Peterborough Utd 3 (Boyd 22, 26, Blanchett 54)
Rochdale 3 (Murray 11, Dagnall 63, 69)
Dale team: Gilks, Brown, Ramsden, McArdle, Goodall, Thompson, Crooks, Perkins, Rundle, Dagnall, Murray.
For a match that supposedly didn’t mean anything, this was half-decent entertainment from both the Posh and the Dale. A “six-goal thriller” to put it tabloid terms.
Reading the (disappointingly empty) programme before the match, I noticed a few stats which caught my eye. Top place to see goals: London Road, Peterborough (3.55 per match). Most shots (team): Rochdale (loads). Most times hit woodwork: Rochdale (15). Most shots on target: Glenn Murray (60-odd). Most shots (on and off): Glenn Murray (100-odd). Anything less than a goal-fest would have been disappointing, to be honest.
Peterborough seemed an odd place. A grey city made of cement amongst fields of rape and seemingly just springing up out of nowhere (no gradual urbanisation like Rochdale). Dingy, dirty flats standing side by side with an impressive cathedral. Swastikas graffitied on the wall, alongside anti-racist murals. I started wondered if Peterborough had problems, and if it was a nice place to live or not (I don’t pretend to know anything about the place, but first impressions were not good). After the final whistle, my suspicions about some of the locals were proven right…
Dale started off with a slightly different defence. Ramsden partnered captain McArdle in central defence, and Gary Brown slotted in at right back. Apart from that, there was one other change from the Hartlepool match – Lee Crooks came in for the suspended John “Kung-fu” Doolan. This intriguing line-up (why no Comyn-Platt? why no Jackson?) all stood around the centre circle for a moment’s silence before the match, but I can’t remember who it was for. Not Alan Ball again, surely.
The match started in pretty good fashion for both sides. Daggers and Murray were finding space in between the Posh defence, and the opposition strikers were having a field-day up against Ramsden (not a centre back). It was Dale who struck first on 10 minutes, a defensive mix-up allowed Glenn Murray to score his 16th Dale goal of this season, a simple tap-in with keeper Jalal vainly attempting to claw him back. 1-0 Dale. The larger-than-average (in numbers, not waistline) Peterborough support looked on in disappointment. But not for too long.
George Boyd got Peterborough’s first, after twenty minutes. Lee Crooks decided against tackling in the Posh winger, who floated a lovely ball out to the left of the goal for Boyd to nod in calmly over Matt Gilks’ head, unopposed. One all. After that, the Dale defence crumbled, and Peterborough were starting to dominate our mish-mash backline. Boyd got a second only minutes later when a corner routine found him once again unopposed in the box, where he flicked a header over Gilks to make it 2-1. I cannot explain my feelings as this moment – all at once I was disappointed, yet relaxed. Perhaps this is what a managerial revolution can do to the fans.
During the rest of the second half, Peterborough were the only side in it, excepting two more shots which hit their goal-frame (seventeen for the season). Both Gary Brown and Simon Ramsden failed to cope with Mackail-Smith and Boyd, and Matt Gilks, possibly playing his last game for Dale, had to have a stormer of a match to keep us in it. Gilks’ imminent departure is the only negative thing to appear recently, and I do hope somewhere along the line he has a change of heart. Gilks’ performance was magnificent, in contrast to Shawan Jalal, who was frankly rubbish. We were fortunate to go in only one goal behind at half-time, such was the dominance of the Posh.
When we came out for the second forty-five, Keith Hill had shuffled things around, and we ended up playing 3-4-3 – despite Peterborough battering us. This, at first, looked an awful decision, as ‘Boro substitute Danny Blanchett ran down the left channel unchallenged before belting a shot past Gilks, who had no chance (as with the other goals). 54 minutes gone, Dale 3-1 down. We were being run ragged.
Keith Hill is obviously a clever man, make no bones about it, but his real talents lie in his belief and his ability to see things through. Where so many managers would have abandoned the 3-4-3 and gone 4-4-2, Hill kept with it, and with the introduction of Tom Bates and Glen Poole in place of Crooks and Rundle, a switch suddenly flicked itself on. After that, Dale were the aggressors, and Peterborough were having very little success. Bates was a surprise member of the squad today – after all, he has never played before, and is on non-contract terms I believe. But he had an excellent debut, and probably deserves something more permanent for next season (6 month rolling contract?). He and Poole changed the game for us – so credit Hilly and Flickers, for sticking to their guns.
It was Chris Dagnall who scored Dale’s second goal, after 63 minutes. I’d like to tell you in detail what happened, but to be honest, I cannot remember. Premature ageing obviously (plus no sleep the night before). All I can picture is him scoring an unspectacular goal from inside the box. BBC’s live text says “drilled right-footed (bottom-right of goal) from right side of penalty area (12 yards).” But the most important thing is that is gave the away support a massive lift, and the players responded by bombarding the goal in front of the travelling Daleys.
Chris Dagnall got our third, once again inside the box, and once again unspectacular (I feel a failure for not remembering – maybe I need to take notes). “Same old Dagnall, always scoring” rang out in the away terrace, almost all the 489 away fans joining in the singing. Daggers has been amazing since his return from injury. So often the case is that it takes a while for a player to return to full form after an injury, but ever since that goal at Stockport went in, he’s been unstoppable. He finishes the season on 16 goals, despite a lengthy lay-off. Our team next year should be built around Daggers and Murray, who work very well together, as Keith Hill mentions in a post-match interview (link at the bottom).
After the equaliser, we carried on attacking, and if there were going to be a winner from this match, it would have been only us. Louis Dodds came on for Joe Thompson (the less said the better), and looked okay, penetrating the defence a few times – enough to justify his introduction. Tom Bates played some lovely through-balls, and looks to have a good eye for a pass. He nearly scored himself, but his low shot was saved without too much hassle by Jalal. Without doubt our best chance of the match came through Murray, who found himself alone in the penalty area, only to slide it wide of the right-hand post when he should have scored. As I’ve said before, he does miss the occasional sitter, but makes up for it with the rest of his play, which has been nothing short of remarkable recently.
But as I write all this, one major incident may turn out to overshadow what was a great match, played in fair spirit. Throughout the match, the tannoy man read out a warning that players would return to greet the fans after the match only if there was no pitch invasion from the Posh fans. But, in a regrettable turn of events for Peterborough United Football Club, there was a invasion from the groups of Rockport clad scrotes, and it ended up with two Dale players being assaulted. The excitement was obviously too much for the “chav for a quid” mob, and after the whistle, they felt they had to vent their anger at unsuspecting players. It’s not even as if there’s any history of trouble between the two clubs.
I have mixed feelings of the events, and of what should happen to Peterborough Utd. Part of me wants to see them fined heavily, and have the FA come down on them like a ton of bricks, deductions and all. But this would solve little. I think the massive majority (as is always the case) of Posh fans will be embarrassed and ashamed of what happened yesterday, and we would do wrong to sit on a high-horse and denounce the Posh fans as scum. Incidents like this are regrettable, ugly, but ultimately unavoidable. The only thing to come from it is a reminder that lower-league football has some way to go before it is fully “family-friendly”. We can only hope it doesn’t happen again.
On a lighter note, here is the interview with Keith Hill, complete with unintentional Hillisms (available to everyone via RAFC’s official site):