BIG MATCH PREVIEW
It is a crucial game for both sides on Saturday as Mansfield Town’s play-off ambitions come up against bottom club Dagenham & Redbridge’s fear of a return to the Conference.
The Stags’ run of three wins and a draw that took them up into fourth place was emphatically halted by Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at second-placed Plymouth Argyle on a day when superior quality told.
Meanwhile, the Daggers were losing 2-0 at home to Barnet and amazingly have still not won at home all season.
Mansfield have dropped to seventh in League Two but know how important the next three games are to stay in contention as all are against bottom five sides. Tougher games lay ahead.
For Dagenham, the sands of time are running out on their stay in the Football League.
They are already four points adrift at the bottom and six points short of safety with returning manager John Still, back with them for a third spell, needing to pull several rabbits out of several hats.
Amazingly they won 2-1 away at current leaders Northampton earlier in the season, their other League victories coming at AFC Wimbledon, Stevenage and Exeter City.
Since the two clubs began crossing swords in 2007/08, both have enjoyed three wins apiece with one draw.
The Daggers won 1-0 at Field Mill on their first ever visit, but have lost both visits since.
Mansfield know if they can start on the front foot on Saturday, the visitors’ confidence is not great and fans will be expecting three points.
Click HERE to see a superb highlights of the day movie of Stags’ trip to Plymouth last weekend
STAGS TEAM NEWS
With Dagenham struggling, Adam Murray will want to take the game to the visitors so is unlikely to change his formation or, indeed, change much of the personnel.
With seven of the side that started in last weekend’s 3-0 defeat at Plymouth not having played much football for some time, Murray said Saturday’s game had been a match too far for some of them, being a third game in eight days that saw their lack of regular action catch up with them.
Having had a blank week now to help players recover he will take a good look at them before deciding if any need a break.
But at least Murray has no injuries to contend with and, with loanees Dan Alfei and Sean Kavanagh, he does have a wealth of choice.
After the half-time break at Plymouth he went with three central defenders and wing backs, which is always an option to get down the Dagenham flanks if needed.
Lee Collins was given a tough time at right back in the first half and Alfei came on to play right wing back after that. It could be a toss-up between the two on Saturday with Collins likely to edge it.
A week after being the penalty hero, keeper Scott Shearer should have done better with Plymouth’s opening goal last weekend but probably did well enough after that to keep his place.
POSSIBLE STAGS STARTING XI
DAGENHAM TEAM NEWS
Having started his most recent tenure as Daggers boss with a 5-3-2 formation (or 3-5-2 depending on your view on wing backs), Still has reverted to a tried and trusted back four in recent weeks, pairing young, inexperienced loanees Joe Worrall and Dom Hyam at centre back.
One area where Still has been looking to improve is in attack, feeling his team haven’t been threatening enough at times - and there have been a few efforts to change that.
There’s been a diamond in midfield with two in attack, there’s been wingers with a man in the hole and one up top, and there’s been a conventional 4-4-2 too.
So far, though, nothing seems to have clicked.
As for injuries, Luke Guttridge will miss the match with a knock picked up on his home debut against Wycombe Wanderers with no set timeline on his return.
Zavon Hines is another whose return date remains unknown and Josh Passley will serve the second game of a three match ban.
But, other than that, Daggers have a clean bill of health.
Matt Richards and Matt McClure may feature on the bench as they continue their returns from lengthy lay-offs.
POSSIBLE DAGENHAM STARTING XI
KEY BATTLE: JAMIE MCGUIRE v JOSS LABADIE
Sparks are likely to fly if Jamie McGuire and Joss Labadie clash in midfield battle on Saturday.
The notorious Joss Labadie has been a revelation as skipper in the heart of midfield for Daggers this season after returning from a six-month ban in October for again biting an opponent.
Former Notts County man Labadie was banned for 10 games after a biting incident while playing for Torquay United against Chesterfield in February 2014.
But the lesson wasn’t learned and when Labadie, by now with Dagenham, failed to release the ball after it had gone out for a throw-in late in a game against Stevenage in March 2015, Labadie bit Stevenage’s Ronnie Henry.
On April 15, he learned he had this time been banned for six months.
