Rochdale 2 (Murray 2, Dagnall 76 (p))
Hartlepool United 0
Dale team: Gilks, Ramsden, McArdle, Crooks, Goodall, Thompson, Perkins, Doolan, Rundle, Dagnall (Brown), Murray
There was a vibrant atmosphere inside the stadium today. Hartlepool brought thousands of fans, and all of them sang pretty much all the way through the match. This rather intimidating spectacle must have inspired the WMG and Sandy ends, and the Dale cheered and chanted just that little bit more today. A refreshing change from last weeks efforts.
A thought today for Alan Ball – the late, great, World Cup winner. The minute of applause and songs of “There’s Only One Alan Ball” really showed the emotions which football can evoke in normal people. Football is a community. Without it there’d be loads of unconnected folks spending Saturday’s doing nowt. Football brings these people together. RIP Alan Ball.
The minute’s applause brought a crescendo of noise and tension to the stadium, as always, and buoyed by this fantastic atmosphere, Glenn Murray scored our first inside two minutes, and temporarily quietened the travelling fans. Chris Dagnall’s shot was parried by Dimi Konstantopoulos (no, I didn’t look it up) into the path of Murray who calmly waited for the ball to drop before tapping it over the keeper and into the goal. You should have seen Keith Hill. He has this celebration going where he does the rock hand signal (pictured) and jumps up and down like a child. Certainly novel. I would like to see Flickers do it, but he is always too busy laughing.
The goal was the catalyst for what turned out to be a thrilling spectacle. Not long after the opener, Simon Ramsden clumsily challenged humorously-named James Brown and a penalty was awarded, quite rightly too. The away stand was jumping. Richie Barker, one of the top League scorers, got up, but Gilks saved his powerful penalty down to the right hand side. The away stand was now sat down. Gilks has always been a good penalty stopper – in fact he saved two against Swindon earlier this season. But, if rumours are to be believed, he will not be saving anything for Dale soon – he’s leaving. Which is unfortunate, because he’s a good player.
The next major incident was another saved penalty, this time by Konstantopoulos from Rundle. Joe Thompson played a nice little through-ball for Murray, and the old, grey-haired defender from Hartlepool dutifully bundled him over (how many pens has Murray won now?) Adam Rundle, who barely scored the penalty at Stockport, chose to take it, and Dimi the keeper made a good save down to his left. Like the Gilks penalty but mirrored. Still one-nil Dale.
Some good chances were created in the rest of the first half. Dale’s two best were a sitter which Murray missed, and a powerful effort from Dagnall which only just missed. The first was created by Rundle and Dagnall down the left hand side. Daggers was clearly fouled just outside the box, but stumbled on, gave the ball to Murray who missed from 5 yards under little to no pressure. Should have really scored that, but we’ll forgive Murray the odd missed chance because usually he’s solid. Hartlepool had a few opportunities too, mostly created by James Brown and “Bob” Monkhouse, the celebrity duo. “Ronnie” Barker looked good, but Crooks had him sewn up. Good match today for Crooks.
In the second half, Hill’s men sat back a little, but I’m not sure it was intentional – it doesn’t seem Hill’s “way”. On signing his new three-year contract, Hill said that he likes to play attacking football, and they fear nobody. All good stuff, but I seem to remember Alan Buckley saying that too. Hill’s success is down to one thing – motivation. He always seems to get the most out of the players, and they look like they are enjoying themselves which is always a good sign. Flitcroft obviously is a big part of this, with his antics (and cross-dressing). Long may the Hill and Flicker revolution reign.
Back to the match, still one-nil, Hartlepool doing most of the work. Richie Humphries forays were a constant threat, as was James Brown. Hartlepool look a good side – big, physical, but they have a bit of skill too. Barker, Monkhouse, Brown, Humphries, etc all seem like good players, and they probably deserve to be promoted. Whether that is as champions or not is something to happen next Saturday (we are playing Peterborough that day, incidentally). Dale were not creating as much in the second period, but Dagnall hit the post and Murray fluffed the follow-up. Something had to break, Hartlepool were leaving few men back.
It was Dale (of course) who forced the game, with a penalty from Dagnall. Simon Ramsden’s shot bounced up and Richie Barker made a fantastic reaction save. All very well, but Barker wasn’t in net. Straight red, and a penalty. Chris Dagnall made no mistake, seizing the penalty-taking duties from a sheepish Rundle, and slotting it past the outstretched arms of Dodgy Dimi (who actually isn’t dodgy at all). Two-nil, Tom Hark, game over. Even some in the Main Stand tried to sing along to our celebration song. It was that kind of occasion.
The other major incident of the second half came not long after the second goal. Andy Monkhouse did an acrobatic jujitsu move on David Perkins (I believe), and Doolan followed up with some kung-fu (by coincidence, we’d just dubbed him “Kung Fu Doolan” moments earlier). Doolan was livid at Monkhouse, and there were some punches thrown, and caught. Monkhouse walked soon after, I believe for the foul, and Doolan did too, once again for the foul. Easily they could have had two reds each. Glenn Murray also got a yellow, just for good measure. This fight/handbags livened up the match, and got the Hartlepool mob noisy again. Once again, the normally silent Main Stand did a chant of “Doolan, Doolan” twice through. You know you’ve made it when 40 or 50 pensioners (plus one or two groups of students) sing your name.
After this fracas, not much happened. Gary Brown on for Dagnall and Dale sat back (with a 4-4-1 formation). I don’t even know what formation nine-man Hartlepool had (3-3-2? 3-4-1? 4-4-0?). Whatever it was, it is irrelevant. Keith Hill and David Flitcroft started their three year tenure with a win against the league leaders. How much of a good omen is that?
A while after the final whistle, the players returned to applaud the home fans, and KH and DF made typically eloquent speeches. “And most of all, enjoy the night!!” said Flicker. It won’t be the night we will enjoying, Dave, it will be the next three years.