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Addicted to Rochdale (Part 13) Diary of the 2010-11 Season
Written by middale on Sunday, 9th Nov 2014 02:31

Musings on dull, stereotypical football matches and Dale's occasionally recurring problem under Hill of 1-0 home defeats.

Tuesday 7th March 2011

Right then, my dismal recent run of watching average or downright poor games this season has got me thinking. Lets look back and list what’s actually been served up for my delectation so far. Perhaps it’s all been a mirage and I’ve been exaggerating the lack of entertainment.

Rochdale v Hartlepool 0-0

Barnsley v Rochdale 0-1

Fleetwood v Mansfield 3-0

Birmingham v Rochdale 3-2

Brentford v Rochdale 1-3

Southampton v Rochdale 0-2

Newport County v Mansfield1-0

Wealdstone v Carshalton 0-3

Rochdale v Plymouth 1-1

Rushden v Mansfield 1-0

Bristol Rovers v Rochdale 2-1

Chesterfield v Shrewsbury 4-3

St Albans v Ebbsfleet United 1-2

Hinckley United v Alfreton Town 1-3

Sheffield Wednesday v Rochdale 2-0

Crewe Alexandra v Rotherham Utd 0-1

Arsenal v Wigan 2-0

Birmingham City v Tottenham 1-1

Peterborough v Rochdale 2-1

Maidenhead v Boreham Wood 1-1

Rochdale v Tranmere 3-2

Eastwood v Boston United 2-2

Dagenham v Rochdale 0-1

Rochdale v Leyton Orient 1-1

Dartford v Staines Town 1-1

Redditch United v Stalybridge Celtic1-3

Solihull Moors v Swindon Town 2-2

Swindon Town v Rochdale 1-1

Rochdale v Sheffield Wednesday 2-1

Birmingham City v Newcastle Utd 0-2

Cheltenham v Barnet 1-1

Crawley Town v Southport 1-0

Walsall v Rochdale 0-0

Peterhead v Forfar 1-1

St Mirren v Rangers 0-1

That’s 35 games and just 86 goals, a pretty dreadful average of well under 2.5 goals a game. I reckon there’s only been 5 decent games out of that lot as well, so you’ve got about a 1 in 7 chance of actually being entertained. In recent times, it feels like teams struggle to create more than 2 decent chances in the whole match.

In fact, hang on, the whole experience is starting to feel like groundhog day. There’s plenty of common threads in the majority of these dull matches, especially the more recent ones. The so-called stronger team will always:

a) dominate possession with stereotyped, laborious one paced build up play.

b) achieve bugger all with the majority of this possession, as it invariably consists of the back four tapping it aimlessly between themselves (or to the nearest defensive midfielder who gives it straight back to them), whilst being pursued extremely half-heartedly by the lone forward from the weaker team.

c) snatch dreadfully at the two half chances that will come their way in open play as a result of this 90 per cent possession

d) waste their occasional set piece opportunities, including the obligatory edge of the area free kick that is curled in slow motion one yard over the bar (which the keeper had covered anyway), and corners that frustratingly fail to clear the first defender at the near post.

e) have one creative player who is expected to perform miracles/midfielder who is woefully off his game

f) possess midfielders who are obsessed with their Optima statistics

The so-called weaker team will always:

g) Weaker team content to sit and defend solidly in defensive banks of four or five. Stronger team’s midfielders players constantly take easy option of sideways or backwards ball instead of moving into the space. Receive the ball and could turn and commit someone, but play it back to a full-back. Square ball across the defence. Occasional good cross field switch, but telegraphed. Wide player lacks pace or inclination to take man on. Cuts inside or passes back. Eventually an aimless channel ball or punt forward. Strikers slow and ineffective, snatching at very occasional chances created

Have a manager who makes excuses for the difficulty in breaking down the weaker team, Show some imagination, watch Barca!

