Hockey: Bolton Men's 2nds 0 - 2 Rochdale Men's 2nds

Date published: 30 September 2020

After two months of intense fitness training, two pre-season friendlies and a training match against a Premier league team, Rochdale travelled away at Bolton on 26 September to kick start the 2020/21 hockey season looking to start with a victory against a very experienced Bolton team.

Rochdale made two changes to the line-up from last week’s friendly as ‘big hitter’ Graham Broadley replaced Richard Saggerson at right back and Dave ‘Mini’ Marlow came in for Peter Rogers in central defence.

After an extended delay to the 2.30pm push back, Rochdale got the game under way in comical fashion, gifting possession to a young alert Bolton player within five seconds and the young forward drove towards the Rochdale ‘D’ for the first attack. Drawing a foul, Bolton found themselves in a dangerous position to open their season with a very early goal, but the free hit inside the 25-yard line was met by a Rochdale defence in no mood to concede, ushering the ball out to initiate a break away.

Utilising the short game, the away side, now composed, typically spread the ball around the pitch with Andy Meanock and Bjorn Brauns both combining to good effect down the left channel. With Rochdale probing for a clear opportunity and Kane Morgan playing as a high forward, the tactics were evident. Half chances came Rochdale’s way when Dean Close and Graham Broadley linked up intelligently down the right side to deliver into the ‘D’ to both Kane Morgan and Adam Massey, but a deft touch was not to be and Bolton were to re-set for a 16 yard set piece.

It was not all Rochdale, as Bolton effectively managed to play the ball out each time from the 16 to find themselves on the front foot and keep the away side on their toes. 

With chances for both sides, it was a defensive error from the Bolton captain which led to the first short corner of the afternoon for Rochdale. Adam Massey stepped up to take a well struck hit toward goal that the keeper fumbled and a defender cleared off the line.

The chance sprung Rochdale into life culminating in another short corner, but the usually well worked set play to Tim Liptrot wasn’t executed to precision and Rochdale missed another opportunity.

With Bolton still finding joy from the 16 yard set piece, Rochdale started to sit deeper to allow the home team to play the ball in front of them. With Bolton now growing into the game they slowly edged closer to the Rochdale ‘D’. Looking down the right channel Bolton mirrored Rochdale’s approach flashing a few crosses of their own but with no support in the middle from the aging squad and Rochdale composed at the back, the danger was limited.

Rochdale introduced Sham Ahmed making his Rochdale debut midway through the half, the experienced midfielder taking the game in his stride with composure on the ball. With both teams battling for the first goal, both defences were tested in the later stages of the last half. Adam Massey finding space in the ‘D’ from a Dean Close delivery had two shots saved in quick succession, a first shot to the pads bouncing back to him and his second deflecting off the grounded keeper to loop over the bar. Rochdale were knocking on the door and more chances came their way; Kane Morgan’s turn and shot out wide drawing another save from the keeper.

It was the same at the other end, Bolton twice hitting with shots out wide. The game started to open up with Rochdale edging the battle as the team most likely to score and creating clearer chances on goal. Finding space after a well worked move from the back line, Liam Nutter's ball to Bjorne Brauns saw him turn his marker deep in his half and charge toward the Bolton goal, finding Adam Massey, the captain played in an unmarked Kane Morgan, with the keeper rushing out, and no time to pass, the striker placed a first time shot just beyond the post. After a few more half chances and a short corner a piece the first half drew to a close with the game still 0-0.

Both sides started the second half more cautiously, Rochdale started deeper, staying organised and compact. Bolton deployed a short game of their own, looking to break through the ‘orange wall’, but to no success, each play was quickly picked up and Rochdale raced away to counter.

Early chances came and went for Rochdale, Adam Massey hitting a top ‘D’ first time strike wide of the goal and Kane Morgan working the channels, his drive and shot from an acute angle bringing out another save by the keeper for a long corner.

A frustrated Bolton side were finding it difficult to play the ball out and looked to the dribble their way out of trouble, some successful resilience by the defence resulted in Bolton finding their way out and back into the Rochdale half.

During this spell of Bolton fortune, Rochdale found themselves now being tested. James Deacy had to work off his line more often, clearing danger away, Dave Marlow and Tim Liptrot with nerves of steel tackling deep in their own ‘D’ to clear, the former cheekily holding the ball at the base line and nutmegging himself on to an opposition foot.

Rochdale looked solid at the back during open play. Bolton looked to short corners for the elusive goal. It was within these opportunities Rochdale were given a few scares. 

The first short corner hit with great power wide of the goal, but it was moments later when they were gifted another short corner. This time the initial shot was well saved by James Deacy only for the stranded keeper to lay helpless as the Bolton forward swung and missed the rebound from five yards out resulting in dangerous play.

It was a lifeline for Rochdale, eventually waking them up. The game started to turn physical, Bjorne Brauns turning his marker to only be caught with a body charge knocking the wind out of him, Manny Ahmed breaking forward through the middle with pace to be brought down again with Rochdale having numbers in support.

The match was now a midfield battle ground and neither side looked like scoring. Rochdale changed their tactics to a more direct approach with their forward line now higher up, Flying Horse man of the match Andy Meanock started to boss proceedings in midfield with skill and precision allowing Rochdale to stay fluid in each march toward the Bolton goal. The pace turned electric and Bolton were unable to cope with the lengthy periods of high tempo play.

With just over 15 minutes to go Rochdale found the breakthrough they deserved. Good work from Tim Liptrot at the back allowed Dave Marlow to release an energetic Ellis Barnes. Rochdale moved up the field with a sense of purpose.

In a great move involving six players, Sham Ahmed found Adam Massey unmarked in the ‘D’, his touch and pass right back across goal was met by a surging Dean Close to tap home and give Rochdale the lead.

1-0 up with some time to go, Rochdale moved to a half press to protect the lead leaving Bolton with no options to break through. Slowly creeping forward, Rochdale broke up the threat and patiently reverted back to a simple pass and move process.

Little time was remaining on the clock and Bolton were also running out of gas. They were ultimately to fall behind further when Bjorne Brauns combined with Kane Morgan to find Adam Massey once again unmarked. The captain's first shot from close range popping back out to Dean Close who quickly adjusted his feet to sweep a reverse hit into the empty net to secure his and Rochdale's second goal.

Although Bolton were calling for an infringement prior to the goal, the umpire stood firm with his decision. Rochdale were two goals to the good and in a celebratory mood. Reverting to a half press, Rochdale saw out the game to claim the three points with a excellent team performance.

The Flying Horse Man Of The Match was Andy Meanock.

Rochdale Men's 2nds will host 2019/2020 Division 4 league winners Kendal Men's 2nds at Oulder Hill on Saturday 3 October 2020.

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