Hockey: Rochdale Men's 2nds 2 - 7 Horwich Men's 1sts

Date published: 18 October 2023

Rochdale seconds played host to Horwich firsts at Oulder Hill on Saturday 14 October. The weather started nicely, but some scattered showers blew in and made for a cold wet finish for the welcome support that had turned out. The game started a little late due to traffic issues, but the home side had a good team talk and warm up before the game.

​Rochdale started well for the opening ten minutes, pressing high and taking the game Horwich. Two good early chances were created. One was a penalty corner, the other a baseline cross that didn’t quite get met at the back post. It was a good opening, but the Horwich team were all experienced players and it wasn’t long before they changed things up, to get control of the play.

​Taking advantage of the no offside rule in field hockey, Horwich started leaving at least two forwards high in the Rochdale circle, to pin the defence back. This stopped Rochdale’s midfield getting support from the back line to keep possession and created space for them to explode into on the counter. The result of this was that now the game started to be played in the Rochdale half.

​Horwich went all in on this new approach and had an unbelievably aggressive press, not only were the full backs swamped immediately, they even had forwards cutting off a pass to the goalkeeper. Despite practising this at training, Rochdale had no answer to this press in the first half and while they fought bravely, it was only a matter of time before Horwich opened the floodgates.

​It did still take a bit of good fortune for the away side to get their first. An injury forced Brian Robinson off earlier than planned. Replacing him required two players to change position and the chaos contributed to a Horwich forward getting in on Rochdale’s right and smashing a shot home. It may have been the first, but it wasn’t the last. A second goal came not long after. The defence pushed out as instructed, but didn’t hear the shout from the goalkeeper that Horwich had a man free on the penalty spot. A simple 25-yard ball gave him a simple finish from 5 yards out for their second.

​Another defensive mix up contributed to Horwich’s third goal, this time from a penalty corner. A bobbled shot went straight down the middle of the goal. The defensive runner went to clear it and missed. The goalkeeper kicked it to clear, caught the defender in the back. It squirmed over to a Horwich forward, who slap hit it straight into the backboard. The devastatingly bad first half was capped off by a fourth goal from Horwich. Again, from a penalty corner. This time it was just a drag flick that managed to find its way through.

​The second half started better for Rochdale, pressing high and taking the game to Horwich a bit more. There were some promising signs and some good passages of play, but the home side were unable to get a goal back in the early stages. The first of a five goal second half would go to Horwich.

​For the most part the high line had cut the service off to the Horwich forwards, but a few times the one they call Geordie showed why he doesn’t need many chances. A quick Horwich 16 got them coming down Rochdale’s left. Geordie got the ball deep in the corner, around the 23m line and carried it towards the circle. He pushed into the D, then pulled the ball back and struck it firmly towards the back post for a tap in.

​It wasn’t going to be quite so one sided in the second half though. The returning South African powerhouse Bjorn Brauns got the ball wide on the left, showed some silky skills before hammering the ball goalwards, with midfield engine Kane Morgan on hand to deflect it into the roof of the net past a hapless goalkeeper.

​A second Rochdale goal would be added not long after, due to some good link up play between captain Adam Massey and midfield maestro Manny Ahmed. A good breakthrough on the right from Massey allowed him to play the ball back to the top of the circle to Ahmed, who skinned three players and slotted it home in his own inimitable style.

​There wasn’t much hope for a comeback and any wild thoughts of one were soon put to bed, as Horwich got back in gear and scored another two. The first was another breakdown in communication, as someone was left marking two men at the top of the D, which resulted in gaps opening up inside the D, as the defence tried to readjust. Horwich knew their jobs well, got the ball in front of the goal and found a forward to put it in. The final goal of the game was a brilliant piece of solo skill from Geordie for Horwich. He got the ball on the 23m line ran around the defender, into the D and though very wide, he struck it well and the ball went in off the post into the top corner. Final score 7-2 to Horwich.

​It was a tough one and it’s the first game this season where Dale have been outplayed by better opposition. They pressed high, caused chaos in the defence and showed what a promotion team looks like in this division. Rochdale did show some good spirit and got a couple of consolation goals, but they need to look at today as having areas for improvement highlighted. It is important to remember after games like these that, champions maybe be remembered for their success and glory, but it is being able to handle defeat well that makes teams successful.

Man of the match was Graham Broadley. Honourable mention to Daniel MacDonald for having the bravery to stop a 60mph drag flick with his kneecap, with the final whistle gone and the score at 7-2 down, exemplifying the fighting spirit we need to keep carrying forward.

Report by Graham Broadley

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