Nurse’s late leveller keeps Daggers in the Cup
Dagenham & Redbridge 1 Walsall 1
Dagenham & Redbridge live to fight another day in the FA Cup, but if John Still’s men fail to progress to round three, the manager will almost certainly look back on Saturday’s draw as an opportunity missed.
With less than 1,000 home supporters in the ground, many may have stayed away for fear of a drubbing at the hands of their higher division opponents.
However, those in attendance were rewarded for their loyalty as Daggers served up their most complete display for months and probably should have caused a cup upset.
Still made four changes to the side that were thumped at Accrington last weekend, which included a first start in more than a year for striker Josh Scott.
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Scott and Brian Woodall linked up brilliantly – particularly in the first half – and it was the latter whose header forced busy Walsall keeper Jimmy Walker into his first save on 10 minutes.
Daggers enjoyed the lion’s share of possession throughout the first half, with central midfielder Peter Gain at the heart of their best work.
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Such was Daggers dominance, the home crowd burst into a chorus of ‘olays’ on the half hour during a 14-strong passing move, which culminated in Woodall’s half-volley being saved low at the near post by Walker.
The former Spurs and West Ham keeper continued to be overworked as the half wore on, tipping over Abu Ogogo’s long-range header to keep the score level.
The Saddlers rarely threatened in reply with Alex Nicholls fierce shot on the stroke of half time their best moment, but keeper James Shea – in for the unwell Chris Lewington – was on hand to push his effort over the crossbar.
After the break Daggers once again looked the most likely to make the breakthrough. Scott, showing no sign of fatigue despite his lack of playing time, teed up Woodall and Scannell, but neither could beat Walker as Walsall clung on.
The introduction of French winger Claude Gnakpa from the Walsall bench turned the game in the visitors favour.
On 76 minutes, the Saddlers took advantage of a rare defensive lapse when Mat Sadler hooked in a cross from the left and Gnakpa rose highest at the far post to head past Shea.
For all Daggers dominance falling behind so late on could have been a body blow Still’s team would not recover from.
However, the home side showed no sign of a dip in confidence and levelled spectacularly five minutes later.
Jon Nurse spun defender Lee Beevers on the left-flank, then unleashed an unstoppable right-footed drive past Walker from 25 yards.
Neither side had a clear cut chance to win the game in the final moments, but there was just enough time for late substitute Ryan Jarvis to earn a straight red card for an elbow on former Norwich team-mate Michael Spillane.
Daggers: Shea, Rose, Doe, Spillane, Ilesanmi, Scannell (Tomlin 82), Ogogo, Gain, Nurse, Scott, Woodall (Walsh 85). Subs not used: Hogan, McCrory, Elito, Maher, Bingham.
Attendance: 1,237 (including 259 away supporters).