Rochdale 6 (Dagnall 14, 32, 58, Thorpe 62, le Fondre 68, Buckley 69)
Chester 1 (McArdle o.g. 53)
Dale team: Russell, Wiseman, McArdle, Stanton, Kennedy, Buckley, Toner, Jones, Thompson, Dagnall, Thorpe
Can you tell where I’m going with this rather overwrought metaphor? Last night’s victory was the football equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. As with any victory as comprehensive as this, the winning margin could have fallen anywhere between three and eight goals, in the end we had to settle for the comparatively light five goal difference.
The action started early on, when the new improved Chris Dagnall picked up the ball around forty yards away from goal, beat two Chester defenders before sweetly curling the ball over and around City goalkeeper John Danby. Probably the best thing about this goal was his reaction; he didn’t looked arsed, to put it bluntly, it looked all in a day’s work for Chris, which can only be a good thing given his tendancy to overwork himself and overcomplicate things earlier in the season. A turn of pace, a cracking shot and there you have it, Chris Dagnall, striker supreme.
It became clear that Chester City were not fit to occupy the same field as their opponents; the defenders allowing Lee Thorpe a criminal amount of time and space, the midfield unable or unwilling to get anywhere near Ciaran Toner and Gary Jones, the forwards consistently offside and off-pace. I almost felt sorry for the Chester fans – do any fans deserve a team as monumentally appalling as theirs?
After half an hour, Chester reduced themselves to ten men (as if we needed the help!) when Glen Rule slid fully ten metres through Joey Thompson near the Main Stand touchline. Whether it deserved a red is debatable; Joey got straight up and I honestly don’t think Rule caught him. It was more in the “daft” category of red cardery rather than the “malicious” one. Nevertheless, off he went, much to the dismay of Kevin Ellison who seemed to be in a constant state of rage for much of the match thereafter.
Joey Thompson and Will Buckley, swapping wings dozens of times for the entirety of the game were constant threats. It was the former who set up the second goal, skipping forward through the midfielder, ignoring the shouts of “Shoot!” and picking out Chris Dagnall with a Fabregas-esque pass. Daggers turned and slid in his second of the night. Ask me last season if I’d ever refer to Joey Thompson as Fabregas-eque and I would have given you an emphatic “No!”. Yesterday I even heard some fans drawing comparisons between Joey and forever lost son Paddy McCourt; and there can be no higher praise than that.
We went into the break then with a highly satisfactory two-nil lead, satisfactory in both performance and scoreline.
After the break however, Chester started to get a lot closer to us all over the pitch, and our play became sloppy, unable to step up a gear as Chester had. A daftly conceded free kick on the left flank was crossed by Ryan Lowe and Rory McArdle found himself unfortunate to divert the ball past Sammy Russell and into the net. The silence around the ground was a silence of inevitability. I could hear murmurs; “oh no, not again Dale”, “wake up Dale for f**k’s sake”, “c’mon, let’s not have another Morecambe”…
Fears were erased with the fourth goal of the night, Dagnall’s third and the decisive striker of the fixture. Joey Thompson again was the catalyst, his cross found its way into Chris Dagnall‘s feet and the rejuvenated striker squirmed it past Danby, injuring himself in the process. Dagnall’s first few tentative steps when he finally arose and his truimphant punching of the air were a joy to behold; he was alright, and so were we.
The goal winded Chester irreparably and from then on it was time for the older kid to really start punishing his upstart kid brother.
Lee Thorpe got the ball rolling when he bundled in a cross from Buckley via Joey Thompson (JT thought he’d scored himself and was suitably unimpressed when everyone gathered round Thorpey instead of him – Nathan Stanton gave him a consolatory head-ruffle instead like your uncle would).
Dagnall went off a minute later, more as precaution than as necessity, and Alfie came on to inflict more pain on the travelling Cheshireites.
Le Fondre‘s goal came on 68 minutes, Tom Kennedy scooping it over the defence to leave Alfie alone in the penalty area with the goal at his mercy. It was one of those goal you swear are offside if your own team concede them, only to have to eat your words once you’ve seen the replay. Alf poked it in and the score was now 5-1.
6-1 came only a minute later, Will Buckley or Adam le Fondre scoring from close range depending on which articles you read (this writer’s verdict: who cares?). The scoreline now firmly in demolition-territory, Dale simmered down and awoke only twice to hit the woodwork, Toner and Buckley being denied by the width of the post. Rundle came on for a bit, probably gutted with Joey Thompson’s performance, Keltie came on even later as if just to give little Jack another shirt to clean.
There is much I’ve missed out in this report; Lee Thorpe’s missed sitter, le Fondre’s inch-wide miss, Buckley’s similar miss, Jonah’s effort from twenty-five yards out…
As for Chester, it is unclear where they go from here. With falling attendances, a Conference-standard squad and a bungling chairman who is exceedingly unpopular with fans, the future looks less than bright for Chester City. One of the major arguments overlooked during the discussions about Rotherham, Bournemouth and Luton’s points deductions is the impact it will have on the teams who would be relegated any other season. Chester might finish 22nd this year, stay up and maybe be relegated the season after. For clubs as disastrous as Chester are at the moment, keeping them up will do more harm than good.
As for us, the future looks a lot brighter than it did on Saturday. Chester were bobbins – granted – but the confidence and self-belief gained from this match maybe just what we need. In fact it’s definitely what we need. At Morecambe we looked like we wouldn’t score if we’d have played for another two hours; yesterday they were quite literally queueing up to score. More of the same please Mr. Hill, or failing that, just a flavour.