This is all quite a contrast to Barcelona, who in tonight’s victory over Arsenal must have created 20 clear cut chances in the 60 minutes that I watched. That’s football from another planet. Usually the replay of the previous chance was still showing when the next one came along.

Dale lost 2-1 away at Huddersfield tonight. A totally predictably result. We didn’t follow the match at all other than the scoring sequence (a depressing 2-0 down at half-time killed all hope stone dead) so it was only later that I found out they’d actually played extremely well. Apparently, ex-Blues keeper Ian Bennett, who must be nearly as old as me, made an incredible late save to deny Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro a late and deserved equaliser. Dale fans also won considerable plaudits with the home fans by their sporting sympathy towards Anthony Pilkington, who suffered a horrific looking ankle injury.

Sunday 13th March 2011

Another weekend, another low scoring game, another Dale defeat. They slumped 1-0 at home to Exeter. I’m in two minds whether to pigeonhole this latest game alongside all the other recent drudge-fests I’ve witnessed recently. In the first half Dale were good and created lots of clear cut chances, but having been hit by a sucker punch goal on the break by the annoyingly sharp old dwarf Jamie Cureton, they quickly ran out of ideas. This was very much the prototype Dale 1-0 home defeat that has been a semi-regular feature of their occasional dramatic form slumps in the 4 year Hillcroft reign. That’s now 3 defeats on the spin so another one could well be on the cards. Dale don’t tend to do things by halves.

Before the match, I watched the second half of Blues 3-2 home defeat against Bolton in the quarter final of the FA Cup. As the game was on ESPN, we ventured into the Cemetery Inn, Rochdale for the first time ever. This cramped, house like pub was quite an eye opener for Jake and Ben, and it was easy to sense their minor unease. Still, what a perfect little living room, complete with some glorious iconic pictures of Dale’s triumphs of the Hillcroft era since 2007. They’re all there, captured for posterity like priceless Picasso’s or Van Gogh’s; the Dale players celebrating with joy unconfined at Spotland in May 2008 as Ben Muirhead’s penalty in the play off semi final against Darlington sent Dale to Wembley, Rory McArdle’s goal to give Dale the lead against Stockport at Wembley in the play-off final a few weeks later, Chris Dagnall’s hat-trick goal on his glorious return after injury, Craig Dawson’s roar of celebration, and Joe Thompson posing Jesus like, arms aloft in front of the travelling Dale fans having scored away at Port Vale in August 2009.

Wednesday 16th March 2011

Dale sneaked a 1-0 home win against Notts County last night. It was extremely scrappy by all accounts, but who cares? We’ve beaten last year’s arrogant and financially irregular promotion rivals, who overtook Dale by a distance to become League 2 Champions, having lagged 15 points behind until as late as April. Sweet revenge. When the clock ticked round to 21.39 and the Sky vidiprinter finally came up with the magic line “FT Rochdale 1 Notts County 0”, me and Jake punched the air with delight. That’s 48 points now with 12 matches still to go. League One is stretching out now so it’ll be amazing if something like 54 points isn’t enough for safety.

Despite this good news, all is far from well at Spotland. The attendance was a staggeringly pitiful 2,019. As has become increasingly commonplace, the tetchy post match comments from Keith Hill suggest that he is disenchanted with the lack of available finance, the state of the pitch and the lack of support from a small element of fans. The new theme introduced tonight was the description of the soon to be achieved League One mid-table safety status as “boring”. Some fine inspirational words there! Overall, Mr Hill’s interviews seem to contain the subliminal message “I have outgrown Rochdale so please come and get me” to prospective new suitors from higher divisions, with Coventry City and Scunthorpe United being the latest possibilities as they have both sacked their managers this week. It’s such a shame that this ongoing negativity continues to cast a long shadow over Hill’s outstanding managerial record.

