Two years in charge for Daggers boss Burnett
17:00 26 February 2015
Dave Simpson/TGSPHOTO c/o 27 Plaiters Way, Braintree, Essex, CM7 3LR - Editorial Use ONLY - FA Premier League and Football Leagu
Wayne Burnett was handed the role as interim manager on February 26 2013
Two years ago today John Still left Dagenham & Redbridge to take over then Conference Premier outfit Luton Town and assistant manager Wayne Burnett was left to pick up the pieces.
Burnett was appointed interim manager until the end of the 2012/13 season and tasked with keeping the Victoria Road club in the Football League.
He managed that, only just, as Daggers lost to York City on the final day of the season but stayed in League Two on goal difference after Barnet lost 2-0 to Northampton Town and took the final relegation spot.
Daggers and Burnett have come a long way since then and a major restructure of the first team squad and the youth set up has taken place.
And as Burnett approaches his 100th competitive game in charge of the club this weekend at Mansfield Town, we look back at some of the highs and lows of his reign over the past two years.
The era after Still started with a tricky looking match at Bradford City, who had just lost 5-0 in the Capital One Cup final days earlier.
Burnett and his players gave the Bantams a guard of honour before kick-off at Valley Parade, but were unlucky not to leave with three points after Luke Howell’s 69th minute opener.
A header from James Hanson four minutes from time earned Phil Parkinson’s team a draw. The point would be a crucial one for Daggers, though, as they remained in the Football League following a dramatic final day.
What followed during the summer of 2013 was some astute transfer by Burnett as former West Ham United youngster Zavon Hines was signed and Rhys Murphy, who started his career at Arsenal, was also brought in.
The pair were hugely successful as Murphy scored 13 times and Hines contributed eight goals during the campaign as well as producing various assists.
Daggers started the season slowly – winning just one of their opening six fixtures before they recorded five victories during September and October to suggest a promising season was on the horizon.
They also pulled off a couple of stunning results in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy by thrashing Colchester United and Southend United by three goals.
Peterborough United did knock them out in the Southern section quarter-finals, but positivity remained at Victoria Road.
Results remained up and down, but following the relegation scare the previous season a mid-table finish would be a welcome boost.
And an impressive unbeaten run through March, despite losing key players Murphy and Hines to injury, gave Daggers small hope of reaching the play-offs.
But defeats to Wycombe Wanderers and Portsmouth extinguished those dreams. A win at Cheltenham Town on the final day of the 2013/14 campaign did ensure an excellent ninth place finish for the club.
After such an encouraging season hopes were high for the current campaign and a plethora of talent moved to Victoria Road in the summer to suggest a play-off push could be possible.
Experienced veteran Jamie Cureton signed alongside the likes of Ashley Hemmings, Ashley Chambers, Joss Labadie and Damian Batt.
But the absence of Murphy and Hines through injury and Elito departure to Holland meant a poor start to the campaign with the new signings failing to gel immediately as well.
Back-to-back victories at the end of August gave renewed hope, but three consecutive defeats hinted that this wouldn’t be another comfortable season for the club.
Two brilliant goals from non-league recruit Ade Yusuff offered joy in October with a 2-1 win at Accrington Stanley, but a tendency to concede late on had crept into Burnett’s team.
A disappointing FA Cup exit to Conference Premier Southport followed in November and before Daggers home meeting with Carlisle United on November 22, pressure was mounting.
But a stunning display of attacking football followed as Chambers inspired Daggers to a 4-2 victory and they followed that up by making three loan signings that would be crucial.
Central defender Ayo Obileye joined from Charlton Athletic, forward Alex Jakubiak signed from Watford and left-back Joe Widdowson joined from Bury.
The latter has now made his switch permanent, but Jakubiak and Obileye have been important players in helping Daggers move away from the relegation places.
Obileye, in particular, has become a huge favourite with the supporters and formed an excellent partnership with Scott Doe in recent weeks.
Daggers lost to Burton Albion 3-1 last weekend, but were on a five-match unbeaten run before that and all the signs point towards them surviving this season.
Burnett hasn’t always been the most popular person amongst the Victoria Road faithful, but there have been plenty of ups and downs over the past 24 months.
Ahead of his hundredth match in charge of Daggers this weekend he boasts a record of 29 victories, 27 draws and 43 defeats in all competitions – the 6-6 tie with Brentford in the JPT this season was included as a defeat following a 4-2 shoot-out exit.
He has brought several talented players to the club during his tenure in charge and helped the development of various youngsters too with Jodi Jones the next to emerge from Daggers promising academy, which has been awarded category 3 status under the Governing Bodies Elite Player Performance Plan.
They are 14 matches remaining this season and it seems likely Burnett will steer the club further and further away from the relegation zone and he’ll hope to mark his milestone match with a win at Mansfield.
Top goalscorers under Burnett’s reign:
14 - Rhys Murphy
12 – Abu Ogogo and Jamie Cureton
11 – Medy Elito
9 – Luke Howell
8 – Zavon Hines