City embarked on their second visit to Dagenham this season hoping that this time the match would last the full 90 - several fans came armed with torches and miners' helmets just in case. New loan signing Troy Archibald-Henville went straight into a 5-man defence, one of two changes to the side. Craig McAllister finally earned a start after a series of impressive displays from the bench, with Saunders and Stansfield the players making way. So, the side was: Jones in goal, full-backs Moxey and Tully, with Edwards, Seaborne and Archibald-Henville centre backs. The midfield trio were Harley, Gill and Panther, with Logan and McAllister up front. On the bench were Marriott, Taylor, Stansfield, Basham and Sercombe.
It was the home side who came out stronger, forcing an early corner from which Okhuonghae nodded over. Shortly afterwards, skilful Portsmouth loanee Ritchie forged a shooting position but Jones saved comfortably. Jones had to be alert to deal with several further efforts, although there was nothing that he shouldn't have dealt with comfortably. At the other end City failed to test veteran Tony Roberts.
Having weathered the early storm, City began to come more into play, with the strikers linking well together. The lead, though, would still be considered to have been taken against the run of play. Some neat work around the box culminated in a melee, during which McAllister was felled, leading the Referee, Mr Pawson, to point to the spot. Mindful of City's record from the spot this season and with "safe" takers Basham and Stewart not on the pitch, McAllister picked himself up to take the penalty. And what a poor penalty it was too, trickling to Roberts' right giving him a routine save. However, the ball broke loose and was bundled home as Harley and McAllister reacted quickly. McAllister was credited with getting the final touch.
The Daggers continued to press, and "Archie" had to put in one superb last-ditch challenge to prevent what looked a decent opportunity, while Strevens fired wildly when well-placed. It was Strevens, however, who had the last word of the first half. With all minds turned towards the half-time cuppa, Scott Griffiths was given time on the left to put in a telling cross that caused havoc in the defence, allowing Strevens to force the ball home from close range.
Noticeably, City looked hungry as they emerged from the tunnel several minutes before the hosts after the break. The first action of the half saw Harley run and shoot a powder-puff effort, but the intent was there. With the half less than two minutes old, City scored what turned out to be the winner. Gill, with the covering defender in no-mans-land, had the option of cutting inside to the box or spreading play to Tully, who was galloping up the right wing. He chose the latter option, and Tully fired in a peach of a cross that McAllister fired home adroitly into the far corner.
Buoyed by this, City could have forged another chance when Moxey was put in by the byeline, but his cross was weak. The ball did later find its way into the net again via a sharp Logan volley, but the flag had been raised. This was the cue for the home side to press hard for an equaliser. Taiwo fired just over from distance, while a corner was punched by Jones, but the ball found itself hitting the top of the crossbar. The home fans thought they had a shout for a penalty, but Mr Pawson judged that Seaborne's challenge while clumsy was within the laws.
A cross shot from distance again rattled the crossbar as City clung on, although with the home side pressing gaps had begun to appear at the other end. Seaborne had a header cleared brilliantly off the line from a Harley corner. McAllister was all over the place chasing everything, as was Logan, while Panther was a dynamo in midfield. City should have wrapped things up with about 5 left. A dink through by Logan saw Harley close in on goal, shaking off one challenge well, but he dithered and allowed the covering defender to get back. At the other end, with the clock ticking down, Jones was finally called upon to make the sort of world-class save he has been making look easy of late, a shot looking destined for the net being firmly palmed away to safety, before City successfully closed out the 4 minutes of added time to send the 365 away fans into raptures.
After a few below-par performances, it was nice to come away with a hard-earned victory. Dagenham & Redbridge must be given credit for their attitude, which went some way to proving why they are confounding the critics who predicted a season of struggle. They attack with pace and purpose, and in loanee Ritchie they have a dynamic little player. However, City were not to be outdone. "Archie" in defence was a revelation on his debut. He won everything in the air, produced at least one goal-saving tackle, and his attitude on the ball was spot on, with nothing going astray. It was said about him that he has a lot of the hallmarks of fellow Spurs player Ledley King, and on this showing it is easy to see why those comparisons have been made.
There were other noteworthy performances, it has to be said. McAllister up front was awesome - deceptively quick, an absolute nightmare for defenders to deal with, and again his distribution is first-rate. Logan seemed to thrive alongside him, and would have capped his performance with a goal if only the flag wasn't up. Panther in midfield has the tenacity to atone for his errors, and his tackling was magnificent. Jones continues to show why the whispers of him moving up the leagues are turning into shouts, while Harley - his dithering at the late chance aside - looked to have found a lot of the freedom he has recently lacked in the wide left role.
All in all, a job well done and much appreciated by an excellent travelling support. Given what happened previously, to have 365 fans for what is a long trip up for those in Devon on a Tuesday night, with two further away matches to come, is nothing short of phenomenal. Thankfully this support was repaid in kind by a performance that should hopefully see City's promotion chase get back on track. Next up is a trip to Gillingham, and a real chance to lay down a marker to the so-called "big boys". You wouldn't want to miss it for the world now, would you?