McCrory keen to make the most of his second chance at Daggers
Irish youngster out to impress after regaining the left back spot
DAMIEN McCRORY’S early birthday present from John Still last week could have been viewed as a double-edged sword.
After sitting out for 14 consecutive matches, the young Irishman would have jumped at the chance to make his comeback against Huddersfield Town last Tuesday, on the day before he came of age by turning 21.
On the other hand, the reason for his introduction in the first half came not because of an injury or preference to Femi Ilesanmi, who replaced him in the team, but because of the torrid time he was being given by Anthony Pilkington.
The Huddersfield winger is one of the most talented attacking players in League One and tormented the 19-year-old with his electric pace and quick feet, forcing Still into the unusual action of replacing his full back after just 30 minutes of the first half.
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“It is difficult to come into a game like that when a team is putting a lot of pressure on you and you’re forced back a lot,” said McCrory.
“But I knew at some point that I would get a chance. For the last four or five games I’ve been waiting to get that chance, so I’ve obviously been switched on and waiting.
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“I was warming up before I even got called in and was ready to go and took my chance when I got it.”
Supporters may have been expecting a recall for McCrory, who returns to the Daggers first team under similar circumstances to which he left it.
After being a near ever-present since making the switch from Plymouth Argyle last January, a downturn in form culminated in a disappointing display against Leyton Orient in the FA Cup first round replay at Brisbane Road.
On that occasion his misplaced pass being intercepted led to one of their opponent’s goals in a 3-2 victory which dumped Dagenham out of the money-spinning competition.
Ilesanmi, who had never previously played a Football League match, was brought in for the following game at home to Oldham Athletic as Still looked to ease the pressure on the Irish youth international.
His replacement boasted greater physical strength and was initially a success, giving a particularly impressive performance against the highly-touted Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain when Southampton visited Victoria Road on January 3.
However, much like the man he stepped in for, the teenager’s performances have suffered in recent weeks and Still has once again taken a young player out of the limelight before it has a potentially destructive effect.
“When he (Ilesanmi) first came in he was doing really well,” said McCrory. “He’s a big strong boy and he’s quite quick as well.
“Obviously I’m going to think that I could do a better job, every player does, but I think he’s done really well since he came in and he deserves credit for that.”
Having kept his place for the match against Bournemouth on Saturday, McCrory once again handled the threat of a pacy winger effectively as Liam Feeney, who came close to moving to Dagenham a couple of seasons ago, struggled to make an impact
One slight blot on his copy book was being out-jumped at the back post by substitute Danny Ings for Bournemouth’s equaliser, but he will be happy at how few crosses were able to be sent into the box from his side of the pitch.
“My aim is to play every game and play as well as I can and hopefully keep my position,” he said.
“I know that if I slip up in a game there’s a good player to come in and fill my boots, so I need to keep on my toes and keep playing well every week.”
Ilesanmi was dropped from the match day squad altogether on Saturday, until an injury to Scott Doe saw him take a place on the bench, and first team coach Wayne Burnett has hinted that the former AFC Wimbledon starlet may now be given time to rest and recover.
“Femi’s done fantastically well over the last six or seven games, but when you’re playing against two wide players like Pilkington and (Gary) Roberts I think they’re going to give most full-backs problems,” he said, following the draw against Huddersfield.
“They’re two fantastic players and it’s maybe time to get Femi out. It’s all new for him, he’s a young boy. Sometimes it can affect you physically and mentally. He’s done incredibly well, but McCrory came in and settled the ship a little bit.”
McCrory stated after the Huddersfield game that he does not believe a player, regardless of age, ever stops working on ways to improve.
Now, after a three-month absence, he will be desperate to show off the qualities he has picked up his particularly steep learning curve and make the most of his second chance to shine.