Rochdale 3 (Dagnall 27, 90, le Fondre 90)
Franchise FC 2 (Gallen 16, 28)
Dale team: Spencer, Ramsden, McArdle, Branston, Kennedy, Muirhead (Higginbotham), Doolan, Perkins, Rundle (Prendergast), Murray (le Fondre), Dagnall
Victory is sweet, we all know that. But when you rob a team like MK “Dons” in the dying seconds is just seems that little bit sweeter. We didn’t deserve to win today, but our opposition don’t deserve to be in existence, so it kind of balances out.
Our lineup today was what I thought was our strongest, only one change from the Norwich game (Perkins for Jonah). Milton Keynes had some fantastic players at this level however, and any kind of non-defeat I would have accepted before the match.
The game got going after 15 minutes, the first notable attempt being a goal from ex-QPR legend Kevin Gallen, created by Lloyd Dyer. Dyer absolutely skinned Ramsden (and I mean absolutely) before flighting a ball onto Gallen’s bonce to make it one-nil. A good goal to score, but Ramsden was really made to look slow by Dyer (who has played at Championship level). 1-0 down after 15 minutes, our poor start to the season didn’t look to be getting better.
In fact, if we hadn’t have won there’d be a lot of criticism coming Dale’s way. We were outplayed today by an excellent Franchise side, but some of our play was just wrong.
It did get better though on 27 minutes, Chris Dagnall was allowed too much space by the Franchise backline and punished them by curling in a shot from 25 yards out, a brilliant goal which came out of nowhere. Hysteria was short-lived however, when Kevin Gallen scored not more than minute later to put us one behind again. Bugger. This goal definitely could have been prevented – we gave possession away cheaply (think it was McArdle) and the speedy Franchise attackers took advantage and over-loaded us leaving Gallen unmarked to tap in from 5 yards. From one-all to one-two in the space of a minute. This was nothing compared to the surprise we had lined up later though (more on that further down).
For the rest of the first half, Dale were unconvincing. The superb full-backs Dean Lewington and Jude Stirling (the big throw man) just stopped Muirhead and Rundle playing. And, as we’ve seen earlier in the season, if Dale are not allowed to play on the wings, we struggle to create chances. Doolan was poor today, as was Perkins – our midfield unable to create anything, we resulted to Branston and McArdle’s hoofs. These long balls just kept coming back to us though and we were consistently under pressure. I’d like to say it was a one-off this series of events, but this match could seriously have been Peterborough all over again.
The half-time whistle was a relief. Franchise looked threatening, and deserved their win. I thought maybe Keith Hill would change the formation in the second-half, 4-3-3 or even 3-4-3 as we’ve seen when Dale are behind, but alas Keith did not change the formation, or the players, and we started the second half unchanged.
After 7 minutes of lifeless football, Hill then decided to take off Murray (about as sharp as a pillow) and also take off Rundle, who was having nothing against Stirling – Prendergast and le Fondre taking their places. We were still 4-4-2 though, and the match dynamics didn’t really change much, although I would say Alfie was an improvement over Murray.
Franchise were having most of the efforts in the second half, Leon Knight coming close after skipping into the box unmarked, also Gallen was continually sniffing around for rebounds. Dale weren’t doing much, although were hampered by the referee Tony Bates who had an awful second half. At one point, Rory Prendergast tackled a Franchise defender, who fell over, and was free to run the ball into the box – only the ref blew his whistle. I didn’t even understand that it had been a free-kick, such was the improbability of such a poor decision, and I almost chastised Rory for not crossing the ball. Petty was an understatement.
On 70 minutes, we changed to 4-3-3 with the disappointing Muirhead being replaced by debutant Kallum Higginbotham. This changed the game in our favour, making the match more even.
As the game wore on, Franchise were struggling the score the killer goal – both sub Jemal Johnson and Mark Wright managed to miss inside the 6 yard box on 85 minutes, Simon Ramsden’s calf coming to the rescue to save a certain goal. Little did we know that this miss was going to cost our visitors dearly. For a side of their obvious skill, they did not seem to be able to kill us off – whether this was due to luck, naivety, or Dale battling hard I do not know…
The last 3 or 4 minutes were just mayhem inside Spotland. Our undeserved equaliser coming from Adam le Fondre whose shot was almost a carbon copy of Dagnall’s goal – only Willy Guéret got a hand to it. The keeper was unable to parry it away however, and the shot looped up underneath the bar and over the line. Cue 2,500 silly buggers doing the dance to Tom Hark. 2-2 after 90 minutes, a scoreline we could accept, and hold on to.
However, our fortune did not end there. Our third came within stoppage time, Rory Prendergast hit a cross from the left only for Adam le Fondre’s shot to hit the bar. Handily, Chris Dagnall was there to bravely head home from about 2 yards. Wonderland, heaven, paradise, whatever you want to call it! Our 90 minute performance forgotten for our injury time comeback.
But we mustn’t forget where we went wrong today, and what we should do to change it.
Reasons to be cheerful?:
– We have our first league win.
– We scored three goals without playing well.
– Branston looks to be settling in with McArdle, and even gave his captain a bollocking!
…and reasons not to be?:
– Our wingers weren’t up to it today.
– We didn’t make many chances.
– Murray looks out of sorts.
– Spencer: Nowt wrong, good command of area.
– Ramsden: Poor yet again, needs to be replaced.
– Branston: Man of the match, very solid against good players.
– McArdle: Okay, nothing too inspiring.
– Kennedy: Defensively average.
– Muirhead: Didn’t beat a single player, weak.
– Doolan: Behind the play, misplaced passes.
– Perkins: Outplayed by Cameron, came alive when Navarro came on for him.
– Dagnall: Good, scored a cracker and never stops trying.
– Murray: Needs to be dropped, offered nothing today.
– le Fondre: Stretched their defence somewhat.
– Prendergast: Decent, tackling back as well as committed going forward.
– Higginbotham: Not really in it.