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Addicted to Rochdale (Part 11) Diary of the 2010-11 Season
Written by middale on Sunday, 9th Nov 2014 02:09

This part covers the away games at Yeovil and Swindon - adjacent just like this season, plus the great home victory against Sheffield Wednesday.

Saturday 22nd January 2011

Here’s a statement you won’t hear very often: matters of great significance have been occurring today deep in the heart of the West Country. Dale have carried on their amazing start to 2011 by winning 1-0 away at Yeovil. It sounded like the classic away smash and grab raid; score an early goal then sit back and defend it resolutely. Apparently Dale’s new keeper, the peculiarly named Owain Fon Williams, made a great late save to preserve the lead. Record Dale appearance holder Gary Jones scores again. Give that man an OBE, immediately.

Sunday 23rd January 2011

There’s been a major spat in the press today about women in football. Andy Gray and Richard Keys have been pillioried for various chauvinistic comments on Sky about Sian Massey, a young female linesman. They compounded the error by suggesting she wouldn’t understand the offside rule, when she actually gets a borderline offside decision in favour of the attacking team spot on.

Perhaps all us football loving males are guilty of chauvinism to some extent. I’ve just re-read what I wrote about Jacqui Oatley’s commentary on Rochdale v FC United of Manchester back in November. It might read as borderline sexist, but I just thought her commentary was very poor and ill-informed which is nothing to do with her gender. Jake certainly trod the line today; when Lyd showed a rare interest in going to Dale next weekend in the aftermath of finding his game today exciting, he rebuffed her by saying “it’s the only time of the week I get to spend away from females.” Rather dodgy, though to be fair in his class at school the girls outnumber the boys by two to one, and with the teachers the ratio is more like ten to one.

Most of my girlfriends pre-Lydia all showed either mild apathy or full-on antagonism towards football. A combination of this life experience plus observation of similar attitudes from most of my friends’ partners has I suppose led me to develop the view that football and women won’t usually mix. Yet I also know that I’ve probably been a bit unlucky as I’ve worked with women who’ve been avid and knowledgeable followers of Leeds, Macclesfield and West Brom.

Post-university around 1989 I met my second serious girlfriend Jackie whilst working in Wolverhampton. I remember one Saturday suggesting a day out in Hereford. When we boarded the train at Stourbridge I casually mentioned that it might be a good plan to go to Hereford v Rochdale in the afternoon. Jackie wasn’t over impressed at being cynically duped and grudgingly agreed, only after a doomed attempt to sell to me the competing delights of the cider factory. At least I was vindicated; Dale surprisingly won the match 3-1 and Jackie even moderately appreciated some synchronised chanting by the Hereford fans celebrating local hero Darren Peacock, their Michael Bolton lookalike centre half with highly questionable long flowing locks.

Two years later with the relationship lurching towards its natural conclusion, football was a major factor in finishing us off. Jackie was by now a student in Huddersfield, which from my point of view was too temptingly close to Rochdale. One weekend, she took an extremely dim view of my weekend trip to visit her being combined with a trip to Spotland. Dale again won 3-1. Andy Milner scored. So did Jon Bowden My red card followed soon after.

Saturday 5th February 2011

Today’s match finished Swindon 1 Rochdale 1. This is the workday football result, the very definition of the average score and statistically still the most common of all. I’ll need to check back but I seem to have seen my fair share of them this season. Yet the humble 1-1 outcome covers a multitude of scenarios and sins from the desperately dreary through to edge of the seat exciting. This one was somewhere in-between due to two notable details. Firstly, there was the heartbreak of Dale taking a late lead through Craig Dawson but then conceding an injury time equaliser from the otherwise anonymous new signing Eliot Benyon. Secondly, the wind was outrageously ferocious, and provided a few comedy moments like boomerang shaped corners and goal-kicks to nearly offset the overall loss of quality.

Keith Hill doesn’t care for comedy these days of course, he’s a football purist and above all that. Presumably he’ll accept the Dale goal though, which technically should have been disallowed as the wind blew the ball just before Brian Barry-Murphy’s free-kick (Jake was very proud of himself for spotting this significant little detail in the flesh). According to post-match comments, Hill also wants the long throw banned as you never see it used in La Liga. Perhaps he’s touting himself for that next dream job at Las Palmas or Tenerife.

Congratulations are definitely due to Swindon for the overall match experience though. Unlike other Dale away trips this season I have absolutely nothing to moan about. The view from the away end was good, and we got the added bonus of sitting next to Gary Jones’ brother. The price was fine with Jake getting in free as an under 9, well he is only small for his age, and they’re fully deserving of their Family Excellence Award (please look and learn Dagenham & Redbridge). They’ve had the foresight to stick a television with Sky in the away end concourse, perfect for us two and the smaterring of other over-enthusiastic early arrivers. The programme is excellent on both style and substance, even if it does go rather overboard on Eliot Benyon, I’m sure I know his entire life history now. The sponsorship link up with Four Four Two is a good one, and being able to buy the magazine at a reduced rate is a nice touch. The locals also seemed pretty friendly, which completely puts to bed my longstanding trepidation, previously based on seeing the graffiti “STFC – Kick to Kill” liberally daubed near the away end of Oxford United’s old Manor Ground way back in the rough and tough days of the 1980s.

