Date published: March 16, 2022
Rochdale 2nd Men’s Hockey
This Saturday (March 12), Rochdale hosted their second home game in as many weeks, this time against table top South Manchester. Hopes were high at the start of the match, as despite Steve Hirst’s last-minute defeat, the home side had a solid line-up and three substitutes.
The game started in the usual way, with Rochdale keeping a high line and good possession, but struggling to contain the counterattacks. South Manchester played with three forwards to occupy Rochdale’s back line.
The home side had a few good chances early in the game, with some ferocious shots from the top of the D which were frustrating, but it was South Manchester who opened the scoring after around ten minutes. One of their defenders snagged a stray pass from Rochdale, allowing them to quickly burst into the home side’s left channel. The ball was then worked through the D and operated with ruthless efficiency by a team that knows what to do in the final third.
Heads weren’t falling on the home side and it wouldn’t be long before they had a chance to equalise. A hard shot bounced off the diving South Manchester keeper, which was followed by a shot at the open goal. He was read by one of the away teams defenders, but he could only block it with his body. Judged to prevent a certain goal, a penalty kick was awarded by eagle-eyed and decisive referee Steve Woolley. Unfortunately, however, the Rochdale striker had a rare hit and didn’t have enough power on film, being saved by the goalkeeper and the game restarted with a 16-yard hit from South Manchester.
The home team still gave as well as they had in the first half, but a small fortune would be capitalized on by the away team to double the advantage before half-time. A good break down the right from Rochdale, saw the tricky South Manchester winger hit a cross from Rochdale close to the baseline inside the D. The Rochdale defender made the tackle, but the ball went out of his stick just enough for the South Manchester player to get a second attempt and send a pass to his teammate for another touch.
It was a touch-and-go at half-time, but the home side remained positive and keen to continue despite two league-leading goals. In all honesty, at this point there wasn’t much else but two clinical finishes from a better trained side who had practiced more on what to do in the final third. South Manchester had yet to show their best and the home side had largely matched them by this stage.
However, they would show their best, as from the start of the second half the away team had identified the weak points in the Rochdale defense and attacked them with conviction for the first fifteen minutes of the second. halves that would put the game beyond Rochdale. Pushing the home side into their own 23-yard area and forcing their forwards to make the in and out circle runs, which Rochdale had talked about doing himself at half-time, the opposing team pushed aside centre-backs, opened up spaces and simply knew where their players would be, where the gaps were and how to score three simple goals.
The away side also did a great job setting up their press, with the home side unable to play at the back, resulting in plenty of turnovers that set those simple targets. Although Rochdale now had a 5-0 lead and the game passed them by, they still worked hard for each other and tried to keep the passing game going. The home side gradually got back into the game, but conceded one more from a corner and another from a penalty.
The penalty kick came from an attack down the right from Rochdale with the winger receiving the ball on the baseline near the post. He knew what to do and started to dribble past the goalkeeper, who went for the ball but got tangled up with the striker and as he didn’t get the ball back and ended up knocking the player off his feet , a penalty stroke has been properly awarded and duly converted.
However, it wouldn’t be all bleak for the home side as Dean Close, who was unlucky not to score with a deflection minutes earlier, fired a thunderous strike into the backboard for a consolation goal. There was also an entry for the tackle of the season, as Dave Marlow advanced fearlessly towards a big forward from south Manchester fielding a big hit. With great skill, timing and agility, he flicked the ball off him with a lightning-fast tackle and pirouetted on the swing of the shot, so as not to hinder the attacker, before taking the control of the ball and playing it away during a Rochdale Counterattack.
The final score was 7-1 for South Manchester, which was a fair result at the end of the day. There were great spells where Rochdale equalized South Manchester and showed some quality, but they train harder, had better basic skills and a better understanding of how to attack more effectively. While it was mostly an even game, they had a good fifteen minute stretch where they showed why they are top of the league.
There are three games left in the season now and although safety is only three points potentially away, Rochdale needs to train more effectively and are probably preparing better for relegation. The team can hold their heads high though, as the guys put in a lot of effort every week in a brutal season, in a very demanding and competitive league.