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Report: Dale 3 Barnet 2 aet
Report: Dale 3 Barnet 2 aet
Tuesday, 18th Nov 2008 23:49

Welcome to the Alfie show. Full match report from one of the most exhausting Dale games you're ever likely to see.

If I was forced to have write this match report at half time, then I'm afraid I'd have no doubt been lumped in with the much discussed negative folk who seem to be attracting all the attention of both the management and the messageboard right now. For in all honesty, we were dreadful and were perhaps a little fortunate to have gone in at half time only two goals down.

We really were that bad. In a side that had been freshened up due to injuries and opportunities given to those who have been out of the side recently, numerous players had what can only be described as a nightmare and we were heading out of the FA Cup.

But after half time, inspired by a lunatic Dave Flitcroft on the touchline, no doubt alerting the FA drug testers, we came out and absolutely battered the visitors with one of the most one sided halves seen at Spotland in many a year, with the only surprise being that it took until extra time for us to secure the victory.

On with the report....

Barnet at home was always going to be a far tougher proposition than Barnet at Underhill. Not only did they come to Spotland with a collection of impressive away performances behind them, but they came very much as the wounded beast following their 4-0 destruction at home to Notts County at the weekend. They had very much a point to prove to the 40 odd supporters scattered and outnumbered by stewards in the away end.

We were forced into a couple of changes. Late injuries to Dagnall and Toner meant that we made more changes than had been hoped with a grand total of five changes, and even with the recall of Ramsden to the bench, we still could only name six out of the seven allocated subs.

We had recalls to the starting line up for Le Fondre, Shaw, Keltie and Buckley, plus a first start at Spotland for Mark Jones, with Rundle, Thorpe and Thompson joining Dagnall and Toner in missing out. Would so many changes affect things? Well you'd think so given how we allowed the visitors to race into a 2-0 lead, but both goals came at the hands of first team regulars rendering this excuse useless.

We just weren't at the races, and we couldn't live with a Barnet side who attacked directly and with plenty of pace. In reply, we looked pedestrian and lacked any of the direction of the run which has seen us shoot up the league table. The centre of midfield failed to do anything of any note, other than seemingly give the ball away at will.

It was hardly the stuff of surprises when Barnet took the lead. A long ball forward saw McArdle watch it bounce then get beaten for pace by the Barnet attacker, who took the ball wide past the Dale keeper Russell before angling it into the far corner. Worryingly this hadn't been the first time we'd been done for pace at the back.

But going 1-0 down isn't panic stations. We've got one of the best records around for coming back from a goal down, and with plenty of time left on the clock plus the possibility of extra time, there was nothing to unduly worry us. Until we went 2-0 down.

Had you been watching the City v Hull game at the weekend, you'd have seen two of the most bizarre bits of defending in recent years. Gary Jones was clearly inspired by this, with a needless back pass which landed straight at the feet of Adomah who needed no invitation to take advantage, and he too rounded Russell to double Barnet's lead. Our captain had already been having a stinker before this moment, and this did nothing to add to it.

The most worrying aspect about going 2-0 down was the lack of reaction to it. Jones seemed to be haunted by his error for the remainder of the half, and aside from a chance from Shaw which was knocked wide, we never really looked getting back into the game, and a late chance in the half from Barnet should really have seen the game put out of our reach as they failed to take advantage of their numerical superiority in one attack.

The half time whistle brought many boos around the ground, and despite all that had been said and wrote about the boos from the weekend, it was hard to argue with a reaction to such a poor showing by Dale.

But what we had to come was in such contrast to the first half. Everything that was wrong in the first half was put right in the second half. Did the half time boos inspire Dale onto greater things in the second half? We daren't be so cheeky to even suggest it.

Lee Thorpe was sent on for Mark Jones at the start of the second half, and from that point on it was Dale on a mission, and we chucked everything at Barnet and if we were heading out of the FA Cup, then we were going to go down fighting with every last bit of effort that we had inside us. The half time team talk needs writing down and sending out to troops on the front line as the Dale players played as if they were prepared to lay down their lives for the cause.

We knew what to expect from a Barnet side who had already showed signs of time wasting in the first half, but whilst they were expecting a storm in the second half, this was a complete onslaught in which the ball was almost entirely in the Barnet half.

The introduction of Thorpe was perfection. He gave the Barnet defence no time at all, contesting every header going. But the real genius about Thorpe was the freedom that it gave Le Fondre who simply took control of the game and made it his own. The match ball was always going home with him.

The comeback had started from the first second of the second half, but we had to wait ten minutes for the goal, and what a move. Tom Kennedy, who was in a minority of Dale players to have come out of the first half with any credit, put in one of the crosses of the season. Keeping it low, he curled it in at pace into that dangerzone in front of the keeper. Alfie read it perfectly, making sure that any touch from him would convert it into the back of the net. Game on.

The only question marks at this stage were how long we'd be able to maintain the energy levels that we were showing, and would we be susceptible to conceding at the back. The former was probably the biggest worry as everything was on a different plane to what we'd seen in the first half, and our central midfield duo who had been so poor in the first half were dictating everything in the second, and I don't recall seeing two players change things around so much from one half to the next as they did tonight.

We had to wait a bit longer than we'd expected for the equaliser. With Joey Thompson thrown on at the expense of Shaw, Hilly was clearly trying to ensure that we kept the same tempo which had seen Barnet run ragged  throughout the second period.

But when the equaliser came about, it was again straight out of the top drawer. A rejuvenated Gary Jones was scaring the Barnet to death by getting the ball and running at them, and he threaded the ball through to Alfie who timed his shot perfectly, firing it across Harrison to get Dale back on level terms.

This did inspire a new lease of life in the visitors who remembered that they were allowed to attack, and the rules of this game were more than just waving your arms at the referee at every single decision, time wasting for fun and putting the ball out of play for corners. Despite tiring legs, they caused one or two worries including one shot which seemed to end in the Family Stand side of the WMG.

We continued to press and push for a win inside the allotted time, and the chances seemed to be queuing up. Jones had one effort which looked goalbound only for it to go straight at Harrison and Joe Thompson had one chance cannon off his own meat and two veg. No pre-match conjugals for him for a few days after that.

Despite the odd foray into our half, there was only ever going to be one winner and if that required extra time then so be it. But extra time and injure were never going to stop Adam Le Fondre, and with time ticking away in the first period of extra time, he produced a goal worthy of completing any hat trick.

Pushed out wide, he chipped the ball over the head of Harrison to complete his hat trick, despite the sneaky efforts of JT to deny him the goal and the butterfly celebration was echoed around the ground as Alfie celebrated his way to the dugout to be replaced by Rundle.

The final period had Dale get chances aplenty, with Will Buckley pretending to be Paddy and trying to beat the whole Barnet side single handedly. He came very very close. Closer than Barnet came anyway, and the only way they were ever going to score was with the "2-0 and you fucked it up" chants that the Footballing Gods were mocked with. They overlooked it this time and with that, it's time to start planning our way to Forest Green.

This was a game had 20 years worth of Dale emotions all rolled into one game, and it might well be twenty years or so at the very least till this game will be forgotten. At 8-30, many Dale fans were no doubt wishing they'd stopped at home. A couple of hours later, they were drained of energy after one of the most remarkable second half showings you'll ever likely to see.

We've said it before, and we'll say it again. Never write this Dale side off. Not even once.

Photo: Action Images

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