Saturday saw Rochdale men’s 2s hoping to keep 4th spot hopes alive with a win over South Manchester’s first eleven. However with South Manchester trying to move within a point of Rochdale if they won, it was not going to be as straight forward as it perhaps should have been.

The opening ten minutes made it look like it was going to be Rochdale’s day, as they enjoyed the bulk of possession and were mostly camped in Manchester’s half. A few half chances were created and a couple of penalty corners, but the Manchester defence held strong. They also started to get the occasional counter going.

This allowed Manchester to get the opening goal, largely against the run of play. The ball was quickly transferred through to their wide right forward, who broke through and powered towards the Rochdale baseline. Due to the speed of the break, they found themselves with a man over just north of the P spot, who comfortably slapped the cross first time in to the bottom corner of the Rochdale goal.

It was a bit harsh on Rochdale who had enjoyed most of the possession and created most of the play, but sometimes it is simple hockey that is most effective. Undeterred Rochdale continued to drive forwards and try to create an equaliser. It was not long in coming. Following some good link up play between man of the match Andy Meanock and Bjorn Brauns, Scott Hempsall-Jones found himself with space for a dribble into the D, before smashing it home with a powerful strike to get Rochdale back level.

The pattern of Rochdale keeping the ball and attacking while Manchester defended and countered continued for the remainder of the first half. It was beginning to look like it would be 1-1 at half time, but South Manchester were to add another. A precise through ball from the midfield found a Manchester forward one on one with the goal keeper. As the Rochdale keeper rushed out to win the ball, the Manchester forward calmly dragged wide to open the angle and slap hit it in to the empty goal.

With the score line 2-1 at half time, it was looking like a frustrating day for Rochdale. Almost immediately after the break, things took a turn for the worse. Rochdale tried to play out from the back, but were caught off guard by a more aggressive press from Manchester. A forward won the ball D top drove into the D, squared it to another forward who poked it first time into the Rochdale goal.

That could have been game over right there, but Rochdale made the most of their hard earned experience, dug in and looked for a way back in to the game. A promising attack led to what could have been a half chance for Rochdale, but instead of taking a difficult shot Andy Meanock played smart and forced a penalty corner. Determined to get a result today with a fiery passion, Sean Carney took responsibility and with his usual slick routine sent the ball crashing into the back board.

With the score at 3-2 and the threat of Manchester counters, it was still not going to be easy for Rochdale. Through having a more patient attack and not committing as many bodies forward, Rochdale maintained the pressure and became less exposed to counter attacks. Eventually the equaliser came in contentious fashion. A powerful hit from the midfield that was unintentionally lifted; found its way to Kane Morgan. On its way through the ball came near a Manchester defender and they started to appeal for it being dangerous. Cleverly playing to the whistle, Kane calmly controlled it and slotted it neatly through the keepers legs. The umpires did confer but the goal stud.

Perhaps feeling a little outraged, Manchester started to attack in a more determined fashion to try and restore their lead. For a good ten minutes, Rochdale found it impossible to play out of their own half, with the play alternating between 16s, long and short corners. Manchester did get the ball in the back of Rochdale’s net at one point and appealed for a goal. However an alert Stephen Woolley, familiar with rules of hockey was having none of it. The cross came from outside the shooting circle and looped off a defenders stick into the Rochdale goal. As no attacker had touched, it was deemed to be accidentally played over the base line and a long corner was awarded.

Rochdale did eventually start making some attacks towards the end in search of a winner of their own but it was not to be. The game ended 3-3 which on the day was probably about fair, but both teams probably feel they should have won it. At the start of the game Rochdale would probably have felt they should win it, but in the end it took an experienced and determined performance to get us level in what was a good game for the neutrals. Man of the match went to Andy Meanock for another tireless effort in midfield that created many chances and stopped a good few counters from Manchester.

With the remaining fixtures for us and Golborne this point could be the difference in the end. They are now two points ahead but have South Manchester and top of the league West Derby to play. Obviously being two points behind at the moment, but if we can beat Leyland and Chorley next Saturday it’s going to go to the last game.