Despite their effectiveness in front of goal, Dagenham have been fluid in their choices of formation lately as John Still tries to strike a balance between attack and defence. Just two clean sheets in the league all season has meant Still has looked at ways to change the way he sets his defence up, and for the two FA Cup ties against Leyton Orient this week he switched from a flat back four to a 3-5-2 in an attempt to offer more solidity when his side don’t have the ball.
A look at the scorelines alone suggests he might have pushed the balance a little too far in the other direction: The Daggers only conceded one goal over the two games, but they also failed to hit the net, which is surprising considering they are the division’s top scorers.
In fact, they haven’t managed to score in their last three games, but they were boosted at Orient by the return of Michael Cheek to the bench. The striker had been out injured since August, when he scored twice in the opening half hour against Bromley, but went off early in the second half.
If Dagenham persevere with three at the back, the added height at set pieces will be a threat. Jake Howells, who will play as a left wing back and possesses good left-footed delivery on the overlap or on set plays, will have targets to aim at: Craig Robson and Kevin Lokko have three goals between them this season, and Scott Doe came close from a Howells corner in their league defeat at Woking.
Lokko is a powerful centre back who relishes scrapping against a direct opponent, but he can be vulnerable when exposed and has picked up yellow cards this season when strikers run at him or behind him. He missed the last league match, having accumulated five yellow cards.
At the other end of the pitch, Dagenham have plenty of pace and strength and, although they like to get the ball down and pass, are happy to stretch play by looking for their forward players early.
Morgan Ferrier is a strong presence, who likes to back into centre backs and turn onto his left, either to lay the ball off or to shoot. While he is naturally able to get into these positions when playing as a central striker, he also looks to get close to the striker when playing wide, in order to pin a centre back.
Another striker comfortable with a starting position through the middle or out wide is the dangerous Cheek. Cheek’s goal-scoring record at Braintree illustrates what a threat he is, and he is capable of operating as a traditional central striker, attacking crosses with his head and surging past centre backs, or cutting in from the right flank, where he can beat men and get shots off, preferably with his right foot – in this sense he’s quite reminiscent of Danny Wright. He can also shoot with his left, albeit less effectively.