Sixer’s Rochdale Soapbox: pints and points on the wet side of the Pennines

Malcolm Dawson writes……..make no mistake. This was no walk in the park and Rochdale made us work hard for the three points. If I was a ‘Dale supporter I’d have been disappointed going home last night. The home side were organised, kept the ball well and moved it purposefully. They were a constant threat and if they play like that all season they could well be there or thereabouts come the playoffs at the end of the season.

There will be doubtless be some followers of SAFC who will not be satisfied with our performance last night, despite the three points, but that is doing a disservice to our opponents. Despite some people’s opinion that we should be walking this division, our opponents do not go into games prepared to capitulate without a fight. Indeed the majority are motivated to show that they are not overawed by the size of our following or past glories and many will raise their game accordingly.

To me, from my seat low down on the front row, we saw the same level of commitment from our boys that they always give. Charlie Wyke had perhaps his best game in a red and white shirt to date and those around him never gave up competing with a decent Rochdale side. We are not Brazil or Barcelona but there is no faulting the attitude of the whole squad, no matter who starts the game. Rochdale played well, but we competed and this was a close, hard fought game in which I thought we did just about enough to justify the win.

Of course that’s just my opinion and I expect there will be a few out there who will be ready with the insults, and tell me I know nothing about football, but the fact of the matter is we came away with all three points in a game that could have gone either way.

How did Pete Sixsmith see things? Let’s find out.

ROCHDALE 1 SUNDERLAND 2 20/08/19

ENJOYING LANCASHIRE – ROCHDALE.

I seem to be spending a lot of time in Lancashire recently. Colne and Accrington last Wednesday, Manchester on Friday, Rochdale last night (Tuesday), Burnley next Wednesday and Accrington again, three weeks on Saturday. As a Yorkshire born lad and intensely proud of it, it’s not good for my constitution to spend too much time on the wrong side of the Pennines.

So far, it’s been a successful series of visits. Colne and Accrington were a great combination of beer, pub dog and decent football, while Manchester was interesting if extremely wet.

I visited the home of rain, Holt’s Bitter and barm cakes for the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre, where the magistrates of Manchester, encouraged by the usual wicked Tory government in London, ordered that a peaceful crowd of 60,000 should be attacked by the local Yeomanry for having the temerity to ask for the vote, higher wages and decent housing so that they would no longer have to eat their own internal organs.

Lugubrious Mike Leigh

It was an interesting event which took place on the site of the slaughter at what was then St Peter’s Fields and is now occupied by hotels, offices, the City Library and Manchester’s magnificent Town Hall. It rained heavily all day which was disappointing and made Mike Leigh, the director of the film based on the events, look more lugubrious than usual.

Four days later, having dried out, I took to the road to Rochdale. The two- and a-bit hour journey passed quickly and soon the Brains Trust were assembled in the Flying Horse, opposite the Town Hall, supping Rochdale brewed beers from the four breweries situated in the town. I sampled one from Pictish Brewery, who specialise in single hopped beers and it was a pleasant drink, although I would have enjoyed a darker beer.

Leaving the boys discussing the price of fish and whether the sweeper system works, I set out to walk the 1.5 miles to Spotland and to find exactly where the coach would be parked. Keen readers (there might be one out there) may remember that I got lost in April, causing helicopters to be scrambled, lifeboats to be launched and police to tour the streets of Rochdale with loud hailers asking people to look in their sheds and coalhouses to see if I was there.

The Brains Trust

Spotland is a tidy ground, one of which the club should be proud. Although it has no distinguishing features, it serves its purpose, is neat and tidy and, on the evidence of this visit, friendly and welcoming. A healthy crowd of 5,258 turned up and witnessed a decent game and a bit of a smash and grab raid by us.

Few could deny that Rochdale were the more attacking side. They played some neat and tidy football, with former Manchester United man Oliver Rathbone and ex Liverpool player MJ Williams dominating the midfield. They moved the ball about well, not allowing Leadbitter and Power any real opportunity to get hold of the ball and do something with it.

