Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Old Hands Making Light Work of Dagenham's Promotion Push

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Old Hands Making Light Work of Dagenham's Promotion Push

Article excerpt

Byline: ANDY MACMORRIN

DAGENHAM & REDBRIDGE were the scourge of Football League clubs in the FA Cup last season. Now the Conference part-timers are on course to tackle the professionals every week.

The Daggers, who beat Lincoln and then took Premiership Charlton to a third-round replay, are five points clear at the top of the Conference as they try to break into the Nationwide League for the first time.

Yet the Essex club have no financial benefactor, have to survive with an average crowd of 1,500 and have pledged to remain part-time whatever happens.

Manager Garry Hill, whose side have lost only once in 15 matches this season, said: "The Cup run did wonders for our belief. The squad was strong last year but now we are even stronger and more confident. That makes a lot of difference.

"Everybody is working together to get us into the League. It is a tremendous achievement. We were in the Ryman League only three seasons ago and we are still a member's club. Most of our day-today money comes from the clubhouse bar.

"Yet there are eight full-time clubs in the Conference.

Doncaster recently signed Justin Jackson from Yeovil for [pound]125,000. There's no way we could do that. We have to rely on free transfers. But not only are we giving the money boys a run for their money, we're beating them."

Two of those free transfers have turned out to be coups.

Former Chelsea, Stoke and Bournemouth striker Mark Stein, 35, was signed from Luton at the beginning of the season and is the Conference's top scorer with 12 goals from 12 games.

Then, last week, Hill snapped up the second top scorer, 38-year-old ex-Barnet, Birmingham and Peterborough forward Ken Charlery, from Conference rivals Boston.

Stein, who won one England Under-21 cap, once set a Premiership record when playing for Chelsea in the 1993-94 season when he scored in seven successive matches.

That has since been matched by Alan Shearer. Charlery, an England non-League international, has been a prolific scorer in the lower divisions and has netted nine times this season.

The club's two other players with top Football League experience are former Ipswich midfielder Mark Brennan and Queens Park Rangers and Wales goalkeeper Tony Roberts. …

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