Friday, 5 March 2010

The ballad of Chris O'Grady

Rola Cola Sponsored English League Two
Rochdale AFC 4 - 0 Rotherham United FC

Journey

25th January 1986.  It was a Saturday.  Three elf faced Norwegians had just gone to number one in the charts with a song about a lack of curtains in their mum's front room's.  As a result  I developed a brief fascination with hair gel and ripped jeans.  But more importantly, in a hospital somewhere in Nottingham, a baby boy named Christopher James made his debut appearance for the O'Grady family.

If this was a real profile thingy - on telly 'n that - we would cut to a montage here.  Chris's dodgy school photo's and dodgier holiday photo's intercut with bits from popular TV show's of the time - Power Rangers would definitely be in there - voiced over by Johnny Vegas and concluding with a picture of young Mr. O'Grady holding a plastic trophy aloft on some wind blasted playing field, whilst grinning like a mad un.  Fortunately this isn't TV.

In 2000 he started training with Leicester City and having got his feet under the table signed on as a pro at the Crisp Bowl in 2003.  Between 2003 and 2007 he was a bit part player for Leicester - although he did score against Inter Milan in a pre-season friendly.  And so he began to walk the earth.  A loan spell at Notts County (including his first trip to Spotland) and a long loan spell at Rushden (and to a lesser degree, Diamonds) kept the young striker out of mither.

When Rotherham United rolled up to the Walkers Stadium in early 2007 waving a fist full of cash, he was on the move again.  Things started well.  He would hit the back of the net 13 times in a season and a half for the Millers.  And then it all went wrong.  Rotherham took a spin through the administration car wash and offered Mr.O'Grady the exciting opportunity to work without pay.  He declined, the fans took umbridge and he rapidly found himself heading along the M62 to Oldham.

His wanderings continued: from there he went out on loan to Bury, and Bradford, and then Stockport all with little success - he finally washed up at Spotland last August.  Nerves around Spotland were still raw after the departure of Mrs. LeFondre's little boy to Rotherham - few expected much from the nomadic striker.  His debut - ironically against Rotherham, where he endured 90 minutes of boo's and sundry abuse - gave little clue of what was to come.

The rest you already know.  Tonight Rotherham and Adam LeFondre are back in town...

Weather 

Blue skies and sunshine during the day gave way to a dark, cloudless and above all freezing night.   Mr. Culshaw and I seemed to have had the same idea - wear everything you own.  We looked like Tinky-Winky and Dipsy.  Naturally, I was Tinky-Winky. 

Food

No thanks.  I'd had a big tea.

Away Support

Loads more than Bradford.  That should put the cat amongst the pigeons.

600 - maybe a few more.

News

Taking your ball in. Ronnie Moore has taken his ball in - and by 'ball' I mean Jason Taylor and by 'in' I mean refusing to let him play for Dale tonight.  How popular were you at school Ronnie?

Hurry up and wait.  Fielding not selected to play in some England U21 game - meaning he can play for Dale tonight.  Which is nice. 

More Awesome.  Dale heart throb Craig Dawson sign's an extension to his contract until 2012 - the week after media legend Stuart Hall announced on Radio 5 Live that our Craig will play for England one day.  Then a man in a bee costume ran on carrying a bucket of red water - which spoiled things a bit.

...and the winner is!  PFA League Two player of the month for February 2010.  Chris O'Grady.   

Action

Your team for tonight:

GK: Fielding
Def: McArdle, Stanton, Dawson, Kennedy(T)
Mid: Jones, Kennedy(J), Toner
For: Atkinson, Dagnall, O'Grady

Being a Dale fan, the words 'top of the table clash' and 'promotion six pointer' haven't figured heavily in my vocabulary down the years.  But this was just that.  Add in a slightly unconvincing win over Macc at the weekend - courtesy of Mr. O'Grady's boot and about fifteen deflections, the return to Spotland of Mrs. LeFondre's little boy and an undoubtedly warm reception for our Chris from the away fans - and you have a very exciting prospect.  Two good sides, both vying for promotion, one goal either way could be enough to extend Dale's lead at the top of League Two - or catapult Rotherham into the automatic promotion berths.  What is it real football journalists say - oh yes - 'It's too close to call here at Spotland, now back to the studio for some more sleaze about John Terry'.  

