Going into 2009, Dagenham and Redbridge had snuck into the automatic promotion places after winning all three matches over the Christmas period. The first match of 2009 saw the club held to a draw after a last minute equaliser away to in form Rotherham. Despite a thrilling 3-2 victory against Rochdale, key defeats against Exeter and Darlington saw the Daggers drop back into the play offs. However, key injuries to midfielder enforcer Peter Gain and goal machine Paul Benson were to disrupt the team’s promotion charge.
Clearly, the absence of these two key players affected the Daggers as they only won three of their 11 matches during February and March. With just seven games remaining, Dagenham arguably needed at least five victories to catch the teams above them. Nevertheless, two away defeats separated by a 3-1 home victory against Aldershot left them several points adrift with only four matches left. Fortunately, the clubs above had also been dropping points which kept the Daggers in touch going into the final three games.
A fantastic 3-0 triumph over play off rivals Bradford was followed by a 3-1 home victory against league leaders Brentford. The penultimate match of the campaign saw the team convincingly beat Notts County by three goals which lifted them into that final play off spot. A last day encounter with Shrewsbury, who was a point below, would decide who made the final play off spot. All Dagenham needed was a home win or a draw to cap off a memorable season. Nevertheless, a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat ensured that the team finished in 8th which guaranteed another season of League Two football.
The consequences of failing to progress to League One were significant. Key players Ben Strevens, Sam Saunders and Danny Foster moved to Brentford on free transfers whilst star defender Magnus Okuanghae transferred to Colchester for a five figure fee. A rebuilding job was required and Will Antwi, Danny Green, Josh Scott, Stuart Thurgood, Scott Doe and Abu Ogogo were brought in.
Amazingly, the new combination of experience and youth from the lower leagues gelled immediately as the Daggers won their first three games of season scoring 12 goals in the process. The club were immediately brought back to earth with a 3-0 away defeat to big spending Notts County. Nevertheless, ten points from a possible twelve in their next four league matches preserved the team’s place in the automatic promotion places during mid September. A three game winless run halted the Daggers progress somewhat before they got back on track with home victories against Darlington and fellow promotion chasers Bradford.
Things were looking very bright during mid October for John Still’s men. However, out of the blue, star left back Scott Griffiths was taken to Peterborough on loan with a view to a permenant move in January. The transfer left Dagenham without a specialist left back for their trip to Macclesfield the next day. With 80 minutes gone, the Daggers were losing 2-0 and were down to ten men. A fantastic comeback saw the team eventually draw 2-2 which emphasised that the fighting spirit was still ever present throughout the squad.
Ever since, various loan signings have been purchased to cover for injuries. The Daggers form has dipped slightly with only two victories since the beginning of November. Nevertheless, the club, after much disruption, are lying in 4th place going into Christmas and constantly have to cope with small crowds and a low wage budget. It is therefore impossible to emphasise enough how well John Still has done with the resources at his disposal.