Rochdale AFC 1 - 3 Bradford City FC
Things I know about snow: It is cold and it is white - yeah, I know, amazing huh? Every flake is unique - which really just shows that God has way too much time on his hands these days. The land of the fried Mars Bar is under several feet of it and has been for months - kilts are probably unwise at the moment. What I didn't know or had never noticed was what snow does to sound. As I made my way to my car this evening in a swirling cloud of cold, white, uniqueness it occurred to me that it was absolutely dead quiet. I could see cars driving past, dogs running around, youth's casing local houses - all in eerie silence. It was like the whole town had been turned down to 1.
Things got stranger when I hit Roch Valley Way. I arrived at the dip near the waterworks expecting to join a massive queue. Apart from the snow, I found that I was quite alone. Where was the expected invasion of the Bradford massive? According to impartial Bradford sources they brought about 9,000,000 last season - according to the message boards, they confidently expected to bring more than that this time. Perhaps they exagerated? Perrish the thought - It must be the wrong night - that would explain it.
Perhaps not. The snow dancing in the floodlights above Spotland and the trickle of silent, overcoated folks trudging up Sandy Lane suggested it was the right night. Where were the Bradford massive?
As I wandered across the carpark more silent folks padded by, maybe it was just the muffling effect of the snow but they seemed more subdued than normal and without the roar of 9,000,000 (or more) Bantams fans, it really was oh so quiet.
Cold, white, uniqueness - mostly blowing straight in my face.
Well, the predicted invasion from the east may have been over stated a bit - but my trip to the pie queue did turn up one exotic visitor. An American! Yeah, a real live one - outside of America and everything. He was behind me in the queue. He asked what was on the menu. His local guide explained that there was a choice of pies. He repeated the word 'pies' but somehow managed to make it sound like 'intestinal parasites'. Priceless.
About 600 or so at kick off rising to around 1000 as the game wore on. I guess the cold, white, uniqueness on the trip over't thill was pretty heavy. Fair play to the ones who braved the elements. Snow or no snow, they were not quiet.
When I'm calling you. Dale's loanee keeper, Frank Fielding, has been called up to the England under 21 squad for the European Championship qualifier against Greece. Great news for Frank - although it will mean he is likely to miss the Rotherham game next week. Beware Greeks bearing gifts.
Your team for tonight:
Def: Wiseman, Stanton, Dawson, Kennedy(T)
Mid: Obadeyi, Taylor, Jones, Atkinson
For: Dagnall, O'Grady
Bench: Arthur, Haworth, McArdle, Flynn, Toner, Kennedy(J), Higginbotham
After the frolics of El Classico Del Norte at the weekend something a little more sedate was in order. Tonight's visit of Bradford City promised just that. Bradford have had what could be politely described as a disappointing season - including a comprehensive rout at the hands of Rochdale back in December. A good team, a massive fanbase and big aspirations could do nothing to halt their slide into the lower half of the table. After defeat to That Famous Old Club a few weeks ago, Stuart McColl emotionally called time on his tenure at Valley Parade. The arrival of ex-Wycombe boss Peter Taylor into the Bantam's hot seat hadn't improved things much - the weekend had seen a comprehensive defeat to Accrington Stanley. Who are they? I suspect Mr. Taylor knows only too well now.
In the un-natural quiet caused by God's icy handy work, 2000 or so frozen Rochdalian faces (and one American) peered through the swirling flakes in expectation of another convincing Dale victory. Mr. Sarginson got things underway.
In spite of the change of leadership, the Bantams had lost none of their taste for the physical aspects of the game we had seen in this fixture last season and proceded to bludgeon their way forward. Just ten minutes in, their ultra direct approach payed dividends.
From a Bradford corner, Michael Flynn tested Fielding who improvised a save with his feet but as the ball cannoned back out into the melee in the penalty area, Matt Clarke stuck out a foot and via a couple of deflections - the ball arrived in the back of the net. 1-0 Bradford.
2000 voices fell silent - and it was nothing to do with the snow. The thickening blizzard thankfully spared most Rochdalian ears from the worst excesses of the swelling Bantams support's delirious celebrations.
Dale toiled to find a way back into the game but for all their exertions could only summon up an errant shot from Gary Jones and a testing free kick from Tom Kennedy, which was well saved by Glennon.
At the other end, Bradford's energy and tenacity had the hitherto solid Dale defence scampering around like headless chickens. Every forray forward from the Bantams seemed to threaten another goal. Hanson, O'Brien and the mercurial Evans all had chances to tighten the Yorkshireman's grip on the tie. Only wayward shooting saved Rochdale.
Bradford had clearly watched the video's of Dale's performances this season and had correctly deduced that silencing O'Grady was a big step towards silencing Dale. Matt Clarke performed 'the duty' for the Bantams tonight. It was far from pretty and mostly beyond the laws or spirit of the game - but Mr. Sarginson (no stranger to baffling decisions) saw no problem with Clarke's rough housing.
As the first half ebbed away, Clarke made one small mistake. He allowed himself to be distracted by Dagnall. The ball was channelled left where O'Grady found the lighter attentions of Williams much more to his liking. Driving to the byline he outmuscled the young defender and flashed the ball to the near post where Dagnall's recent drought came to an end. 1-1!
The volume went up, Mr. Sarginson indicated the interval and Mr. Culshaw was despatched along with his considerable charm to liberate some hot soup. A three bar electric fire would also have been welcome - but even Mr. Culshaw has limits.
I haven't mentioned the Rochdale Dynamics dance troupe for a while. In truth I am not a massive fan of this kind of half-time frippery. But tonight even I was obliged to applaud. In a swirling gale, with snow bucketing down and little protection beyond a sparkly catsuit and a broad smile the girls strutted their stuff for the huddled masses. Brave as lions.
...And so to the second half. They may have been frozen, but the Dale players ears seemed to be a little warmer when they returned to the field. They immediately set about righting the wrongs of the first period. With the arrival of Higginbotham and Haworth around the hour mark Dale had fuly regained the initative. But in spite of enjoying the majority of possession, tenacious Bantams defending limited Dale to a handfull of authentic chances, Dagnall and O'Grady going closest.
As the final ten minutes arrived and both sides appeared to have settled for a point, Luke O'Brien charged the Dale defences. He slipped two challenges before being unceremoniously dumped to earth by Stanton. Stanton recieved a yellow card and Bradford recieved a freekick on the edge of the area.
Enter on loan Liverpool man, Robbie Threlfall. He'd had a quiet game to this point - not for much longer. He lifted the ball over the wall, it dipped acutely, Fielding flapped, it cannoned back off the under side of the bar and went in off the back of Fielding's head. 2-1.
Stony, cold silence swept around Spotland. Apart from in the away stand - where an impromptu fiesta broke out.
Seven minutes later all you could hear was the sound of feet making their way to the exits. Dale had pushed forward, seeking another equaliser, but to no avail. Bradford countered through the depleted defences at pace. A ball from the left was chested down by Hanson and into the path of Gareth Evans. He didn't even break stride. From twenty five yards he unleashed a shot which arrowed past Fielding's groping hands and into the top corner. 3-1.
The snow had stopped by now and the celebrations in the away stand rang out across the borough long after the players had left the field.
Speak Your Brains
Your cast for tonight: Mr. Keane and me.
- Nice finish from Dagnall.
- That's about it...
- The Dale bar, scene of seething crowds, excited chatter and jovial boasts in recent months was almost empty and oh so quiet.