Sunday, 14 March 2010

Dreaming spires

Rola-Cola Sponsored English League Two
Rochdale AFC 1 - 1 Lincoln City FC

Journey

Although I am a foreigner, I am intensely proud of this town, woe betide anyone who pokes fun at Rochdale while I am around.  But I am not so patriotic that I am blind to the plight of the place.  Two World Wars, a depression, numerous recessions and a heapin helpin of Mrs. Thatcher's economic theories have kicked the stuffing out of the place.

Amidst the signs of decline there is one place that reminds you of what the town once was.  The Town Hall.  It comes from a very different time.  A time when Rochdale was a white hot bed of industry.  A place where the very latest technology was developed, used and exported around the world.  In it's day it was like Sillicon Valley.  People made money here - big money.  Granted, the workers were paid in buttons, children knew the value of keeping their head's down and making it to 40 years old was rare - but this was a go ahead place on the cutting ege of technology - and to express this spirit, the town fathers splurged big time on the Town Hall.  It is a statement of what those bearded old duffers believed about Rochdale, set into stone:  We are going places!

Now, it looks a bit, well, out of place against a backdrop of neglect and horrible town planning decisions.  It's so big, so ornate, so... well just - so.  A friend of mine was visiting from the colonies a few months ago - I showed him the Town Hall - the best he could manage was 'WOW'.  

As the mills and engineeing works were flattened and tarmac'd over, claiming benefits became a rare growth area, the best and brightest moved and the go ahead spirit ebbed away - the Town Hall stood as a silent reminder of what this place was about, once upon a time.  Down the years, under the massive stone spire of the Town Hall clock the people of Rochdale may have occasionally daydreamed that the boom times would return .  Sadly, the Town Hall couldn't help.

As I drove up Sandy Lane today, four spires reared up above the trees.  Not stone, but steel - topped with halogen lights.  Under them just over 3000 of the towns folk of Rochdale have stopped their daydreaming.  The dream is becoming real.  That message, set into the stones of the Town Hall by those bearded old fella's is on the loose again: We are going places!

Weather

Cold and grey.  Rochdale weather.

Food   

On the minutes today so I didn't even manage a coffee.  In any case, I am on a diet.  The wife has been very clear on this point.

Away Support

Maybe 100, probably less.  As the Imp's are lurking just above the drop zone, the incentive to make the long trip north was probaly not too strong.  Those who did cheered like mad un's.

News

Dawson/off.  Our Craig's new contract has brought a flurry of new interest.  Swansea made a final bid of £750k in mid week, only to see it turned down.  But interest has only intensified, there were so many scouts at Spotland today I thought I was at a jamboree.

Ticket shmicket.  Accrington away.  All Ticket.  Crazy.

About Keith.  I didn't hear about it until Wednesday lunchtime - but as you will now know, Macc's manager Keith Alexander died suddenly on Tuesday night.  He was a passionate football man who lived and breathed every second of every game - and returned the opposing fans banter with interest - and a smile.  He will be sorely missed.

Action

Your team for today:

GK: Fielding
Def: McArdle, Dawson, Stanton, Kennedy(T)
Mid: Jones, Kenndy(J), Toner
For: Atkinson, Dagnall, O'Grady
Bench: Arthur, Wiseman, Flynn, Thompson, Taylor, Obadeyi, Higginbotham

After a succesful experiment with 4-3-3 at Macclesfield (albeit a bit fortunately) Dale continued with the succesful formula today.  An injury to Scott Wiseman would give Rory McArdle a rare opportunity in the somewhat unfamilliar right full-back berth.  Popular loan signing Will Atkinson would be making his swan song in black and blue this afternoon before his return to Hull.
  
Dale started brightly.  Atkinson created a predictable amount of trouble for the visitors defences, Dagnall and O'Grady combined well to create the first serious effort of the half requiring a smart intervention from Pearce to avert early disaster for the Imps.

At the other end, perennial League Two journeyman, Drew Broughton, went about his grim business.  His physical presence caused real problems for the Dale defence and earned Broughton his first 'that's your last chance' chat with Mr. Foster.  He would go on to have half dozen similar chats - but no matter.