As is often the case, the pretty patterns they weaved came to naught and we took the lead in the 28th minute with our first real attack. Luke O’Nien moved the ball across the edge of the Rochdale box and set up Aiden McGeady. He took a step inside and planted the ball past Brighton loanee Roberto Sanchez for his second Lancashire goal in a week.

Geads celebrates his opening goal

The 1800 Sunderland supporters sat back and waited for more goals to follow. After all, ‘Dale couldn’t keep that level of football up and now they were a goal down, their heads would drop, and we would pick them off. And they had a child playing at right back so, the logic went, when it got dark, his mam and dad would come and collect him and take him home, so in the meantime, McGeady could torture him.

Well, how much do we know. Within five minutes, the always impressive Callum Camps (crazy name, crazy guy) had levelled after our defence showed a fair amount of indecision and the home team went on to dominate the rest of the half.

Maguire appeared distracted by being so close to Bury where he spent a miserable year, the little boy at left back left his Lego to concentrate on squeezing McGeady out of the game and Gooch had one of those ineffective games that too often appear in his season’s schedule.

Wyke at Rochdale

All of this left Wyke battling away up front on his own, but the new, sleeker, fitter Charlie shouldered the responsibility well and looked like a man who could fire the goals that might just get us back into the second level and the tantalising possibility of local derbies with…..wait, I’m getting carried away here.

Half time came, pies were eaten, texts were exchanged and the word “sh***” was used on a regular basis to describe the performance, the catering and the general state of the world. And things did not really improve in the second half, as the home team resumed where they had left off and took control.

We had a good view of Luke Matheson, the left full back. He’s not 17 until October and he looked at least two years younger. He had made his debut last season in an EFL Trophy game against Bury and had been on the bench for the opening three games of this season. It must have been a challenge for him to make his league debut against a promotion favourite and to have to mark a player who is widely regarded as the best in the division. He thrived on it and looks as if he could go a long way in the game. The cheeky little lad even put in two excellent crosses late in the game that could well have given ‘Dale a probably deserved equaliser. I am sure that there is a myriad of scouts who have noted him in their little black tablets.

Too young to drink or vote – Luke Matheson Courtesy of Rochdale AFC

He lasted longer than Lynden Gooch whose disappointing game ended in the 55th minute when he was replaced by the enigma that is Will Grigg. His fire has barely smouldered at Sunderland and his arrival was not greeted with any great enthusiasm. That overworked “s” word was used again.

Of course, we were proved wrong and he probably had his best 35 minutes in a Sunderland shirt. He linked with Wyke, took pressure off him and, suddenly, Rochdale began to creak. Luke O’Nien burst forward, collected a well cushioned header from Grigg and delivered a decent cross which McGeady headed in the general direction of the goal. Wyke took advantage of some slack work in the box by the central defenders, turned and scored a goal like the one that he poked in in April.

And so, we sat back again and waited for Rochdale to buckle. They didn’t. Max Power was replaced by Dylan McGeouch to no discernible difference, while the home side sent on the experienced Calvin Andrew to put pressure on Willis and Ozturk. They dealt with it well but Andrew should have equalised right at the end when Matheson plonked a cross on his forehead, but he headed it straight at the excellent McLaughlin(J).

And that was how it finished. It took ages to get out of the town and onto the M62 as the Lancastrian rain fell from the skies. The consensus was that we had worked hard against a good side and that they would probably feel aggrieved that they had not taken at least a point, but that we were just that bit sharper and crisper than they were in the box.

We still need to improve. Our midfield was quiet, and Power had a disappointing game, while McGeouch did little to suggest that he was worthy of a regular place. Gooch was involved in the opening goal but not much else and McLaughlin (C) does not appear to be happy at left back.

On the other hand, the goalkeeper is outstanding, Ozturk and Willis were sound and Wyke looked a proper centre forward. Plus, we may have seen a turning point in Will Grigg’s Sunderland career. The fire could be re-ignited against AFC Wimbledon on Saturday.

