A controversial second half winner saw Stevenage fall to a 1-0 home defeat to Dagenham this afternoon in Sky Bet League 2.
With Boro appealing in vain for offside in the 52nd minute –and the linesman standing with his flag raised – Luke Howell’s close range effort was allowed to stand by referee Whitestone and Dagenham eventually went on to take all three points.
After Tuesday’s point at Exeter, Graham Westley named an unchanged side for this one, with Simon Walton and Chris Whelpdale returning to the bench after injury.
Stevenage ended that midweek performance full of confidence and started on top here too, winning a couple of free-kicks after applying the early pressure. Martin’s 20-yard effort cleared the bar and when Lee’s turn and shot resulted in a similar outcome on the quarter hour, it was clear that the pitch would again be playing its part in the game.
Daggers’ first chance of the game came on 14 minutes when Joss Labadie latched onto a clearance, powered his way past Wells into the box but, fortunately for Boro, could only fire into the side-netting.
Both teams continued to plug away but were struggling to break down the respective defences, leading to somewhat of a scrappy half. Charlie Lee had perhaps the best chance of the half for Stevenage when Pett latched onto a ball forward to cross for the striker, but his powerful header flew just over Cousins’ bar.
Dean Parrett was next to go close, bursting onto a neat flick from Lee to advance to the edge of the area and see his shot deflect behind.
Dagenham had the final sighter of the half when Labadie found space 20 yards out to fire in a fierce effort, straight at Day.
Chris Whelpdale came on for Martin for the start of the second half and within five minutes had a chance for a shot just inside the box, but again the pitch thwarted him with a bobble and the chance was gone.
The breakthrough – and what turned out to be the only goal of the game - came in controversial circumstances seven minutes after the break. A ball through the defence for Labadie saw the linesman raise his flag for offside with Boro’s defence awaiting the ref’s whistle. When that didn’t come allowing Luke Howell to tap home Billy Bingham’s cross it caused great controversy as the assistant ref still had his flag up. After lengthy consultation with the linesman and fourth official, referee Whitestone gave the goal much to Dagenham’s delight and Stevenage’s frustration.
Feeling a sense of injustice Stevenage pushed forward and spent much of the rest of the game seeking an equaliser that ultimately never came. However whatever the men in red and white tried seem to result either in a Dagenham block, a wayward effort or loose final pass, as the frustration continued to grow around The Lamex.
Dembele and Wells had to be alert on a couple of occasions as Dagenham threatened to hit Boro on the counter, but soon the momentum was back in the hosts’ favour, helped by some attacking subs from Graham Westley.
In the last 10 minutes alone sub Kennedy saw a shot blocked after a great run and pass from Parrett, Lisbie saw a shot blocked for a corner and Dembele headed over from a Kennedy cross as Stevenage piled on the pressure.
Their best chance for the equaliser came in injury time when an eye-catching run and shot from Andrade was tipped over by Cousins, as Dagenham clung on to record the narrow victory.
The final whistle brought howls of boos from the home faithful, directing their displeasure at the controversial winner. Stevenage’s eight-match unbeaten run is over and there’s now a nine day gap to rest and recuperate until the televised game at Burton Albion.
Stevenage: Day, Henry, Wells, Dembele (Andrade 86), Okimo, Pett (Kennedy 75), Parrett, Keane, Martin (Whelpdale 46), Lee, Lisbie
Subs not used: Beasant, Bond, Walton, D.Johnson, Andrade
Dagenham: Cousins, Doe, Bingham (Patridge 80), Ogogo, Doidge (Cureton 74), Labadie, Howell, Hemmings, Obileye, Boucard, Widdowson
Subs not used: Moore, Chambers, Gayle, Yusuff, Jakubiak
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Attendance: 2,795 (219 away)