Rochdale 2 (Dagnall 89, Rundle 90+3)
Lincoln City 0
Dale team: Gilks, Ramsden, Stanton, McArdle, Goodall, Muirhead, Doolan, Perkins, Rundle, Murray, Dodds.
Oh yeah! The good times really are rolling at Spotland these days. There’s an air of confidence, optimism and belief amongst the Dale faithful these days. How absurd! After our unbeaten run was ended by a rampant Shrewsbury on Tuesday, Hill’s team really showed the world (or at least the Greater Manchester area) why we are real play-off/promotion material for next season.
And we all thought it would be so different! The Shrewsbury defeat knocked a little sense into the Dale support, and probably the team too. Asamoah and Fortune-West ripped us apart on Tuesday – we weren’t unbeatable after all, despite the chants at Stockport. But if that match showed us anything, it might be that we don’t have to win by a cricket score each match – victories snatched from the jaws of draw-dom are just as enjoyable.
Asking around, the general consensus was a 1-1 or 2-2 draw, for today. Lincoln are a really good side, and to our embarrassment they beat us 7-1 earlier in the season. For some reason, Lincoln never go up, despite having biggish crowds, a decent stadium and an excellent squad. Perhaps they are doomed to lose in the play-offs every year. Chance would be a fine thing!
Rochdale started out with one change from the Shrews match – Lee Crooks, who has been outstanding recently was replaced by McArdle, with Perkins taking up a midfield role, Goodall returning to left-back and the recent international goalscorer McArdle going into his now-familiar partnership with Stanton. Although many point to our extraordinary goalscoring feats recently, I can’t help but feel Stanton and McArdle have been overlooked. They are without doubt one of the main reasons for our good form – after all, all great teams are built on a strong centre-back pair, or so Alan Hansen keeps telling me. The fact that they have recently signed contract extensions fills me with joy and optimism for next season.
It was really windy today. A sort of diagonal wind which went from one corner flag to the other. Dale had the wind behind their backs in the first half, which was as much of a help as it was a hinderence. Most long balls rolled harmlessly into the Lincoln keeper’s arms all the way through the first half.
Anyway, Lincoln showed us exactly why they were in the play-off places – Jamie Forrester. He doesn’t look like your average centre-forward, he’s slight and short, but as quick as any player I’ve seen playing for Dale. He plays like Kevin Townson before he lost his way. It was he who formed most of Lincoln’s attacks in the first-half, mainly from hopeful over-the-top balls which stuttered and stalled in the gust. Lincoln’s other striker was Mark Stallard, who looks like a rugby player, and must clearly be a player in the Windass mould ie fat but clever. He had a bit of an off-day him anyway, to the credit of our centre-back pairing.
The first 45 was enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable, as neither team really threatened the goal. Louis Dodds, the loanee from Leicester, had our best chance – a looped header from a Muirhead cross which just fell behind the crossbar. Rundle also had a decent chance, but shot wildly into the side-netting when a cross was the better option. Lincoln had no clear-cut chances in the first half.
Now this was the point in which I though the match would turn. Against Chester a couple of weeks ago, the wind basically determined who had the ball. There we had scored one before half-time, at which point Chester had all the chances, and we were damn lucky to hold on for the win. Today, we hadn’t scored with the advantage, and I was sure that Lincoln would overpower us in the second half and punish us for being so wasteful. And for the first ten minutes of the second half, it looked like I was right. The away team came out and played on the edge of our area for a while, occasionally whipping the odd ball in, but after this period, the game returned to normal and it was pretty even after that.
David Perkins was having a stormer. Occasionally during the previous two or three matches it looked like the former Morecambe man was sometimes defensively unaware at left-back, but moved into midfield today, (which in my opinion is where he should be), he flourished, and was clearly our man of the match. Perkins is a discovery of Keith Hill, who played with him for a while in the Conference. Described as a versatile midfielder/defender, Perkins looks a very decent player at this level, and I can’t believe it took him so long to make the step-up from non-league football. He also looks about 12 years old.
The match looked like a nailed on nil-nil to me, although by no means a bore draw. David “Dorothy” Perkins had a good chance around halfway through the second period, but Alan Marriott gobbled up his volley from around 10 yards. Around the sixty minute mark, injury victim Chris Dagnall replaced the ineffective Glenn Murray up front. Although Murray wasn’t playing badly, he was constantly man-marked by a giant Lincoln City defender, and as a result, his usual lay-offs and flick-ons were snuffed out. Well done John Schofield. And indeed, well done Keith Hill. The introduction of Dagnall changed the dynamic of the game, and his runs behind the defence gave us the upper hand.
About 10 minutes before the final whistle, Junior Mendes, a substitute for Lincoln winger Ryan Amoo, had the best chance of the game. He skipped past Goodall, raced into the box, but placed his shot about a foot wide of Matt Gilks’ net. A close escape. If they’d have scored then, it would have been over as a contest.
About a minute to go now. Adam Rundle squirms his way past the opposing left-back and proceeds down the wing in front of the away fans. There’s only one attacker in the box, Chris Dagnall. With pinpoint precision, Rundle slots it into the area bounded by the opposing keeper, the defender and the near post, around a foot off the floor.
It can’t be!?
It is you know!
Dagnall’s scored!! A wonderful goal! Rundle played excellently all day, and in fact, had played consistently so since Parkin went. Rundle was always a decent young player, but was patchy under Parkin’s guidance, and dropped from the team. Since Hill’s arrival, the new manager’s unorthodox use of two wingers (a whole two!!) has let Rundle shine, and would be my player of the month for certain.
The stadium was (a quarter) filled with a mixture of disbelief and happiness – a feeling that seems to occur often these days. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised, but hey, old habits die hard.
After that late late goal, Lincoln threw everything at us in a vain effort to score, and inevitably it would seem, the conceded once again. In a reverse of the first goal, Dagnall lashed the ball against the post only for Rundle to pop up and drive it home for a two goal lead after 93 minutes.
Overall, I was pleased with the win, but more pleased with the professionalism with which we played. We more than matched Lincoln, and if we carry on matching the best teams, surely we’ll be formidable opposition once our centenary season kicks in. I can see it now – Rochdale promoted wearing the black and white stripes, at Wembley. Keith Hill awarded the freedom of Rochdale (for what it’s worth). Many sort-of-Man Utd fans finally agree with us Dale idiots and come to watch, bumping attendances up to around 4,500. Meanwhile, bury (with a small b) are relegated on the last day of the season, with a goal from ex-bury favourite Andy Bishop, who joins Dale on a free.
Dave Flitcroft taunts the bury fans, who are crying.
There’s always next year….