Ilesanmi reflects on surprise Daggers debut against Oldham Athletic
Young defender impresses in place of Damien McCrory
FEW Daggers fans will have known much about Femi Ilesanmi before his debut on Saturday.
The former AFC Wimbledon trainee (pictured above) was one of a number of young players to sign on at Victoria Road in the close-season along with DJ Green, Luke Wilkinson, Duran Reynolds and Alex Osborn – all of whom have been sent on loan to lower league clubs to garner experience.
Ilesanmi also spent three months at Blue Square Premier side Histon, making 17 appearances before returning to Dagenham.
The 19-year-old had been linked with a possible return to Histon in January, until an impressive outing in a behind closed doors friendly last week, convinced manager John Still to hand him a surprise debut against Oldham.
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“We were training (on Friday) and I did well in a defensive drill and in the organisation I was in the starting line-up,” said Ilesanmi.
“It was quite a shock, but everyone said I deserved it and hopefully I proved myself.”
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Some recent costly errors from ever-present left back Damien McCrory may have forced Still into a switch, but few would have expected the unproven Ilesanmi to leapfrog Gareth Gwillim – a summer signing from Histon – in the pecking order.
Having played in the Ryman Premier League for Ashford Town (Middlesex) last year, the defender was remarkably composed on his Football League debut.
Tasked with marking England under-19 wide-man Aiden White, on loan from Leeds United, Ilesanmi showed himself to be strong in the air and when running shoulder to shoulder, as well as boasting a sharp turn of pace when required.
Versatility is another string to his bow, having played in central defence and a more advanced left-sided role.
“Wherever the manager wants to put me I’ll play for him, said Ilesanmi.
“I’ve played centre half at Histon in most games, so if he wants to play me there, at left back, at left wing-back or in a three I don’t mind. I’ll just play for the team.”
He added: “I didn’t really want to make a mistake on my debut, so I tried to keep it as simple as possible. Hopefully my confidence will grow more and more as I play more games.”
While the result on the day was disappointing for the home side, Ilesanmi will have allowed himself a smile five minutes from time, when he was announced as the sponsor’s man of the match.
“I thought Femi did very, very well,” said assistant manager Terry Harris. “He’s a young lad, but he’s strong, he’s quick, he defends very well and I was delighted for him.”