Hockey: Rochdale Men's 2nds 1 - 7 Bowden Men's 5ths

Date published: 14 March 2024

Saturday 9 March saw Rochdale Men’s 2nds at home against Bowden Men’s 5ths. Bowden were in the top three of the league (all of whom are well ahead of the rest of the table), so not much was expected from Rochdale. That said, the lads were determined to give it a go and look to cause a bit of an upset. The weather was overcast, with a chilly wind, so pleasant when the game got going.

​The match started with a Bowden push back and they came on the attack, after a bit of build up play. Fortunately, they were held at bay, but they started to wear the defence down early on, with lots of off the ball running and intelligently probing for weaknesses in the early exchanges. They didn’t get it all their own way though, as Rochdale played out quickly from the back and created a few chances of their own. It was shaping up to be a good game.

​Normally it's England hockey policy not to comment on umpiring, for safeguarding reasons, but I think one of the best umpiring put downs I’ve heard in a while is worth mentioning. After having a free hit given against him for impeding a defender, a Bowden forward went and had a word with the umpire whose decision it was. He said to the umpire, "I can put my foot wherever I like", to which the umpire calmly replied "Yes, but you can’t stand on a player". To which he went off with some incoherent mumbling. All part of the game, jolly hockey sticks and all that.

​It was a little victory for Rochdale and another was soon to follow, as they scored the opening goal from an explosive counter attack down their right-hand side. A quick straight switch to Liam Haywood, allowed him to play it quickly down the line to James Trainor. He played it inside to Bjorn Brauns, who laid it off to Adam Massey, who found Joseph Shannon at the top of the circle, who hit a first-time strike into the backboard.

​Sadly, that would be about as good as it got score wise, as Bowden set about using their superior fitness and hours put in on the training ground. They managed to win a penalty corner for a player not being five yards away from a free hit. They injected the ball to the top of the circle and crossed it to the right-hand post. It was then flicked at goal, striking the postman on the shinpad. A penalty flick was awarded, as it was deemed to prevent a goal. It wasn’t a great flick, but it went in and levelled the scores.

​They soon added two more by clinically breaking through Rochdale’s lines, due to a bit of confusion between midfield and defence. This allowed a few gaps to open up and for players to get in behind. This created overloads and resulted in two good finishes, one from the penalty spot and the other from the top of the circle.

​It wasn’t all one-way traffic though. The home side created some half chances and won a penalty corner. Massey did also get the ball in the net, by showing experience and intelligence on a Bowden 16. The defender set the ball, then touched it twice. Massey ran in and took it off him before slotting it into the backboard. The umpire deemed he hadn’t taken the free hit though, so the goal didn’t stand.

​Bowden managed to add another before half time from a well worked passing move, so the half time score was 4-1 to the visitors. It hadn’t been too bad a half all things considered. Rochdale hadn’t been at their best, but it was easy to see why Bowden are looking at promotion, being well drilled, skilful and physically in great shape. Rochdale were still determined to get what they could and look for some more little wins.

​Rochdale took the initiative and played much of the start of the second half down Bowden’s end. They created some openings and won three more penalty corners, but were unable to convert. It would contribute to their undoing, as Bowden broke through on the counter. One of their upcoming stars broke through, drove towards the left hand side of Rochdale’s D, then cut right and hit a firm shot back across the keeper as he readjusted, slotting it right in the bottom corner. An excellent bit of skill.

​The home side kept attacking, but were unable to get any more goals. Rochdale’s defence were kept busy and had to do a lot of last ditch defending. Dean Close made some brilliant saves, staying on his line and being a ball magnet. Haywood also made a brilliant overhead clearance off the line at one point. It was also good to see Dave Jackson back on the pitch and doing well considering what he was up against. Bowden added three more, which were mostly due to them reacting faster to rebounds following an initial save.

Final score Rochdale 1 Bowden 7.

It was another tough game for Rochdale today and easy to see why Bowden are up near the top. Rochdale were hopeful after playing them away earlier in the season, losing only 3-0 to two flicks and a penalty corner, but Bowden's youngsters have matured a lot in six months and they played well.

Man of the match was James Trainor, who did a brilliant job out on the right wing and played a part in Rochdale's goal.

Report by Graham Broadley

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