Burton Albion supporter Luca Gallone, 14, was at Wembley last month to report on the Coca-Cola League 2 Play-Off Final for The Football League website, having won the trip as part of The Football League's Junior Reporter competition. Here is his fantastic match report of Dagenham & Redbridge's triumph over Rotherham United.


Dagenham & Redbridge 3 Rotherham United 2

Sunday 30th May 2010

Coca-Cola League 2 Play-Off Final

Wembley Stadium

Attendance: 32,054

Scorers: Benson 38' (Daggers), Taylor 39' (Millers), Green 56' (Daggers) Taylor 61' (Millers), Nurse 70' (Daggers).

Former non-league minnows Dagenham and Redbridge plunged a knife through the heart of Rotherham United in a pulsating League 2 Play-Off Final at Wembley which saw the Daggers, dubbed 'a pub team from Essex' by their fans, beat the odds to achieve the unthinkable, and gain promotion into League 1.

In a match which ebbed and flowed with emotion as Rotherham fought back to draw level twice, the victory was sweet indeed for Daggers boss John Still and his battling players. But no-one, surely, could have been more pleased than Paul Benson, the man who struck the first goal to put the Daggers 1-0 up.

Let go by Southend, he started playing park football, scoring 60 goals in 30 games. "I played there with my brothers," said the never-say-die striker who soon found himself back in a league team thanks to Still's impressive scouting operation.

The former Conference side has built its team on little more than £10,000, hard graft and an ability to pick up players of Benson's calibre from nowhere for next to nothing.

The Daggers top scorer said: "I don't see this as proving Southend wrong. I see this as getting my head down and working hard. Some players are released by clubs and give up. The beauty about football is that it's all about different opinions."

Today Benson is preparing for life in League 1, facing the likes of Charlton and Southampton, while Southend have dropped into League 2.

He has achieved that by hard work and a superb attitude. The kind of attitude that all young players should aspire to and which John Still has built his League 1-bound team upon.

"No-one comes into our club unless they are one of us. You have got to be a Dagger. How we're going to do next season I really don't know. But the philosophy of the club won't change. We won't spend £1 if we only have 10p. We don't pay ridiculous wages. It gives us satisfaction to have built a team on £10,000. It's amazing what you can achieve when no-one wants to take the credit."

That philosophy has certainly worked wonders. It's hard not to have a soft spot for a small club like Dagenham who have most definitely done things the hard way.

There are many more amazing stories in that Dagenham team that helped produce a game brimming with action from end-to-end, goals galore and a result which proved that money doesn't always buy success.

The Daggers took the lead three times in this thrilling contest. But no sooner had they struck through Benson, they were pegged back within a minute when Ryan Taylor, who before the game had not scored all season, headed home for Rotherham.

A low drive from Danny Green put Dagenham back in front before Taylor again levelled.

But it was left to Barbados international Jon Nurse to claim a deflected winner with 20 minutes remaining.

You may have expected players to be a bit nervy, or show some edginess in a game like this, especially in the opening minutes, but none of that was apparent. Both sides set the tone for the rest of the game as it started at a blistering pace.

Dagenham had the better of the opening exchanges. Millers' stopper Andy Warrington was soon called into action, palming away a cross-cum-shot from Daggers' highly rated wideman Green.

Rotherham, however, responded like a raging bull, and forced four chances in a spell of pressure.

A corner was headed narrowly wide by Pablo Mills, and Taylor's deft glancing header bounced agonisingly wide of the far post, with Daggers' keeper Tony Roberts well beaten.

The lively Taylor nodded another chance wide and Roberts held a third header.

With the Millers on top, they were almost gifted a goal, when there was a mix-up between goalkeeper Roberts and striker Josh Scott from a corner to the near post. The ball flicked the forward's back and came back off the outside of the post. All this and barely 20 minutes gone.

Dagenham replied and Warrington had to show a masterclass in goalkeeping to keep out two excellent efforts from the Essex side.

Frenchman Romain Vincelot tried a tremendous overhead kick on the half hour from Abu Agogo's floated cross, and it was only an equally audacious point blank save from Warrington that kept out what would have probably been the goal of the season.

