|Rochdale 1 v 0 Charlton Athletic|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 5th May 2018 Kick-off 17:30
Monday, 7th May 2018 07:10 by Col
A 1-0 win over Charlton was enough to ensure Dale's position in League One and ensure that next season is Accy not Maccy (sorry).
This was a game that it had it all. I don't even know where to start. Don't call this a match report as many of the key moments from Saturday didn't even take place within a hundred miles of the match.
My memories of Saturday's game weren't the actual play. It wasn't the chances or any action. It was the feeling. It was the tension. It was the attempts to convince ourselves that we couldn't do it and then when we didn't, it wouldn't hurt as much as we were expecting the worst anyway.
It was the knowing that even if we could pull off only our second home win since November, it wouldn't be enough as Oldham would beat the already relegated Northampton rendering our result meaningless.
It was the huddled over phones with desperate for some positivity from Sixfields, and we all did it despite there being twenty others doing exactly the same thing within a two metre radius. We were never going to go short on news.
But for our game? Well for me Saturday's game consisted of a miss by Ian Henderson in the first half that promised to be his Peter Ward moment and one Joseph Thompson.
We knew Oldham were winning. We knew about the Northampton penalty. But the second Northampton goal seemed to sneak in just when we'd stopped looking. We were tucking into that half time pie and pint when Northampton took the lead at a time where it must have been the only game still taking place anywhere. It's up for grabs now, and for the first time all afternoon or so it felt, it was back on our hands.
And then the scriptwriters kicked in.
So much has been written about him since Saturday's game. The Rochdale lad who shouldn't even have been playing. To have stared down cancer not once but twice is the miracle story in itself. But to do so and then score the winning goal which kept his hometown club up. As Keith Hill would say, wow!
But what's perhaps escaped attention is the reaction to his introduction on Saturday. Let's be honest, it wasn't a universally popular substitution and plenty of eyes were rolled around the ground as Keith Hill's last throw of the dice was to chuck on Joey T. The much maligned Joey T. Hilly clearly loves the Hollywood ending. And oh did we get one,
In what should have been a penalty for a shove on Hendo, the ball came back to Thompson, who beat his defender and fired the ball through a sea of bodies into the back of the net. It wasn't the best shot you'll ever see but Rochdale folklore will see to it that it will remembered as a absolute thunderbolt from 40 yards out in years to come.
So we had the simple task of seeing our game out and await news from Northampton. Simple in a season of Walsall, Bradford, and Pompey at home. Let's be brutally honest, news from Gillingham certainly didn't dictate that Charlton had to throw the kitchen sink at us but we did everything right in those four minutes of injury time. We gave the ball to Calvin down by the corner flag and he could have remained there to now had he needed to. No one was getting the ball off Calvin, and the full time whistle came.
And then came the wait. We were all conscious that the Northampton game had kicked off slightly later than our's, but nobody was prepared for this. Time stood still for an eternity as we awaited news from Sixfields. The collective mobile data bill from the 5,000 inside Spotland must have been enough to keep the Mobile giants in profit for another year as we refreshed, refreshed, refreshed. Children will have been born, grown up and had kids of their own in the time between our game finishing and the one at Northampton finishing.
We were set up for a fall. The players were all huddled in the centre circle, cameras poured on them. There were visions of the Scarborough champagne as news trickled through of a goal by a certain Jimmy Glass or the United title celebrations at Sunderland as Martin Tyler hit the 19th O in "Agueroooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo". In a season of last minute goals, it would have been cruelly fitting had an injury time goal 100 miles plus away from Spotland proved to be the decisive moment in the season.
None of that happened.
9 minutes 28 seconds after our referee blew time on our game, his counterpart at Northampton did the same, and then nine months of frustration, disappointment and angst all came to an end as we finished the season with a celebration never seen before at our club. Have we ever had a more dramatic finish to a season in our entire history? I doubt it.
That Northampton whistle brought, as the kids like to say, #scenes and #limbs with the biggest hugfest I've ever known. The pitch was invaded and this remarkable Keith Hill story at Dale got yet another fantastic chapter.
To think that as recently as March, we were stranded bottom of the league, a huge twelve points from safety. To even consider staying up would have got you carted off by the men in white coats. It was Mission Impossibler.
We hadn't won away all season and it'd been four months since we'd even won a game at all with points riding on it. Not even the most optimistic of supporters gave us a prayer, and anyone claiming they did have their pants very much on fire. We were down and out and the only question mark was whether it would be us or Bury to finish bottom of the pile (it was Bury just in case you missed it).
But we did it and it was for all to see on Saturday. Even the winning on Sky hoodoo that had seen Dale's last league goal on Sky being back in a game when Keith Hill was amongst the subs for us couldn't stop us.
The celebrations carried on long into the night, and started up again the next morning as we started preparing for trips to Sunderland rather than Borehamwood. League One survival was ours.
We've witnessed a real life footballing miracle.
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