Rochdale 2s entertained a South Manchester 1s side in a gripping match on Saturday 24th October 2020. With both teams coming in to the fixture from contrasting results the previous weekend, Rochdale were looking to bounce back from the Horwich defeat against a South Manchester brimming with confidence from a 4-1 thumping victory against Bolton 2s.

With both teams boasting strength in numbers for the match, the game was poised to be full of rotations from the side line. Rochdale made 2 changes from the last game at Horwich, Mohammed Shakir replacing an injured Dean Close & Barry Gumbley playing alongside Dave Marlow in defence instead of Pete Rogers.

South Manchester started the game under the slight drizzle of rain at Oulder Hill with some slick passing across the park. Rochdale set themselves defensively looking to stifle the opponents in the early stages and the plan worked with everything played in front of them and entry into the home sides ‘D’ proving difficult with Gumbley and Marlow expertly diffusing any threat.

Rochdale were experiencing difficulties of their own, trying to get out of their half with poor decision making with their passing. This approach gifted the lion’s share of possession in South Manchesters favour. As the away side pressed for a goal, they managed a few efforts towards James Deacy without troubling the keeper as each attempt was wide of his post and anything on target was either kicked or palmed away.

Rochdale opted for aerials as a way out of defence once the South Manchester team changed to a full press, but this was to be fruitless as the away sides defence plucked out the efforts from Gumbley and back it came towards the Rochdale defence. As the first half progressed the home side strung a few well worked passes together, Andy Meanock dropping deep to retrieve the ball linking with up with Bjorne Brauns and Shakir Mohammed who were finding some joy down the channels but the final ball was just out of reach for the forward line consisting of Scott Hempsall-Jones and Captain Adam Massey, leaving the away side keeper hardly anything to deal with.

Disaster was to strike later after Brauns was involved in an ill-timed challenge resulting in a yellow card thus leaving Rochdale down to ten men for a 10-minute period.

Sensing an opportunity to pounce with a one-man advantage, South Manchester pressed forward as the home side re-grouped retreating further back in their own half. Rochdale managed to keep a very narrow shape leaving the away side with no option to shift the ball from right to left as a way through. It was during this phase of play in the game the closest chance came to opening the scoring. Manny Ahmed managed to pick off the South Manchester left back, draw a foul and then continue with a quickly taken self pass, his run down the right and pass between two defenders found the on-rushing Hempsall-Jones meeting the ball at the top of the ‘D’ with the away sides keeper also rushing out. Without breaking stride, the centre forward rounded the keeper and placed his shot behind the scrambling defender running toward the line and shaving the post for a second week running leaving the score level at half time.

After the interval and team talk from both sides, the second half started on an even balance with both battling for possession. Rochdale started to slow the game during the stoppages allowing players to move further up the field, with James Trainor impressing on the day and his range of passing continued to be a valuable source of play at left back. With Marlow sweeping deep in defence, Gumbley was given licence to move forward a little to initiate quick breaks for a lively Kane Morgan.

This created some early openings for the home team with Rochdale pinning South Manchester back in their half, Morgan having a shot blocked early on and Hempsall-Jones finding the keepers feet from an acute angle. The early dominance would come undone when Rochdale were caught on the break resulting in a goal from a short corner. With the ball played out to the stopper, the first attempt clipped a defender’s stick leaving Deacy unable to react quick enough to prevent the ball from rolling into the net, it was 1-0 to South Manchester.

The goal was a bitter blow for Rochdale but they continued to press forward, Gumbley now finding more joy with the aerial routes down the channels to Massey, Brauns and the more influential Hempsall-Jones. Rochdale also changed personnel in defence as Sham Ahmed was drafted in at right back for more stability going forward. The line up was a little more adventurous now and some early glimpses started to show with Rochdale more structured on the ball going forward, slowly the tide started to shift in open play.

But more set back was to ensue shortly after with another short corner goal from the away side, via another deflection from a defender’s stick. At 2-0 and still early in the second half, Rochdale started to play with more urgency successfully moving the ball around and  through the South Manchester pack. The break through came when the ball found its way to Massey, his turn and shot culminated in an eventual long corner for the home side. With the ball quickly played back to Gumbley, his hard strike into the ‘D’ from outside the 25-yard line found the awaiting Massey. With his back to goal and using the full force of the strike, he guided the ball on to his flat stick resulting in the ball flying over the keeper and into the net.

The game now standing at 2-1 and with time to spare Rochdale knew a second goal was inevitable. 2-1 would turn into a well deserved 2-2 after Massey finishing a well worked move involving a host of players from Marlow, Sham Ahmed, Manny Ahmed, Meanock, Brauns and Hempsall-Jones. The passage of play was quite spectacular and to finish the move was even more evident as the home team celebrated with a big roar.

The game continued in Rochdales favour during the later stages of the half as Sham Ahmed and Meanock provided the much-needed engine in the middle allowing Hempsall-Jones and Brauns to showing more flair on the ball and there were a few close opportunities to lead the fixture for the first time. Mohammed almost latching onto an Massey lay off after more fine work down the midfield line. Rochdale were growing whilst South Manchester started to become wary of falling behind and were lucky it wasn’t the case after Gumbleys effort flashed past the post from a short corner. With the home side’s focus firmly on winning the game, it was South Manchester who took the spoils with only minutes to spare via a third short corner.

The contest ended 3-2 for the away side with Rochdale suffering another defeat for the second match running, but will look to getting back to a winning formula next weekend with the style of hockey they are capable of playing.

The Flying Horse Man Of The Match – Scott Hempsall-Jones

Report by Manny Ahmed