Typical. Just two days after shattering those Shrews, Dale limply offer Port Vale two goals, three points and £19 each. And on such a miserably cold day, random acts of kindness by your team don’t exactly fill you with Christmas cheer; indeed the memories sit and linger like a Boxing Day fart.
Quite how those nets in Buslem managed to ripple three times I’ll never know. Rochdale started in a 4-4-2 formation like they always do; Sam le Russell kept goal, Simon le Ramsden and Tom le Kennedy ran up and down the touchline beside Rory le McArdle and Nathan le Stanton, Adam le Rundle and Kallum le Higginbotham were “wingers” either side of Ciáran le Toner and Clark le Keltie whilst Chris le Dagnall and Lee le McEvilly kept their places up front after beating Shrewsbury so nicely. Le Spencer, le Wiseman, le Thompson, le Jones d’Marc and Fondre sat in the dugout, presumably admiring the rows of empty concrete slabs sat just behind them. They don’t have fans Port Vale, they just have chairs; twelve of them huddle together for warmth on the otherwise desolate section of the main stand.
There were five minutes of good, eighty-five minutes of something else. Early on, Dale attacked three times down the left, right-back Anthony Griffith the unfortunate weak link in Vale’s defence. Goalkeeper Russell swung a Beckham-like ball across to Rundle deep inside Port Vale’s half, Rundle jinked past Griffith but Dagnall couldn’t steer the cross past Anyon. Corner Dale. Headed by Vale. Crossed by Dale. Headed by Vale. Headed by Vale. Headed by Vale. Do they have feet these lot?
Our five minutes of industry over, the match quickly settled into a deeply comfortable rut of nothingness. Dave Kitson lookalikey Danny (NOT DEAN) Glover impressed up front for Port Vale, levering himself into McArdle and Stanton at every opportunity. Referee Hidetoshi van Wolfberg, Northants (real name Dean Whitestone), peeped every time someone in black and white fell over, and looked helplessly sympathetic whenever a Dale player tried the same thing. I would if could, but I can’t give a foul.
Dagnall huffed and puffed but couldn’t find a team-mate. Keltie strayed a Doolan Ball ™ over McEvilly’s shiny bonce once, twice, before wisely giving up the tactic. Higginbotham step-overed his way a total distance of about five inches during the half; he looked to be moving but stayed still. Port Vale hoofed it and ran, all gristle and no gravy. After forty minutes, Perry skimmed the bar with a header, the cross supplied deep by comical Griffith. Only Glover glistened in an otherwise mediocre Vale eleven.
It’s true, the first half was bobbins. For both sides. £1.40 for a bottle of Coke, £2.10 for a pie.
The second half began and the inevitable Rochdale onslaught never came about. Alfie came on for Dagnall (yay), Joey Thompson came on for Rundle (????) and Dale did try to inject some pace and tenacity into the game, but they did it only half-heartedly. Keltie skidded in, battled hard, and ultimately was Rochdale’s best throughout the game, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the lethargic attack. We had possession but not pizzazz, territory but not terror. Perry got subbed off and Vale booed him. Thompson came on and they booed him too. One thing’s for sure, these Valeys sure like their boos!*
After 75 minutes, Vale, raising the tempo of their own game, attacked down the right when Kallum Higginbotham lost the ball in their half. Anthony Griffith, a good crosser of the ball it would seem if not a good judger of high balls, swofted one into the box and Danny Glover, pastry lover, stuck his leg out and guided the ball past Sammy Russell. Silence in my own head, boystrous dancing out in the stands. Glover got a yellow for taking his shirt off, stupid boy. One-nil to Burslem. Moments later, the goalscorer got a second yellow for a late tackle on Tom Kennedy and the card turned to a flame red one, not unlike his hair colour. One behind now Dale, but one man better off.
Nobody deserved to win, and it was nice when le Fondre won a penalty; Prosser shoving him over in the area in front of the 800 travelling Daleys. The spot kick was smashed high and to the right, over Anyon’s outstretched hands and Alfie got another chance to show us his Anelka celebration. He bloody loves that Anelka does Alfie. 1-1.
Vale backs to the wall now, even Rory McArdle gallumphed forward from the defensive line and for a while Dale played 2-4-4. Surprisingly though, it was the Burslemers who scored again, Brammer scampered forward on the counter and passed inside to Thompson who smashed it against Russell’s arm and the post simultaneously, the rebound falling to the same man who slid the ball into the opposite corner. And then it really was too late. Nil-nil was two-one, peep peep, trudge home now you hopeless fools. Typical.
But the real season starts next week. With the unpredictability and general low quality of this year’s League Two, everyone bar Wycombe is much of a muchness. The auto-promotion spots are there for the taking. Beat Stanley next week and the league’ll look much rosier. We ‘avin it?
* That joke (c) Hale & Pace 1989
Written by Matt Boothman on 28th Dec 08.