Stockport County 2 (Elding 35, Dickinson 37)
Rochdale 7 (Murray 4,53 Goodall 11, Rundle 15 pen, Muirhead 17, 46, Dagnall 89)
Dale team: Gilks, Ramsden, Goodall, Stanton, Perkins, Muirhead, Doolan, Crooks (Turnbull), Rundle, Murray, Dodds (Dagnall).
What a difference a year makes. The previous match at Edgeley Park was staged on a cold, northern Tuesday 14th of February last year. Dale lost 3-0, in what was of the worst defensive displays in League Two history, up there with the 7-1 defeat at Lincoln earlier this season. Dale fielded a side of Gilks, Ramsden, Boardman, McArdle, Gallimore, Jones, Doolan, Cooksey, Christie, Dagnall and Lambert that day, but somehow it seemed that 11 drunks had taken to the field instead, as Stockport ran rings around our bewildered defence. And to top it all off, if I remember correctly, it rained as well. On an away stand without a roof. Oh the joys of League Two football.
The same fixture this year could not have been any more different. The major difference is the managers, and that is about it. Just the managers. Parkin hated wingers. Hill makes them win matches for us. Parkin keeps faith in disappointing signings. Hill sends them off on loan. Parkin had an excuse for even the worst performances. Hill offers no such tokens, instead displaying an attitude of hard-work and belief which runs through the team.
A lot of Dale fans would have gone home happy with a draw today. I myself was expecting a 1-1 or a 2-2, although of course I didn’t offer this as my pre-match prediction. “Two nil, Dale” I confidently said, knowing full well that Adam le Fondre, the player just recalled from loan at Rochdale, was nailed-on to score. It always happens that, doesn’t it? Ex-player grabs glory on return to previous club. Townson, McEvilly, Lambert… there would be more, but most of our released players go to non-league for some reason. Anyway, as I pointed out, we had an ex-County player amongst our ranks too…
And so it was, 5 minutes or so gone and Glenn Murray beats about three guys before slotting it past Wayne “9 clean sheets” Hennessey. 1200 Dale fans jumped up and down in what was obviously the worst stand in the ground. It’s weird Stockport’s stadium. Obviously it’s too good for this league, but it has one Conference style concrete area for scum Rochdale fans like us. But I digress. 1-0 it was, another quick-fire Hill start, a feature that has been welcomed enthusiastically since Keith arrived in December.
By the way, did you like my hill start pun? I made it up myself. No? Oh well, moving swiftly on.
By 11 minutes it was two nil, Alan Goodall, who has been flourishing at centre back, rose to head home a corner from the right hand side. Cue more jumping and cheering and muddled chants. “Der der der der, Alan Goodall”, followed by “Der der der der, sign a contract”, followed by “Der der der der, shoot his agent”. You see, Alan has stalled a bit on signing a new contract, with many pointing to his agent as the main reason. Apparently he thinks Alan is better than us, but on this form, Thierry Henry wouldn’t look out of place in the Dale squad.
Stockport weren’t really playing badly, it’s just that we created loads of gilt-edged chances, and scored all of them. 15 minutes gone and Dale got a penalty, thanks to Wayne “9 clean sheets” Hennessey. A cross looked to have been caught by the Wolves man, but he dropped it David James style and then bundled your-man Glenn Murray over. Clear penalty. Adam Rundle, who isn’t an obvious choice for penalty taker, stepped up for some reason. Deep down inside I knew that we’d miss it, after all, you’d never get three goals in quarter of an hour.
Our third goal flew in after fifteen minutes, although Hennessey did get a hand to it.
There was only one match this season were I recalled the same feeling that I did here. 3-0 up at home to Boston. But this time, we were playing a side worthy of League Two, and on their ground too.
After around twenty minutes, a sort of weird unreal mood crept in, as Ben Muirhead hit one in after a bit of bobbling about in the box. Four nil up, away, against a promotion-chasing County team, after only 20 minutes, with Alfie being recalled. We were bloody marvellous. “Outclassed by the Rochdale”, the away fans sang at various points during the match. Rochdale aren’t meant to do good stuff, we’re meant to be likeable and average.
Then, County made it all a little more believable for us, and kindly took our offer up of two goals, no questions asked. The first was Matt “England’s No. 1” Gilks’ fault, and the second was Adam Rundle’s. That’s better, only 2 goals up at half time, thanks for that Stockport. For the record, the scorers were Elding and Dickinson, who actually both looked lively, but didn’t really get any service as Doolan and Crooks dominated the midfield. Lee Crooks was on particularly excellent form, holding up the ball, playing intelligent passes and generally keeping their guys away from the ball. There’s another contract we should be offering, Crooks, one year, from June.
Half time came and went. Sort of a bit muted. For some reason, our fans went dead quiet, and it felt as though we’d let slip a one goal advantage. But we hadn’t. I wondered if it would have been dampened so if we’d have gone in just two nil up?
Almost straight from kick-off, Ben Muirhead, the right winger on loan from, put any fears of throwing this away into the bin. He volleyed home inside the area beneath a static Hennessey to put us 5-2 up, and surely out of reach. Muirhead has been probably the best loanee this season, only le Fondre and Mocquet have been anywhere near his standard, and we should definitely look to get him permanently, especially seen as Bradford may go down. He’s fast, has skill, and can finish, which is pretty much all you need to succeed as a League Two player. I mean, Doolan has only one of those traits and he’s done alright.
After that, Dale were pretty much cruising for the second half. Judging by their World Cup performance, this was better than watching Brazil. Who needs Ronaldinho when you’ve got Glenn “sellotape feet” Murray? He really has got the best first-touch I’ve seen at Dale since Lambert. In fact, he plays a lot like Lambert, but he works harder, and scores less spectacular goals. It was Murray who scored Dale’s sixth, a slight touch off a Rundle corner. I say slight, it was almost non-existant. Dreamland, 6-2 up away from home. Nothing could make this better, perhaps only a goal from long-term injury victim Chris Dagnall maybe?
With his first touch after coming on as sub for Louis Dodds, bang, Chris Dagnall scored to make it 7-2. Mobile phones were out, taking pictures of the scoreboard, fans chanting “Daggers”, “One Chrissy Dagnall” and “Same old Daggers” all in one go. Amazing stuff.
Best match I’ve seen whilst supporting the Dale, that.
Just for the record, there were five of the team that played in both last season’s drubbing and this season’s drubbing, Gilks, Ramsden, Goodall, Doolan, Dagnall. They can walk with their heads held high from now on.