Dagenham and Redbridge 2, Port Vale 3
THREE first-half goals made sure Port Vale will start the new year at the top of League Two.
Tom Pope, Jennison Myrie-Williams and Louis Dodds were on target in a comfortable victory at Dagenham and Redbridge – Vale's eighth away win this season.
Pope grabbed his 23rd goal of the season after just four minutes and Myrie-Williams doubled the advantage after nine.
The Daggers pulled one back with a hotly disputed penalty from Sam Williams, but Dodds rattled in a superb volley before half-time and though Scott Doe hit a late consolation, the visitors were able to celebrate going top of the pile for the first time this season.
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There was one change to the team that beat Rotherham on Boxing Day with Calvin Andrew replacing skipper Doug Loft, who missed out on a return to his former club.
With Ashley Vincent having failed to recover from a stomach bug, it meant a 4-4-2 line-up with Andrew surprisingly used on the left of midfield.
Kevin Maher went close for Dagenham after just three minutes with a volley from 20 yards that Chris Neal did well to deal with.
But it was Vale who surged ahead just a minute later. Adam Yates launched a long throw from the left and John McCombe got up to beat keeper Chris Lewington in the air, giving Pope the chance to nod home his 23rd of the season from close range.
The news got even better when the visitors surged two up after nine minutes. Dodds's intelligent
through ball released Myrie-Williams, who had acres of space to run into before sliding his shot beneath Lewington and into the net.
If things were looking comfortable at that point, they were less so after 18 minutes. Dagenham surged forward on the break and Williams was sent tumbling on the right of the penalty area by a challenge from McCombe.
The assistant on that side of the pitch signalled a penalty and the spot-kick was awarded despite furious protests from the Vale players. Williams picked himself up to send Neal the wrong way from 12 yards and it was game on again.
Pope was sniffing again when he had a header from a Ryan Burge corner shovelled behind by Lewington and Andrew, whose aerial presence was causing a problem for Dagenham, had a header deflected just over.
So Vale fully deserved their third goal and what a cracker it was. Sam Morsy's ball from midfield after 39 minutes found Dodds, who had been given far too much space on halfway. The forward surged into the Dagenham half and unleashed a stunning volley which flew past Lewington in goal.
Luke Wilkinson stabbed just wide as Dagenham looked for a quick start to the second half, but Vale were almost further ahead after 51 minutes when Pope's header from a Myrie-Williams cross had to be headed off his own line by Scott Doe.
Neal did well to reach a Spillane chip which was heading for the top corner of Vale's net, but both Pope and Myrie-Williams squanderedchances to increase the lead still further.
Substitute Brian Woodall's header was cleared off the line by Richard Duffy before a long ball from the left on 83 minutes found Doe in space and he rattled his shot from 10 yards past Neal to reduce the arrears.
Dagenham and Redbridge: Lewington, Ogogo, Wilkinson, Doe, Ilesanmi, Spillane, Maher (Caprice, 73), Howell, Elito, Scott (Woodall, 66),Williams. Subs not used: Seabright, Wakefield, Reed, Hoyte, Bingham.
Port Vale: Neal, Duffy, McCombe, Chilvers, Yates,
Myrie-Williams (Taylor, 79), Morsy, Burge, Dodds, McDonald, 87), Andrew, Pope. Subs not used: Johnson, Shuker, Williamson, James, Lloyd.
Referee: D Phillips (West Sussex)