Rochdale 1 (Howe 66)
Dale team: Lee, Holness (D’Laryea), McArdle, Stanton, Kennedy, Higginbotham, Jones, Perkins, Rundle (Muirhead), Howe, le Fondre (Dagnall)
The Dale are now mathematically sure of at least a play-off place at this moment, due to a 66th minute winner by Rene Howe in a match which was neither eventful nor pretty.
That’s not to say it was boring – it would’ve been for the travelling Morecambe fans I’d guess – but there was a general lethargy about the match, possibly the effects of continual Tuesday and Saturday matches. For those of you wondering where the report from Tuesday’s match against Barnet is; I was going to do it Wednesday morning, but I had university things to do so I didn’t have time. Fixture pile-ups effect people reporting on games too!
The team that came out had one change from the usual first eleven, Marcus Holness was drafted into right-back position because of a Ramsden injury picked up on Tuesday. Morecambe were a ‘large’ team. Especially their left-back, Danny Adams. He makes John Doolan look anoxeric. Fair enough, he had a good game in the end, but you wonder how much better he could be if he had the ability to run.
The best moment of the first half came after around quarter of an hour; Marcus Holness clattered somebody accidentally into the advertising hoardings, and when the referee called him over, Dave Flitcroft shouted “Marcus! Tell him to fuck off!”. Wisely Marcus chose not to, but received a yellow card anyway for the tackle. Later on in the first half, Holness was replaced by D’Laryea with a slight knee injury I believe.
Our best attempt at goal in the first forty-five was a goalmouth scramble with a double save by the keeper and the ball being cleared off the line by Danny Adams (he had a kebab to celebrate). I think Jonah, Howe and Alfie all had efforts, but we lacked a killer touch. The result never looked in doubt though.
Our play today was at times sloppy, unintelligent, but we still looked the better of the two teams and looked the only one capable of scoring. How Morecambe have declined since our match at Christie Park earlier this season. I thought their back line was fairly decent, but waned as the match wore on. I also thought Wayne Curtis, (who we were heavily linked with at one point), was decent. But they were a team of little cohesion and vigour, and this may be because they have nothing to play for at this team, whereas we do.
The first half ended and we all clapped them off, but I was wondering where our spark would come from. On another day we could have battered a team like Morecambe, but I just got the sense that our team were “waiting” for something. But you can hardly blame them for not being on top form today, with our incredible run of results recently. I think we’d all forgive them a day off.
We did improve in the second half however, Gary Jones especially coming to the fore, and by that time Alfie and Howe had tired out Morecambe’s defenders. On 66 minutes, Gary Jones played in Howe and the big man slotted it in the Sandy Lane goal. We knew it was coming, it was only a matter of when.
On Howe; my opinion of him keeps wavering. He can frustrate you with his first touch sometimes, and on occasions he seems disinterested. But he is scoring at the moment, and he capable of some good skill and finishing. I think it’s debatable whether Keith Hill would make a move for him come summer. It may depend on what league we are in.
After the game’s only goal, Morecambe looked increasingly a beaten team, and we opened them up a few more times; Rene Howe cocked one up and shot into the keeper’s arms, Kallum Higginbotham blasted one wide and sub Ben Muirhead missed a glorious one-on-one opportunity (although it was good goalkeeping by Scott Davies in the Shrimps net). At the other end, Stanton and McArdle were hoovering up in their usual manner and D’Laryea was impressive at right-back. A good thing about D’Laryea is his intelligence on the ball – where we would see Ramsden boot the ball down the wing and possibly out for a goal kick, D’Laryea would calmly pass it to a team-mate so we can begin another attack. While it is perhaps too early to judge D’Laryea strengths and weaknesses, we do look like we have two capable right-backs at this level.
Dagnall made his typical ten-minute substitute appearance, ran around a bit, and the match ended with the news that Stockport had lost, Darlington had only drawn, and Hereford were beaten by promoted Peterborough. Our playoff place now secured, we look more and more capable of that last automatic spot. Okay, we would have to rely on Hereford dropping points and Stockport not winning a match – but if we were to win against bury and Shrewsbury the table may look even more sweet come the end of the season. These are indeed heady times to be a Dale fan, for rarely do we have anything to play for in these end-of-season games.
I went home with a smile on my face and a league table in my head. Possible points gained, goal differences and likely play-off opponents are still lingering in my brain. Of the three other teams currently in the play-off spots (Stockport, Darlo and Wycombe), only Stockport I would fear playing against. And even they might replace Hereford in third spot, and I would fancy us against the Bulls any day.
This could be it, kids.