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

Date published: 06 February 2024

Saturday 3 February saw Rochdale Men’s 2nds away against Horwich Men’s 1sts. It was a late push back (4.30pm), meaning the game was played under floodlights. Rochdale were without their captain and top scorer, who was struck down with flu the day before. Another injury on the day meant Rochdale were fielding a bare eleven against Horwich’s 13. With Horwich 4th in the table, it was going to be a big ask to get a result here, but stand in captain Kane Morgan had a plan.

​The match started at a high tempo, with both sides having different heavy metal style approaches. Horwich tried to play hard hits early to their formidable forwards on the halfway line. To counter this Rochdale pressed high up the pitch, stopped them taking 16’s early and tried to cut the service off to Horwich’s forwards.

​Rochdale’s strategy worked well for the opening ten minutes. Horwich were largely frustrated and were struggling to play out from the back. The away team were largely controlling possession and created several half chances early on. Unfortunately, the first two goals would fall to Horwich, against the run of play.

​The first was an explosive counter down Horwich’s right. It was quickly driven in at pace and transferred to the back post, before being swept home, which showed what Horwich were capable of if they got the ball to their forwards. Their second was a defensive mix up as a cross came in. Both centre backs had it covered, but the first touch deflected it over to the back post for a quick goal. Rochdale were 2-0 down again and needed to find something, as the next goal would be crucial.

Rochdale stuck at it, as the strategy was mostly working. Winning the ball high up on the right, Morgan slipped a pass in to James Trainor. He rounded two defenders in a zig-zag run and then unleashed a fierce strike into the bottom corner to halve the deficit. The away team were back in it. 

They carried on pressing high and frustrating Horwich. The home team came back fiercely in a couple of spells. A great drag flick from a penalty corner was brilliantly deflected wide by goalkeeper Dean Close’s stick. Another counter attack saw Horwich hit both posts and the crossbar, before Rochdale cleared the danger. They were living dangerously at times but as the half time score was 2-1 in Horwich’s favour, the possibility of a positive result was still on the cards.

A​fter a quick half time team talk, the Rochdale lads were good to go again. They just needed to do more of the same and to exploit the space a little better, and realise how much time and space they had in the middle of the pitch.

​Rochdale started brightly and were soon in the driving seat. They again sustained some pressure on Horwich, but this time they would score. Some brilliant interplay from the forwards saw Joseph Shannon break free in the circle. Spotting the keeper on the ground, he calmly flicked it over him with a composed finish for the equaliser. Rochdale were back in business.

​Horwich would restore their lead around five minutes later, as they got a sustained attack going in Rochdale’s D. The defence came close to stopping it, but a clearance got picked off and Horwich wasted no time in working it back in for a first-time strike into the goal. 

​It was not long though before Rochdale equalised again. This time they won a penalty corner from an attack. The ball came to the top of the circle and Shannon pulled off a drag flick into the top corner, levelling the scores once again. Rochdale asked the umpire how long left, ten minutes was the reply.

​Rochdale dug in and kept controlled attacks going. Unfortunately, Niall Baker, who had done an exceptional job of keeping Horwich’s playmaker quiet, was harshly shown a green card for breaking down play, on Horwich’s 23m line. Horwich came at Rochdale strongly, but learning from past mistakes, the away team dropped a forward back into the midfield line. Horwich did manage one great attack from this, which saw them powering down their right, crossing it to the back post, but thankfully the forward deflected wide.

​The away team had some good attacks of their own down their right, with Trainor being floored on several occasions. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get another goal to take the lead and Horwich won a penalty corner, with the final whistle blowing soon after. It would be the last play of the game and it would be cruel if Rochdale lost now. Fortunately, Dave Marlow kept his composed head on, closed down the pass and made three clean tackles, before clearing the danger.

The final score was Horwich 3 - 3 Rochdale.

​It was always going to be a tough game, away at one of the best teams in the league with a bare eleven. The lads worked really hard, stuck to the plan and won their personal battles to come away with a well-earned point that keeps Dale seventh in the table for now.

Man of the match could have gone to anyone, but it went to Joseph Shannon for two great goals to cap a brilliant performance on his debut. Next week Rochdale are at home to Didsbury 5ths, support welcome.

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