Sunday saw Rochdale Men’s Firsts win their last game of the season, in the Lancashire Cup final against Liverpool John Moores University. It took a nail-biting penalty shoot out but Rochdale are the Lancashire Cup winners.
With both teams, each scoring in excess of 100 goals this season it was always going to be a contest of who’s defence could stand strongest. Rochdale had secured promotion with a victory in the last league game and were looking to finish the season on a high, but early on the signs didn’t look good as John Moores started the better of the two and dominated possession.
John Moores were beginning to make in-roads in to Rochdale’s defence, but were not creating too many clear chances.
Eventually, John Moores broke the dead lock with a well worked set play to take the lead.
Rochdale forward James Shepherd almost equalised when Michael Waddicor won the ball on the half way line; he glided past two defenders and passed to Shepherd to leave him one on one with the oncoming John Moores goalkeeper, however Shepherd was not set and was quickly closed down leaving him no room to a get a shot off.
All season Rochdale have been guilty of slow starts and once again this was haunting them.
John Moores were starting to take the game by the scruff of the neck and Rochdale were being left further behind as John Moores took a 2-0 lead.
Slowly Rochdale began to gain confidence and work their way back in to the final. They started to close the ball down more and not give John Moores the time or space to play their game.
Waddicor intercepted a loose pass and ran it from his own 25 yard line, a familiar site to the traveling Rochdale fans. The John Moores midfield couldn’t keep up with his skills on the ball when running at pace, and this allowed him to find Barry Gumbley free on the right of the D. Gumbley drilled the ball across the face of the goal where Shepherd reacted quickest and got in front of the defender to deflect the ball passed the keeper and put Rochdale right back in the game.
The joy didn’t last long as John Moores were becoming more and more clinical and made it 3-1 before half time with another well worked set routine, this time from a penalty corner.
The second half saw both teams begin to feel the heat, on the hottest day of the year so far, and again it was John Moores that struck to make it 4-1, albeit against the run if play.
Most teams would have given in by now, but Rochdale have been down this road before and weren’t for throwing the towel in just yet. They stayed calm, dug deep and refused to roll over.
Continuing to keep John Moores under constant pressure Rochdale won a penalty corner after a foul on Waddicor. Up stepped Gumbley to walk the ball past the defence a smash it in to the bottom corner, for 4-2.
The goal lifted Rochdale hearts and spirit, and at this crucial time the battle of nerves saw John Moores start to tire and buckle under the pressure, which was intensified even more when Gumbley dribbled the ball past the defender and to the byline. Striking the ball from the most acute angle, with sublime accuracy, to squeeze it past the John Moores keeper and find the tiniest of gaps and into the back of the net.
At 4-3 and with two minutes to go, Rochdale threw everything at it, and John Moores put every man behind the ball to protect their fragile lead.
A foul, again on Waddicor, resulted in a player being sent off, and this gave Rochdale the advantage they needed. In the dying moments of normal time, a shot from Gumbley was deflected by Shepherd, which lifted it over the keeper and landed in the goal, 4-4 and the end of normal time.
Extra time and golden goal led to a stalemate as Rochdale’s defence of James Deacy, Daniel Bowe, Mark Vynne, Mark Eden, Tim Liptrot and Danny Ramsbottom gave everything to keep out several John Moores penalty corners.
As the clock ticked on, both teams had settled for penalty flicks.
Rochdale’s Keiran King, Gumbley and Eden, all scored and when the John Moores player stepped up to take their fourth flick, he needed to score to keep the contest alive. Facing him was Rochdale’s keeper Deacy, who pulled off his second save of the shoot out and Rochdale had won 3-2 on penalties and were the new Lancashire Cup winners.
Rochdale captain Michael Waddicor said: “It’s been a crazy day, one which we could never have imagined after being 4-1 down. I always have faith in the team and we have shown it time and time again that we can come back from behind and win.
“I can’t thank the lads enough for a great season, firstly promotion, and now the Lancashire Cup winners.
“Also, the support we have had today and throughout the season from family and friends, has been amazing.”
The Oulderhill Leisure Complex man-of-the-match went jointly to Mark Eden and Michael Waddicor.