Report: Dale 2 Wednesday 1
Sunday, 13th Feb 2011 11:31 by Col
When little old Dale got promoted, amongst the many, many plaudits that came our way was a feeling that we deserved this day out in the Division above after years and years of bottom tiered football, but it would be nowt but a day out.
Even amongst our own fanbase, the finish to last season, coupled with the loss of key players on free transfers and a wage budget allowing us to only turn our noses up at the paupers in Dagenham, it was perhaps understandable why the words "straight back down" were muttered so many times. Little old Dale would only be in League One for a season.
But as we've discovered. League One, especially in 2011, is proving to be a different fish altogether. The previous Keith Hill mantra of "go out and there and football them to death" has taken on a new angle this season, and is proving to be something of a tactical masterclass, and those who were so quick to write off our chances are currently having a rather large portion of humble pie and peas.
And in doing so, things have changed. The victory away at Southampton earlier in the season had that feel of a cup shock, like the plucky outfit who took their chances on the day. However, this all seemed a bit of a regulation victory and whilst we remember their days of Big Ron, Waddle, Carbone, Di Canio, Jon Shaw and Carlton Palmer and an existing fanbase to match that still (many of whom seemed to have been in town from 10am), this was more of a measure of how far we have come. We beat them because we are better than them.
We had a change from Tuesday's game, as Keith Hill continues to be Bolton's answer to Ranieri with Nicky Adams coming in for Liam Dickenson. Wednesday came to town with new manager Gary Megson at the helm for his first time, with a host of well known names within their line up such as Nicky Weaver (looking remarkably trim), Neil Mellor (looking remarkably untrim) and the very Irish Clinton Morrison.
And if we wanted further self gratification to how far we come, you only had to look at the first half of this game. For all their budget and name players, former Premiership boss Gary Megson came to Spotland and instructed his players to park the bus. Or at least that's how it seemed as pretty much the entire 45 minutes was spent in the half of the pitch closest to the Pearl Street Stand.
It was undoubtedly one way traffic, a Dale set about this Wednesday side ready to kill them off from the word go. Despite Megson's post match claims about how it was just an own goal and a penalty, Dale were running riot against a side that seemingly believed the little old Rochdale myth, no matter what the league table might say. It was by far the most comfortable half of the season, as Dale were all over a poor looking Wednesday side that offered little of their own.
It was ten against ten for a while after a clash of heads between former Owl Brian Barry Murphy and Giles Coke saw both players forced from the field. Whilst Coke managed to return to the field of play with a rather fetching piece of head gear, it was a crack on the head too far for BBM who was always ready bandaged up from a similar injury on Tuesday. However, fortune smiled on us, as BBM's replacement Matty Done went on to have a hugely influential afternoon.
Despite our superiority, we suffered the first scare of the afternoon, when a rather inventive header nearly gifted Wednesday the lead. With the ball seemingly heading out of play, Potter managed a cheeky header goalwards from a tight angle that we had the post to thank for keeping out.
The former Bury man's injury wasn't the only blow we suffered. Gary Jones took a whack to his nose, and despite his best efforts to hide the fact there was blood pouring from it, he was forced off the field to get it treated. So with our central midfield three temporarily down to one, it was very much a case of holding on till Jonah returned to the field. In his absence, we took the lead.
The goal came courtesy of a Sheffield Wednesday defender, despite Matty Done getting credited for it all over the place, and was just reward for our start to the game. Nicky Adams, who had his best game for the club, fed the ball through for Scott Wiseman who delivered a low cross across the six yard box that was turned into his own net by one of the Wednesday central defenders.
It wasn't too long before it was two.
A piece of Matty Done trickery saw him brought down in the box by footballer impersonator Neil Mellor, and the linesman immediately signalled a penalty. Up stepped Gary Jones, and our veteran continued his remarkable goal tally for the season sending Weaver the wrong way for his fifteenth goal of the season. To put that in some sort of context, former Dale strikers Glenn Murray and Rickie Lambert have only fourteen goals to their names.
From here on in, it was only a matter of whether Dale would add to their tally as the visitings hordes started to express their disapproval with their right back bearing the brunt of their dissatisfaction. Done and Adams were everywhere and with our energy levels outstripping any efforts from Wednesday, a third goal could not be ruled out with the visitors desperate for half time.
2-0 at half time, and the result completely flattered the visitors. The only thing that would count against us would be our own delusions of inferiority. Had this been a game against the likes of Bristol Rovers or Dagenham, you'd have claimed the three points were in the bag. But there was the merest hint of "because its Sheffield Wednesday" that could launch a comeback. Also, I suppose that there was no way on earth that Sheffield could be as outplayed again in the second half as they were in the first.
Megson changed things around, ditching his three central defender approach, lining up with 4-4-2 for the second half, and Gary Madine replacing the hapless Mellor. The changes had an effect as Wednesday looked a far more professional outfit in the second half, but whilst they upped their possession and work rate, this didn't transpire into chances.
Sensing defeat, a large number of Wednesday fans started to get a bit silly with damage done to our advertising hoardings, pitch covers and several of their own supporters, but of course, as anyone knows a lack of a seat number on a ticket has been the root cause of anti social behaviour for years and years. I do hope that Sheffield Wednesday take financial responsibility for the actions of their supporters, and we send them the bill for the replacing the adverts and our multi purpose minus 12o frost covers first thing on Monday morning.
Most of the play was again in the half of the pitch closest to the Pearl Street stand, but there was nothing to suggest that Wednesday could get back into the game. Their best effort saw the ball laughably bounce off one of their strikers as he seemed oblivious to his role in the team. Indeed, arguably OFW didn't have his first real save to make until the last five minutes of the game when he tipped over a shot from Wednesday's best player Osbourne, only having to repeat the tip over from the resultant corner.
There was a brief scare in the final minute, when an unmarked Gary Madine looped a header into the far corner to give Wednesday a glimmer of hope, and the abundance of injury time goals in Dale games recently was very much a conscious thought at this stage, but what followed was perhaps the most perfect four minutes of play from Dale in the entire game.
What should have been a backs to the wall, throwing our bodies at every ball that moved was completely the opposite, as Dale played out the four minutes of additional time in absolute control. Wednesday weren't given a sniff. Chris O'Grady in particular refused to give the ball away no matter how many players were in attention to him. The gulf in class between the two sides was never more evident than it was right now.
So when Peter Walton, who confounded all pre-match worries by having an absolute faultless game, blew for the end of the game, the victory took Dale all the way to seventeenth bottom, with just a point separating us from that coveted nineteenth bottom spot. When you grew up getting giddy at finishing outside of the re-election places, these really are unchartered waters for Dale, and Hillcroft continue to make the unthinkable realistic time and time again.
Matty Done was named as man of the match but you could have picked any one of half a dozen from our team of the previously unwanted and unappreciated. Hereford fans will be scratching their heads, in the same way that Bury, Grimsby, Darlington and Oldham fans have done previously.
You know what looking at the table, there's a chance we might be only here for one season after all.
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