Rochdale were hoping to upset top of the league West Derby and improve their odds of finishing fourth with their last game of the season on Saturday. It has always been a challenging game against West Derby these last two seasons and this one was no exception.
With both sides hungry for the win, the match started at an electrifying end to end tempo as both sides looked to open the scoring. There were a few early chances at both ends but no clear cut ones. Gradually though Rochdale began to get on top as returning midfield maestro Manni Ahmed started to control the game, which allowed Bjorne Brauns to start strutting his stuff and open up West Derby with some driving runs.
Some early crosses to the forwards started to provide some decent opportunities to score, but they didn’t quite manage to connect as sweetly as they would like. Rochdale did manage to win some penalty corners but were unable to convert. This early spell of possession was causing West Derby some problems, but with their extra substitutes they slowly started to turn the tide.
Rochdale’s defence largely held up and was frustrating West Derbies forward line, with relative new comer Liam Nutter doing a good job at right back. West Derby started to manage to win a few penalty corners and manage to convert one with a bit of luck. Going for the traditional hard hit, the ball was injected D top and struck at pace. Diving low to his right goal keeper Jimmy Deceay was unlucky not to save as he got his helmet to it, only for the ball to spin off and role in.
Going into the second half with a one goal advantage, West Derby came at Rochdale looking to add their lead. They did start to look threatening but the centre back partnership of Dave Marlow and Pete Rodgers held strong with an excellent performance, that gave Rochdale confidence to come forwards and look for an equalizer.
Some excellent link up play from Adam Massey saw Rochdale win a penalty corner. Brauns took responsibility for the strike and hit it fiercely at the backboard, for it to be deflected in by Dean Close who sprained his ankle in the process of bringing Rochdale back level.
This upset West Derbies apple cart a bit and they got more determined about getting an equalizer. With passions high the game started to get more physical and tempers started to rise. Fortunately with some good guiding leadership from captain Tim Liptrot this worked to Rochdale’s advantage, as it was West Derbies hockey that suffered the most.
There was a chance for both sides to win it at the death. West Derby won two penalty corners in the dying moments but not only did the defence hold strong, a quick thinking Dave Marlow took the 16 quickly and knocked it down the right wing to counter quickly as West Derby had committed a lot of bodies forward for their penalty corner. Driving down to near the base line Close got the ball across to Massey who was unlucky not too score as the keeper somehow got enough on it to stop it crossing the line before being cleared by a defender.
Captain Tim Liptrot, “Today was another challenging battle against West derby but the lads worked hard and rose to it. This point means we have succeeded in securing fourth spot which is a nice finish to a good season. We would also like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to Stephen Woolley who has greatly assisted the club as our umpire and we hope he enjoys watching us next season. Today’s Flying Horse Man of The Match went to Adam Massey. We’re now looking forward to bit of a break and looking at what we can do to come back stronger next season.”