This Week in Football by Ivor Heller

What an exciting Christmas period it has been in League 2 and what a great week of FA Cup 3rd Round fixtures we have to look forward to this weekend.

It’s fair to say that a lot of teams set up their 2nd half of the season by what happens over the Christmas period, and what an exciting run of games we have just had.

In my last blog I had pretty much written off Dagenham & Redbridge saying the bell had “started to toll”. I couldn’t have been more wrong! They’ve appointed a new manager in John Still who has said that coming back to the club is like “putting on his most comfortable pair of slippers”. He’s a fantastic manager for Dagenham and they’ve won their last two games. All of a sudden Yeovil and York are taking up the bottom two spots and Dagenham have closed the gap on Hartlepool and Newport, who are now looking straight down the barrel of a gun. They have been dragged into a proper relegation fight, which is very exciting!

To top this off for Dagenham they face Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday in the FA Cup 3rd Round — Fantastic! They’re going to need some money to strengthen that fight. In the third round you get roughly 50% of the gate. With hopefully 35–40 thousand people watching the game, Dagenham can come away with enough money to get the two or three players that they need to stay up. I think Dagenham will get clear of the bottom three soon.

Taking a look at the other big winners over Christmas and there are very few clubs that have managed to put together a good run. Notably only Plymouth won all three of their games. With Bristol Rovers, Oxford and the mighty Dons winning two and drawing one, what a great Christmas period we have had!

At the other end of the scales Luton have sacked their manager and not appointed a new one yet. They lost 2 and drew one of their last three, you wouldn’t have bet on them having such a bad festive season. The only teams in worse form at the moment are Hartlepool and Exeter, both losing 4 on the spin.

The thing that struck me with Exeter (we beat them on the 28th away from home) was the way their fans are behind their club. This is an absolute credit to them and it’s clearly not just about winning. I thought that was a fantastic experience and exactly what a football club should be about. The atmosphere was amazing, their fans stayed behind the team right the way through, even to the point where you could clearly see they weren’t going to win the game.

On that note, I’d like to wish all clubs from the lower leagues who are still involved in the FA Cup an awful lot of luck at the weekend. For those with big games against Premiere League and Championship teams, go do the division proud. In particular Exeter, who have drawn Liverpool at home, we nearly did it and we wish you luck for that.

You could quite easily blame Exeter’s poor form on them being distracted going into face Liverpool on Friday. To me hosting Liverpool last year was the most exciting individual match that I’ve been involved in as a director of the club.

The build up to our Liverpool game was fantastic, the air of excitement at Exeter should be palpable, you should be able to feel it in the club all of this week. The only problem they have is that they have lost their last 4 matches on the trot. No matter what you try to do that cannot be good. Exeter play great football but, they are quite a small side and not great defensively. We out-muscled them last week, and if we out-muscled them then I’m sure Liverpool will be able to do the same. Having said that, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they get a draw. Good luck to Tisdale he’s a good manager, he’s been there for 10 years and he deserves his moment in the sun.

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