Oh hang on, I’ve thought of a couple of minor quibbles. The pre-match stewarding in the social bar was distinctly over-zealous. Jake was allowed to use the toilet but I was watched like a hawk and had to stay by the door in case I had the temerity or the inclination to infiltrate this precious bastion of Wiltshire civilisation. Perish the thought that it might one day be shared with a wider demographic than Swindon Town membership card brandishing home-fans only.

The final minor gripe should admittedly can be addressed to the Swindon town planning department (assuming they’ve survived the Con-Dem cuts) rather than Swindon Town football club. What boozed-up and drug addled sadist designed the so-called magic roundabout system just outside the County Ground? Your car feels like a ball spinning helplessly in a roulette wheel in this totally bizarre and unnecessary concoction of five adjoining mini-roundabouts. There’s only about three junctions altogether anyway for god’s sake. Totally and utterly pointless, which thankfully was unlike Dale today as they raise their tally to a mighty 38.

Sunday 6th February 2011

Jake’s team crashed 4-0 away at one of their title rivals. He was isolated on the wing for most of the game. The post match analysis in the car was most notable for his terse rebuke of my well intentioned suggestions that he should try even harder against the better teams and link up closer with the centre-forward. “Shut up you big nosed interrupter” wasn’t quite the reply that I was expecting. Still, at least I can’t accuse Jake of lacking verbal and observational sharpness. At yesterday’s Swindon match he astutely observed that returning Dale loanee Will Atkinson is starting to look uncannily like the tennis player Andy Murray.

Tuesday 8th February 2011

It’s just past midnight and I’ve calmed down now, convalescing after Sky put me through the emotional mincer with its full on coverage of Rochdale’s 3-1 win over Bristol Rovers. There were no Premier League or Championship fixtures tonight so the match got the full headline treatment with reports every 5 minutes from the surprisingly knowledgeable and Dale loving pundit and ex-Premier League manager Iain Dowie. The match was 0-0 until about 70 minutes but then exploded into life. Twice Sky played their trademark cruellest trick by saying “there’s a goal at Spotland but which way has it gone?” Cue the quadrupling of blood pressure in one nano-second. Thankfully both these occasions marked Dale goals, for Craig Dawson and Jean Louis Akpa-Akpro. The second trick came with the score at 1-1 in the first minute of injury time. It cannot possibly get more tense than that. Crueller than cruel.

So this was nearly another “I was not there night” but having seen the goals now on Sky Sports News I’m feeling better. All the Dale goals were at the Sandy Lane end, not up close and personal to where I would have been. Therefore with an unfettered mind I can celebrate the incredible: Dale have now got 41 points in the bag from 28 games, and sit proudly 9th in the table ahead of fallen giants like Sheffield Wednesday, who they will play next Saturday. They’re still unbeaten in 2011.

Wednesday 9th February 2011

The match report on Dale v Bristol Rovers in The Sun comes up with an amusing (for them) headline of “Akpa-Aggro”, in reference to the crucial 2-1 goal scored by Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro, and the heated dispute over whether it was offside. It looks pretty marginal on the highlights, but Akpa-Akpro is certainly specialising in controversial goals, after his blatant handball control away at Peterborough. Long may it continue.

Sunday 13th February 2011

I’m sure I’ve have had weekends devoted to one football match before, but none quite in the league of this one. Rochdale 2 Sheffield Wednesday 1. This is definitely the high spot of the season so far, in fact it’s right up there with any other Dale experience including seeing them win promotion last year and play at Wembley the year before. Why so good? Because for 45 minutes little old Rochdale (sic) simply obliterated fallen giants Wednesday. The 2-0 at half time should definitely have been 5, and as Jake kept saying “every Dale player from 1 to 11 is playing an absolute blinder”. Attacking threats were everywhere, especially from the wide areas where Nicky Adams (inexplicably songless at the moment), Matt Done (Done, Done will tear you apart again – to the Joy Division tune) and Scott Wiseman (he plays in defence, he’s immense) all shone brightly.

At half-time, excited discussion broke out in the Dale concourse behind the WMG stand.

“We are seriously good” said one fan.

“This is nearly as good as Southampton away” said another.

“No, it’s definitely better than that, we’re totally dominating” I immediately corrected, and others listening who’d seen both matches agreed. This was a special moment to be a Dale fan and we all knew it.

So did hundreds of others on the Rochdale messageboard. No one can quite believe the current 44 points tally but the evidence is now staring us in the face, it’s most definitely now a case of sod being happy to avoid relegation, this team is playing well enough to push on for the play-offs.

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