Hockey: Didsbury Men's 6ths 2 - 3 Rochdale Men's 2nds

Date published: 25 January 2024

Sunday 22 January saw Rochdale Men’s 2nd team playing away at the Armitage Centre in Manchester, in what would have been their second game of the weekend, had Saturday’s game against Stockport not been called off due to a frozen pitch.

Didsbury had played a game the previous day, but had four substitutes to Rochdale’s one. The weather was expected to be wet, wild and windy, but the storm kindly held off for the duration of the match at least.

​The match started in earnest, after a short delay waiting for an umpire, with both sides keen to get the early goal. It was Didsbury who would have the better of the opening exchanges, largely keeping the away side penned back in their own half, but Rochdale slowly played their way into the game and getting a few attacks of their own going.

​It would be Didsbury who scored the opening goal though. They won a penalty corner, after a cross struck a defender’s foot. The ball was injected to the top of the circle. It was moved back into the D and struck fiercely. The attacker lifted it slightly and it found the backboard in the smallest of gaps, between the post man and the goalkeeper. Nothing much could have been done to stop it, just a well hit and precise strike.

​Undeterred by going a goal down, the lads in orange dug in and started to gain the upper hand with the possession, forcing a few penalty corners and creating some chances, but unable to find the breakthrough. Again, they would become the victims of their own gains, as they were caught high on the counter. Didsbury managed to pick a stray pass off and explode down Rochdale’s right. With the penalty spot options cut off, the winger crossed it to the forward at the top of the circle, who just about got his shot away without being tackled. It was another good strike that found the bottom corner, with nothing the keeper could do.

​That was the seventh goal Rochdale had conceded in the last 35 minutes of hockey (including the latter stages of last weeks game). This time though, heads didn’t drop and the side learnt from its mistakes, dusted itself off and found a way to move forward. A lifeline was thrown towards the end of the first half, with a penalty corner turning into a penalty flick, after Andy Meanock’s shot struck a defender’s foot on the goal line. Choosing to shoulder the responsibility himself, the Rochdale captain stepped up to take it. It was a good effort, but it agonisingly struck the post and stayed out, resulting in a 16-yard hit out, as the rules of field hockey don’t allow rebounds.

​Halftime came and it would have been so easy for heads to drop and the wheels to come off again. Not today though. The calm and collected wisdom of on point coach and all round hockey legend Imran Ansari was on hand to make some key points. The question was, would they listen and would it make a difference?

Rochdale certainly started the second half better. There was some great link up play between the midfield and forward lines. The defence was higher, but not over exposed. More penalty corners were being won and the chances were coming, but would they get the all important breakthrough? A Rochdale attack down the right saw captain Adam Massey work the baseline, after being set up by Nial Baker. Cutting inside, he got one on one with the keeper. The keeper slid out as Massey prepared the shot, but only succeeded in blocking his stick illegally, resulting in another penalty flick being awarded.

​There could have been a bit of thought about who was going to take it, after the earlier miss and the side not having anyone who practises them. However, a steely look of determination was in the captain’s eye, as he again chooses to bear the heavy burden of responsibility personally. He stepped up to the spot and flicked it high on the keeper’s pad side. The keeper got a stick to it, but it deflected up and in. Massey had scored and Rochdale had a toe hold back in the game.

​Didsbury were riled out of their slumber, a little concerned that Rochdale might get something out of the game, they came at the away side as hard as they could. The defence stood firm, with Dave Marlow and Mike Bohana making some key challenges, to stop the home side getting in the D. Didsbury did get a few more penalty corners and one of them resulted in a goal.

​The ball came to the top of the circle and was struck fiercely towards the goal. It went wide and rebounded kindly for Rochdale to take a quick 16. Meanock shouted for it. Thinking quickly, he got the ball straight up to Bjorn Brauns on the left wing and it was now Rochdale who had a strong counter. Brauns thundered down the left past two defenders, before the ball was worked quickly to Massey on the P spot, via the quick hands of Kane Morgan. Keeping calm, the captain controlled it, stood the goalkeeper up and worked it around him, keeping the ball just out of his reach, before slotting it home with a steady finish, showcasing his nerves of steel.

​The scores were now level and Rochdale got bodies behind the ball, to try and hang on for the point. They were able to keep playing out from the back, when necessary, thanks to the cool head of the young Liam Haywood, who managed to find the forwards foot about four times in a row on one occasion, definitely having the better of him on the day and getting a well-deserved man of the match for his troubles.

​Rochdale would have been happy with a draw, but it was not to be. Again, catching Didsbury high and exploding down their left, with the quick legs of Brauns, the ball was again worked over to the right. This time it found its wat to Morgan, who skilfully created a yard of space, before undercutting a clinical strike over the hapless goalkeeper, to give Rochdale the lead for the first time in the game.

​There was still ten minutes to go and a lot of pressure to soak up, from a Didsbury side throwing the kitchen sink at the away time, with the home supporters cheering them on. Rochdale sensed victory though and fought valiantly. Morgan sliding in with some heroic tackles, Meanock keeping the ball, Bohanna putting some solid tackles in. There were too many outstanding moments from players to count, but even that wouldn’t have been enough without Dean Close being on form in the Rochdale goal with several outstanding saves and a clear, calm head to clear danger when required.

Final score, Didsbury 2 - 3 Rochdale.

​It was a brilliant result for Rochdale today, that got them an important three points. The players showed great resilience to come back from 2-0 down, to win 3-2 away from home, against a great club. They played well, listened to their coach, put the work in and got a well earned three points. Hopefully they can take some of that momentum into next week's home game against Brooklands 5ths.

Man of the match was Liam Haywood, who had a great game today.

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