Let’s hope so…..

Ha’way the Lads

See match highlights here via safc.com

 

Sixer’s Rochdale Soapbox: a victory won on the playing fields of Cleadon

Malcolm Dawson writes….this was a pretty good day all round. The sun was shining as we left County Durham and it stayed that way as we made our trouble free journey down the A1 and M62 arriving at Brighouse just as the sun climbed above the yardarm. Surprise, surprise the pub was awash with red and white striped shirts enjoying a beer and a Wetherspoons breakfast. I’d hazard a guess that most other pubs near the roads leading to Rochdale in this part of West Yorkshire and over the county boundary would have been the same.

We managed to get parked close to the ground and I got myself a commemorative mug.

There are many different ways to win. The home game with Rochdale had been relatively straightforward and provided the satisfaction of a comfortable victory, but there is a different kind of contentment that comes from conceding early then sealing victory in the dying minutes. As we saw in that first game of the season against Charlton, and last week at Wembley, this is a team that will keep trying until the final whistle and testament to the work ethic that Jack Ross and his backroom team have instilled at the Academy of Light.

And still the sun shone.

I was home by 7.30 which is not much later than many a journey back from the Stadium of Light when there’s been a big crowd. On the whole a pretty good day.

Rochdale might be struggling near the foot of the table but there have been few easy games in this league and this was another where our boys had to dig deep to get a result. How did Pete Sixsmith see things and what sort of day did he have? Read on to find out.

ROCHDALE (away)

The Duke of Wellington was not a great football fan. As a pupil at Eton College, he was probably more inclined to the eponymous Wall Game before he became an eminently quotable soldier and politician.

He preceded the European Reform Group by two centuries when he said “We always have been, we are and I hope we shall always be, detested in France.” His view of railways was spectacularly wrong – “Depend upon it sir, nothing will ever come of them” – but he was often succinct with his advice. When, in his dotage, he was asked by Queen Victoria how to rid the Crystal Palace of sparrows, he replied “Sparrowhawks, Ma’am, sparrowhawks.” It worked.

His best known quote relates to Waterloo – the battle not the station – which he described as “the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life” and that could well be a summary of the win at Spotland on Saturday, a win that left us maintaining our lead over a dogged Portsmouth, breathing down the necks of a worried of Barnsley and putting us within catching distance of long time leaders Luton Town.

The Iron Duke

It was by no means the footballing master class that we produced on Wednesday. This was a win that had to be dug out after we went into the break a goal down to an invigorated Rochdale side who gave everything and ended up with nothing. Had I been a neutral, I would have felt some considerable sympathy for them and their newly appointed manager, Brian Barry-Murphy, but sympathy is of no use if you are in the relegation zone.

It needed a performance of some character to overcome them and we got that in the second half, with Charlie Wyke, Dylan McGeouch and Luke O’Nien leading the way as we stormed back to take three oh so valuable points and send a shudder down the spines of Tykes’ and Hatters’ fans and management.

Aiden McGeady, the catalyst of the splendid win at Accrington on Wednesday, was missing and was replaced by Lyndon Gooch. He lasted half an hour before he limped off and was replaced by George Honeyman. Cometh the hour, cometh the man as they say in the gentrified parts of Southwick, Shildon and Shotton.

By half time we were a goal down and struggling. Rochdale had absorbed our early pressure, with keeper Josh Lillis making a fine save from Will Grigg and when our defence committed its only serious lapse, Ian Henderson was on hand to take advantage of a Joe Bunney cross to put Dale ahead.

Henderson formed a striking partnership with Aaron Wilbraham, a partnership with a combined age of 73. The former is a mere stripling of 34, the latter a venerable 39 and they caused us some problems, mainly by denying both Baldwin and Flanagan the space to move forward. At Accrington on Wednesday and at Wembley, both had brought the ball out. This was denied them here.

