United pegged back by impressive Daggers

Torbay Weekly

Torquay United 2 Dagenham & Redbridge 2

A goal up after only 19 seconds and 2-0 ahead in the 12th - goals by Asa Hall and Danny Wright - Torquay United were pegged back to a draw by in-form Dagenham & Redbridge at a wet and windy Plainmoor, but this was a point gained rather than two lost.

The Daggers were one of the best sides to visit Plainmoor this season, and only the most blinkered Gulls fan would have thought they did not deserve at least a draw.

It was a pulsating contest on a pitch that put a premium on stamina and decision-making as it inevitably cut up after the rain which continued on and off during the afternoon.

Gary Johnson's United had several heroes, mostly in defence where Dean Moxey had another outstanding match, with Joe Lewis, Ben Wynter and goalkeeper Shaun MacDonald not far behind

There were several surprises in the Gulls line-up.

Back from suspension, Armani Little was ruled out by a 'dead leg' sustained in training.

Harry Perritt, who had been reported as returning to Accrington Stanley, started in a defensive midfield role.

And new Sunderland loanee Stephen Wearne went into the starting XI on the left of midfield.

Perritt was given the job of marking the Daggers' leading scorer Angelo Balanta, but there was little threat from the visitors as United made a flying start.

Almost from the kick-off, Wearne and Connor Lemonheigh-Evans combined on the left, Dan Martin crossed and Hall powered a header into the top left-hand corner.

Elliot Justham got his fingers to the ball, but the header was too good for him…1-0.

Twice Wearne found himself in space for a shot inside the penalty area, and twice Justham saved, while Shaun MacDonald also did well to keep out a Junior Morias effort at the second attempt.

But in the 12th minute Hall crossed, again from the left, Joe Lewis nodded the ball down and Wright stole in to slam the ball into the roof of the net from close-range…2-0.

It was a hell of a start, and for a few more minutes the Gulls threatened to extend it.

Only their defensive clearances, on the increasingly sticky pitch, let them down - not enough distance and often delayed by an extra touch.

Dagenham needed no encouragement to fight their way back into the game and, after Walker missed a good chance after Junior Morias robbed Martin, they cut the deficit in the 25th minute.

MacDonald smartly blocked a Balanta header, from Myles Weston's right-wing corner, but Walker was there to stab in from a couple of yards out…2-1.

The balance of the game had changed, and Dagenham finished the first half on top.

Callum Reynolds had a header saved and also sent a 25-yard free-kick just wide of MacDonald's right-hand post.

But only a spectacular piece of defending by Dean Moxey kept the Daggers out in the 40th minute.

He somehow blocked a fierce Weston shot with his head, almost on the goalline, and MacDonald, who was beaten by Weston's drive, was able to turn and smother the loose ball inside the six-yard box.

United must have been bracing themselves for a tough second half, and they got it.

Dagenham, quicker to the ball and stronger when they got there, threw everything at them.

Moxey was magnificent in the heart of the Torquay defence, keeping wave after wave of attacks at bay.

Wright did miss one difficult breakaway chance, hitting the side-netting on an angle from a Hall through-ball.

But apart from that, it was almost one-way traffic.

MacDonald pulled off a series of outstanding saves to deny Morias, Sagaf and Walker, while Moxey came up with a terrific block from Morias.

Jones drove just over and MacDonald saved from Weston before the Daggers sent on their fit-again centre-forward Paul McCallum in the 64th minute.

Ben Wynter did blast one chance over in the 68th minute, but the rearguard action continued until the 71st minute, when another crisp passing move finally worked some room for Balanta to look up from the edge of the box and curl a right-foot shot into the right-hand corner for his eighth goal of the season…2-2.

Hall had given his all in midfield, and Johnson sent Dan Holman on, with a reshuffle, and then Klaidi Lolos for Wearne to bring some much-needed fresh legs to the contest.

In fact, Dagenham had also given so much to haul themselves level, that the last 20 minutes was more even than the rest of the second half.

There were still scares at both ends.

Morias shot inches wide after referee Daniel Lamport turned down penalty appeals for a 'push' by Martin, and MacDonald miraculously saved with his legs when Ling looked certain to score.

Holman and Lolos also went close to a winner for United, but after such a see-saw battle, a draw was probably the right result.

Torquay United (4-1-4-1): MacDonald; Wynter; Lewis, Moxey, Martin; Perritt; O'Connell, Lemonheigh-Evans, Hall (Holman 75) Wearne (Lolos 83); Wright; subs not used - Halstead, Omar, Moore.

Booked: None.

Dagenham & Redbridge (3-4-1-2): Justham; Wright, Reynolds, Zouma; Ling (Vilhete 89), Sagaf, Jones, Weston; Balanta; Walker (McCallum 64), Morias; subs not used - Clark, Phipps, Akanbi.

Booked: None.

Referee: Daniel Lamport (Berks).

Attendance: 2,339 (75 Daggers fans).