15/08/08; Rochdale v Aldershot at Spotland, Rochdale :: Fizzy Pop League Two
Does everyone feel a bit better now? Forget money problems, forget your Notts Countys and forget Alfie; this season might actually be pretty good after all. Somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten that football is a game largely played on sizeable green rectangles (unless you’re Keith Alexander); and in that sizeable green rectangle called Spotland one team wearing black and blue defeated another in red by putting a round leather ball between two metal posts and into a net. Now how’s that for over-simplification?
Rochdale consisted on Kenny ‘Hey’ Arthur in goal, a back four of Matt Flynn, Craig Dawson, Nathan Stantonoff and Tom Kennedy, a midfield of Dynamite Joe Thompson, J. F. K., Gary Jones and Adam Rundle whilst Billy Buckley and Chris Dagnall roamed the imaginary territory called “The Final Third” (coming to a movie screen near you). The unwieldy seven man bench was populated by Edwards, Higginbotham, Holness, Wiseman, Shaw, Spencer and Stephens. Does anybody now how much the construction of this new longer substitute bench has cost the club? Quality timber doesn’t come cheap these days…
The match began at tepid pace; Aldershot looked to cramp the middle of the pitch by playing eight holding midfielders, none of which were Clark Keltie, and Rochdale attempted to sidetrack this by giving the ball to Dynamite Joe and Adam Rundle for them to run the ball out of play. However, after only fifteen or so scrappy minutes, Nathan Stanton completely befuddled himself and let the imperious Marvin Morgan get through him to leave him one-on-one with Arthur. Stanton’s action? To hold back Morgan; his punishment? a red card; his manager? stoney faced. Stanton walked himself down the tunnel past the expressionless Hill and kicked an angry ball into the press area via the wall. And by wall, I don’t mean Rory McArdle. Rochdale down to ten men, Aldershot down to action (the resulting free kick went wallwards).
Off went Adam Rundle, presumably the most expendable of our players, and on came Bob Holness, looking more and more like a Fijian Rugby League player with every appearance he makes. 4-4-1 now, with Buckley dropping back into right wing and Joey T switching over to the left.
Aldershot, despite their numerical advantage, found it hard to overcome the midfield act of Gary Jones and Jason Kennedy, the former his usual ebullient self and the latter acting as a ginger Javier Mascherano, except not as good and definitely not as well paid. Aldershot, meanwhile; tentative. Big tall Marvin Morgan was their best (and only good) player, but his ‘great touch for a big man’ act was to no affect as the Shots refused to attack in any great numbers, and instead directed their efforts at trying to control that pesky bald bastard in midfield; goes by the name of Jones, sleeps under a Rochdale AFC duvet cover, reads Shoot magazine at half-time. Their best chance, Aldershot, came from long range through John Halls, but Kenny Arthur scooted over to catch the shot as it headed towards the top corner.
As the half wore on, Rochdale’s lack of a player seemed not to hinder them in the slightest, and a counter-attack started by Gary Jones created the best chance for either side in the first forty-five. As an Aldershot corner was cleared, Jonah received the ball in midfield and dashed madly towards Mikhail Jaimez-Ruiz in the Shots’ goal, cutting the ball back to Chris Dagnall and watching in furious dismay as Dagnall placed the ball conveniently wide of the left-hand post. A striker’s breakfast. Dagnall; beside himself. The referee; blowing for half-time. Still nil-nil, Hill.
The interval came (no Desmond) and the interval went. Somebody behind announced that Adebayor had scored for City and that Chelsea had won 2-1 in the end. Who needs 3G integrated phones with perspex universal internet coverage when you’ve got that guy behind you with one anyway? One per crowd, that’s all you need.
The second half, now upon us, showed no signs of being Aldershot-led either. They were ponderous when on the attack and nervous in possession – I do not foretell great things for the Shots this season. Billy Buckley, now, asserting himself on the game, ballroom-danced a path around three hapless goons before pampering a shot into the grateful Jaimez-Ruiz, and soon after scrambled an effort somewhere following a corner (Craig Dawson also had a decent stab at it). Mentioning Dawson, his long-range passing now found itself a home in the game and Joey T and Buckley delighted in receiving his Beckham-esque passes. We might have a diamond here in Dawson, decent in the air but exquisitely comfortable with his feet, he’s almost like a midfielder in the way he receives and plays the ball. Let’s not tell anyone about him, okay?
Aldershot, as the game wore on towards what looked like a no-score draw, did have the occasional effort, the most notable of which was a drive from twenty yards from Judith Chalmers tipped wide by Kenny Arthur from an awkward height. “What a save that is!” shouted Keith Hill to nobody in particular and clapped for a bit longer than usual; it must have been good. Marvin the Martian also missed a header when left worryingly free, but in general Aldershot didn’t look like scoring a goal. They never looked like they wanted to either, and their mindset when having the extra player will have to be examined.
With the game drifting off into drawdom, with about three seconds of the game remaining, the tireless Chris Dagnall barged through into the Aldershot area and fired a hopeful shot against the arm of Adam Hinshelwood. Given! As harsh a penalty given as you are likely to see; but only as harsh as last week’s at Port Vale. Aldershot left feeling awful, Rochdale left with that pre-penalty anxiety. Tom Kennedy took the penalty and curled it free-kick style into the top-left corner, Jaimez-Ruiz guessing correcly but getting nowhere near it. 1-0. And immediately the match was finished.
So, if today taught us anything, it’s that no matter how frustrating events are off the field, and no matter how little money you might have, all that really matters is the scoreline at 1650 on a Saturday. The ball is round, Rochdale.
Written by Matt Boothman on 16th August 2009.