United earned their second away win of the season this evening at Victoria Road, with debutant Robert Hall scoring the only goal of the game five minutes before half-time.
New signing Hall went straight into Chris Wilder's starting line-up, in a team featuring two changes to the one that drew 2-2 with Burton Albion on Saturday. Damian Batt replaced Andrew Whing in defence, who missed out due to illness, with Deane Smalley making a recovery from a dental infection to return to the bench.
The game started with the U's playing away from the travelling fans in conditions that were certainly autumnal, but nowhere near as blustery as many had probably expected considering the forecast of gale-force winds. A scrappy first 5-10 minutes ensued in which neither side could seem to make the ball stick to feet, instead opting for lots of early throw-in practice as the ball seemed to bounce in and out of play.
It was the home side who offered the first strike on goal after nine minutes. Damian Scannell dragging his shot wide past Ryan Clarke's left post from some twenty yards. The U's then enjoyed a five-minute period in which they managed to retain the ball well and fashion a chance of their own. Peter Leven's ambitious shot from the half way line swirling high above Victoria Road, however failing to trouble the Daggers keeper who did well to pick the ball out of the floodlights.
It was on 16 minutes that Dagenham fashioned the best chance of the game by that point. Femi Ilesanmi crossing the ball to Jon Nurse who headed narrowly wide from eight yards. Nurse again came close four minutes later as his shot from six yards smashed into the side netting, but he failed to beat Clarke at his near post.
The game fell quiet in terms of chances for a period as the sound of the referee's whistle played out around the ground. The soundtrack of numerous offside decisions and mistimed challenges. Just before the half-hour mark Damian Batt received the first caution of the game for kicking the ball away following a mistimed challenge from Simon Heslop before the visitors were awarded a free-kick of their own on the edge of the Dagenham penalty area. The resulting set piece however was snatched by Chris Lewington in the Daggers goal.
United then sliced through the home side's defence as Robert Hall burst past Scott Doe to cross the ball into the penalty area where James Constable fired over from close range. The move later being adjudged to be offside by the referee's assistant, but with United clearly beginning to find their stride.
United then continued to enjoy a period in the ascendancy as they pressed forward. First Simon Heslop's half-volley from eighteen yards was saved well by Lewington, before a low Paul McLaren free-kick into the area found its way to debutant Hall who slammed the ball into the net on 41 minutes. The U's team mobbed the West Ham loanee as the travelling Yellows fans' chants rang around the ground.
The two sides went in at half-time with the visitors much the happier, having had several good chances on goal and a well taken strike from Hall.
Half-Time: Dagenham 0-1 United
The second period started much in the same vein as the first, as both sides enjoyed spells of possession, but without managing to fashion a clear-cut chance on goal. 'Come on you Yellow's' echoed around the ground. The 420 strong away following doing well to drown out the ever present drum beat coming from deep within the heart of the home terrace that flanks the whole of one side of the ground.
Josh Payne replaced Simon Heslop in the 57th minute, sparking the second-half into life.The visitors enjoying time on the ball in the Dagenham half, with the U's midfield stroking the ball between them beautifully and frustrating the home side. This frustration finally boiled over in the form of a foul on the edge of the Dagenham eighteen-yard box. Peter Leven's free-kick sailing over the bar and into the U's fans.
It was then the turn of the home side to have a spell of possession. In the 66th minute substitute Brian Woodall did well to meet a cross from the left side but fired over from no more than three yards. This began a period of end-to-end play in which United almost found a way through the Daggers defence, and the Essex side continued to press in the opposite direction. Neither side could however find the breakthrough, but the pace of the game had certainly been turned up a notch. Alfie Potter wriggled past several defenders in the 72nd minute but his shot on goal rocketed against the bar and bounced out of play for a goal-kick.
Just 90 seconds later the former Havant and Waterlooville man was once again left ruing a missed chance. This time the Dagenham keeper smothered his shot and forced the ball out of play. United were now moving forward in a pack, with Potter seemingly involved with every onslaught on goal. The best of these coming from a left-sided cross from Potter which narrowly missed the outstretched foot of Deane Smalley just inches away from goal.
With eight minutes left on the clock the game began to slow slightly. The U's did well to soak up the little pressure created by the home side and Clarke made a fine diving save from a Sam Williams header. This effort providing the perfect rehearsal for an even better save to come five minutes later. Clarke leaping to his right and tipping the ball away impressively.
Three minutes of stoppage time passed without alarm as the U's picked up their first away win of the campaign and left the field to the rapturous applause of the yellow army who sang loud and proud all night.
This was a thoroughly entertaining match in which United played the ball round with confidence. It was a rounded performance in which the visitors fully deserved all three points and sent the travelling fans home very happy.