Besides, an honest appraisal would suggest that it’s not turning out to be a swashbuckling, attractive survival for Dale. Attrition is becoming the norm, with freedom football and last season’s attacking style having been combined to the dustbin of Dale’s history. Their results these days usually seem to be 0-0, 0-1 or 1-1. The apathetic Dale public aren’t going to be enticed back by that turgid type of results sequence. So yes, actually I do care deeply that the football is getting scrappy. And Keith, you really must stop bemoaning other teams for their percentage, cautious football. You’re becoming guilty of it yourself mate. PS I still love you really.

Saturday 20th March 2011

Jake been pretty tetchy, probably due to a Dale-free weekend. Last night saw a strange evening tantrum, when he chided me for getting the order wrong at our local fish and chip shop. The conversation started when I was 100 metres down the road towards the shop. Jake shouted down the street:

“For God’s sake why are you walking, I’m really hungry!”

“Because it’s just as quick walking, I’ll be as fast as I can.”

Then, on my return back, slightly out of breath having jogged back all the way for his majesty:

“I specifically told you that I wanted vinegar on my chips!”

“No you didn’t, and anyway we’ve got vinegar at home.”

“That’s bloody balsamic vinegar not chip shop vinegar, you know I hate that!”

“Oh for God’s sake you’re so spoilt, just have the bloody chips.”

Unfortunately, Jake’s idea of making up after this type of altercation always consists of hitting me with a non-stop barrage of football banter. Actually, it’s not really banter, just his forthright opinions interjected with occasional questions. A sample selection of today’s decrees was as follows:

“Do you think Suarez is going to be as good as Torres?” (I don’t really care)

“Do you think Andy Carroll is going to score tomorrow?” (No, and ditto)

“Wigan don’t just magic results out of thin air you know. They play quite good football and could easily beat Blues today. (For the record, they did)

“Is Liam Dickenson ever going to score for Dale?” (Dunno, I’m not Mystic Meg)

“Don’t you think Dale have still got a great chance to reach the play-offs? (No)

“How on earth can Championship clubs be looking at Joe Widdowson?” (Because he’s been quite useful for Dale, whatever you think)

“I think Owain Fon Williams is a miles better keeper than Josh Lillis for Dale (It’s a bit too early to say really, he’s only played a couple of games)

“Why would Keith Hill want the Scunthorpe job? (Good question)

“What is the point of Dirk Kuyt? Liverpool play miles better without him” (Excellent question)

“Gillingham are a yo-yo team in the lower leagues, just like West Brom aren’t they? (Yes they are Jake, next please)

“Milner has been a rubbish signing for Man City, hasn’t he?” (Give me strength)

“Wolves fans absolutely love Matt Jarvis don’t they? (How would I know? I haven’t been to Molineux for at least 3 years)

“David Perkins is 28 years old not 24, it says so on Play Station 3 and they’re never wrong (If you say so Jake)

“Jack Wilshere could easily get in the Barcelona first team” (Dream on, he’s not that good yet)

“Why do the makers of PlayStation 3 think that the combined value of the Morecambe squad is higher than Rochdale’s? How ridiculous is that (Yes, pretty ridiculous, I’d have to agree)

“Do you think Tom Kennedy is happier at Peterborough than he was at Dale?” (Probably, he’ll be on twice the money)

Come the end of one of these barrages, I’m understandably quite exhausted. At some point it would be nice to discuss homework, politics, life, girls, stamp collecting or pretty much anything other than football with my son. Here’s to hoping.

Later in the afternoon, somewhere in either the Legends Bar or the Harry Knowles Lounge (I know not which), we discovered that Dale had won 1-0 way at Plymouth. Gary Jones scored again. More spectacularly successful attritional football no doubt. Still, 51 points achieved. Job very nearly done.

Later still, I discovered via a text from Nick that the Stags are going to Wembley in the FA Trophy final against Darlington. “Hope you minnows enjoy your day in the sun,” I texted back. Now I’ll face a dilemma whether to accompany him on the big day. It clashes with Dale’s last day of the season away at Bournemouth but that may be pretty low key end of season fayre. I suspect I will be going to Wembley after all. Time will tell.

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