And just as it looked as if Kevin Ellison was about to put through Millers' 30-goal top scorer Adam Le Fondre up the other end, a last ditch tackle won the ball back. And on the counter attack Rotherham skipper Ian Sharps clumsily brought down Scott 20-yards from goal in a central position and was booked.

Dead ball speacialist Green struck a cracking low and hard shot which Warrington saw very late but he still managed to get down and produce a superb save yet again.

You could just sense the goal coming for the Daggers, and it came on 38 minutes thanks to the prolific Benson.

Damien McCrory'slow cross from the left wasstraight into the feet of Benson, who was gifted far too much space by Rotherham's defence, and he punished them by turning on a sixpence and finishing brilliantly, firing a low shot past Warrington.

The Dagenham fans were celebrating the goal that put them ahead, but their joy was short lived as the Millers equalised only a minute later.

Rotherham winger Kevin Elllison received a throw-in and his cross on the half volley from the byline was met at the near post by Taylor as the striker notched up a deserved goal.

The Daggers lost there concentration, but Still's brilliant philosophy comes through again in these situations.

"Emotion kicks in after you score. Probably you get a bit too high. But if you are a Dagger you will overcome that," said Still.

His carefully selected players evidently proved for sure that they are Daggers, as he would find out for himself later on in the game.

Almost surprisingly, in this crazy end-to-end contest, there were no further notable events in the final five minutes plus stoppage time and the half ended with the scores level at 1-1, probably a fair reflection of a cracking 45 minutes of football.

Dagenham retook their lead 11 minutes into the second half.

Green took on Millers' fullback Gavin Gunning, who he'd teased all afternoon, and hit a rasping low drive from the right corner of the box that travelled beyond the outstretched hands of Warrington and into the far corner. The 33-year-old keeper may be disappointed he didn't get down quicker to block Green's shot.

Rotherham should have been level just four minutes later when a good low cross from Nicky Law found Danny Harrison at the back post - he didn't know too much about it - but the ball bounced onto the top of the bar.

Ronnie Moore had his head in his hands but his side put that behind them and almost imediately levelled.

Law cut the ball back for Taylor, who took a touch before confidently stroking the ball home for his second goal of the game, hauling Rotherham level for a second time.

He ripped his shirt off in celebration as he basked in the moment with the Rotherham supporters, earning himself a yellow card in the process, maybe excusable only because of the occasion, but still, however, a stupid thing to do.

This showed great character from Moore's side, and he genuinly believed that the Millers' would go on to win the game from that point.

"It just wasn't our day today. When we got back to 2-2 I honestly thought we would win. I feel gutted. It's a horrible feeling at this moment," said the distraught Millers' boss after the game.

But Still's Dagenham have a tremendous spirit and never-say-die attitude, and winger Darren Currie, who was an unused sub in the game puts it all down to just that.

"Considering where the club's come from today's achievement is amazing. It's down to team spirit," explained Currie.

And that Daggers' spirit shone through in the end as, with 20 minutes left on the clock, they found a winner.

A Green corner fell to Nurse, and although he didn't make the connection he would have wanted to, it took a deflection off Ellison which helped it past Warrington.

A fifth goal in a exciting end-to-end absorbing game, certainly the scrappiest of the lot, but it doesn't matter how they get there.

No-one would have blamed the Daggers if they just sat back from then on, but to their credit they went in search of a fourth goal to really kill the game off.

Benson had a great chance to seal it, but he didn't realise the time he had, and tried the spectacular with an overhead kick when he had a virtual open goal with Warrington stranded.

Rotherham did still pile on the pressure in the final minutes, afterall, they had to.

The heroes of Dagenham and Redbridge stood up to the task and defended bravefully and manfully.

Daggers' fans all around the ground could sense it. They were on their feet. It was their day. It was Dagenham's day.

All Millers' late pressure came to nothing, as Dagenham held on through four tense minutes of stoppage time.

To read Luca's account of his special day out a Wembley click here. 

The Junior Reporter competition forms part of The Football League's 'Fans of the Future' campaign which aims to attract more young fans and families to watch live football and start a lifelong passion for the game.

Click here to find out more about the competition

The Football League - Junior Reporter Competition