18/4/09; Rochdale v Darlington: at Spotland, Rochdale :: League Two
The country, it seems, has fallen into a culture of negativity. Turn on the News and you will be met with stories of political scandal, financial crises and public enquiries ad infinitum. There is always, always, someone to blame. Did it always used to be this way? At the tender age of twenty I find myself pining for news without opinion. “Oooh, look at that Gordon Brown, he’s a bastard he is, he gave your nan cancer he did”.
Football is following this trend unflinchingly. I think boos are outnumbering the yays this year, all over. Even at Aston Villa, fans – facing the prospect of finishing fifth in the top tier – have been heard to boo their own players when they dare to lose a match. And today, as Rochdale fell to sixth in the league (sixth!), the team was roundly booed by supporters as they left the field despite playing some good football, and only losing due to a couple of goals which nobody could really do anything about. Who’s to blame? Keith Hill?! BOOO!! CRAP HILLY!! THESE PLAYERS THAT HAVE TAKEN US TO WITHIN TWO GAMES OF A PLAYOFF PLACE ARE SHIIIIIITE!!
But it’s no better on the other end of the stick. “The players need that self belief and they need to feel belief from the supporters because as I say after the first goal went in the place went eerily quiet.” said Hilly of today’s match. “All of a sudden, around the place there is a sense of under achievement and that is wrong.” So it’s the fans fault? Those fans that travelled in numbers approaching 1,000 away to Shrewsbury last week and who pay upwards of £250 for a season ticket for Division Four football? BOOO!! CRAP SUPPORTERS!! YOU SHOULD CLAPPING UNTIL YOUR HANDS FALL OFF YOU UNGRATEFUL GITS!!
Why can’t things just happen? We lost. We didn’t play badly. They scored twice. We’ll still be in the playoffs. I found myself despairing as I walked from the stadium as all around me people opened their mouths without engaging the brain first.
The Rochdale team that started the match in front of Sky’s annual foray into a bottom division league match consisted of Frank Fielding in goal, behind the usual back-four of Kennedy, McArdle, Stanton and Ramsden. Adam Rundle and Will Buckley patrolled the wings while Clark Keltie and Ciárån Töñer did their usual good cop/bad cop in midfield. Chris Dagnall and Adam le Fondre played in that bit near their goal. Newey, Thorpedo, Jonah, Rustler and Madino sat on the bench wondering if they could get their face on the telly when it zoomed in on the manager. I took up my usual place near the dugouts, next to some alien fans I’d never seen before. What’s this, new fans?
As it turns out, no, just some lads exploring the distinction between having a laugh and taking the piss.
Straight from the kick-off Rochdale were at the Darlington. Andy D’Urso pipped his whistle and Tom Kennedy pipped the ball over the field for Adam le Fondre, whose pelted cross evaded Dagnall by only two, three inches. Okay, so no signs of self-doubt so far. And then, Darlo’s Jason Kennedy, that ginger fella who scored a screamer against us last year, picked up the ball nowhere in midfield and swung his right boot with a velocity approaching the speed of sound. The ball exploded from his foot, a sonic boom filled the stadium midway through its path, and the round leather bag tucked itself pleasingly into the Sandy Lane netting. No, not pleasingly… incredibly – an incredible goal, in all senses of the word. Jason Kennedy hopped around a bit and did a big smile for t’cameras. Thirty, thirty-five yards out? 1-0 to the visitors.
The place did go eerily quiet, as Keith Hill suggests. Darlington had only brought about 130-150 fans to the game, so were hardly filling the stadium with noise themselves, and the Dale support had their mouths zipped up by JK’s blast. A period of tentative jousting began before Rochdale really got their jog on and it was Adam le Fondre who made Przemysław Kazimierczak (pronounced ‘przemy-sław-kazimier-czak’) jump when he fired one in after turning Darlo’s Ian Miller. Soon after, Dagnall wasted his best chance of the game when he brilliantly weedled past two defenders before the adrenaline caught up with him, and he ended up spooning it over the bar. All Dale now, pretty much, and Will Buckley flung one over the bar before Daggers cracked another one right onto Prezemek’s outstretched arm. Alas, 1-0 at half-time.
Half time was fifteen minutes long and no scores were read out.
Then, the second half. Aahh, the second half! Rochdale puffed and puffed and puffed but were ultimately less successful going forward than it the first half, probably down to a good performance from Darlington’s Miller and White and a fading effort from Rochdale’s front four. Rundle was still all about, but all about nothing. Buckley went off for Thorpe and Rochdale forgot about formations. Darlington went up the other end and won a corner. The initial ball was cleared, but Paw Abbott headed Ravenhill’s re-cross over the shiny head of Frank Fielding and onto the post. Not a soul in the ground moved an inch – Rory McArdle and Frank Fielding just stared at each other in disbelief as the ball patted into the former and into the net. Oggy oggy oggy. 2-0 to them. The alien fans beside me notched up their piss-taking a little bit more.
And that was that. 65 minutes gone, but none remaining. Dale vainly attempted a comeback but were visibly drained, like a limp daffodil. Keith Hill stood by the dugout, taking sideways looks at the crowd behind him. The crowd reciprocated his glances, uneasiness filling the air. I want to go home.
Written by Matt Boothman on 18/4/09