FOOTBALL: Whitehawk 2 – 3 Dagenham & Redbridge – Long Live the FA Cup!

Dagenham & Redbridge win in extra time in a 2nd round replay to go through to the 3rd round of the FA cup to face Everton at Goodison Park.

With the magic of Christmas and the legendary magic of the cup in the air, surely there is nothing stopping Whitehawk from winning the game. Well, there is the fact that Whitehawk are a semi-professional club in the 6th tier of English football and Dagenham and Redbridge are a professional club in the 4th tier so the odds are against Whitehawk, but the magic of the cup is all about pulling off an upset.

The first match between these two ended 1-1 at Dagenham & Redbridge’s home ground which meant that the reply would be at Whitehawk’s home ground in front of a very passionate crowd of Whitehawk fans who absolutely played their part as the 12th man. This was a huge match for Whitehawk as it is the furthest they have ever got in the F.A cup and they had a real chance of going even further with a tie away at Everton awaiting them had they qualified for the 3rd round. What this match meant to the fans was reflected in the party-like atmosphere and the attendance (normally Whitehawk receive 200-400 fans for a match, last night the attendance was 2,174), and it was broadcasted live on BT Sport.

Drums were pounding, flags were waving and fans were singing throughout the match, and that positive atmosphere created a sense that Whitehawk always had a chance of winning. It was clear early on that the fans’ passion had transferred to the players as Whitehawk started much the better team, winning most aerial battles, second balls, creating the most chances and generally working harder. They even got the first goal in the 32nd minute from a Danny Mills header, which sent the fans into raptures not only because of what it meant but also because you could sense it coming. Whitehawk deserved to be beating a team that was two divisions above them, crazy stuff.

I began to hear talks of how great it would be for Whitehawk to beat Everton in the 3rd round and get a home tie for the 4th round, the fans had begun dreaming. Then a bizarre substitution took place for Whitehawk minutes before half time. Steve King, the Whitehawk manager, believed that one of his players was injured and needed to come off. The player, centre back Dean Leacock, signalled that he wasn’t injured but the referee ruled that the decision could not be overturned and he had to come off. Leacock was livid that in a match this important he was being taken off for no real reason. Then of course, Dagenham & Redbridge equalised right before half time with one of their very few chances, it was a real kick in the teeth for Whitehawk.

Nevertheless the fans kept up their jubilant spirt into the second half and carried on making plenty of noise, the Whitehawk players responded to this and continued to look like the team that wanted it more, but it was Dagenham and Redbridge that took the lead in the 77th minute through Kyle Vassell, it was a case of the bigger teams taking their opportunities.

Even going behind couldn’t stop the fans from getting behind the team and even though the Whitehawk players began to look tired, they found a way to get an equaliser in the 88th minute, cue delirious celebration and flares going off. The match was going to extra time and hope was still very much alive.

However, during extra time fatigue looked to have got the better of the Whitehawk players. Dagenham and Redbridge began to create the better chances and in the 100th minute Dagenham and Redbridge regained the lead. There were glimmers of hope late on for Whitehawk, Dagenham and Redbridge had a man sent off for a second bookable offence in the 125th minute (cheerio, cheerio, cheerio) and then Whitehawk had a goal ruled offside. But they were unable to find a second equaliser and the match ended 3-2, with Dagenham & Redbridge progressing to the 3rd round.

It was still a great occasion and game, the Whitehawk fans are an eccentric bunch and they do not encourage abuse towards the officials with one of their chants being “The referee is a referee”. Furthermore, when there is a free kick or a corner they get their keys out and rattle them because it is a “key moment” in the game, clever no, funny debatable, but good spirited absolutely . This game proved that the F.A cup still has meaning and is far from dead. Long live the F.A cup and Whitehawk F.C.

By Luca Van Dresh

The Verse Staff

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