Saturday saw Rochdale M1s return to action with a friendly against Bowden because the league match was called off by the opposition. After 4 weeks without hockey it wasn’t going to be as straightforward as it should have been considering most of Bowden’s team play a division or so below.

That said in the opening minutes it looked like Rochdale were going to run riot as they definitely started the brighter, pinning the home side deep in their own half. A few strong opening shots flashed across goal and one rattled the post but was cleared by some quick defending. Rochdale did think they had opened the scoring as Barry Gumbly, returning from a bad injury, rounded several defenders and hammered it in the bottom corner from the top of circle. However the umpires deemed the ball was struck just outside the scoring area and awarded a 16 to the defence.

Surviving these early scares gave the young Bowden side a bit more confidence and they started to get there shape and game plan into operation. The play was still predominantly with Rochdale but Bowden forced a few penalty corners and some decent efforts from their reverse sides but these were well handled by Rochdale’s back three.

The opening goal would fall for Bowden however, as a failed interception allowed one of their midfielders to control the ball on the halfway line and drive at the defence. He had speed and enthusiasm, drove to the 23m line and hammered it across circle, finding one of their experienced forwards who slid in and guided it into the backboard.

Bowden had the lead, albeit against the run of play but they had showed some promise. A little stung and realising they had to go up a gear, Rochdale continued to pepper the Bowden goal and control most of the possession. A goal would prove elusive this half however as the home side went in a goal up, with one of their players heard to remark how have Rochdale not scored.

With a strong team talk, it wouldn’t be much longer before Rochdale got on the score sheet. Several times the Bowden team were lucky to clear shots from Gumbley, Rob Lees, Michael Waddicor, DaveGowers and Ellis Barnes. However after a well worked move that started with a run from Gowers on the left, a slip right to Ric Borritt who beat a man and laid the ball off for a first time shot from Peter Ransome. The Bowden keep saved the initial shot, but it was captain Waddicor who brought Rochdale level, by reacting first by diving in to knock the ball over the line.

It was to be a little short lived, as Rochdale’s back line got caught trying some new defensive tactics which allowed the Bowden  forward unmarked at the back post to tap in an easy goal for Bowden’s second.

Mercifully Rochdale’s forwards got them off the hook pretty quickly with a great response. Some brilliant passing play between Borritt and the experienced partnership off Gowers and Gumbly found Gowers putting in an excellent first time shot played to him by Gumbley to level the score again.

It was still Rochdale who looked the most likely to win, but time was starting to run out. Lees thought he had found a way through as he hammered a rebounding ball in from the top of the circle but it was ruled out for danger, and Gowers had chipped the ball over the keeper only for it to hit the crossbar. However with about two minutes to go Lee’s finally got the winner with a brilliant reverse stick strike into the top corner to secure a 3-2 victory for Rochdale.

Captain Michael Waddicor said “We were obviously rusty at times today and we let ourselves down with moments of poor passing and decision making. Bowden played a mixture of experience and talented youth prospects, and in the end it was a great game for spectators with the end to end play.”

The Oulderhill Leisure Complex man of the match went to Captain Michael Waddicor.