Saturday saw Rochdale taking on Liverpool university, hoping to improve on recent form and try to get into a stronger position in the top half of the table. With 8 goals, a good tempo and a win for Rochdale, it was a great game for the travelling supporters.

Rochdale started the slower of the sides, with their back three being tested straight from the off. The initial openings saw Liverpool university breaking through the Rochdale press and hitting the last defenders one on one at pace. Fortunately though they kept cool heads and either tackled the forward or covered each other and picked up the loose balls to keep Liverpool at bay.

With the extra man in midfield, Rochdale started to create goal scoring opportunities and it was not long before they opened their account. The first came from an attack down the left, with Kieran Hunter penetrating the 23m line before being fouled. Noticing that Liverpool were protesting rather than defending, he moved the ball 5m before driving into the D for a reverse hit shot. On target and fierce the keeper did block it, but the goal hungry Barry Gumbley reacted the fastest and smashed it into the open space at the back post to put Rochdale ahead.

The response was almost immediate from Liverpool however to get back level. A brilliant solo effort, saw their main forward get one on one with the last defender after some quick one twos. Through keeping the ball close to his stick head, he forced himself goal side of the last man and struck it reverse from the right hand side of D top into the corner to get back Liverpool back level.

It quickly became end to end, with Rochdale having to drop an extra defender in to cope with the Liverpool attacks. Fortunately though Liverpool had only a bare eleven and were not particular fit for a team of students, so Rochdale began to look more likely to score. One such chance for Rochdale compounded the numbers problem for Liverpool after one of their defenders showed a lack of experience.

With some skilful play down the right, Gumbley found himself through on goal (after controlling a brilliant through ball) and had the goals in his sights. The defenders heart was in the right place as he tried to put a challenge in. Unfortunately his head was not as tried to get round the attackers body from behind and on what used to be called the wrong side. In fairness he did almost win the ball, but all he really ended up with was a leg of blood and fibre glass fragments as the forward followed through with the hit as the classic text books say will happen.

After quietly considering it (with possibly some sympathy for the defender), the umpire awarded the penalty corner as the defender was not in a position to tackle without physically impeding his opponent and had therefore created the danger himself. Rochdale capitalised on the penalty corner after the initial shot had been deflected wide, the ball was crossed back in and was tapped home by midfield engine Aaron Hunter.

Rochdale continued to apply the pressure with some strong attacking play. It was mostly good quality passing play up to the 23m line and then players being unafraid to dribble through trying to create attacking opportunities. A third was added through one of these, with Rob driving the ball in to the left base line before giving it a little reverse stick flick towards the P spot. Always looking for more goals Gumbley got in front of his man and volleyed it in like he was on test match special.

Liverpool were down but not out and continued to force penalty corners towards the end of the first half. These were well defended by Rochdale though with some fearless first runner work by Luke Rosebury and good post work from Danny Ramsbottom and Danny Bowe, with the goal keeper saving when required. Rochdale went in at half time 3-1 up and starting to look like they were in control.

The opening of the second half saw Liverpool try and up the tempo to find a way back in to the match. Tireless running helped by moving the defence helped, but their second goal came from more intelligent attacking. Instead of trying to dribble at the defence, the forward held the ball up for a second to allow the midfield to come though. With an extra man, they worked it round the defence quickly for a ruthless tap in.

This could have been the start of something, but Rochdale’s response was not long in coming. With the midfield camped in Liverpool’s half for a good five minutes, the Rochdale midfield picked its moment and drove rapidly down the right wing. The ball was crossed in at pace and was calmly converted by Adam Massey.

Although Liverpool were to add a third (it was similar to their second), it was starting to look like Rochdale were always going to get at least one back and maintain the lead. With the score at 4-3, Rochdale played three quick passes down the left and were into the D. The initial shot was initially stopped, as was the rebound. However Massey’s shot struck the defenders foot on the goal line and earned a penalty corner. This was duly converted, with captain Michael Waddicor taking responsibility.

Liverpool did manage a string of penalty corners towards the end but were unable to capitalise. It ended 5-3 to earn Rochdale a deserved victory. It was not a one sided contest today and Liverpool were always a threat. Even though we were not at our best today, we dug in and got the job done.

The Flying Horse man of the match was Peter Ransome, for his tireless effort all game.