Bolton Mens 2s 0 – 2 Rochdale Mens 2s

Division 3 North Match Report 26th September 2020

After two months of intense fitness training, two pre-season friendlies & a training match against a Premier league team, Rochdale travelled away at Bolton to kick start the 2020/2021 hockey season looking to start with a victory against a very experienced Bolton team.

Rochdale made two changes to the line-up from last week’s friendly as ‘big hitter’ Graham Broadley replaced Richard Saggerson at right back & Dave ‘Mini’ Marlow coming in for Peter Rogers in central defence. After an extended delay to the 14:30 push back, Rochdale got the game under way in comical fashion, gifting possession to a young alert Bolton within five seconds, the young forward drove towards the Rochdale ‘D’ for the first attack. Drawing a foul, Bolton found themselves in a dangerous position to open season with a very early goal, but the free hit inside the 25-yard line was met by a Rochdale defence in no mood to concede, ushering the ball out to initiate a break away. Utilising the short game, the away side now composed typically spread the ball around the pitch with Andy Meanock & Bjorn Brauns both combining to good effect down the left channel. With Rochdale probing for a clear opportunity & Kane Morgan playing as a high forward, the tactics were evident, half chances came Rochdale’s way when Dean Close & Graham Broadley linked up intelligently down the right side to deliver into the ‘D’ to both Kane Morgan & Adam Massey, but a deft touch was not to be & Bolton were to re-set for a 16 yard set piece. It was not all Rochdale, as Bolton effective managed to play the ball out each time from the 16 to find them selves on the front foot & keep the away side on their toes. 

With chances coming from both sides it was a defensive error from the Bolton captain which lead to a first short corner of the afternoon for Rochdale. Adam Massey stepped up to take a well struck hit toward goal for the keeper to humble & the defender clearing off the line before creeping in. The chance sprung Rochdale into life cultivating into another short corner. But the usually well worked set play to Tim Liptrot wasn’t executed to precision & Rochdale missed another opportunity. With Bolton still finding joy from the 16 yard set piece, the away side started to sit deeper to allow the home team to play the ball in front of them. With Bolton now growing into the game they slowly edged closer to the Rochdale ‘D’. Looking down the right channel Bolton mirrored Rochdale’s approach flashing a few crosses of their own but with no support in the middle from the aging squad & the away side composed at the back, the danger was limited. Rochdale introduced Sham Ahmed making his Rochdale debut midway through the half, the experienced midfielder taking the game in his stride with composure on the ball. With both teams battling for the first goal, both defences were tested in the later stages of the last half. Adam Massey finding space in the ‘D’ from a Dean Close delivery had two shots saved in quick succession, a first shot to the pads bouncing back to him & his second luckily deflecting off the grounded keeper to loop over the bar. Rochdale were knocking on the door & more chances came their way. Kane Morgan’s turn & shot out wide drawing another safe from the keeper.

It was the same at the other end, Bolton twice flexing their hard hitting with shots out wide. The game started to open up with Rochdale edging the battle as the team most likely to score creating clearer chances on goal. Finding space after a well worked move from the back line, Liam Nutters ball to Bjorne Brauns saw him turn his marker deep in his half & charge toward the Bolton goal, finding Adam Massey, the captain played in an unmarked Kane Morgan, with the keeper rushing out, with no time, they Striker placed a first time shot just beyond the post. After a few more half chances & a short corner a piece the first half drew to a close with the game still 0-0.

The second half started more cautious for both sides, Rochdale started deeper, staying organised & compact. Bolton deploying a short game of their own looking to break through the ‘orange wall’, but to no success, each play quickly picked up & Rochdale raced away to counter. Early chances came & went, Adam Massey hitting a top ‘D’ first time strike from another Dean Close delivery wide of the goal. Kane Morgan working the channels, his drive & shot from an acute angle bringing out another save by the keeper for a long corner. A frustrated Bolton side finding difficulty to play the ball out looked to the dribble their way out of trouble, some successful resilience by the defence resulted in Bolton finding their way out & back into the Rochdale half. During this spell of Bolton fortune the away side found themselves now being tested. James Deacy having to work off his line more clearing danger away, Dave Marlow & Tim Liptrot with nerves of steel tackling deep in their own ‘D’ to clear, the former cheekily holding the ball at the base line & nutmegging himself on to an opposition foot. Rochdale looked solid at the back during open play. Bolton looked to short corners for the elusive goal. It was within these opportunities Rochdale were given a few scares. 

The first short corner hit with great power wide of the goal, but it was moments later when they were gifted another short corner.  This time the initial shot was well saved by James Deacy only for the stranded keeper to lay helpless as the Bolton forward swung & miss the rebound for 5 yards out resulting in dangerous play. It was a lifeline for Rochdale, a lifeline eventually waking Rochdale up. The balance of play was still in the away sides favour, but they knew any further lapse in concentration would lead to disastrous goal. The game started to turn physical, Bjorne Brauns turning his marker to only be caught with a body charge knocking the wind out of him, Manny Ahmed breaking forward through the middle with pace to be brought down again with Rochdale having numbers in support, the match was now a midfield battle ground & neither side looked like scoring. Rochdale changed their approach to a more direct approach with the away sides forward line now higher up, Flying Horse man of the match Andy Meanock started to boss proceedings in midfield with skill & precision allowing Rochdale to stay fluid in each march toward the Bolton goal. The pace turned electric & the Bolton side unable to cope with the lengthy periods of tempo started to show in their game.

With just over 15 minutes to go Rochdale found the breakthrough they thoroughly deserved. with initial good work from Tim Liptrot at the back & Dave Marlow releasing an energetic Ellis Barnes Rochdale moved up the field with a sense of purpose. In a great move involving 6 players, Sham Ahmed found Adam Massey unmarked in the ‘D’, his touch & pass right back across goal was met by a surging Dean Close to tap home & give Rochdale the lead. 1-0 with some time to go, Rochdale moved to a half press to protect the lead leaving Bolton with no options to break through, slowly creeping forward, the away side broke up the threat & patiently reverted back to a simple pass & move process. Little time was remaining on the clock & Bolton were also running out of gas, the closing stages of the second half opened further for Rochdale with the team most likely to score. With fatigue setting in for the home team they were ultimately to fall behind further when Bjorne Brauns combined with Kane Morgan to find Adam Massey once again unmarked, the captains first shot close range popping back out to Dean Close who quickly adjusted his feet to sweep a reverse hit into the empty net to secure his & Rochdales second goal. With Bolton calling for an infringement prior to the goal, the umpire stood firm with his decision, Rochdale were two goals to the good & celebratory mood. Again, reverting to a half press, Rochdale saw out the game to claim the spoils & three points with a excellent team performance.

Flying Horse Man Of The Match – Andy Meanock.

Rochdale Mens 2s will next entertain 2019/2020 Division 4 league winners Kendal Mens 2s at Oulder Hill on the 3rd October 2020.