Thursday, 25 March 2010

Now that's what I call music

Rola Cola Sponsored English League Two
Accrington Stanley FC 2 - 4 Rochdale AFC

Journey

At some ungodly hour this morning 180 Rochdale fans set forth for Accrington - on foot.  It took me almost one second to decide that I wouldn't be joining them.

I would drive.  30 mins tops - mind you parking is a bit of a trick around the Crown Ground - so I set off early.  At 13:15 hrs I saddled up and headed over the hill.

30 mins passed.  In the midst of a vile tempest, I was sat in a traffic jam.  Granted quite a lot of Dale fans were making their way to Accrington - 1600 tickets sold -  but this seemed excessive.  I passed an accident - pretty minor - a few bent bumpers - but this wasn't causing the delay, although it did slow things down a bit.

45 mins passed.  Still tipping down - now completely stationery.

75 mins passed.  Another accident - on the other carriageway.  The whole carriageway was closed.  I won't describe what I saw.  If you saw it, you know what I mean.  If you didn't, you don't want to.  Sobering.

The closure on the dual carriageway combined with the roadworks that girded the approaches to Accrington meant that I wouldn't get to the Crown Ground until 15:10.  Having negotiated the disgruntled lady who handed out the press passes - 'are you gonna blame me for the traffic as well!' - I hot footed it to my seat - slipped on my headphones - apologised to the listening public and Mr. Culshaw, felt grateful to be there at all - and commenced my semi-informed wittering.

I should have walked.  I really should.

Weather 

Daffodils outside Aldi, cold, windy, pouring down - it must be spring again.

Food

The Stanley burger.  A work of genius.  Big burger, cheese, fried onions, choice of sauces - £3.  I had to wait until halftime to get my laughing tackle around one - but it was worth the wait.  About that diet...

Ground

The Crown Ground will probably never win any beauty contests - it is basic at best - but it has charm in spades.   The uncovered away end was packed to over flowing with boisterous Dale fans, the other end was manned by the formidable 'Stanley Ultra's' - complete with a drum and lungs like barrage ballon's - they sang solidly for an hour, bouncing up and down like angry Zulu's.  A good old fashioned derby day.  To add a touch of 'jumpers for goalpost's' to the scene, a knot of boys had clambered up a mound of earth behind the away end - to watch the game for free.  Marvellous.

News

Told you so.  Craig Dawson.  League Two Player of the season.  As if there was ever any doubt...

Not out.  On Boxing day 2007 I wrote my first report.  This is my 100th.  Sincere thanks to both of my readers - I couldn't have done it without you.  To mark a solid rather than spectacular century, the nice folks at Evilscheme - http://www.evilscheme.co.uk/ - have done me a fancy new site banner.  Enjoy. 

Action

Your team for today:

GK: Fielding
Def: Wiseman, Stanton, McArdle, Kennedy(T)
Mid: Taylor, Jones, Kennedy(J)
For: Dagnall, O'Grady, Thompson

Bench: Arthur, Dawson, Flynn, Holness, Toner, Obadeyi, Higginbotham

Dale have enjoyed a good deal of success against Accy since they rejoined the Football League.  Five good wins and a solid draw.  What the scorelines failed to reflect is that most of those games had been pretty close affairs with Stanley giving every bit as good as they got - and on most occasions being pretty unlucky to be on the wrong end of the scoreline.  Then they went and did it - a composed, well planned performance at Spotland in October saw the 'little team that could' finally get their just reward.  What it meant was that this tie was far from a gimme.  Accy have promotion aspirations of their own.  Today would be tough.

On a pitch that had a lot in common with a ploughed field, Mr. Salisbury got things underway...

I could describe the first half in detail - but I won't dwell on it too much.  Accy were pretty much on top from the off Dale had plenty of defending to do - Taylor proved to be the linch pin of the rear guard - Symes could and probably should have opened the scoring but for sharp reactions from Fielding, Kenndy(J) had Dale's best chance but spooned it over the bar from six yards, .

Even if I had wanted to elaborate, I couldn't.  Whenever anything interesting happened an elderly lady jumped up in front of me and remonstrated with players and officials alike.  I had a good view of the back of her coat - but not much else.

As I munched on my illegal half time burger, two familiar faces appeared through the crowd: Mr. Keane and Keane jnr.  Not odd in itself - other than that we were in the Main Stand.  He had finally arrived 30 minutes into the game having braved the traffic - and been put into the Main  Stand because they couldn't squeeze another soul into the away end.  Having reflected briefly on a pretty poor first half for Dale, he disappeared off in search of the legendary Stanley Burger.    

Rochdale started the second half far better than they had left the first - but just as it semed Dale were getting the upper hand - Stanley struck.  With the Rochdale back line's offside trap in disarray Billy Kee deftly slipped the ball through to Symes,  Fielding advanced, Symes didn't flinch.  A cool, placed finish did the rest.  1-0 Accrington.

Four minutes later all seemed lost.  Billy Kee once again did the damage - his inch perfect pass found Miles, once again Fielding stood no chance.  2-0 Accrington.

As Mr. Culshaw summarised the goal I quietly prepared myself for the worst.  There was surely no way back now.  Dale had barely got into the game and now they were 2-0 down.  Damage limitation at best from here on, I thought.

Gary Jones would have no such defeatism...

Two minutes later he popped up in the six yard box to turn in O'Grady's low cross.  2-1!

Within moments, Thompson seemed to have equalized from close range - only for the linesman's waving stick to rule it out.  A heartbeat later Gary Jones popped up on the edge of the area - his drilled shot deflected wildly leaving Accy's keeper, Bouzanis, cursing.  2-2!

The fightback was on.  Three minutes later, an actual fight was on.  As best as I can understand, Taylor and Symes had a bit of a roll on the ground - some punches were thrown and both saw straight red cards.  I wish I could tell you more - but I was looking at old lady coat.

Minutes later, a very strange half got stranger.  From 2-0 down - Dale took the lead.  Dagnall's shot was charged down, Higginbotham swept in and tee'd up O'Grady for his twentieth of the season.  2-3!

Accrington were reeling.  What had been a pretty traumatic few minutes was about to get much, much worse.  Bouzanis attempted to clear up field, the ball hit Dagnall in the kisser and flew into the path of Higginbotham.  With Bouzanis miles out of position, Higginbotham had a quick look and let fly from just inside the Accrington half.  Bouzanis looked devastated, Higginbotham looked delighted.  2-4! 

Mr. Salisbury blew his whistle to bring matters to a close on the most extraordinary 45 minutes of football I have ever seen - including the bits which were mostly coat.

Speak Your Brains

Your cast for today: me and 1600 delerious Dale fans.
  • Bournemouth lost - Dale are now 11 points clear.
  • 2-0 down to 2-4 up - now that's what I call a comeback!
  • You have got to feel sorry for Accrington - they had done everything right - John Coleman will be having nightmares about this one for months.
  • Gary Jones.  Right man, right place, right time.
  • Kallum Higginbotham.  Only scores two kinds of goal: Crucial - Dagenham, Outrageous - Crewe and again today.  The boy is back to his best.
  • As I left the Crown Ground I passed the away end - hundreds had stayed behind and they were singing:  'AND NOW YA GONNA BELIEVE US!  THE DALE ARE GOIN UP!'.  Now that's what I call music.    

Sociable