10/08/10; Barnsley v Rochdale, at Oakwell, Barnsley :: Fizzy Lager Cup Round 1
I’m new to writing for this site, so let me introduce myself. My name is Iain Murray (Dale_Iain for anyone who uses the rochdaleafc.com message board), I’m 19 years old and I’ve been supporting Dale for as long as I can remember. I go to every away game (or at least I intend to carry on doing so this season, even though it will be more difficult) and so I have been asked to contribute my take on those away days. I will talk about the day as a whole, rather than just the match, as match reports are already done very well on this site, in my opinion.
And so first up on the road this season was Barnsley. Not a bad cup draw on the face of it – the chance to visit a nice stadium that hadn’t yet been ticked off, against a side that were better than us on paper but certainly beatable. Not exactly a glamour tie, but any venture into Yorkshire is usually fun.
I love going to new stadiums (as will be evident on quite a few occasions this season) and so I woke up on Tuesday afternoon (I’m unemployed) feeling pretty excited. A couple of hours spent playing Football Manager whiled away the time until my 4.45pm pick up. Not sure why I just included the ‘pm’ there. Fairly obvious really. But I’ll leave it in because sometimes I like going into nonsensical rambles such as this one. Anyway, the driver for the day, Sarah Dawson, turned up late, no doubt her sister Gemma (sat in the back) was to blame – she usually is. Gemma was soon on the receiving end of some banter, once we’d picked up the other passengers Emran and Chaff. She had been witnessed on the previous Saturday night getting rather intimate with a club shop employee, and seemed to be rather embarrassed about it. This of course just encouraged more jibes in her direction. I hope these inside jokes aren’t boring you all, but I reckon it’s more than appropriate to continue to shame her in a more public way.
For those of you who enjoy playing immature games to pass the time on away trips, I think I can claim to have devised the most immature one yet. Don’t ask me to recall how it came about, but for some reason the single rule of the game was that every time you spotted the same letter or number twice in a row, you punched your opponent in the leg. Yes, it was as sad as it sounds. But I’d encourage you to try it, because it can actually be really funny. For example, every minute or so there was a motorway sign with ‘She”ff”ield’, ‘Hu”dd”ersfield’, ‘Hu”ll”’ or ‘L”ee”ds’. There were literally so many examples we managed to find once we started breaking out our ingenuity: countless registration numbers, phone numbers on the back of lorries, anything we could get our hands within the car (I claimed the win when I got my phone out and displayed a long list of texts from Gemma, Molly and Jack Leeming, and punched Chaff for every single one. He nearly died). All I can say is that playing it was a lot funnier than it must sound right now! To sum up though, we parked up near the ground at around 6.30 with extremely sore legs, and hobbled off to find a pub.
Now in my opinion, the quality of the pub nearest the ground has a pretty large impact on the overall quality of the away day. So I was pleased to find one about a minute’s walk from the ground, that served a decent pint and enabled us to stand outside and enjoy the last of the day’s sun while chatting to a few other Dale fans we knew. A couple of pints later, more ripping into Gemma, and eager conversation about the night’s game and travel plans to Brighton, and it was time to get into the ground.
Oakwell is a pretty impressive sight from the outside (well for a fan accustomed to League 2 grounds it is) and it became even better once inside. The stand to our right wasn’t very good, but the other 3 were all sizeable, modern-looking all seater stands. I imagine it looks even better when there are more than 4,000 fans in there too. The acoustics in the away end were also excellent, the 500ish Dale fans seemed to make quite a din when we got going – I dread to think how many decibels it reaches when the likes of Sheffield United and Wednesday roll into town and fill the stand. A special mention too for having a betting stall in the away end – I love those, I think every club should have them. I just had time to put a massive one pound on a 1-0 Rochdale win with O’Grady bagging the goal at 40/1 before I rushed to get a good seat as the players were coming out of the tunnel.
The first half was a fairly dull spectacle. We were playing a 4-5-1 system that meant O’Grady tracking back to the left wing when Barnsley had possession, which worked very well defensively, but left us unable to break quickly with Akpa Akpro being shackled by their 2 centre backs. Some fans got frustrated at the lack of creativity and urgency going forward, but the main priority (understandably, being away to a higher division side) was clearly to remain solid by keeping our shape and keeping the ball, rather than going gung-ho and leaving ourselves potentially exposed. This approach worked a treat, as Barnsley became frustrated, and we gradually managed to get a foothold in the game.
The second half was quite different though, as we certainly came out with the intention of grabbing a goal for us to hang on to. And so the game opened up, which benefitted us more than them, and we played some lovely football. And with that came the goal that won it – a wonderful cross in from O’Grady was glanced in by substitute Anthony Elding (via a weak hand from the keeper) and the away end erupted, and even grew in population – Elding joined the fans at the bottom of the stand to celebrate his first ever goal for the Dale. In doing so, he picked up the inevitable yellow card – a rule that I find ridiculous. What exactly is ‘unsafe’ about a player celebrating with his fans – we’re hardly going to attack our own player are we?
Anyway, celebrations turned into gloating chants aplenty, with the Dale fans making fantastic noise as we saw the game out. Barnsley did threaten on occasion, but Lillis was always equal to anything that made its way past the outstanding Holness and Dawson. We even had a couple of excellent chances to increase our lead, which weren’t to be, but no matter as we held on confidently and competently, answering the surprisingly few questions that Barnsley asked of us. In all honesty, going off the Tykes performance on the night, and after having a look at their squad list on the back of the programme, it would be a surprise to me if they manage to avoid relegation this season. 2011/12 could well see us make a return journey for a league game.
So, 1-0 it finished, and after heartfelt celebrations from fans and players alike, we departed with huge grins on our faces. This was hardly a giant-killing, but winning (and winning fairly comfortably) away to a Championship side was an excellent achievement. It was great to witness, and it will do the confidence of the squad no end of good. Surely now the belief must be that if we can perform like that until May, our season should be better than all the lazy journalists are ‘predicting’.
On the way home, the phones were checked to find out other results from the night, with quite a few shock results, which was pleasing. Then onto Facebook to declare delight at the Dale performance, and to speculate on who would be a good draw in the 2nd round, before beginning the gloating texts to bury friends. Apparently, they were by far the better team at Hillsborough and should have won comfortably. It was supposedly one of those bury performances that guarantees them promotion in August – I don’t know why other teams bother turning up sometimes, with so many bury fans constantly (prematurely) predicting success. This delusion improved my mood even further, and before I knew it we were back in Lancashire. The lovely Sarah had me home for 11 o’clock, which isn’t a bad effort in my book.
I don’t think this first away trip of the season can be seen as anything other than a resounding success. One of the best defensive displays I’ve seen from a Keith Hill side, through to a rare 2nd round League Cup appearance (and a subsequent draw away to Birmingham City) and plenty of banter and laughs along the way. If away trips for the next 9 months are this much fun to write about then I’ll be a happy man. Am just a little bit annoyed that Elding cost me £40.
Written by Iain Murray on 13/08/10.