Dagenham and Redbridge 0 Luton Town 2
Guttridge (41), Lawless (65)
2,723 (Luton 1,083)
A second consecutive day on the train down to Euston this time saw me travelling with my mate Kentley who'd fancied a game on a blank Sunday. This game had been moved from the Saturday in the expectation that England would be playing at Twickenham on the Saturday afternoon in the RWC final. To my knowledge Daggers were the only side that had that degree of misplaced faith in the England lads! It did mean though that I could squeeze in ground number 85 of 92.
We were in London at 11am and just had time for Kentley to do some shopping; he is a bit of a fashionista and wanted to visit a couple of boutique type men’s clothes shops. He bought a jacket for a price that far exceeds my annual clothing budget! We then took the tube out to Dagenham East and then the short walk towards the Daggers' Victoria Road ground. We stopped en route for a pint at the Pipe Major - Hobgoblin being my chosen ale - but then had to knock it back sharpish as we remembered this was a 2pm kick off!
Walking up to the ground, it had a distinctly "non-league" feel about it although there were plenty of police around reminding us this was a bit more serious than that! A game against Luton must be considered a derby of sorts although no doubt the Daggers' games with the Orient are considered the real grudge games. We paid cash at the turnstiles to stand on the home terrace even though we were approached by a bloke offering us seats in the stand for £3 a ticket less! I was desperate to experience that almost extinct feeling of being exposed to the elements even though Kentley has a dodgy knee and could probably have done with a sit down!
Inside the ground we took our place with the locals who seem to have only one word in their local lingo..."fackin". Everything is fackin this and fackin that. The home keeper on a couple of occasions kicked the ball straight dead from goal kicks, once even clearing the stand on his left hand touchline! "You fackin clown!" they all cried, "Keep the fackin ball on the pitch lad!"
At the far end of the ground, in the comfort of the massive "Traditional Builders Stand" - you wouldn't have a name like that in the Premier League would you? - were the Hatters fans, all 1,083 of them. That was out of a total crowd of only 2,723 as the Daggers fans showed their dissatisfaction with their form by staying away.
The game was played in a thick mist that hid the far end of the ground from time to time. It felt like football used to in the 60s and 70s....why don't we get much fog these days? Daggers, with the ageless Jamie Cureton up front for them, started well and carved out a number of decent chances...but they missed them all with a combination of fine saves by the Hatters keeper and some very dodgy finishing. Cureton is currently the oldest outfield player playing in the Football League. In true football fashion, Luton then went down the other end and Guttridge poked a long through ball over the keeper on the half volley to take a 1 - 0 lead into the break.
Kentley and I were persuaded by the bloke serving in Julie's Food bar, at the one end of the home terrace, to try a sausage and bacon roll "They're fackin good they are, best you'll ever get". And he wasn't wrong; they were the best I've ever had anywhere never mind at a football ground. For the record they do a bloody cuppa too.
The game was as good as over twenty minutes into the second half when Lawless capitalised on a mistake by the home keeper to slam home a second and killer goal. Luton showed their intent on holding on to their 2 goal lead by bringing on the experienced Craig Mackail-Smith who kept the home defence busy as he has done throughout his career. His knees may be gone but his brain was still working well.
And that was that, ground 85 of 92 DONE! By the end of the game that fog meant visibility was down to 60 or 70 yards. In fact the weather was most strange; temperatures around the country were setting new record highs for November and that no doubt had something to do with the fog coming down. All in all though, another superb day at the football!