Right, regulars will know that from time to time we do like to look
down our noses at anything which might decide is a little "non league".
Now I tried my best, but it was hard to look at the Accrington following
as being anything other than one of the worst followings I've ever seen
Fair play to those who turned up, but for a game so close that some
of their fans actually walked to it and to have no more than 250 fans
there is shameful. I know they've suffered particularly low home
attendances this season, and away followings will be a percentage of
this, but it comes to something when the likes of Torquay and Exeter
would have brought more to Spotland.
And whilst on the subject of the Accy fans (and I refuse to comment
on their "Sit down if you hate Rochdale" chant), they abandoned their
Pro Evo style flag ensemble in favour of a spray painted banner of "100%
behind the Boss". Bruce Springsteen will sleep better tonight knowing
First half saw us lining up in a slightly different format to normal.
In a bid to end the five home match losing streak, Hill had gone all
Champ Manager and put Dale in a 4-3-1-2 formation, with Adam Rundle
playing a role behind the front two of Alfie and Howe.
But in all honesty, the change in formation didn't really work. It
led to Dale's midfield three playing far too deep, and allowed Accy to
push up against us. It didn't allow us to push forward, and we lacked
And for that, coupled with the nervousness of the previous run of
home defeats, we just didn't really get going. We didn't look in any
particular danger of conceding, but unfortunately for us, neither did
But then it looked like our Sunday afternoon out at Spotland was
going to go the same was the previous few Saturdays, as Accrington took
the lead. A slip by Rory McArdle, allowed Shaun Walley to break free of
the Dale defence, and with all the time in the world, he slipped the
ball past Spencer with ease.
The natives were starting to get restless, and who could blame them.
Defeats to higher placed sides can be tolerated, but up until that
point, we had put on a nothing performance and we were well on course to
achieve precisely that.
But well into the added minute of additional time that had been added
on to the end of the first half, we had the break in fortune that we'd
been seeking. Gary Jones was brought down after breaking into the
Stanley box, and the referee awarded Dale a penalty. It was by no means
a concrete decision, but having viewed the replays, I'd say the referee
got it right.
So up steps Alfie, who fired it pretty much down the middle to give
Dale an equaliser and a real shot in the arm for the second half. It's a
goal we probably didn't deserve based on our first half play, but who
were we to argue?
And then something happened. Rather oddly, Dale manager Keith Hill
emerged from the tunnel a good five minutes before the rest of the
players appeared for the start of the second half, and then he proceeded
to meet and greet them with a warm handshake as they ran out.
Whatever was said, it worked. Or maybe it was just a case of not
realising it was a 2pm kick off. Because our second half display was one
which was worthy of winning several games. In fact, we could have
declared five minutes into the second half as we pounded the Accrington
We switched to a more familiar 4-4-2, with loan midfielder Basham
stuck out on the right wing. Again, it worked.
So, with Hilly and Flicker's words fresh in their ears, they lay
siege to the Accrington goalmouth. We had an almighty scramble where
Stanley were clinging on for dear life, but within seconds, we were in
Perkins who was at the heart of everything went on a super run,
before knocking it back for Gary Jones who in his first appearance at
Spotland since becoming our record appearance maker, blasted the ball
into the roof of the net.
That goal seemed to have no impact on Accrington who seemed to settle
for the defeat very easily. Or perhaps I am being unkind on them and
should be praising our own side for not letting Stanley dictate anything
in this second half.
I think that was the difference. For what seemed the first time in
ages, we were the ones dictating what happened. We weren't reacting to
things, we were making things happen, and taking responsibility for the
We seemed much happier with 4-4-2, and looking very comfortable. The
thought of Stanley coming back into the game hadn't even crossed my
mind. And rightly so.
We made it 3-1 with what was the pick of the goals. A throw in on the
right wing was put to Chris Basham, who after an awkward first step, put
in an absolute peach of a cross which was met by a flying header from
Alfie. Game over.
In terms of Accrington, all they could offer was a couple of yellow
cards which could easily have been red. They weren't even challenges,
and a million miles from the sort of challenge which saw Alfie awarded
his fourth yellow card of the season.
But the yellow card he got did nothing to ruin his day, and with less
than ten minutes to go, he ensured that he'd be heading home with the
And again, he had Perkins to thank, as the blond midfielder ran the
show before firing over a cross which Alf directed into the back of the
net for his third goal of the game.
Now we have to ask, what is this hand celebration all about? Just
because he's got a French surname, does he really think he's Nicolas
Anelka? Or is it a throwback to the "shadow animals" you'd make with
your hands when blocking a projected light? Can you do a rabbit next
So 4-1 up, seconds to go, and Keith Hill decided to chuck a few win
bonuses about by making three pointless subs though it did give us the
chance to see that Doolan has been busy growing a beard during his
The final whistle blew, and the Sunday football experiment had
certainly been a successful one, and one which will no doubt see us play
one Sunday game per season from now on, with home support up by about
500 on the last home game.
The win leaves Dale on the brink of the play offs, and out of the
teams chasing seventh place, we must be the side best placed to secure
that final spot.
All roads now lead to Nottingham.