Hockey: Rochdale Men's 2nds 2 - 0 Brooklands Manchester University Men's 5ths

Date published: 30 January 2024

Saturday 27 January saw Rochdale Men’s 2nds taking on Brooklands Manchester University Men’s 5ths, at home at Oulder Hill Leisure Centre. Rochdale had two substitutes and Brooklands had a few as well. The weather was a little chilly, but otherwise clear and sunny. This was a big game for Rochdale, with Brooklands below them in the table at the start of play, so the home side needed a draw to put some distance between themselves and the bottom of the table.

​Both teams started the game at a frantic pace, eager and perhaps too keen to get an early goal, as it took a while for either side to find a rhythm with their passing. Brooklands had the better of the chances in the early stages of the first half, with their dribbling skills causing some problems. Fortunately, while young and quick, their inexperience meant their dribbling was mostly into a second tackle or a non-threatening area. They did come close with a cross to the back post, but the forward missed, trying to take a bobbling ball with a first-time strike.

​It would be Rochdale who got the opening goal from open play. A counter down the left found Bjorn Brauns driving through the Brooklands defence and into their 23m line. He squared the ball to James Trainor, who dribbled past three players, before skilfully placing a measured shot past the onrushing goalkeeper to get Rochdale’s first.

​The match wasn’t going to be one-sided though, as Brooklands are a capable side who had beaten Rochdale 3-1 in the reverse fixture. They came back strongly and created some more opportunities. The hard lessons from previous games seemed to have sunk in a bit though and Dale prioritised defending to take the sting out of the opposition, before looking for another goal.

​Keeping Brooklands at bay, the home side added to their tally before the break. This time a well-worked move down Rochdale’s right got Adam Massey in on the baseline. He cleverly worked the ball in with Niall Baker in a W move (so-called because of the shape the three diagonal passes make) straight off the training ground, which allowed Baker to slot his shot home to double the lead. This was the last goal of the half, but there could have been more.

Coach Imran Ansari had a lot to say at half time, mostly good being two up, but lots of things that needed to be better in the second half. The main problem was Rochdale were getting giddy again and looking for more goals, when they really needed to protect their lead and not over-commit. It was also a problem that they were trying to play the game at a frantic pace, which suited the younger and fitter Brooklands side much more than the home team.

​The second half took the home team by surprise, as Brooklands had thrown an extra body into the midfield, which caused some early confusion with the marking. Fortunately the away side didn’t really capitalise on it, with most attacks resulting in a defensive hit out. Brooklands also made it harder for Rochdale to play out, by changing to a more aggressive, but controlled press, resulting in them winning possession between the halfway and Rochdale’s 23m line many times.

​They managed to convert quite a few of these into penalty corners, but were largely ineffective. There was one that came close. A good drag flick from the top, required the eagle-eyed Mike Bohanna to deflect it wide for a long corner. Rochdale also had to contend with several changes of personnel on the defending shorts team, due to two injuries, which also caused a lot of problems that needed dealing with.

​The first was quite early in the second half. A slap hit back out wide was deflected off a Brooklands stick into the head of Baker, who had no time to react to it. The ball struck him on the forehead and while fortunately there was no concussion, he was forced to go to A&E due to the large amount of blood, as is normal with a head injury. Thankfully it was largely superficial, just requiring a bit of a clean and some glue. This led to Liam Haywood coming back on as right back, who would in turn be replaced by Trainor. The second injury was to Danny MacDonald with an injured foot, who was a big miss for Rochdale’s midfield.

​Although Rochdale did have some opportunities this half, Brooklands created far more. One of the best chances was when a turnover allowed a forward to receive it behind the defensive line. One-on-one with the keeper, he decided to cut to the left round the keeper, which thankfully led him straight into the path of Trainor, who had sprinted back from the halfway line to make the tackle. Another good chance was a straight strike from inside the circle. Fortunately, Dean ‘the wall’ Close was on form, stopping it and calmly clearing the danger.

The final score was Rochdale 2 - 0 Brooklands.

​This was another good result, with two wins on the trot Dale are now up to 7th in the table and six points off the bottom. There’s still a long way to go though and there are games against the better teams to come. If the team keeps playing like today though, they should be okay. Top effort from everyone and thank you to all the home support who turned up to cheer the team on. Next week the seconds are away at Horwich.

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