Daggers back inside drop zone

Oxford United 2 Dagenham & Redbridge 1

Dagenham & Redbridge slipped into the bottom two after suffering their fourth defeat in five league games in a close match at Oxford.

Boss John Still handed a debut to new signing Matthew Saunders at the heart of the midfield, while there was a welcome return from injury for Dominic Green.

The visitors frustrated Oxford for much of the first half, with the home side often resorting to long balls out from defence, unable to breach a resilient Daggers rearguard.

Their shape and discipline will have impressed Still, but it came at a price, with Josh Scott cutting a lonely figure at times in attack,

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It took 27 minutes for Oxford to create the first chance of the game when Scott Rendell chipped the ball over the defence and Mark Wilson held off the challenge of Billy Bingham, but blasted wide from just inside the box.

Daggers first foray towards goal came soon afterwards, but after a good passing move and excellent close control from Scott inside the box, Michael Spillane shot wide of the near post from an uninviting angle.

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The best chance of the half fell to Daggers on 41 minutes, when Scott laid the ball back to Bingham, whose fierce 25 yard drive was parried away by keeper Ryan Clarke and cleared to safety.

The home fans booed their side off at half time following an uninspiring 45 minutes, but their jeers turned to cheers on 51 minutes when Oli Johnson opened the scoring.

Liam Davis got to the byline and his left-wing cross was headed in at the near post by Johnson – his first goal for the club.

Daggers were close to an equaliser on 58 minutes when captain Mark Arber rose highest to meet Green’s inswinging free-kick, but Johnson cleared off the line and Spillane stabbed the loose ball wide.

The visitors introduced striker Adam Cunnington for midfielder Bingham soon afterwards and switched to 4-4-2 to try and find an equaliser.

But it was Oxford who immediately posed the greater threat as first Rendell broke clear of the defence, but Femi Ilesanmi got back just in time to cover.

And then the lively Johnson found space in the box, but his close-range shot was blocked by Scott Doe.

As the clock ticked down Jon Nurse went close, when substitute Medy Elito picked out the Barbados international inside the box, but his header was comfortably saved by Clarke.

But on 72 minutes Daggers levelled, when Elito’s deep cross picked out Arber unmarked to head back across goal and past a motionless Clarke.

The visitors came within a whisker of earning their first away win since August, when Elito crossed for Cunnington, who fired against the post on the half volley.

But it was Oxford who grabbed the points to aid their promotion push when James Constable latched onto Johnson’s pass and fired in low at the near post on 79 minutes.

The visitors piled on the pressure in the closing minutes, with Oxford desperately hanging on.

Deep into stoppage time a poor clearance from Michael Duberry fell to Spillane on the edge of the box, but his looping effort crept over the bar as brave Daggers slipped to defeat.

Daggers (4-3-3): Lewington, Spillane, Doe, Arber, Ilesanmi, Saunders, Ogogo, Bingham (Cunnington 56), Nurse, Scott (Reed 86), Dominic Green (Elito 68). Unused subs: Hogan, Rose.

Oxford (4-3-3): Clarke, Whing, Duberry, Wright, Davis, Hall (Holmes 46), Leven, Wilson, Johnson (Tonkin 83), Rendell (Kerrouche 78), Constable. Unused subs: McLaren, Worley

Attendance: 5,653 (including 119 away).

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