A weekend visit to London gave me the opportunity to see a part of it I had never seen before: Dagenham. Once it was a village in Essex and I manged to find the original village green around the Anglican church. It’s quite close to Dagenham East tube station, which in turn is only a short hop from West Ham. So it’s not surprising that in the pub, I saw a West Ham flag and a picture of Bobby Moore on the wall. I was there to see the local football team play Dagenham & Redbridge in league 2 against AFC Wimbledon. Known as the Daggers, the club was formed in 1992 when two sides merged. Their ground at Victoria Road opened in 1955, where Dagenham FC played.
The Traditional Builders & Contractors Ltd Stand at the West end of the ground is for the awy fans and was built during the close season of 2009. It has a capacity of 1,240 and is all-seated. Access to this stand is via gates at the far end of the ground from the entrance via Victoria Road. The stand has disabled facilities, and incorporates a bar, snack bar, and new club office and changing facilities. The ground now has a capacity of 6078.
The players emerge onto the pitch from a tunnel in this stand rather than the old tunnel in the middle of the Carling Stand, on the right of the picture. The floodlights were replaced in summer last year, bringing the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium fully up to the new Football League regulations. The view from the stand was excellent, particularly for any action in the goalmouth, but obviously more difficult to watch anything at the other end of the pitch! It meant that the 873 travelling Dons fand including myself in the crowd of 2265 got an opportunity to greet the team as they finished their pre-match warm-up.
One of the biggest cheers was reserved for goalkeeper Neil Sullivan, who kept a clean sheet during the game. The decisive moment came 80 minutes in, when a 19 year-old Parisian recently signed by the Dons on loan from Cardiff City, Kevin Sainte-Luce, struck a beautiful shot through a crowd of players after the Daggers had failed to clear a corner properly. A tense ten minutes of normal time and four additional minutes followed, but the Dons held out for a deserved victory, giving them seven points from their last three matches and lifting them off the bottom of the table.
Overall, there was a very friendly atmosphere at the club, which reminded me a bit of the old Plough Lane ground where Wimbledon FC used to play. The social club (one of the sponsors is a firm of local undertakers!) sold a nice pint of ale from Cornwall and was worth the extra 50p admission for non-members. One other point of interest: I noticed a steward sporting a Southend FC woolly hat, who remarked to a Dons fan that the teams would be meeting each other at their ground next month in a midweek match. So perhaps another short trip via Southend airport (where the service on both days was very good) is on the cards!