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Leigh taught early Conference lesson

Leigh RMI 1 Dagenham/Redbridge 2

THE size of Leigh RMI's task to make any impact in the Nationwide Conference was ruthlessly rammed home by fellow newcomers Dagenham & Redbridge.

An efficient, if unspectacular, performance by last season's Rymans League champions was enough to take all three points against a disappointing RMI.

Leigh's new-look side will need time to gel but unless they learn to defend better and finish with more accuracy, it could be a long, hard battle to stay above the relegation places.

Defending set-pieces was RMI's biggest short-coming. Twice they conceded goals from corners, always looking ill at ease whenever the ball was whipped in from the flanks.

Up front Tony Black worked tirelessly against a physically stronger back four. But whenever he did find himself with a sight of goal, ex-Wales goalkeeper Tony Roberts was almost unbeatable.

In contrast at the other end, another ex-Welsh international, Dave Felgate, had a less happy afternoon, twice being beaten coming for corners he didn't reach.

Another area of concern for manager Steve Waywell will be in midfield where the game largely by-passed the likes of Clayton Blackmore and Ricky Harris.

But overall Leigh's main problem was keeping hold of the ball and making good use of it when they did.

They just invited trouble and after clawing it back to 1-1 after an hour, they threw the chance of a point away 10 minutes from time.

It could have been a different story had they managed to convert two half chances inside the opening four minutes.

A long throw was flicked into the box by Ged Kielty and Black's header was brilliantly turned aside by Roberts. Moments later the keeper rescued the Daggers again when he produced a double save from Black and Kielty.

Dagenham quickly pushed RMI on to the back foot and came close to levelling when a 20-yard free kick from ex-Manchester City and Middlesbrough midfielder Mark Brennan flicked the outside of Felgate's left post.

But the opener wasn't long in coming. A communication breakdown between Iain Swan and Felgate resulted in needless corner being given away and Brennan's accurate flag kick saw Mark Keen rise above Felgate to make it 1-0.

Although RMI had strong appeals for a penalty turned down it took the Leigh side the best part of an hour to find any fluency.

The breakthrough came just after the hour when Harris threaded a pass into the area for Steve Jones whose trickery ended with a clumsy challenge from Ashley Vickers. Black smashed the spot kick home with some authority.

The alarm bells should have been ringing in the RMI rearguard when Matt Jones blazed over an unguarded goal and Brennan's volley flashed over the top.

But 10 minutes from time the Daggers struck again when an in-swinging corner committed Felgate who was beaten by a Lee Matthews header.

Black twice brought smart saves from Roberts late on but the three points were on their way back to Essex.

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