4/4/09; AFC Bournemouth v Rochdale, Dean Court, Bournemouth :: Div 4
The difficulty of writing a football report is usually directly related to the manner of performance on display by the writer’s team. It will be of no surprise to many that reliving this shambolic performance is not something I relish doing!
Currently living in London, I’ve always seen myself as ‘Southern-based’. Scanning the fixture list at the beginning of the season I saw a fair few fixtures which I happily assumed would make easy pickings for myself and my fellow exiles – Barnet, Aldershot, Dagenham, Wycombe, Luton, Brentford and…a personal new one for my list, Bournemouth. Imagine my surprise when I found out a trip to Bournemouth takes two and a half long hours on the train from Waterloo. It speaks volumes therefore for the fantastic support of Rochdale that over 350 fans made the long trek down to the South coast. I’d imagine most of them now wish they hadn’t bothered.
Setting in the Queens Park pub before kick off, the atmosphere was of a fairly mixed nature. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and conditions were ideal for the type of football we know Dale are capable of. But having stuttered in recent weeks, it was going to be a firm test coming up against a team fighting to seal a place in League Two. Dale started out with the expected back 5 of Fielding, Wiseman, McArdle, Ramsden and Tom Kennedy, with Nathan Stanton banned for two matches following his 10th yellow card against Exeter. Joe Thompson started on the right wing, with Rundle on the left and Ciaran Toner and Mark Jones taking the central midfield spots in the absence of the injured Gary Jones and the suspended Clark Keltie. Adam Le Fondre and Lee Thorpe led the line-up with loan-signing Gary Madine missing out due to injury.
Despite the final scoreline, the match actually started out fairly even. With Dale having the majority of the possession in the first ten minutes, unfortunately chances were thin on the ground, and Bournemouth’s choice of a swift counter-attacking formation paid lucky dividends in the twelfth minute when Brett Pitman‘s powerful shot from the right-hand side of the area clipped off Rory McArdle’s left boot, looped over Frank Fielding and bounced into the bottom corner, sending the home fans wild and leaving their away counterparts cursing Lady Luck.
There was nothing lucky about Bournemouth’s second ten minutes later however, as an unusually shaky Tom Kennedy dithered with the ball in his left-back position, slipping and gifting the ball to Liam Feeney. Feeney pushed forwards towards the edge of the area, and with the Dale defenders seemingly unwilling or uncapable to tackle, he lashed a superb left-footed effort just inside the far post. Birthday boy Fielding had no chance, and with Bournemouth’s lead doubled, Dale’s chance of staying in the top three vanished. The remainder of the half passed without any real incident, with two teasing crosses from Adam Rundle and a stinging shot from Alfie (what would turn out depressingly to be Dale’s only shot on target of the afternoon) the only moments giving Dale fans something to shout about. The half-time whistle brought sighs of frustration, and checks on mobile phones to see that – fortunately – we weren’t the only top 8 team suffering jitters after 45 minutes.
Half Time – Bournemouth 2 – 0 Rochdale
Dale hearts have been warmed many times this season at the introduction of young William Buckley. Replacing Adam Rundle at the beginning of the second half, along with new loan signing Tom Newey (inserted into the heart of the midfield in what was possibly an effort by Keith Hill to add a player with a solid tackle), unfortunately the lad with the magic feet just couldn’t save Dale this time. Endless long-balls from the defence to Lee Thorpe were met with flick-ons in the general direction of Le Fondre that suggested the two had never played together before, as opposed to a partnership that have managed nearly 30 goals between them this season. For one of the first times this season, opposition fans could be heard shouting ‘HOOF’ at every Dale touch. With the wingers seemingly bypassed from the game, and the midfield playing with little bite or urgency, it was obvious that Bournemouth’s afternoon wasn’t quite over. A neat passing move, with – yet again – a lack of tackles from the Dale players, and the ball found Pitman in plenty of space to slot past the unfortunate Fielding. Twenty minutes later, repeat this sentence again and Pitman had his third and Bournemouth’s fourth. For the first time in many years I found myself grudgingly applauding an opposition player, whilst Bournemouth fans did that ‘EASY, EASY’ chant from Soccer AM that makes them look like trained baboons.
The final whistle couldn’t come soon enough for the (remaining 50% of the) Dale fans, and what started out as a bad day at the office ended with a shellshocked set of Dale fans facing a long journey up North, and the Bournemouth fans quite rightly celebrating a job well done.
Now I hate doom and gloom as much as Keith Hill does, but I couldn’t pull a single positive out of this match. We all know what this team is capable of, but it has been clear over the past couple of games that something isn’t quite right. And as Dale fans, it can only be expected that we will seize on matches like this as signs of impending doom, failure and despair. We know its wrong. We know we’re overreacting. But we also know that there’s always next week, next month or next year. Turning our attention towards a must-win home match against Port Vale in a week is key. Here’s hoping!
Up the Dale
Full time – Bournemouth 4 – 0 Rochdale
Written by Ross Pennington on 5/4/09