NCM L2 Predictions - 13th
Feature by Jacob Daniel
Updated Sunday, 26th July 2009
Dagenham & RedbridgeIt's time for another NCM L2 Prediction, and today we come to the penultimate bottom half side, Dagenham & Redbridge...
The highest league placing in Dagenham's season, John Still's side were one match away from making the League Two play-offs. His side of steady League Two players and superb talents plucked from the non-league impressed throughout the season but were pipped at the post by Shrewsbury Town who won 2-1 at Victoria Road in the last game of the season. Still's side were widely tipped to struggle by those who couldn't see further than the Daggers being a small club, but any side comprising talents like Sam Saunders, Paul Benson, Magnus Okuonghae and Matt Ritchie was always going to do well.
In goal Toby Roberts had another top notch season even at his ripe old age whilst their defence, despite not being the key area of Still's side, was good. Okuonghae won player of the season for the Daggers and impressed with his all-action style although he has been snapped up by Colchester United. They've also lost right back Danny Foster, one of a trio to join Brentford. Wingers Sam Saunders and Portsmouth loanee Matt Ritchie could tear a side apart on their day, as Notts found out twice in the season. Experienced campaigner Peter Gain kept the midfield ticking over whilst upfront the skill and work rate of Ben Strevens perfectly complimented the goalscoring talents of Paul Benson. However, having lost Okuonghae to Colchester, Foster, Saunders and Strevens to Brentford and Richie returning to Portsmouth Still has had to rebuild his side somewhat this summer.
John Still has spent two spells in charge of the club, and was originally manager of Redbridge when the club merged to form the club it is now. He lead them to promotion from the Isthmian League to the Conference having resigned from Maidstone who he took into the Football League due to his desire to remain half-time. After his first spell at Dagenham he moved on to Peterborough United and Barnet before returning to Victoria Road in 2004 for his most successful time as a manager yet.
In his third season he lead the side to the Conference title ahead of favourites Oxford United having nurtured the talents of the likes of Craig Mackail-Smith and Shane Blackett. He kept the side in the league the next year despite being widely tipped for the drop and then was one match away from the play-offs last year. Still's main talent is in his eye for a player from non-league, and in his time at Dagenham he has seen Mackail-Smith, Blackett, Benson, Saunders and Okuonghae all go on to better things after being plucked from the obscurity of the non-league pyramid
Not as good as last season due to the losses we've already discussed, but Dagenham still have some fine players for this level and Still has gone about his business this summer quietly but impressively. Roberts may be getting on a bit but he is still vital to the Daggers between the sticks whilst solid Scott Griffiths will by vying with another of Still's non-league finds, Scott Doe, for the left back role. In the centre he has snapped up Will Antwi who has the potential to be a superb acquisition if he can stay fit, whilst captain Anwar Uddin and Mark Arber will also by vying for places alongside Arsenal youngster Abu Ogogo.
In midfield Peter Gain made his name at Lincoln and has refound his form under Still, with his incisive passing and work rate in midfield keeping the Daggers ticking over. After a shaky start to his career at the club another of Still's finds Solomon Taiwo has also grown into a fine partner for Gain. Stuart Thurgood, one of the better midfielders in the Conference, has also joined to ensure competition for places. Out wide Still has struggled to replace Saunders and Ritchie, but ex-Brentford man Glenn Poole is training with the club and Still hopes to find the funds to offer him a deal, which would be a fine coup for the club. Upfront Paul Benson has been the subject of a six-figure bid and keeping the services of one of League Two's prolific scorers will be a tough task and vital to their season, but he is backed up by new boy Josh Scott who struck 25 goals for Hayes & Yeading last season and has the potential to be another of Still's protegés. Mark Nwokeji has had a season to bed in also after signing last summer from Staines Town where he had a prolific record.
Still is an experienced and wise manager at this level and his exemplary player scouting and development should ensure that at least one or two previously unknown players break through at Victoria Road this season. If they can keep hold of Benson he will guarantee goals and whilst having lost their 'stars', they have kept hold of steady and consistent performers such as Gain, Taiwo and Griffiths who deserve as much credit for their success as anyone else.