Rochdale 2 (Perkins, le Fondre)
Bradford City 1 (Thorne pen)
Dale team: Lee, Ramsden, McArdle, Stanton, Kennedy, Muirhead (Dagnall), Perkins, Jones, Rundle, Thorpe, Higginbotham (le Fondre)
As I write this, Dale are 7th in League Two with 65 points, 1 point ahead of Chesterfield, but with two games in hand. We are two points behind Wycombe, but with a game in hand over them. There are 21 points on offer in our final 7 games (giving us a maximum total of 86). Last year, 71 points was enough to finish inside the play-offs places, and we would need just two wins to reach that total. We already are only one point behind last year’s total of 66.
Is anyone else just a little bit excited?
I will go to bed tonight dreaming of Wembley, and no, I don’t care what the Football Gods think. If after thirty years of drifting in League Two we aren’t deemed worthy of promotion by the Football Gods, then bollocks to ’em! I’ll write what I like about Wembley, and I don’t care about tweakage, or nipples! Wembley Wembley Wembley Wembley Wembley!
I’d love to go to Wembley me!
Tonight I would have settled for a draw. With 10 games to go (Rotherham, Brentford, Bradford, Grimsby, Notts County, Dagnum, Barnet, Morecambe and bury) I thought that if we won two and drew three out of the five games against the teams directly below us (Rotherham, Brentford, Bradford, Grimsby and Morecambe) then we would probably get in the playoffs because the other teams were a mixture of relegation strugglers and teams with nowt to play for. After the Brentford match we’d beaten three of those five teams, so tonight I would’ve been relatively happy with a draw. But why draw when you can win?
Tonight was a massive, massive result; we played with attacking flair, enthusiasm, and most importantly, belief. No longer do we look like the team who can’t buy a goal, we look like the team who can score at will.
Both teams went out tonight looking for a win, it was frantic football at times. Bradford had to go for the win to keep any play-off hopes they had alive, and we made sure that they played attacking football when Perkins scored after only thirty seconds. Some good interplay on the left hand side involving Rundle, Perkins and Jonah was finished off when Perkins swung his left peg at it and drilled it into the opposite bottom corner, from just outside the area. The Bradford players all seemed to be protesting about I-don’t-know-what (a trend which would continue throughout the game), but we were ecstatic, those of us that were in our seats at the time (“Why did they score this early?!” said one bloke).
The first half was played with spirit by both sides, numerous chances being created at both ends. Our best chances of the half both fell to wingers Rundle and Muirhead, one a volley by Rundle blazed over and one a drilled shot by Muirhead that just edged wide. Bradford themselves had chances, a Conlon header only narrowly missing and a clever free-kick routine that ended with Johnson hitting the post being the most notable. The Bantams were one of the few sides who’ve come to Spotland that were willing to play attacking football, and looked a decent outfit, Conlon and Thorne especially looked impressive as a League Two strike-partnership.
Our forwards were excellent today though, and the wingers both caused major problems for the Bradford defence. The previously untried pairing of Thorpe and Higginbotham seemed to work, created gaps for people like Perkins to come steaming through. The Bradford defence could not cope with our pace at times, which was brilliant to see.
After some god-awful ‘urban’ dancing which I guess was supposed to be half-time entertainment was finished, the lads came out for the second half unchanged. I thought neither side looked quite as dangerous on the break as in the first half, but in the 60th minute a glorious cross-field pass found it’s way to Joe Colbeck just inside the area, who then turned Tom Kennedy and drew the foul. A definite penalty, you could see it in TK’s face straight away. Well Peter Thorne stepped up and struck it past Lee to make it 1-1.
By this time, Chris Dagnall had made it onto the pitch to replace Ben Muirhead, who was again impressive today, and I think we’d all expected to win 4-1 with a Daggers hattrick; so when he fired over from inside the area after being put through by Rundle I think we were all in disbelief! How dare the messiah miss!
After their goal, the match was looking to be turning in our favour, Thorpey hitting narrowly wide and Adam Rundle constantly breaking through the Bradford defence. A lot of people have rightly praised David Perkins after his performance, but for me the man of the match has to be Rundle, he was simply brilliant here today, our best performance by a winger in years.
On 79 minutes, le Fondre came on for Higginbotham, who looked to have picked up a knock, and 8 Dale-flavoured minutes later he came up with the winner. Lee Thorpe, who I personally apologise to for slagging off in earlier reports, knocked the ball on to Alfie, and the former Hatter coolly struck it into the bottom corner.
And this is when I started to get excited. Now a play-off place went from being a good chance to being ours to throw away. We may not ever get a better chance to finish this high up. Now is the time, Daleys! Now is the time!
While I was thinking all this, Bradford went up the other end and made the home fans sweat a while – Barry Conlon thumped the bar with a strong header, and on the resulting corner Rhodes seemed to have bundled the ball in. The Bradford fans all cheered, and there was a moment of panic – had it gone over? But when a Dale player hoofed it clear and we could see that the referee hadn’t given it, it was celebrated like a goal. Hearts will still racing in Dale chests ages after the match had finished, I can tell you.
So, with 7 games to go, our Wembley dreams are very much alive and kicking. Very very much so. It’s a case of stumbling over the line now, by any means possible. That means 100% effort and commitment by both players and fans. That said, I urge you all to get down to Spotland this weekend for the Grimsby game, and I urge you all to get down to Dagenham a week Saturday. Come on Dale! Now is the time!