Henderson’s shot was the only one on target from a Rochdale player and McLaughlin had a relatively quiet afternoon although he did make a fine second half save when a clearance from Baldwin ballooned into the air and he had to be quick to push it over the bar.

The players did the usual “girding up of loins” and showed their character and fitness in the second half.

Dylan McGeouch was outstanding, fetching and carrying and wearing out Camps and Rathbone, who had thwarted him in the first. His drive and energy enabled us to spend the entire forty-five minutes on the front foot and he will continue to play a major part in the promotion push.

Charlie Wyke had won many sceptical fans over on Wednesday with a thundering performance at The Crown Ground. He did it again here and was rewarded with the kind of goal that he scored for fun at Carlisle United and Bradford City.

Denver Hume played him in and he rolled a Rochdale defender before turning and tucking away a well-placed shot beyond the keeper to level the scores and create an impetus that ended up with a late, late winner. He looks fitter and more up for it and he appears to enjoy working with Grigg. There is less pressure on him and Grigg is a much more straightforward player to link up with than Josh Maja was. The sound of his name ringing around Spotland will have done him a world of good.

We pressed for the winner.

Denver Hume, a tad disappointing today, was replaced by the returning Bryan Oviedo which meant that the thrust of our attacking came from the full backs. By this time, O’Nien was running Joe Bunney ragged down the right hand side and it was from here that the winner came.

In the 89th minute, O’Nien once again got past Bunney and into the box. His low cross was picked up by George Honeyman who turned it past Lillis to send the 3,500 Red and Whites into a frenzy and to heap despair on the Blue and Whites who were preparing to celebrate a point well taken.

Skipper goes wild at Spotland

We closed the game out comfortably and news came through that Luton had drawn and Barnsley had lost so there was joy unconfined amongst the hordes as they poured back to the buses and cars scattered around the residential streets of Spotland – although in my case I missed the street where the bus had parked and had to be collected on the main road having walked a mile away from the ground. My face was redder than a Sunderland track suit top. Silly old fool…….

Sometimes promotions are won when you have to dig a win out. We are good at come backs and have a reputation for resilience. Late goals at Walsall, Wycombe and now Rochdale have put us in a strong position. The squad is the deepest in the division and players who have come with strong reputations and had not so far lived up to them, have stepped up and shown why Jack Ross and Tony Coton brought them to the club in the first place. Others have improved as the season has gone on and have played major parts in continuing this promotion push.

The only drawback in going up is that it takes away the visits to places that we have rarely been to before. Rochdale was a pleasure. The sun shone, the town looked good and there was plenty to do pre match.

Many headed for a large Wetherspoons where a customer came in, took his coat off and revealed a Newcastle United top. He was ushered out by staff as the Greater Manchester Constabulary arrived and called him an idiot.

My wanderings took me past the site of a theatre where Gracie Fields made her first public appearance, I gazed in wonder at the Gothic splendour of the Town Hall,

Hitler’s favourite Rochdale landmark

so admired by Hitler and spent a pleasant hour in the Rochdale Pioneers Museum where I bumped into Gary and Jane Stout. He has just retired from teaching so I was able to assure him that it was a time to look forward to.

The Baum next door to the museum fed and watered me with a cottage pie with pickled red cabbage and a pint of Admiral from Rochdale’s Pictish Brewery. Should you find yourself in the town I heartily recommend this fine pub with its cheery bar staff and excellent food and drink.

The Baum

So, apart from wandering the roads of Rochdale post match, a grand day out and a pleasant journey back in the light. Home by 8.00, I even stayed up to watch the highlights on Quest. I shan’t be bothering with that any more.

We now go into a sequence of three successive home games which will define where we finish up. Let’s get behind the team and roar them home. Near run things are fine once in a while but straightforward victories are much better for the blood pressure.

I don’t know what the First Duke of Wellington would have made of all of this, but he would have admired the fighting spirit of Jack Ross’s troops.

“Up Guards and at ‘em” seems a fitting way to end.

Ha’way The Lads…..

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