The fact Dagenham & Redbridge have reached the Vanarama National League play-offs is “incredible” according to boss John Still while Forest Green Rovers’ top scorer Christian Doidge will be fit for Thursday’s clash.
Rovers travel to Dagenham for the first leg of their play-off semi-final after both teams finished their preparations on Saturday with a draw.
The Daggers finished fourth, two points behind Forest Green, despite suffering a host of injuries throughout the season and vying for an immediate return to the Football League.
That resilience has delighted Still, who was thrilled with his side for reaching the play-offs. He said: “When we think of where we were in early season when we only had 14 players in the squad, to have done this with all of the injuries that we have had this year. I think it is absolutely incredible that we have managed to do it.
“When I sat down with my management team at the start of the season we wanted to make sure that we would stay in the league because we didn’t bank on certain players being as good as they have been this year.
“We didn’t bank on Craig Robson being able to play well in defence and the centre of midfield, we didn’t bank on players like Joe Widdowson and Frankie Raymond having to play out of position and also having a player like Matt Robinson breaking his leg and being out for so long.
“We have only had Curtley Williams play about ten games this season and Fejiri Okenabirhie has also picked up injuries so adding all that up it makes it even more remarkable what we have achieved.”
After losing in the play-off final at Wembley last season to Grimsby Town, Forest Green would have hoped to be promoted as champions under new manager Mark Cooper this time around. However, after a promising start, a damaging late defeat at home to Lincoln City in November swung momentum and Rovers failed to keep up with the pace.
They’re winless in their last three games albeit Cooper has rotated his squad in recent weeks with the play-offs in mind, and he took the positives from Saturday’s draw at York. “It was a good experience ahead of the play-offs,” he said.
“It was a loud atmosphere and that’s what it’ll be like on Thursday.These are all good tests for us going into the Dagenham games.
“The play-offs aren’t a lottery but you need a little bit of luck and it’s about who performs on the day. We’ll need to perform over three games to hopefully get the football club into the Football League.”
One notable absentee from Saturday was striker Doidge, who has scored 25 league goals this season, but Cooper confirmed it was only as a precaution.
He said: “Christian has had a bit of a stiff back. We couldn’t take any risks with him, and Kaiyne Woolery twisted his ankle in training on Wednesday. Charlie Cooper took a knock last week too so we’ve just been a bit cautious with him as well.”