Daggers downed by Southend after Wilkinson sees red
Southend United 3 Dagenham & Redbridge 1
Dagenham & Redbridge continued their winless start to the league season, despite a fine effort with 10 men for the vast majority of the Essex derby.
Only Barnet and Bristol Rovers separate Daggers from the foot of League Two as they suffered their third defeat in five league matches.
However, the outcome could have been so different had Luke Wilkinson not received a contentious red card just eight minutes into his first league start for John Still’s side.
Sam Williams had tested the reflexes of home keeper Paul Smith when he met Medy Elito’s corner with a bullet header in the early knockings.
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But the balance of the game turned when Wilkinson received a straight red card from referee Lee Collins for a professional foul.
Scott Doe misguided a pass into the path of former team-mate Gavin Tomlin who raced towards goal, but was adjudged to have been tripped by Wilkinson on the edge of the box – despite what appeared to be minimal contact – in his eagerness to recover the situation.
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After a quick reshuffle which saw Michael Spillane step back into defence and Dwight Gayle move into midfield it was the visitors who created a golden opportunity to open the scoring.
Williams carried the ball through the Southend backline and crossed for Gayle to tap in from close range, but defender Chris Barker was perfectly positioned to divert the ball over the crossbar.
And Daggers suffered a hammer blow moments later when Southend took the lead.
Right-back Sean Clohessy found space to cross and Britt Assombalonga headed beyond the clutches of Chris Lewington and into the top corner at his near post on 18 minutes.
Daggers contained the home side well after the goal, but the second killer blow came on 37 minutes when Assombalonga doubled his and Southend’s tally for the afternoon.
Kevan Hurst’s 25-yard effort was pushed away by Lewington, but Assombalonga held off defender Gavin Hoyte and bundled in the loose ball.
But on the stroke of half time the visitors were given a lifeline when Gayle stumbled his way past defender Barker, cut into the box and fired a powerful effort past keeper Smith.
Soon after the break Daggers came close to a leveller, but Luke Howell’s volley crept over the crossbar.
And the home crowd were given another scare when Doe miscued a free header from inside the six yard box, after a fine ball into the box from Williams.
Southend’s lead was looking more fragile with each passing minute and visiting skipper Abu Ogogo dragged a close-range effort inches wide after Gayle had split the defence with a purposeful run.
Nerves were finally settled on 70 minutes though when Hurst’s free-kick bounced through to Ryan Cresswell who fired in on the half volley.
Tomlin twice was denied by Lewington as Southend looked to rub salt in the wounds, but Daggers were not going down without a fight and Ogogo swerved a pot shot the wrong side of the post as the visitors looked to press.
In the dying minutes Assombalonga spurned the chance of a hat-trick when he misfired horribly over the crossbar from 10 yards.
Southend: Smith, Clohessy, Cresswell, Timlin, Martin (Straker 68), Hurst, Phillips, Spicer, Assombalonga (Harris 87), Tomlin (Benyon 90), Barker. Subs not used: Woodyard, Njie, Belford.
Daggers: Lewington, Hoyte, Doe, Wilkinson, Ilesanmi, Ogogo, Howell, Spillane, Elito (Dominic Green 57), Williams (Woodall 62), Gayle (Scott 72). Subs not used: Seabright, Reed, Danny Green, Bingham.
Attendance: 5,348 (617 away)