Shrewsbury 3-0 Rochdale

Shrewsbury 3 (Fortune-West 48, Edwards 65, Drummond 78)
Rochdale 0

Dale Team:
Gilks, Ramsden, Stanton, Goodall, Perkins, Muirhead, Doolan, Crooks (Turnbull 64), Rundle (Reet 55), Murray, Dodds (Dagnall 55).

Dale fan Jan Harwood with this report – the usual editor was learning things in college!

Well what a typical Rochdaleian act of post lord mayor’s showism. No sooner do we spank Stockport for seven and dare to dream of playoff impossibilities then we are brought back down to earth by the large and formidable form of Shrewsbury striker Leo Fortune-West.

Now, I am not a betting man, honest, but for once I am prepared to make a wager and declare that Shrewsbury will be in League One next season, as they were by far the best opposition we have faced in recent times.

Shrewsbury have been building their playoff hopes throughout the season, whilst Dale’s unlikely playoff credentials have emerged in just a few short weeks. In December, when Keith Hill took over at Spotland, Shrewsbury were already aiming high, whilst Dale fans were praying for some semblance of decent football and a few vital victories. Shrewsbury hoped to push on after a good start, Dale hoped for survival; both teams look like achieving their goals.

But ask Keith Hill if Dale’s season ended on Tuesday night and he’ll be quick to say that the last eight games are tremendously important. Immediately after the game Hill’s thoughts had turned to Lincoln this coming Saturday and the need to consign this defeat to history. In effect these next eight games are the first eight games of next season as Dale prepare for a charge at the right end of the table that will begin in August, rather than in March.

Rochdale are now in the entertainment business and they have eight games to entertain prospective season ticket buyers into queuing at the Spotland ticket office in the summer. All managers understand that results are the be all and end all but Keith Hill’s philosophy is a breath of fresh air in the management industry; of course he wants results but he wants those results to come about because of entertaining football; “the best of form of defence is attack” has become one of his catch phrases.

All of which would lead you to believe that this poor performance and emphatic defeat was a flash in the pan against a side that was simply a class above that of a tired looking Dale side; this Saturday’s attempt at the now infamous art of ‘bouncebackability’ will give us the context but for now we just have to hold our hands up and give Shrewsbury a pat on the back.

Rochdale fans, in reasonable number, entered the away enclosure at Gay Meadow for the last time and it proved to be a fruitless final visit but they will have many happy memories of this quaint traditional ground and not many will begrudge Shrewsbury this victory.

The home side dominated the first half but couldn’t take advantage of some entertaining football by converting some excellent chances. It seemed that Dale had used up all of their goal scoring opportunities at Stockport as they were unable to create anything against the well drilled home defence. The home defence’s dominance against a Dale attack that Jim Gannon had declared unplayable at the weekend would have left most Shrewsbury fans wondering just what on God’s earth Stockport had been playing at.

In the second half, Shrewsbury’s bark turned into bite and they were three goals up before Dale finally tested home goalkeeper Chris Mackenzie as he palmed Chris Dagnall’s header superbly onto the crossbar; it was Mackenzie’s only true test of the game.

Fortune-West kicked off the scoring in some style. It was some effort for him to outpace Nathan Stanton but when he lashed the ball over Matthew Gilks from twenty-five yards on the volley it was all the Dale fans could do to applaud a wonderful goal.

Keith Hill doesn’t take defeat lying down, he’d sooner lose three-nil as one-nil, so he introduced Dagnall and Danny Reet immediately to try and kick start the Dale attack; it just so happened that this had no effect other than to stretch the game in Shrewsbury’s favour but no amount of changes in tactics and formation would have done anything to disrupt the Shrew’s rhythm; the home side were as untouchable as Dale have been in some their recent outings.

There were goalkeeping question marks when Edwards nodded Asamoah’s cross over Gilks but the defending was questionable too and the defending was non-existant when Drummond nodded in a corner to complete the scoring.

There were some question marks over Hill’s team selection with the exclusion of Rory McArdle, who might have been better equipped to deal with Fortune-West, leaving Stanton to concentrate on the considerable danger that was Derek Asamoah, but a seven-two win tends to tie a manager’s hand tight behind his back when it comes to team selection.

McArdle will no doubt come in for Saturday when Dale will face a similar attack in the form of Jamie Forrester and Mark Stallard. Chris Dagnall may also start after looking the liveliest of the four Dale strikers used against Shrewsbury.

Like Keith Hill, lets put this defeat behind us and into the history books, and look forward to what should be an entertaining game against Lincoln on Saturday. There’s plenty to be optimistic about with Dale at the moment, just cast your mind back five months and this defeat should pale into something close to insignificance. Decent results against Lincoln and Swindon and all will be forgiven and forgotten.

By Jan Harwood

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