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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 March 2007, 10:25 GMT
Daggers marksman aiming high
Dagenham and Redbridge
Dagenham & Redbridge striker Paul Benson hopes his meteoric rise will not end until he reaches the Football League.

Benson has progressed from parks football in Essex to becoming the Conference's leading goalscorer in the space of two years.

Now with promotion in his sights, he wants his scoring streak to continue and propel him and the Daggers into League Two as Conference champions.

"That's my dream. When I got released (by Southend) I could have given up, but for some reason I carried on playing and maybe this is the reason," Benson told BBC Sport.

Benson's first hopes of a League career were dashed a decade ago when he failed to make it beyond the youth set-up at Southend.

I was playing that low down I suppose people thought anyone could score goals at that level

Paul Benson on his time at White Ensign
Disillusioned but not totally undeterred, Benson joined two of his brothers at Essex Intermediate League side White Ensign at the very bottom of the non-league football ladder.

"I wanted to give it a little break. When I got released I lost a bit of faith so I played for fun and I enjoyed it so much I stayed for five or six years," said Benson, who gradually banished all hopes of a professional career.

"It was not even a thought that came into my head," he added. "I was not even getting any interest from clubs at Step Five or Six (on the pyramid) saying 'did I fancy playing for 20 a week?'.

"I never had that. I was playing that low down I suppose people thought anyone could score goals at that level."

Not Daggers boss John Still, however, who believed Benson's sheer weight of goals made him a potential Conference marksman.

Still, with an outstanding reputation for spotting talent in the lower leagues, signed Benson on an initial 12-month deal in June 2005.

Four years into a trainee accountancy course in the City of London, Benson swapped pinstripes for the red and white of Dagenham.

"It was a decent living and provided everything I needed at the time but it was not a difficult decision to start playing football," added the 27-year-old.

"I had to take a cut in money but it was not something I could foresee doing for the rest of my career so I was glad this chance came along."

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is back at Dagenham after a spell with Brentford
Not that Benson had it cracked just yet, as his first season involved plenty of time on the bench, just one Conference goal and three months out with a broken leg.

"It was quite a frustrating time to be honest," he admitted. "I was not a regular in the team. Chris Moore and Craig Mackail-Smith were both scoring goals and both playing well.

"The gaffer had explained to me that I would not be starting in the team and I understood that, but it was frustrating and then I broke my leg in the January and that cut off any chance of getting in the team.

"It was a year I knew that I would be learning all the time and that was the case. I said at the end of that season that the next one would be the one when I would start to kick on."

And so it proved, with Benson spearheading Dagenham's promotion charge with 22 goals to date.

With Moore leaving for a spell to join Brentford, the chance was there and Benson seized it with early goals launching a flow which is yet to stop.

"It's nothing I've added to my game. I put it down to getting a good run in the team and getting my confidence up," he said.

"The first goal was massive and then I started to score in consecutive games. I got three in three, my confidence was sky-high and it just went on from there.

"I thought I had got the ability to score goals, although I would be lying if I said it had not surprised me a little bit.

"But it's a nice surprise and it's something I was always hoping for. Now it's happened, I'm happy to take it and go with it."

It would be stupid to blow it now by looking at how many points we might need

Paul Benson
Benson's efforts earned him a contract until 2009 and a first England non-league call-up earlier this month when he marked his debut for the National Game XI with a goal in a defeat by Northern Ireland.

It has already been a phenomenal season for the striker but the best is yet to come if the Daggers can sustain their 10-point lead at the top of the table and achieve League status for the first time.

"It would certainly be a big blow if we threw away all our hard work over the last 13 games," Benson added.

"We have done well up to now and I don't see why we can?t go on in the same way and hopefully get promotion."

Despite relatively limited resources, Still has engineered a winning formula that allowed his side to live with Oxford's early burst and then overhaul Jim Smith's pre-season title favourites.

According to Benson, Dagenham have based their success on ignoring the claims of others and focusing purely on their own efforts.

And with the finishing line in sight, he hopes that policy will help him complete his remarkable journey.

"It's difficult not to look at the league table now, but that mentality has got us this far," he added.

"It would be stupid to blow it now by looking at the teams we've still got to play and how many points we might need. We just have to carry on in the same way."

SEE ALSO
Still calm in Daggers title chase
16 Feb 07 |  Dagenham and Redbridge
Daggers mature at right time
06 Feb 07 |  Dagenham and Redbridge
Benson signs new deal at Daggers
22 Jan 07 |  Dagenham and Redbridge
Boss not staying Still at Daggers
15 Nov 06 |  Dagenham and Redbridge
Benson is focused on Daggers form
11 Oct 06 |  Dagenham and Redbridge
Daggers trio sign new contracts
04 Apr 06 |  Dagenham and Redbridge
Benson is handed deal by Daggers
19 May 05 |  Dagenham and Redbridge


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