Rochdale 1 (le Fondre pen 68)
Bury 1 (Russell o.g. 8
Dale team: Russell, Wiseman, McArdle, Stanton, Kennedy, Buckley, G. Jones, Keltie, Rundle, Dagnall, le Fondre
Unusually for this particular derby, yesterday’s match was filled with incident, excitement and even a bit of skill here and there. Three seasons ago this fixture would have been entirely about pride, to decide who was the worst out of two poor teams. Now look at us!
I quite like Bury these days, for they are the new Rochdale. Dale themselves are trying to be the new Stockport, so we have a chain of North West clubs all emulating each other and saying “If they can do it, why not us?”. And it can only be good for the area in footballing terms. Now we just have to hope that we get promoted before Bury do.
A while ago I wrote an article bemoaning the sorry state of the teams around here. Since then, Stockport and Blackpool have been promoted, Rochdale, Oldham and Bury have improved markedly, Morecambe reached the league for the first time and things generally look brighter. Chester and Macclesfield are still crap, but then again they always were. My comment that “a way out of this [vicious] circle might have been via home-grown players… but this is no longer an option” seems to have been wide of the mark, with both teams yesterday having improved their youth systems (with the help of Chris Beech) and both teams starting to produce talent that is wanted by bigger teams (Matty Hughes from Rochdale to Celtic, Nicky Adams from Bury to Leicester). We even had a right winger from the youth system who looked decent yesterday (the first since Paddy McCourt). That’s only one player like, but it’s a start.
And so yesterday’s match was about more than pride this year, it might actually have a bearing on the playoff places come May 2009. Now that’s improvement.
The match didn’t start at all well for us, we were frenetic to the point of reckless and couldn’t keep possession. Bury were picking us off whenever an attacker received the ball because it was all just too panicky. It didn’t help when Russell punched a corner straight into the net in the eighth minute, a horrible mistake, but one which is uncharacteristic of the best goalkeeper we’ve had in years. A character assassination wouldn’t help here, Sammy is experienced enough to know he made a mistake and know that occasionally it happens to every goalie in the world. There was no real question of a foul, as some might claim, it was just an error, simple as.
After this I felt we were trying to hard to play it direct, and the game was bypassing Clark Keltie in midfield. Our gameplan was quite clear, quick counter attacks which would hopefully negate the aerial power of Efe Sodje and Ben Futcher; but the ball wouldn’t stick in Bury’s half and our defenders were under pressure as a result. Our play cried out for a measured pass, but Keltie our usual supplier couldn’t get on the ball. Jonah was Jonah, as I seem to say in every report, but sometimes he’s just too gung-ho for his own good. I was hoping for the half-time whistle after ten minutes.
After thirty minutes or so, the match calmed down a bit, and the chances for both sides became less frequent. Stanton and McArdle played well, keeping Morrell and Bishop firmly in their pockets. Wiseman didn’t have a good game, and is one of those full-backs whose crosses are all golf shots, not unlike Ramsden (although Ramsden is more accurate). Against 8ft tall Ben Futcher you can see why these lofted overhit crosses were no good when we had two midgets up front.
Down the right Will Buckley played fairly well when in possession but was hopelessly out of position when off it. When the left sided threat of Bury’s Jones and Buchanan appeared, Buckley was nowhere, which is a fault to his game that must be sorted (and will be).
The first half came to an end and we all hoped and prayed for the usual second-half fight-back. Do I even have to mention any more that we don’t start playing until after the Golden Gamble? It’s starting to become a cliché. Next week I’m thinking of turning up at 3.45 and hoping it’s one-nil to the opposition.
In the second half our superior fitness began to show, and we were doing the pressing instead of Bury this time. Le Fondre headed over the bar from 5 yards (should have scored) and we were first to every second ball on the pitch. Buckley improved in the second half, so much so that he won the first penalty of the day when he tumbled in the box. The word dubious doesn’t cover it. But Dagnall stepped up and missed his second consecutive penalty so all was fair in the end.
After this penalty miss there was a worrying exchange between Keith Hill and a grey-jumpered man seated not far from me, a couple of rows up and about ten seats along. I didn’t hear what the man in grey had to say, but Keith’s response was loud and clear. “You’re a fucking idiot, you’re a fucking prick.” he began, then more unintelligible stuff from the man, then “It’s your fault, it’s people like you, you fucking total idiot”. Well I didn’t know where to look. I spent the last half an hour with one eye on the game and one eye on Keith Hill’s ever-reddening face. Were Hill’s outbursts warranted? Unfortunately I was unable to tell what the other party we saying, but I was told apparently it was abuse at the players and manager. But to have the manager effing and blinding at one of the fans… I still don’t know what to think of the situation. I’d like to think Hilly’s skin was thicker than that, but at the same time I like to see passion from a manager. At best it was a display of Hilly’s heart-on-sleeve management style, at worst it was a ridiculous, pathetic thing to do.
Chris Dagnall had a great chance just after, his excellent touch brought him one on one with Wayne “Superman” Brown, but his prod was lifted over the keeper and agonisingly over the bar. Problems scoring? Pains me to say so but yes.
Five minutes later, my mind still distracted by off-field matters, Will Buckley won our second penalty of the day, a definite, when he was clumsily challenged by Ben Futcher. Adam le Fondre took the duties this time and fired it down the middle sending Wayne Brown the wrong way. Through the celebrations I could still see Hilly shouting his head off at this guy, presumably in some kind of triumphant told-you-so way.
And so I walked away from the match with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Keith Hill was definitely unhappy, as his post-match interview candidly reveals. He talks about “having a few days off” and feeling his efforts are “taken for granted”; which worries me a bit. I don’t want to criticise Hilly for speaking his mind, but does he really think he’s “taken for granted”? What more does he want? I don’t see how the vast majority of Dale fans could support him more. There is a small, but vocal minority of unsupportive Daleys (I call them nobheads), but there is at every single club in the Football League.
I just hope Hilly takes these few days off and realises how much we value him, Dave Flitcroft and the team since he arrived. Just don’t expect 100%, unquestioning support Hilly, it aint gonna happen.
Oh and as if the football match was secondary, this is a valuable point. Bury are good, but not as good as say Bradford, and probably not as good as us if we play to our best. So yeh, I’m pleased with the result and I look forward to seeing us batter Lincoln next week.
Up the Dale!