Hockey: Brooklands Manchester University Men's 5ths 3 - 1 Rochdale Men's 2nds

Date published: 11 October 2023

Rochdale Men's seconds travelled to the Armitage Centre on Saturday 7 October to play Brooklands Manchester University Mens fifth team. It was a warm weekend for the time of year and despite the late push back time of 4 o’clock, it was still hot and humid. Rochdale had a laid back warm up and not much time to get used to the pitch, but the fighting spirit was there.

​The home side had the push back and made a strong start. Rochdale were very much on the back foot for the opening 20 minutes and their goal of not conceding for the first 15 minutes was very much put to the test. Brookland’s attacks were met with some good resistance to start with, the midfield in Rochdale orange screening the defence and the defence winning tackles, as well as making interceptions. The gaps started to open up as the pressure and persistence mounted though. Returning goalkeeper Dean Close made some brilliant stops, in a cool, calm and collected manor, to keep the dominant Brooklands at bay.

​It was not all one-way traffic, with some attacks from the away side finding a way through, but the possession was probably around two thirds in Brooklands favour still in the opening 20 minutes. Brooklands had one penalty corner in the first half, but it was well defended. Trying a new approach, Rochdale deployed Graham Broadley on the marker outside the post, nearer the injector. The injection was poor and Broadley sprinted out, winning the ball cleanly on the edge of the circle, as the receiver had no time to react, due to the lack of pace on the injection.

​The only goal in the first half would be for Rochdale though, albeit largely against the run of play. A good attack down the right, led by Niall Baker and James Trainor, found midfield maestro Manni Ahmed in a strong forward position. Some silky skills created a passing window into the circle. Reading the game well, especially for a relative newcomer, Lee Robinson got in front of his marker and slap hit a moving ball first time into the roof of the net, just to the side of the keeper, to claim his first goal in a competitive match. Hopefully the first of many, but it was a high standard finish to open his account with.

​Rochdale managed to end the first half 1-0 up. A good team talk at half time, just more of the same was required. Keep the attacks going, use the width and keep going. It was not to be though, as Brooklands snatched two goals in eight minutes at the start of the second half, both of them from penalty corners. The first was a good left switch to beat the front runners. A hard shot followed with the postman unsure of his bearings and not seeing the ball with his mask on. The second a right switch got past the runners. A hard strike into the bottom right corner finding a way through, despite the defence getting a stick to it.

​It was far from over though, despite Brooklands now being 2-1 up. The home side switched to playing with two high forwards, making use of there being no offside in hockey anymore. This largely played into Rochdale’s hands, as it cancelled Brookland’s midfield out, allowing Rochdale some good possession. The away side used it well. Time and time again, finding ways through on the right baseline and also with Andy Meanock coming inside from the left.

​The boys in orange won several penalty corners of their own, but couldn’t quite make them count. Rochdale created several other good chances from early hits from the 23 metre line, but just didn’t quite fall right. Their best chance was when a Brooklands defender had his hand off his stick and handled the ball up and rolled it away from the goal, despite it already crossing the goal line. Although the hand was spotted by the second umpire it wasn’t seen to have already crossed the line and the penalty corner was only upgraded to a penalty flick, and not a goal given. Unfortunately, the forward went high and the keeper saved it.

​The away team largely had the better of it, with pretty much a reversal of the first half possession, being around two thirds in Rochdale’s favour for the last 20 minutes. An equaliser just didn’t come though and a final goal for Brooklands would put the game to bed. It was just a breakaway counter, with Rochdale caught over committing with two minutes to go. Brooklands made an interception and just powered quickly down Rochdale’s right, before switching it across to the other side when in the circle. The shot was blocked, but it just looped kindly for Brookland’s forward over the keeper.

​It was another good performance from the lads and Rochdale showed again that they belong at this level. It was competitive and a great exhibition game of hockey for the neutrals. The Brooklands captain said afterwards, it was a good tight game that could have gone either way. Rochdale just need to dust themselves down and go again next week at home to Horwich, which will be another tough test. It should be a 2pm push back at Oulder Hill, any support welcome.

This week’s man of the match was close again, with some strong contenders, but Graham Broadley just edged it with another solid performance at centre back.

Report by Graham Broadley

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