MATCH REPORT: Dag & Red 5 Rotherham United 0

Craig Morgan takes a knock as he battles with Matt Saunders
Craig Morgan takes a knock as he battles with Matt Saunders
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PROMOTION? Well, yes, still a possibility.

Lots of time to still come through in the rest of the season and, playing like this, they could surprise a few could Dagenham!

As for the Millers, well, 6-2 at Port Vale and 5-0 here doesn’t smack of a team going onwards and upwards, does it?

There were those, like me, who thought that if they could play like they did at Fleetwoodthen they’d be too good for Dagenham.

But no-one could have banked on this little East London club, so often under-estimated, being so very good and one of the supposed high-fliers being ‘a shambles’ - which was the manager’s description.

The Millers were outclassed and embarrassed.

It’s a good job football matches aren’t always decided by the size of the respective wage bills; the names on the teamsheet; the reputation of players; the supposed quality of signings; the hype and fluffing up; the sort of ground you have.

Dagenham manager John Still has a knack of making the sum greater than the individual parts. Rotherham looked far less than the individual parts.

The Daggers played like a team and a hungry one. Rotherham looked, not for the first time, like individuals rather than a coherent team.

Quite how they go from performances like Stevenage and the excellent second half at Fleetwood to this, is not only a mystery but a deep worry.

Dagenham - playing at a tempo Rotherham simply couldn’t handle - outfought, outthought and, eventually, outclassed them. The only area where Rotherham weren’t second best was in goal.

And what Dagenham’s pace and movement did was expose Rotherham’s lack of it. Whatever Steve Evans does next, he has to get some pace into his side. They were made to look pedestrian.

Evans again queried the application. He talks about effort, passion, commitment as cornerstones of his teams yet, here again, he found himself searching for such qualities and raising questions about a lack of them.

As someone whose managerial strength is his ability to motivate, however that is done, then he was right to take on the blame as well afterwards.

“It’s our responsibility as a management team,” he said. “I pick the team. We were stinking but there’s no-one to blame but Steve Evans.”

People will note the absence again of Kari Arnason whose record reads played 12, lost one; missed seven, lost five. But this went deeper than missing one very good player.

From the opening minutes Dagenham looked sharper and brighter. They looked to have more men on the pitch.

The word had been out about the slightly-built striker Dwight Gayle, spotted at the lowly level of the Essex Senior League.

He played on his own down the middle, and such a role meant there was plenty of space for him to utilise when balls were played in behind the defence or down the sides of the central defenders.

From minute one his raw pace, sharpness and eagerness to get a goal terrorised the Millers.

He even outjumped defenders!

Bound for Peterborough eventually, he has a terrific goalscoring record in non-league with 100 goals in the past two seasons.

When Josh Morris was caught napping by pacy Jake Reed, the ball was cut back to Gayle. To players so used to scoring, it doesn’t matter whether such a chance comes in the Essex Senior League, League Two or the Champions League, they’re confident and he rattled it in with just five minutes gone.

A fantastic save kept out Lee Frecklington’s 20-yard volley but the early signs were ominous ones.

Rotherham looked uncertain and unsure; Dagenham were energetic, lively and, out of possession, hard working and all over their opponents.

It didn’t help when Craig Morgan succumbed to a twisted ankle after 20 minutes but the second goal on 35 minutes rather epitomised the home side’s performance.

Rotherham’s new on-loan right winger, Luke Rooney, from Swindon, barely got a kick. He tried to beat Olu Ilesanmi on the edge of the Dagenham area only for the burly left-back to rob him and rampage off down the touchline.

He didn’t stop until reaching the edge of Rotherham’s area where he thoughtfully rolled the ball back towards Luke Howell who struck a 20-yarder past Warrington.

Gareth Evans went on for Rooney at half-time but Rotherham needed a big change.

It would have been worse sooner but Gayle, reaching a ball he shouldn’t have done, was superbly denied by Warrington.

Rotherham had a go but it was all so disjointed. Then Howell blazed a sitter over and Warrington foiled Medy Elito on the angle.

Rotherham were getting exposed too easily and a swift break saw Micky Spillane line up a ‘cert’ only for Warrington to divert the shot away with his foot.

The inevitable third arrived with 15 minutes left. Ilesanmi charged down the left to set up a simple chance for Howell.

Warrington made a tremendous save when Gayle was unmarked from a corner.

But the respite lasted no longer than it took for a subsequent clearance to land at Elito’s feet outside the area and be despatched back through a crowd of players into the net.

The misery was complete in the 90th minute.

Not once did Rotherham get past an opponent as easily as Matt Saunders was allowed to before giving Gayle a tap-in.

Evans and all connected with the club were left to ponder the merits of the previous few games (won four, drawn one) against the problems of this one.

It was certainly a sleepless-night job was this!