Remembering where we once were.
Having only been established in 1992 as a merger between Redbridge Forest and Dagenham, the Daggers and Rovers first met in the 2000/01 season. Both sides won their respective home games; Rovers through Neil Campbell at Belle Vue in October 2000, before the return in March at Victoria Road.
Irish defender Colin Hawkins scored his first, and last ever goal for Rovers before a swift response from the hosts through Paul Cobb and Lee Goodwin saw them snatch all three points.
Goodwin saw red the next season in a 0-0 draw at Belle Vue in November ‘01, and there were more red cards than goals again down in the Capital when sendings off to Tris Whitman and Jamie Price sandwiched Danny Hill’s solitary goal.
The Daggers went on to lose out on promotion on goal difference in controversial circumstances to BOSTON UNITED.
Dave Penney’s men got off to a flier in the 02/03 season and their 17 point haul from the opening seven games of the season was underlined by a 5-1 thumping of Garry Hill’s Daggers at Belle Vue in front of the TV cameras.
Andy Watson, who put in a vintage performance, got the hosts off to the perfect start by rifling past veteran Tony Roberts and Rovers went in to the break three goals to the good after Robert Gill scored and Ashley Vickers put through his own goal. Jamie Paterson and Paul Barnes rounded off a complete afternoon for the South Yorkshire side, while Danny Shipp grabbed a consolation.
The return, in December, was to yield another six goal thriller.
Rovers took the lead on eleven minutes through the prolific Paul Barnes, before future Rovers midfielder John McGrath levelled moments before the break. Barnes put Rovers back in control in the 51st minute; however Steve West provided an instant riposte.
West notched his second and the Daggers third in the 70th minute, as it looked like Penney’s men were going to throw away their once commanding position, before Robert Gill levelled five minutes later to complete a thoroughly entertaining afternoon’s football.
When both sides squeezed in to the inaugural Conference play-off finals via penalty shootouts against CHESTER CITY and Morecambe, one should have expected a topsy-turvy affair at Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium.
Local lad Paul Green sent the majority of the 13,000 crowd in to raptures just before the interval with his carefully placed header, before Dave Morley’s tracer bullet of a header doubled Rovers’ advantage.
Game over? Unfortunately not.
Former Chelsea striker Mark Stein bagged to put the jitters among Rovers and give the Daggers a new lease of life.
The comeback was complete just fifteen minutes later when Tarkan Mustafa – who had a 5 game loan spell with Rovers earlier the same season – slotted past Andy Warrington.
Extra time arrived and the moment that will forever be remembered by Rovers fans unfolded thus:
A heavily bandaged and blood-stained Gregg Blundell receives the ball midway inside the Dagenham half. Blundell turns and slides a perfectly weighted pass down the inside left channel. Paul Barnes manages to get to the ball before the full back. Barnes gets to within a few yards of the by-line before pulling the ball back across the 6 yard box. An onrushing Francis Tierney steams in to the box and fires home the golden goal to return Rovers to the Football League after a five year absence.
For the Daggers, it was obvious heartbreak at coming so close and yet so far.
However, their time was to come.
Dagenham reached the League in 2007 and have been there ever since. They even upset the odds and gained promotion to the third tier under John Still, beating Rotherham in the League 2 play off final at Wembley.
Having being immediately relegated the following term, The Daggers are an established fourth tier outfit who continue to produce exciting young talent sourced from the local area.
*Jamie Paterson tries to get the football under control as Rovers sweep Dagenham aside 5-1 in September 2002 at Belle Vue*