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Match Report - Dale 4 Accrington 1
Match Report - Dale 4 Accrington 1
Monday, 17th Mar 2008 12:06

A much improved second half display saw Dale eventually run out as easy winners, with Adam Le Fondre grabbing his first hat trick in Dale colours.

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 at Spotland.

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 that.

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 width.

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 Accrington.

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 goalmouth.

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 the lead.

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 result.

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 match ball.

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 time Alfie?

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 absence.

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.

Photo: Action Images



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