans 17, Asante 40 (Chesterfield), Wilson 20, Deering 53 (Dagenham & Redbridge)
Ref: Tom Reeves
Yellows: Evans, Mandeville, Przybek (Chesterfield)
Red: Whelan (Chesterfield) 10 minutes