Hockey: Rochdale Men's 2nds 3 - 2 Manchester Men's 1sts

Date published: 14 November 2023

Saturday 11 November saw Rochdale Men’s seconds play the last of the three home fixtures in this season, on their family fun day, against Manchester Men’s firsts who had only lost one game from six so far this season. The weather had been very accommodating, staying dry all day, although it was a bit cold. With it also being Remembrance Day, a minute’s silence was held at the start of the match.

​It was Manchester’s push back and they showed the way they wanted to play early on. The ball being played back, transferred wide and the looking for a way to dribble the ball through. Rochdale showed the way they needed to counter it in the opening exchanges, by making the interceptions and not letting them receive the ball. Manchester was also trying to leave players high, but Rochdale found ways of pushing them further back.

​The home side created some early chances from playing high, but the opening goals would go to Manchester. A bit of miscommunication allowed the away team to break free through the middle and get the ball to the forwards. Showing why Rochdale couldn’t afford to let them receive the ball, he carried it forwards past two defenders into the circle, then slipped it to the man over at the front post to deflect it into the inside of the sideboard for the opening goal.

​This was a bit of a wake-up call for the defence, as it showed how deadly Manchester are with the ball, but it didn’t wake them up enough as Manchester would add another ten minutes later. After they had won several penalty corners from skilful dribbling, that Rochdale just couldn’t live with 90 percent of the time, Manchester finally managed to convert one. They got the ball D top, passed it back to the injector on the baseline, he crossed it and found a way through to the back post, for a striker to slot it in to double their lead. It was tough to concede as the defence felt they should have done better, but it was the last time they would concede in the game.

​Captain Adam Massey was not going to let his team be beaten again so easily. Leading the boys on with his battle cry of ‘we can do this!’, he led the charge to get the Dale a goal back before half time. Getting the ball wide early and working the baseline, allowed a smooth transfer, that exposed Manchester’s biggest fear, having to do some off the ball running. They were slow to pick men up and as the ball came in from the right, Lee Robinson slid in at the penalty spot to start the comeback.

​The halftime score was 2-1 to Manchester, but some good words and on point coaching tips would start tipping the balance in Rochdale’s favour. Again, the need to make interceptions was stressed, as Manchester were just too good when they had the ball, however, they were very weak without it. The need to get the ball wide and down the channel early was also stressed, as Manchester were slow to react to this threat and pick players up. They were however, always a formidable threat and Rochdale couldn’t afford to give them an inch, if they were going to win this.

​Rochdale started the second half well, the defence winning interceptions high and allowing the team to press forwards. Midfield and the forward line were doing a great job of getting wide and using the baseline. This forced several penalty corners and resulted in an equaliser from open play. The goal came from an attack down the right being worked into the circle. There were a couple of scrambled shots, before Massey put his cool head on and squared the ball round the keeper for Andy Meanock to sweep the ball home to level the score.

​Manchester were angered, but still slow to realise they needed to go up a few gears to get back in the game and they would concede another goal around ten minutes later. Mike Bohanna getting an early ball, high up the left wing, danced past two Manchester defenders, with such ease they must have thought he was one of their players, before lashing the ball across the circle to the back post, where Kane Morgan had timed his run to perfection and deflected it into the goal with one touch. Rochdale had once again gone from 2-0 down to 3-2 up.

​There was still a long time to go in this match though and Manchester were furious now, throwing everything they had at the home side for the last twenty minutes. The defence largely held out well and kept making the interceptions.

This resulted in Manchester having to start their dribbles from in their own half most of the time. They were still deadly though, routinely going past four defenders before running out of steam. Niall Baker put in some outstanding reverse stick block tackles on several occasions when they tried cutting in from Rochdale’s right.

​Mostly though, it was the hard-won experience that saw Rochdale get the three points. After a near concession from a counter attack, they stopped throwing as many bodies forward to protect the lead. The new improved short corner defence, masterminded by captain Massey, paid dividends, as Manchester had no less than ten penalty corners in the second half and didn’t score any. The ball did go in the net off the last one, but the umpires ruled it out for it being hit above the backboard. Meanock got the shout going round the team to keep the ball.

​Dean Close had plenty to do in the second half, besides slowing the game down. He was determined not to be beaten in the second half and made many outstanding saves under pressure, that deservedly won him man of the match. Though it was a very hard fought win, the final score was Rochdale 3 - 2 Manchester.

Saturday was a great result. It was really difficult in many ways, not least just being able to bounce back after last weeks drubbing. Manchester were almost unplayable when they had the ball. Rochdale had to work hard to control the possession and deny them opportunities, as they were lethal if they got a sniff of anything. 

Perhaps the way this game was hardest though, was having to be hard nosed and sacrifice the junior players pitch time. In fierce games like these that go down to the wire, experience is needed on the pitch. There were several moments in the fame that it was wisdom from older heads that won the battles that got the result. The younger players have already had some good moments, but their best times are still to come, if they keep putting the work in. Going forward there will be a vote for under-17 player of the match, to reflect their contribution. There was no vote this week, but vice-captain Graham Broadley thought Benjamin Boodeea did well, despite being thrown in at the deep end (against an attack that everyone struggled with) he didn’t drown.

It was also a nice way to end a very successful family fun day for the club, helping raise money for Springhill Hospice. Next week Rochdale Men's seconds are away at top of the league Bowden fifths.

Man of the match this week was Dean Close, for an outstanding goal keeping performance that played a big part in securing the three points.

Report by Graham Broadley

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