Rochdale 2 (Buckley 67, Kennedy 90+4)
Chesterfield 1 (Ward 85)
Dale team: Russell, Ramsden, McArdle, Stanton, Kennedy, Buckley, Jones, Keltie, Rundle, Rhodes, le Fondre (Dagnall)
Not a game for the neutral then, you’ll have gathered. Today’s play for the most part ranged from hopelessly unthreatening to downright ugly. Rochdale passed it sideways, forwards, and backwards, but never goalwards, as if scared of the penalty box. Chesterfield passed it upwards, mostly. Jamie Ward was fighting a lone battle against the Rochdale defence (and very nearly won). It was the kind of game in which the result isn’t decided by merit but by fortune. If merit had anything to do with it, nobody would have left Spotland today with points.
In part due to the referee’s lax control of Chesterfield’s thuggish defence, in part due to the Spireites negative tactics, and in part due to Rochdale’s inability to handle these tactics, the first half was a complete non-event. Whenever Rochdale launched it forward, big Austin or big Downes launched himself into little Adam le Fondre and the referee occasionally gave us a free kick. Have you not got a yellow card ref? Oh, fair enough, you just gave Aaron Downes one.
Chesterfield’s play revolved around the exciting Jamie Ward, who can leave with his head held high despite a stupid sending off in the last minute. I’d hesitate to say “one-man team”, but they were (a bit). With Jack Lester coming back from injury however, Chesterfield might actually do decently this year, because as we’ve seen before, you can do well in this league on the strength of a quality strike partnership alone (see Bury).
I can’t remember much of the first half, only a feeling of slight boredom. A friend who’d never been to Spotland was thinking of coming today, but thankfully he’s decided to come some other week. Maybe by then we’ll have figured ourselves out, and will be able to offer up some decent football.
At half-time, a kid in red scored an overhead kick in the 5-a-side match near the WMG end – it was the single most exciting thing of the first sixty minutes of this game. It was only beaten by a superb Sammy Russell save from point blank range, which perversely started the crowd up, which in turn started the team playing. There was no more quality, but there was more vigour, more passion. Then, on 67 minutes, Will Buckley‘s cross whistled into the far top corner – he’ll tell you it was a brilliant shot, but in reality it was a bit of a fluke. I couldn’t tell you how relieved I was.
But then we faded. Chesterfield looked increasingly dangerous, your man Ward missed a couple he could have done better with, and Sammy Russell made another good save. Did I mention I saw Clark Keltie’s car in the car park today? He drives a Chrysler, it’s bloody massive.
After eighty five minutes, (and by that time it looked as if we’d weathered the storm), Jamie Ward was fouled by Gary Jones, but kept his balance and fired a shot wide. But seemingly unaware of the rules regarding advantage, the referee brought play back and gave Chesterfield a free kick. Hang on ref?! Surely he’s wasted said advantage?
Well I don’t need to tell you that Ward quite obviously scored the free kick. He fired it low down, in the centre of the goal, and Sammy Russell kindly let it trickle through his hands. A complete gift.
And so to injury time, our enemy last week, our friend this time. Jamie Ward (why do I keep going on about him?) collected his first yellow card of two when he childishly dribbled the ball past Sam Russell and scored following a tight offside decision. A minute later, a long ball was chased by both Dale attacker and Chesterfield goalie, the former getting there first but only just. The ball went high, high, high in the sky and bounced over the net, and that looked like our final chance was gone. But, hey presto, the referee gave us a free kick just outside the area.
I wouldn’t like to say whether it was one or not, because like most people my eyes were fixated on the ball twenty feet in the sky and not on the challenge itself. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. But it did feel refreshing to get an important decision go our way after last week’s injury time disappointment.
The free kick was around twenty yards out, slightly to the left of goal. After a good minute or so of wall preparation, that man again Ward sidles into the path of the free kick just as Tom Kennedy is about to strike it. What me ref? Oh sorry, I didn’t know you were taking a free-kick! Another yellow to complete your collection you silly boy, and off you go!
There was a game around this time last year, against MK Dons at home. Do you remember it? Looking back, it was the match that kick started our season, which at that point had started poorly. We came back from 2-1 down to win 3-2 inside injury time. When Tom Kennedy‘s pearler hit the back of the Sandy net, the memories of this match came flooding back. The poor performance, the undeserved result; the resulting upturn in form? Hopefully my friends, hopefully.