Match Report: Dagenham & Redbridge 0 - 0 Town
The Hatters kept themselves in the race for the final Play-Off place in League 2 with a battling 0-0 draw at Dagenham & Redbridge despite being reduced to 10 men late in the first half.
Striker Paul Benson, on his return to Victoria Road, was shown a straight red card seven minutes before half-time for a high challenge on Ian Gayle.
That hindered the Town’s chances of going for all three points and after the break the Town were indebted to a series of excellent saves from goalkeeper Elliot Justham to deny home forward Jamie Cureton.
The Hatters came close to snatching victory with Elliot Lee twice going close but the Town and John Still had to settle for a point which leaves them three points off the Play-Offs with just three games to go.
The Town began showing two changes to the side that lost to Burton on Saturday with Jonathan Smith and Ryan Hall starting in the place of Jake Howells and Alex Lawless.
And winger Hall could have had the Hatters in front inside the first 15 seconds when he raced onto Benson’s flick to poke a low shot just wide of the post.
Three minutes later the hosts’ evergreen striker Cureton engineered a sight of goal by himself only for Elliot Justham to read the situation and deny the veteran forward.
The Hatters’ veteran striker Benson then came close to putting the Town ahead on seven minutes when he stretched his neck to guide Hall’s left-wing corner goalwards but Daggers defender Luke Howells cleared off the line.
Dagenham got a foothold in the game after that chance but the Hatters were forced into a change shortly before the half-hour when Nathan Doyle limped off injured and was replaced by Shaun Whalley.
A classy touch from the dangerous Cureton saw the striker fashion a chance out of nothing but his low shot only found the side-netting.
Whalley’s introduction had given the Hatters some much-needed impetus and he was presented with a decent chance to put the Town ahead on 32 minutes. Elliot Lee skipped past two challenges before unselfishly supplying Whalley in the box but the winger slipped at the vital moment and screwed his shot wide.
With the game still goalless the Town’s task of winning an important three points were made more difficult by Benson’s red card seven minutes before the break. As the ball bounced up by the dugouts, Benson’s high boot caught Gayle and referee Sheldrake pulled out a red card.
A man down the Hatters were almost a goal down when play resumed when Matt Partridge’s low shot flashed across goal when any touch from a team-mate would have left Justham stranded.
John Still made a change at the interval, bringing on Luke Guttridge for Hall as the Hatters went in search of the breakthrough but the hosts should have taken the lead on 53 minutes when Cureton broke clean through on goal following Stephen McNulty’s error but Justham stood tall and pounced bravely on the ball at the striker’s feet to snuff out the chance well.
The Hatters were struggling to create any chances on the break and they had Justham to thank on 58 minutes when Cureton got the better of McNulty to blast a shot goalwards that the Town keeper had to parry away to safety.
As time ticked down the Town needed more threat going forward and Still hauled off Whalley with 24 minutes left and replaced him with Mark Cullen.
Four minutes after his introduction Cullen helped tee-up Lee to fire the Hatters’ first chance of the second half but the striker’s curling first-time shot whistled just over the bar.
As the Hatters upped the ante, backed by their 875 supporters behind the goal, Justham saved again from Cureton before Lee then forced home keeper Mark Cousins into his first serious save of the game on 71 minutes when he kept out Lee’s curling free-kick from 20 yards.
The Town continued to probe in search of the opening goal and Cullen’s flick released Lee down the left with 15 minutes to go but the West Ham striker’s effort flew over the crossbar.
As time ticked down it was the home side that pushed forward in search of a winner and Ashley Hemmings’ low shot from the left was deflected over by Michael Harriman in his own six-yard box.
Two added minutes were added at the end of the 90 but neither side could find the breakthrough and the Hatters had to settle for a point.
Town: Justham; Harriman, Griffiths, McNulty, Wilkinson; Doyle (sub Whalley 27 (sub Cullen 66)), Smith, McGeehan, Hall (sub Guttridge 46); Benson, Lee.
Subs not used: King, Lacey, Howells, Cullen, Guttridge, Kinsella.
Attendance: 2,461, including 875 backing the Town.