Rochdale 1-0 Accrington Stanley

English Football Tier 3,* Spotland,** 24/11/18.

As you can tell from this post’s title I’ve been away again. Down to see friends in Rochdale and seizing the opportunity to take in my first ever English League game. Not my first game in England – that was in Oswestry earlier this year, that wonderful magical night.

Rochdale AFC Programme 24/11/18

As you can see from the programme cover it was celebrating Ian Henderson’s 100 goals for the club.

My main impression overall was that the players’ work rate was higher than in the SPFL (Tier 3 or 2.) In particular the pressing was sharper and quicker.

I was a bit surprised to recognise the referee (from highlight games.) It was none other than Lee Probert. A high profile referee for a 3rd tier game surely?

Rochdale started on the front foot but Stanley’s more direct style soon had them making inroads at the back. Dale’s keeper Josh Lillis was only just back from injury and initially looked shaky, spilling the ball on his first contact but he was called on three times in the first half and made good stops each time. Stanley seemed prepared to shoot on sight but were only on target those three times. Dale tended to play the ball about at the back and tried to pass their way through but mostly didn’t penetrate. Dale’s number 7 scurried about, though, and his running style reminded me very much of Kenny Miller. Stanley had more of the first half but lacked that clinical edge.

Things changed in the second. Dale substitute forward Calvin Andrew immediately brought a new focus to the attack. Whatever Ian Henderson’s qualities winning high balls isn’t to the fore. Andrew put himself about and won the first four of his aerial duels. Thereafter the man marking resorted to climbing over him to get the ball. The Dale fans weren’t too keen on Probert’s failure to penalise that.

For all Dale manager Keith Hill’s desire to play football it was ironic that the goal came from that most basic of football attacking ploys, an inswinging corner. Ian Henderson worked himself room in the box to head it down and in. I thought the keeper might possibly have done better and kept it out but it squirmed under him. So goal no. 101 for Hendo. I think it was Dale’s only effort on target.

Stanley pushed in the final ten minutes but were reduced to long range efforts only, none of which troubled Lillis. Young David Perkins came on and perked up Dale’s midfield. He looked very much one for the future. Apparently Dale’s football academy is now one of the most respected in England.

It was a good result for my first experience of Spotland which is a tidy ground with stands on all four sides, the one behind the goal at Dale’s favourite end standing only. Stanley’s supporters filled the middle portion of the stand opposite the main one and made a lot of noise at the start. This faded towards the end. Dale’s supporters were notably more quiet and only roused thenselves a few times but it seems they take a good lot on away trips.

*EFL Tier 2 – call it Sky Bet League One if you must.

**The Crown Oil Arena, no less – it’ll always be Spotland to me.

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