However, since then high-energy performances have become the norm for a man who admits he spent most of his extended break from the game working on his fitness.
‘Controlled aggression’ has been the buzzword used by the coaching staff to describe Labadie’s showings and he has taken the captaincy in his stride.
Many fans questioned the decision to keep Labadie on after his ban last season, but he’s more than repaying the board’s faith now and any hope Daggers have of surviving probably rests squarely with him.
Click HERE to see video of the Ronnie Henry biting incident
DAGENHAM ONE TO WATCH: MARK COUSINS
Goalkeeper Mark Cousins is one of few players commanding a regular starting spot for the Daggers right now, and he is likely to be in the thick of the action as usual.
Cousins was dropped after starting the first three League games of the season, but has battled back to regain his place as top stopper at Victoria Road.
There have been a few sticky moments for him in recent matches, but he prevented Daggers from being beaten by six or seven against Barnet last time out with a string of impressive saves.
With a centre back pairing that has a combined age of 39 and just eight League appearances between them in front him, it could be another busy afternoon for Cousins against Mansfield.
Click HERE to see an interview with Mark Cousins as he signed for the Daggers
OPPOSITION MANAGER: JOHN STILL
After his achievements in his second spell as Daggers boss, John Still is considered a legend at Victoria Road, having guided the club not only into the Football League, but also into League One. Now, though, he is tasked with making sure the club preserve that League status which he and others worked so hard to obtain, and he knows that his hero status at Daggers may be in trouble if he is unable to do that.
As for what style we should expect to see, it’s fair to say Saturday’s clash may not be the most aesthetically pleasing with Still a fan of long ball tactics.
But if that proves to be a method that keeps the club in the Football League for a 10th season, then long may those hoofs from the back continue as far as Daggers fans are concerned.
He joined Luton Town in February 2013 and in his first full season there, the club were crowned Conference Premier champions and won promotion to League Two.
He led Luton to an eighth-placed finish in League Two during the 2014–15 season, before leaving the club in December 2015 and rejoining Dagenham for a third term as manager on January 1 2016.
Click HERE to see part one of an interview with John Still, filmed this week
Click HERE to watch part two of the Still interview
DAGENHAM SEASON SO FAR
The season so far from a Daggers fan’s point of view has been desperately disappointing with a feeling currently that this will be the year that the club, having flirted with relegation in the past, will drop out of the Football League.
No victory at home and just four all season demonstrates how painfully difficult it has been at times and the good feeling that came back after John Still returned for a third stint as boss has ebbed away.
But if you take into consideration Still’s predecessor Wayne Burnett’s comments at the start of the season, that the board had set him a task of finishing 22nd, then Daggers are only a couple of wins away from that target at the minute so are doing okay.
It is lacking ambition for a club in their ninth season in the Football League to just want to stay up, but right now Daggers and their fans would take survival any way it comes.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 3rd 2015: DAGENHAM & REDBRIDGE 3, MANSFIELD TOWN 4
Two goals in the final nine minutes saw Mansfield Town snatch a breathtaking 4-3 away win in an absolute thriller at struggling Dagenham & Redbridge back at the start of October
Krystian Pearce headed home an 81st minute equaliser to finally make it 3-3 in an end-to-end affair before sub Adi Yussuf’s first League goal four minutes from time sewed up Stags’ second away win in five days and their first back-to-back wins this season.
An amazing first half had seen Mansfield go in trailing 3-2 in an end-to-end 45 minutes that could have ended up 6-6 as both sides served up a goals treat in the East London sunshine.
Mal Benning volleyed Stags into a spectacular sixth minute lead, but Matt McClure levelled within three minutes.
Mansfield were then rocked by two goals in three minutes by Ashley Chambers on 30 and 32 minutes, but bit back from the spot on 37 minutes through Matt Green.
It was Stags’ first penalty success in 104 games, going back to October 2013!
Ryan Tafazolli and Craig Westcarr both wasted gilt-edges chances while home keeper Liam O’Brian also made two key saves as it seemed the Daggers might chalk up their first home win of the campaign.
The second half saw Stags pushing forwards almost continually though Brian Jensen did have one big save to make from a counter-attack.
But Mansfield saved the best for last as they struck twice to finally wrap up the points to move up to sixth in League Two.
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