Whitehawk’s heroic FA Cup came to a cruel end after an extra time defeat against Dagenham & Redbridge… writes Anthony Scott
League Two Dagenham progress to face Everton at Goodison Park after winning 3-2 over 120 minutes in front of a record crowd at the Enclosed Ground.
However, things could have been different for the Hawks, who made all of their changes just ten minutes into the second half due to injuries, and also had what looked to be a perfectly good goal disallowed by substitute referee, Andy Davies.
The Hawks got off to a flying start, forcing a succession of early corners before Mark Cousins did well to get something on Nick Arnold’s low cross, taking it away from the path of Danny Mills at the far post.
Steve King’s side then came even closer when Sam Deering whipped in a free kick which came off the head of Daggers defender Joe Widdowson and with Cousins beaten, the ball rebounded back off the far post and clear.
Another Deering set-piece then picked out Dean Leacock, whose header fell to Mills, but Cousins was out well to save.
However, the Daggers had their first chance of the first half when Josh Passley did well to play the ball across to Jamie Cureton, but the striker fired over the bar having turned away from his marker.
After 32 minutes, the Hawks had the lead. Deering played a good through ball to Jake Robinson, who in turn delivered a great cross to Mills at the far post, and the striker rose well to head home from six yards.
However, as the half drew to a close, the Daggers came back into the game, with only a great block from Paul Lorraine preventing James Dunne’s strike getting on target, before the Football League side were level.
Former Hawks-loanee Kyle Vassell did well to turn past Juan Cruz Gotta, who had replaced Leacock just seconds earlier, and finished emphatically, striking the ball into the top far corner from ten yards.
Robinson came close to putting the Hawks back in front early in the second half, forcing Cousins into a good save from a free kick before dragging an effort wide in what was a less eventful second period.
That was, however, until fourteen minutes from time, when Dagenham went ahead. The evergreen Cureton did well to run down the left hand side, before cutting the ball back to Passley whose emphatic first-time finish gave Craig Ross no chance.
The Hawks’ chance to draw level looked to have come and gone after Arnaud Mendy failed to hit the target 18 yards out, but the drama was still to come.
Five minutes of stoppage time was announced, and in the second of those Robinson saw a free-kick turned over the bar by Cousins, and from the resulting corner, Whitehawk were level.
Deering’s delivery picked out Gotta, whose bullet header from inside ten yards found the bottom corner. Just like they did at Victoria Road, the Hawks had equalised in added time, again.
However, on this occasion, the goal meant extra time, and another 30 minutes of what was an excellent advert of the FA Cup in front of the BT Sport cameras, as well as the 2, 174-strong crowd.
Robinson went close to putting the Hawks ahead, but his deflected drive fizzed just wide of the near post.
Despite that, it was Dagenham who regained the lead ten minutes into extra time, but it wasn’t without its controversy. Ashley Hemmings volleyed wide of the near post from 20 yards, but referee Davies awarded a corner – obviously feeling that there was a deflection – where replays showed there wasn’t. And from that corner, Ashley Chambers’ delivery picked out Ayo Obileye who did well to lose his marker and head home.
However, Davies was again made unpopular by his decisions when a ball into the box fell to Robinson, who held off a defender before the ball fell to substitute Scott Neilson, who rounded Cousins and tapped in, but only for the referee to pull the play back for a foul against Robinson, without one Dagenham player appealing for a foul.
James Dunne was then sent off for a second bookable offence as the game entered the second half of extra time, and with time running out, Cousins did well to dive on the ball when Mills looked poised to shoot inside ten yards following a goalmouth scramble.
Then, in stoppage time, the Dagenham keeper ensured that penalties would not be required after pulling off another good save, with Mills’ strike looking destined for the roof of the net.
Despite the result, Whitehawk can hold their heads up high. Steve King’s side did themselves proud on the national stage, and if they show this kind of performance on a regular basis, promotion to the National League looks a real possibility.
Photos by David Hunt