It was a wild afternoon on Saturday as storm Dennis provided the backdrop to Rochdale away at Golborne with their sights on moving up into third place if they won by 4 clear goals. This was always going to be a tough game as Golborne are a good side who fight to the very last minute, as Rochdale found out earlier in the season. When, with the last strike of the game Golborne equalised to deny Rochdale all 3 points. However with a gritty performance that saw some brilliant defending, a creative and very fit midfield, good end products from the forward line and clever game management to see the game out, Golborne were more worried about storm Rochdale by the close of play.

The match started in earnest as both teams looked to get the early goal. Golborne got the better of the first few chances, choosing to attack at pace with quick through balls and crosses. A quick release found a Golborne forward on the left edge of D top, he cut to the right and got one on one with the keeper.

Following the text book he carried on round with a wide drag (to take advantage of a keeper’s lack of mobility) and got past the goal keeper to fire a hit on an open net. Trying to cover the shot, Rochdale’s centre back got between the shot and the goal. Unfortunately for Rochdale it struck him on the foot and was judged to have prevented a clear goal scoring opportunity in the circle, so a penalty stroke was awarded and duly converted.

Undeterred and determined to get back level an equaliser was not long in coming for Rochdale, as some resolute defending led to a direct counter attack. Dave Jackson won the ball on the Rochdale 23m line and slipped it to Bjorne Brauns, who played a couple of short passes with Sean Carney. With the ball in a better position, he thumped a hit through to Kane Morgan who controlled it, spun away from the diving goalkeeper then keeping the ball protected, from a defender urgently rushing in, before hearing the shout from Brauns to smash it in the open goal which he promptly did. A defender on the goal line did get a stick to it, but the slight lift on the shot made it too difficult for the defender to stop and the ball edged off him into the net to put Rochdale level.

Momentum was now started to swing in Rochdale’s favour, with tireless legs from the midfield creating some good chances. One of these was an overlapping one two from a side line between Andy Meanock and Graham Broadley resulting in a penalty corner, after the cross was dangerously lifted into the D from a Golborne stick.

With a fast and accurate injection to Carney at the D top, he spotted the keeper had gone to ground and aimed for captain Tim Liptrot’s stick who deflected it straight over the keeper into the open net leaving the men on the post no chance. With that slick routine Rochdale went in 2-1 up at the stroke of half time.

Rochdale started the second half much the same as they ended the first. The ball was largely in Golborne’s half, thanks to some hard graft personified by Brauns who was launching attacks down every channel of the pitch and keeping his cool despite the increasingly physical nature of Golborne’s defending. Carney forced two great saves from the Golborne keeper, one with his helmet and the other a fine reflex save putting a flick wide with his glove. With some brilliant crosses and driving runs, the post was also struck, but the Golborne defence were not going to surrender another goal easily.

Going into the last 15 minutes Golborne changed to practically playing with three forwards, as there left winger started to camp around the Rochdale 23m line. Thankfully Andy Meanock stepped up and did a lot of defending to counter the threat. However the momentum started to swing in Golborne’s favour and Rochdale were largely forced into their own half with the slenderest of leads for the remainder of the game.

An excellent performance from Rochdale’s defensive line largely denied them goal scoring opportunities, with some committed interceptions from Mike Bohanna and the consistently excellent man of the match contender Dave Marlow. Golborne did win a few penalty corners but when they did have shots on goal Jimmy Decay was always equal to it.

With the game so close and both teams looking threatening, Rochdale had to hold their nerve under pressure as one mistake can cost you everything in these situations. Fortune favoured Rochdale on the day however and it was Golborne that blinked first. With Dean Close through on goal and inside the D, a wild diving lunge from behind by a Golborne defender cleaned him out. The umpire judged it as a foul on a player inside the circle with a clear goal scoring opportunity and, as it was in the first half, a penalty stroke was awarded.

Stepping up and taking the responsibility himself, Close sent the keeper the wrong way and flicked it straight down the middle. Sadly this was breaking point for one of the Golborne defenders, who irrationally decided to sarcastically applaud the umpire which only earned him green card. Another foul mouthed rant upgraded his card to a yellow so he would take no further part in the action.

Rochdale’s game management was largely good with five minutes to go, opting largely for possession play and running down the clock to see the game out. Unfortunately for Rochdale they also lost a player to a yellow card after he had an altercation with a Golborne player. The card came too late to make a difference and Rochdale saw the game out to earn a hard fought 3-1 victory.

Captain Tim Liptrot “It was a hard fought game today with a strong and determined performance from Rochdale. Sadly Golborne are still above us with a marginally better goal difference. There were a lot of good shouts for the man of the match with Dave Marlow coming close, but in the end it went to Graham Broadley. Next week is going to be even tougher against Didsbury M5s and it will need us to play our best hockey, but hopefully with the home advantage we will take the three points.”