Daggers profit from strike pair

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The Independent Football

One of the keys to success in the Nationwide Conference championship race is to find not one but two prolific strikers. Rushden & Diamonds did so last season, when their front pair of Duane Darby and Justin Jackson hit 42 league goals between them.

This term Dagenham & Redbridge are the team to catch at the top of the Conference, and they hope they have found a forward partnership to strike fear into their title rivals. The east London club's attack is led by Mark Stein, who once cost Chelsea £1.5m, and the experienced Ken Charlery.

Stein started the season with the Daggers, while Charlery was recruited earlier this month from Boston United. The 36-year-old former Peterborough and Barnet player wanted to leave the Lincolnshire club, who are one of Dagenham's main title rivals, for domestic reasons.

"It must have hurt Boston that we have signed him," Garry Hill, the Daggers' manager, said. "He's a proven goal-scorer and a real handful for opposing defences." Hill is also full of praise for Stein, who has hit 12 goals already this season.

"He has scored quality goals," Hill said of the former Luton and Stoke striker. "They have made the difference between drawing and winning games." Stein's latest strike came on Monday, when his late goal gave Dagenham a 1-0 win at Dover Athletic. After further fixtures in the Conference on Tuesday and Wednesday, Hill's men are five points ahead of second-placed Margate and six ahead of Boston United, who are third. The fourth-placed side, Nuneaton Borough, are already 10 points adrift.

"There are still better things to come," Hill, whose side took Charlton Athletic to a replay in the third round of the FA Cup last season, claimed. "We're excited, we're putting other teams under pressure, but we're not getting carried away."

Boston United moved to replace Charlery by recruiting the Northern Ireland international Phil Gray on loan from Oxford United this week, but his debut for the Pilgrims was not a personal success. He was sent off in Wednesday's 2-1 home win over Morecambe.