In plummeting temperatures, Mr. Tanner lit the blue touch paper and retired to a safe distance.  Rotherham ploughed into the Dale defences, seemingly intent on wrapping things up in the first ten minutes.  Their best chance came when Jaap Stam look-e-like-e Kevin Ellison smashed a shot goalward - only to see it flash wide of the goal frame.

Dale were fighting a stubborn rear guard against a pacy, powerful and unswervingly determined Millers outfit.  Just when it seemed that the pressure might crush them, up popped O'Grady on the Rotherham left.  As he has done so many times this season, he drove to the byline, turned his man, and flashed a cross into the box.  Dagnall may have been guilty of profligacy on Saturday - not this time.  1-0 Dale!

Dale could have been two to the good moments later - but Warrington in the Millers goal pulled off a fine save to deny Dawson's header.  Rotherham retaliated immediately forcing three hastily improvised saves from Fielding in a matter of minutes.  In each case Fielding was almost undone by the ball swerving freakishly in the cold air or bouncing erratically off the uneven surface.

It was genuinely end to end stuff as Rotherham poured forward seeking an equaliser and Dale parried and counter attacked.  A hatful of chances presented themselves to both sides - but Dale maintained their lead and had probably the best chance to trouble the scorer when Tom Kennedy's late free kick was acrobatically fended away by Warrington.

At half time Mr. Culshaw and I were briefly joined by Mr. Sharples from the Dale Player commentary team.  He made a prediction: 'If Dale score again, they will score a lot more'.  In the tradition of wild eyed, mystic type folk he promptly disappeared into thin air*.

The second half started much as the first had - but Dale made the running this time.  A sequence of corners culminated in a powerful volley from Jones which cleared the Sandy.  Rotherham roared back.  Harrison's long range effort through the crowded area had Fielding at full stretch to deal with it.  From the resulting corner Fielding misjudged and LeFondre's header seemed destined for the back of the net - but Atkinson somehow interved and hacked the sometime Dale favourite's effort off the line.

Moments later Jason Kennedy came close to opening his account for Dale - but good defending and tame shooting meant his wait would continue.  Rochdale were well on top by now - but a second goal eluded them, until Chris O'Grady picked up he ball on the Dale left, romped to the byline and drilled the ball across the face of goal.  In point of fact, there wasn't a Dale player within yards of the ball - but Gavin Gunning flapped.  His mis-cued clearance cannoned off Green and past a helpless Warrington.  2-0 Dale!

Maybe it was simply the second goal, maybe it was the manner of the second goal - but Rotherham collapsed.  Moments later Dawson rose above the crowd to meet Tom Kennedy's corner and once again Warrington was undone.  3-0 Dale!

In spite of receiving a seemingly endless stream of abuse from the away fans, Chris O'Grady had pretty well run the show for Dale tonight, Sharps, Fenton and later Gunning had endured a pretty miserable evening trying to mark him, he had created two of Dale's goals - there was just one thing missing...

With sixteen minutes to go he sprung the Millers offside trip, foxed his floundering marker, picked his spot - and passed the ball into the net.  He may have grinned in the direction of the rapidly departing away fans.  4-0 Dale!

Atkinson, O'Grady, Jones and Dagnall all had opportunities to rub salt into the Millers wounds - but 4-0 it stayed.  By the final whistle the away fans had already left.

Man of the match?  Chris O'Grady.

* Actually he went for a brew - but that doesn't sound at all mysterious does it?         

Speak Your Brains

Your cast for tonight: Me.
  • Dale go eight points clear with a game in hand over Bournemouth.
  • Until the second goal, this really could have gone either way.  Rotherham were excellent to that point.  After it they simply collapsed.
  • It was good to see Alfie again, but better to see his little head poking out of Nathan Stanton's back pocket for most of the game.
  • Mr. Sweetmore once again courted controversy - instead of simply announcing the attendance, he had to embelish didn't he!  'The latest team to be footballed to death at Spotland....'  Ronnie Moore appeared to be having a seizure - mind you, so did Keith Hill.
  • A great performance from Ciaran Toner - good to have you back big fella.
  • Craig Dawson picked up his first yellow card for Dale tonight.  Yep that's right - first.
  • The sun always shines on C.O.G...

1 comment:

Ken Keane said...

Awful A-Ha pun, but I am guilty of an improptu 'lol' at it, so clearly you've found your level.
Isn't Tinky-Winky the confused one with the handbag?

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