Rochdale 1 (Murray 9)
Norwich 1 (Dublin 49)
Norwich win 4-3 on penalties a.e.t.
Dale team: Spencer, Ramsden, Branston, McArdle, Kennedy, Muirhead, Jones, Doolan, Rundle (Prendergast), Murray (le Fondre), Dagnall
Coming into this match, I can’t say my hopes were high of a repeat of the previous round’s match, a match that ended 2-2 and Dale won on penalties. But, what I can say, regardless of the final result, is that Dale more than matched a Championship side for the second time this year, and were eventually unlucky to lose.
We started out with the tried and tested 4-4-2, with Rundle and Muirhead making comebacks in place of Prendergast and the suspended David Perkins. I was glad to see Muirhead, inexplicably dropped for the Hereford match, make his return to the right flank. He and Dagnall turned out be the catalysts tonight for what was a great spectacle of football, for the neutral as well as any Daley.
As the match started, you could see who both Dale and Norwich’s danger-men were: Muirhead and Dagnall for Rochdale, Dublin and Huckerby for Norwich. Indeed pretty much all of Dale’s chances in the first half came via defence splitting passes as we looked to exploit Norwich’s left-back (Murray) and central defenders (mainly Doherty), who didn’t look to comfortable up against our pace. Similarly, most of Norwich’s plays were sent via Dublin’s head – which is not to say they were a long-ball team, but they knew when to hoof and when to play it short. Huckerby also tried to lure Ramsden as far out as possible to the wing, to give Dublin and Martin more space, but I think he resisted this tactic quite well.
The first meaningful effort came after about five minutes, Daggers shooting over from not far out. Murray also missed a looping header not long after. After that header, the resulting goal kick was played short to the Norwich defence who cocked up mightily allowing Glenn Murray to steal in and dink it over keeper Marshall and into the WMG goal. That was when memories of the Stoke game returned, and I started to believe that we could do something today.
We were just better than we were against both Hereford and Chester in the league – our midfield passed and moved like they didn’t on Saturday, our wingers (notably Muirhead) took apart the Norwich defence and Chris Dagnall, my man of the match, had an absolute belter. Norwich weren’t a bad side by no means however, and they did have a fair share of chances. Famously named Chris Martin should have really done better at one point when he hesitated in the box allowing a defensive tackle to clear the lines, also Gary Doherty and Dion Dublin had headers that were either saved or missed. Credit to Norwich, although their fans would argue otherwise, I don’t think they played badly today, and more importantly, they were better than Stoke.
Half-time came with only a few other chances, none clear-cut, and I was very happy with our first half display. We were committed, tight at the back, and could definitely not be accused of lack of skill. Norwich also tried to play decent football, but I felt they relied a little too much on Dublin and Huckerby to create everything. Norwich manager Peter Grant realised something wasn’t right at half-time, and took Ian Murray off – who had been skinned by Muirhead multiple times – and replaced him with Luke Chadwick, the guy with the spotty face that used to play for United. He also changed the formation around a bit, and it had the desired affect as Norwich started the second half brightly. They were pinning Dale back into their own half, every time we cleared the ball it seemed to fall to a Norwich player.
Part-way through Norwich’s period of ascendency, Darren Huckerby was fouled (arguably) by Simon Ramsden, and the resulting free-kick was hit low into the area for Dion Dublin to apply a finish you could definitely class as “deft”. 1-1 after 50, and how would Dale react to this equaliser?
For another 15 minutes or so, chances were hard to come by for the Dale, Norwich being the most likely scorers at this point. But, just as he did against Stoke, Rory Prendergast came on for Adam Rundle and once again changed the game (although not as dramatically as before). I don’t know how he does it – he’s not particularly fast, and doesn’t regularly beat players like Rundle, but Rory has this knack of winning corners and somehow getting crosses in when it doesn’t look like he can. Anyway, after Prendergast’s introduction we started to play much better and have a lot more decent opportunities.
The end of the ninety minutes came and I had the same feeling as I did against Stoke – whatever the result, we can be more than happy with the performance. The fact that we also dominated extra time improved by positivity greatly. It was at this point in which referee Colin Webster made his only error of the match – not to book Gary Doherty for second time. The first booking, earlier on in the second half, was a cynical professional foul on Rory Prendergast, but it wasn’t a goal-scoring opportunity, so was rightly only a yellow card. The second incident happened in the first bit of extra time, exactly the same way – Doherty tried to drag down Chris Dagnall but the Dale striker stayed up, passed to Murray who was six yards out and fired weakly into Marshall. At this point, the referee should have booked Doherty for his second professional foul, regardless of whether the advantage was given or not. That said, Murray should really have scored that. Doherty was then booed massively for the rest of the game.
After we switched ends during the half-time-in-extra-time, Dale had the two best opportunities to scored in the entire match. The first was when Ben Muirhead booted the ball over the bar from six yards after a Prendergast cross, the second was when Dagnall missed a routine effort from a similar distance. When these didn’t go in, coupled with Murray’s miss earlier, you got the feeling it may not be our day.
And so, to penalties:
Dale 1-0 Norwich: GOAL Tom Kennedy, top left hand corner, great pen.
Dale 1-1 Norwich: GOAL Chris Brown sent Spencer the wrong way.
Dale 2-1 Norwich: GOAL Adam le Fondre also made the keeper guess incorrectly.
Dale 2-2 Norwich: GOAL Simon Lappin, bottom right-hand corner.
Dale 2-2 Norwich: MISS Rory Prendergast’s effort was saved by Marshall, good stop down to the left hand corner.
Dale 2-3 Norwich: GOAL Chris Martin to the bottom right.
Dale 3-3 Norwich: GOAL Chris Dagnall, almost hit the angle between cross-bar and post, class penalty.
Dale 3-4 Norwich: GOAL Darren Huckerby, another one to the right.
Dale 3-4 Norwich: MISS Gary Jones tried to surprise Marshall by booting down the middle, but made to look a fool when Marshall didn’t move.
And so, we’d lost, our dreams of possible match-ups against Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Man Utd dashed upon the rocks of the penalty shoot-out. But, our confidence restored, surely we can give some kind of performance against Franchise FC? After all, what’s a performance like this worth if you can’t show it in the league?
Ooh, and a big mention tonight to Norwich’s Dion Dublin – ever the consummate professional and truly earned his goal and a round of applause from both sets of fans. That man is a legend.
Reasons to be cheerful?:
– Once again matched a Championship side over 120 minutes.
– Muirhead on top form.
– Dagnall looking a real threat, committed as ever.
…and reasons not to be?:
– We didn’t get through, although did deserve to.
– We missed a few sitters.
– Jonah and Doolan looked tired at the end, and we only had one other option in midfield (Crooks).
– Spencer: Impressive display, no faults again.
– Ramsden: Better, can be forgiven for not exactly managing Huckerby. We’ll see more accurately against Franchise.
– Branston: The man has only two passes – the long hoof and the long header. Solid enough.
– McArdle: An improvement.
– Kennedy: Another good performance from the ex-bury man. Almost scored a belter late on.
– Muirhead: Second only to Daggers in terms of performance and willingness to run. Must start on Sat.
– Jones: Good first half, tired in the second.
– Doolan: See Jones.
– Murray: Looks a bit unfit, but did some nice touched all the same.
– Dagnall: Man of the match, if the lad can dribble past Champ defenders he can dribble past League Two ones.