FGR march on with a Daggers home point
The National League’s current top two sides couldn’t be separated in an enthralling contest at The New Lawn, writes Richard Joyce.
Rhys Murphy’s early second half strike had given Forest Green a second half lead, but Oliver Hawkins towering header earned Dagenham a point, in an entertaining afternoon that saw Rovers make it nine home games unbeaten this season.
Murphy was handed a place in the starting XI against his former club, and after Corey Whiteley’s first minute chance had slipped just wide from the visitors, the forward made Daggers goalkeeper Elliot Justham pull off a great save when his left footed shot looked destined for the top corner.
Dagenham’s former Luton keeper Justham then denied Murphy again with another great save midway through the half after Keanu Marsh-Brown had done well to create the opportunity.
A high tempo affair saw Rovers have a major shout for a penalty on 32 minutes. Defender Josh Staunton looked to have handled the bouncing ball in his own area, but referee Stephen Ross ignored Forest Green’s protests, while shortly after the away side almost nosed in front.
Christian Doidge was on hand against his old side to make a vital goal line clearance after a free kick that had been lifted into the box ended up inches from being slammed home.
A long distance Doidge strike and counter attack that came to nothing ended an eventful first half, and the pacey tempo to proceedings continued after the interval when Mark Cooper’s side went ahead.
Murphy linked up superbly in the box with Marsh-Brown and smashed in with a low hit past Justham to put some daylight between the two teams.
Now on seven goals for the season, Murphy almost doubled his and Rovers advantage in the minutes that followed, but he couldn’t convert Dan Wishart’s cross. Ten minutes later it was Marsh-Brown who tried to force the issue, only to see his powerful hit from outside the area deflect away for a corner.
Doidge was determined to become the second FGR player to score against his former employers. He saw his header on 64 minutes from a Liam Noble delivery just drop wide, while Hawkins down the other end blasted off target when he found space.
John Still’s Dagenham would eventually level when leading marksman Hawkins found the back of the net with a terrific header.
He rose highest at the back post from a diagonal ball aimed towards the highly rated attacker, to head across goal in front of the travelling fans.
The visitors goal scorer had another good chance with a header on 85 minutes to win it late on for his side, but he couldn’t profit again from another good ball, and the divisions two leading clubs shared the points.
Report: Richard Joyce
Photo: Alan Franklin/Pro Sports Images
Highlights: George Berry, Elliot Owens, Hannah Worboys & Richard Joyce