City 0, Dagenham 2

Dagenham received a glass memento before the game to mark their first visit to Valley Parade - and for the next 90 minutes the Essex side were given a cast-iron assurance that they will be coming back next season.

City's generosity extended beyond Mark Lawn's pre-match presentation. The team then proceeded to make the visitors feel just as comfortable on the biggest stage they had seen in their fledgling Football League lives.

As one of the Dagenham players wearily walked up the Sunwin Stand for a local radio interview, he stopped halfway to catch his breath and beamed: "This feels like going up the steps at Wembley."

I suspect that is one pleasure that is beyond the Bantams now. Every other week we write them off as play-off outsiders; the following week they bag another three points and it's still mathematically alive.

But - as Stuart McCall grimly admitted - with his team's inconsistency, the sort of winning run needed to gatecrash the top seven is beyond them.

Five times now City have won two league games in a row and they are still looking to make it three on the bounce.

McCall, well aware of the anticipation bubbling up from the Rotherham game, had warned that Dagenham were dangerous.

All the signs were there for the sort of classic anti-climax that Valley Parade patrons have become so used to down the years.

Dagenham don't win points for style. They are big, muscular and battle for everything.

With two wing-backs complementing the three no-nonsense centre halves, City's widemen could not expect to make hay as they had done against the Millers four days earlier.

In particular, City had to be wary of Dagenham's menace at set-pieces. The first evidence of that came after 15 minutes when an inswinging corner picked out Mark Arber at the back post. He should have side-footed his side in front but instead, as defenders can do in that situation, swished fresh air. But the warning sign was ignored.

City had fizzled out as an attacking force. Omar Daley, especially, was a passenger, as McCall pointed out with an animated lecture with the Jamaican during a lull in play.

The midfield, where the energy of Kyle Nix was preferred to Tom Penford's flair after Eddie Johnson fell ill, found themselves up against it trying to deal with Dagenham's central trio.

Dagenham were growing more adventurous and Jon Nurse nearly cashed in on TJ Moncur's inexperience but Ben Starosta baled his team-mate out in the six-yard box.

Glen Southam fired across goal as City struggled to clear the danger but the goal was coming - and predictably it arrived from a set-piece.

The handball decision against Nix was harsh; fans close to the action claim it hit the midfielder's shoulder. But the free-kick gave Dagenham the perfect chance to exploit their height advantage and Arber eluded marker Moncur to bury Peter Gain's cross.

The 166 travelling fans were ecstatic. Earlier on, they had amused the home supporters with a cheeky rendition of "Is that all you get at home!" But now it wasn't so funny.

Dagenham, flying on the back of four straight wins, sensed more success against their lethargic hosts. Arber's shout for hands in the box was waved away; then Ross Smith glanced a header just wide.

It was chalk and cheese compared with Tuesday and the half-time whistle could not come quick enough.

There was an immediate scare at the start of the second half as Southam clipped the outside of the post but City were thankfully displaying a sense of purpose that had been absent before and, as they began to crank up the pressure, the crowd came to life.

Nobody was trying harder than Joe Colbeck, who saw two shots charged down in the melee of bodies in the Dagenham penalty area. Paul Heckingbottom saw one dangerous cross cleared from under the bar then another went unrewarded when Peter Thorne should have scored.

Penalty shouts for pushes on David Wetherall and Colbeck were both ignored but at least City were having a go.

With 20 minutes left, McCall threw caution to the wind and brought on both Willy Topp and Barry Conlon. Ben Starosta and the anonymous Daley made way as City switched to three at the back, with Topp given a roving role just behind the front pair.

McCall's substitutions at Notts County, when he took Topp off, proved pivotal. This time Topp had only been on two minutes when it looked like another inspired switch.

Arber's contact with Topp in the area was minimal, if at all, but the Chilean fell down clutching his face and referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot.

Given that the home side had already been knocked back three times with stronger penalty calls, particularly a first-half block on Nix, it looked a case of evening up from the official. McCall admitted afterwards it was a soft decision.

Arber was understandably furious but, when the protests had died down, he had a quiet but decisive word with keeper Tony Roberts. With experience comes wisdom and Arber correctly predicted which way Conlon's spot-kick would go.

"I've played against Barry before when he's taken penalties for Darlington, so I had a pretty good idea," he said.

"It got what it deserved because it was never a penalty. I'm honest enough to admit if there was a challenge and I didn't touch the lad.

"If Bradford had scored that we could have got beaten because the crowd would have been right behind them."

Instead, it was Dagenham who got the lift from the keeper's save, with Arber making sure by hurling his body in the way of Alex Rhodes to foil the winger's attempt to tap home the rebound.

City still had one more great chance after the excellent Shane Huke lost his footing to leave Colbeck with a clear run.

Colbeck did everything right as he rolled the cross invitingly into the six-yard box for Conlon but Anwar Uddin got to it at the same time and his presence did enough to pressure the Irishman into hurrying his shot wide.

City sensed the game was up - and it was within a couple of minutes. Scott Griffiths galloped down the left flank and Ben Strevens ghosted in to the near post to claim his 17th goal of the season.

Heckingbottom flashed a loose effort into the Kop in one late flurry but the Daggers had well and truly put the knife in.