Lincoln sought to contain, stifle and close down - they did a very effective job, Rochdale struggled to wriggle out of the men of Lincolnshire's straight-jacket.  On 27 minutes the strategy paid a huge, unexpected divided.  The Imps pressed to the edge of the Dale area, crisp passing had the Dale defence baffled and sprang Chris Herd free.  He had opened the scoring at Sincil Bank - a tidy, placed finish today saw the on loan Aston Villa man repeat the trick .  1-0 Lincoln.

Dale responded.  Dagnall, O'Grady and Dawson all had good chances to peg the visitors back, but sharp work from Rob Burch in the Imp's goal meant that Dale would go into half time in the unusual position of being behind.

In a half of few incidents, punctuated by a lengthy study by Lincoln into just how long a freekick or throw in could be dragged out, there was one moment of drama.  Dawson challengend for the ball in the Lincoln area and landed awkwardly with an Imps defender on top of him.  He stayed down.  The Spotland faithful held their breath.  A flotilla of scouts turned ashen and lunged for their mobile's.  Eventually Dawson got up.  A little groggy, but ready to carry on.  You cannot harm him with conventional weapons.  He is Awesome afterall.

Mr. Hill's half time pep talk was clearly pretty much to the point.  Mr. Foster got things going again and Dale roared forward.  Within seconds Dale had won a corner, seconds later players and fans alike howled as Mr. Foster declined a cut and dried penalty claim for blantant hand ball.  

Lincoln reeled as Rochdale powered forward.  Toner almost pounced, but once again Burch intervened.  Atkinson had a free header, Burch to the rescue again.  O'Grady and the Kennedy brothers also weighed in with efforts on goal - but poor direction failed to trouble the mercurial Burch.  Lincoln held firm and Mr. Foster was lenient beyond reason as the Imp's attempted to run the clock down at every opportunity.

Higginbotham joined the assault on the Lincoln goal on 64 and perhaps it was that extra injection of pace and trickery that finally undid the Imps.  On 70 minutes Dale equalized.  

A clever flick on from O'Grady found Dagnall in the box, back to goal and hemmed in on all sides by Lincoln defenders.  From what seemed a hopeless position, somehow he turned and unleashed a shot.  Lincoln's Joe Anderson may not remember, or may prefer to forget what happened next.  Whatever the case, with the aid of a meaty deflection off the Lincoln man the ball was in the net.  1-1!

Dale pushed for a winner.  Higginbotham and Dagnall having the best efforts although neither troubled Burch.  A mixture a full blooded defending and judicious dawdling saw Lincoln to full time with the scores tied.

As the clock wound down, Drew Broughton had the last of his 'last chances' and Mr. Foster finally got his yellow card out.

Speak Your Brains

Your cast for today: Mr. Keane, Keane jnr, Me and a father and son who we shared a table with in the Dale Bar.

  • Bournemouth won today - Dale stay six points clear with a game in hand over the men of Dorset.

  • Credit to Lincoln - time wasting aside - a resolute performance and a point well earned.

  • Craig Dawson picked up a yellow card today - nothing odd about that you might say?  It was the first one of his professional career.

  • Mr. Foster was genuinely poor.  Failed to control the game in any measure.  His handling of Broughton's antics was hysterical - when the card was finally produced, ironic applause rang out around Spotland.

  • We played an informal game of 'Dale One Downmanship' with our table mates.  At Owd Trafford, fans 'One Up' each other: I saw Best and Law play, I was at the Champions League final(s) etc.  At Spotland - it seems to work the other way round:  I was there when we lost 7-1, I remember watering cans on the shirts  etc, etc, etc.  The more tragic and humiliating the tale - the better.  Dad won.  He missed one of the wins in 73-74 due to work.  There were only two that season. 

  • In spite of being held to a draw at home, the atmosphere in the Dale Bar felt like Rochdale had just won.  No doom, no agonising, no recriminations.  The result of a specific game doesn't seem to matter anymore.  The end result is what counts now.  According to Mr. Keane's calculations - 11 points from 12 games will do the trick.  Under the dreaming spires of Spotland - we are going places.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I thought that Dawson's yellow card came in the Rotherham match when he rugby tackled Le Fondre on the half way line just as Le Fondre looked like he may run free on goal. Was quite pleased that Dawson had it in him to take one for the team.

REM said...

Soccerbase failed me - you are quite correct. A good story - just a week late ;-)

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