Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Dagenham & Redbridge 2-4 Bristol Rovers (League Two)

The Oumare Show: Tounkara nets brace on first Gas start

Oumare Tounkara was the star of the show as Rovers romped to victory over Dagenham & Redbridge to rise up to 13th in the League Two table. The French forward's brace along with a departing strike from midfield sensation John-Joe O'Toole and a smart finish from Danny Woodards sealed 3 points for John Ward's men. Despite Medy Elito and Jake Reed scoring for the hosts, the game never looked in any doubt for Rovers after going 3-0 up inside twenty minutes.

There were changes to the starting line-up as Joe Anyinsah and Eliot Richards were replaced by Fabian Broghammer and Oumare Tounkara for his first start for the club. There was also an enforced change minutes before kick-off as goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall injured his ankle and was replaced by young deputy Conor Gough. Ironically the custodian made his Gas debut on the final day of last season in the same fixture. The last thing he would have wanted was to be troubled too early in to proceedings and his team-mates ensured that didn't happen. Just 4 minutes had passed when O'Toole broke the deadlock in the final appearance of his 3 month loan spell. The ball manoeuvred to the energetic midfielder inside the 6 yard box and he swivelled to fire home with his left foot. The perfect parting gift from one of Rovers most successful ever loan signings.

It didn't stay at 1-0 for long though as 60 seconds later Tounkara doubled the advantage. He had looked lively from the off and the Daggers defence were clearly struggling to get to grips with him - this prompted a poor back header from Scott Doe that allowed Tounkara to nudge the ball beyond the onrushing Jonny Miles and tap home. He ran straight for the Gas dugout to celebrate and it clearly meant a lot to him that he has been given a chance to play football with the club. Rovers continued to look threatening on the attack and a mere quarter of an hour later we put a dagger through the heart of our hosts. Danny Woodards, who dishearteningly broke his leg in this fixture last May, finished off a slick passing move by sliding the ball under Miles deep inside the penalty box. Rovers were looking stylish and in complete control although there was a sense that Gough's performance in the following minutes would dictate how comfortable we'd be in the remainder of the game.

He made a couple of good routine saves to deny Ben Strevens but he was to be beaten minutes later. Strevens' original close-range effort was saved by Gough but Elito ensured the rebound was forced over the line for 3-1. The aim at this point was to ensure we remained solid until half-time, something we achieved relatively comfortably. The second period began with more equality in possession but little in the way of goalscoring opportunities. A couple of wild efforts by the home side flew high and wide before Rovers began to fashion some shots on Miles' goal. Tounkara and Broghammer tested the Tottenham Hotspur loanee but the fourth goal we craved wasn't forthcoming... until the 70th minute. A shocking kick from Miles was met with a cushioned header from Ryan Brunt in behind the final Dagenham defender that allowed Tounkara to stride forward and unleash a half-volley that flew in off the post. He enjoyed the moment in front of the 500 travelling Gasheads and soaked up the praise of his team-mates. Wayne Burnett, caretaker manager of the home side, saw his troops force a second consolation through Jake Reed at the far post but little else to get too excited about. The game ended with little else to report although substitute Tom Hitchcock tried his very best to assist Tounkara in his quest to hit a hat-trick but it wasn't to be.

John-Joe O'Toole - a Rovers hero
It was an away smashing and there's no better feeling than that. Gasheads shook O'Toole's hand as he approached the away end and everybody pleaded with him to sign a contract with us. He smiled as he enjoyed the plaudits he was receiving but didn't give an answer - we can but hope. Nick Higgs will firstly need to get Ward signed up long-term and then get his chequebook out to sell a permanent move to the midfielder after agreeing a fee with Colchester United. Oumare Tounkara's performance up front was electric, he was unplayable at times, and that bodes well for the future. A partnership with Brunt looks like it could be very fruitful indeed as his presence freed a lot more space for his fellow forward and that can only be a good thing. He will impress other clubs with further good performances but we took a chance on him and hopefully we can offer him a package to keep him long-term. We move on next to Saturday's game at the Mem with relegation-threatened AFC Wimbledon, our penultimate home fixture of the season.

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