First half strikes sink Darlington
Date published: 01 January 2008
Rochdale AFC logo
(Thompson 22, Murray 37, Le Fondre 45 pen)
(Keltie 54 pen)
Three first half goals helped Rochdale to ninth place in League Two with three games in hand on seventh placed Wycombe. An action packed match saw penalties awarded for both sides and a sending off for Darlington’s Alan White, which effectively sealed Rochdale’s win at a time when the visitors were putting them under a lot of pressure.
After a bright opening for the home side Joe Thompson, making his first start of the season, gave them the lead with his first goal in league football. He rose superbly to power a header home from Tom Kennedy’s cross, giving Darlington keeper David Stockdale no chance of a save.
Rochdale doubled their lead on 37 minutes when Thompson and Jones exchanged passes and the former fired in a low cross for Glenn Murray to rifle in his fifth goal in as many games.
The half was almost up when Rochdale added a third. Adam Le Fondre latched onto a long ball over the top and was in the clear. The striker was adjudged to have been fouled by Ian Miller before he could get his shot away and the referee awarded a penalty, although Miller appeared to take the ball with his challenge. Le Fondre sent Stockdale the wrong way with his spot kick.
Darlington were given a lifeline part way through the second half when the referee again intervened in the penalty area, this time awarding Darlington a spot kick for a push by Simon Ramsden on Alan White. Clark Keltie smashed the ball convincingly home from 12 yards.
From then on Darlington piled on the pressure and showed signs, unlike in the first half, of why they lie fourth in the table and had only lost one game on their travels all season. Rochdale defended resolutely however and Darlington chances were kept to a premium.
The game opened up into an entertaining encounter with Rochdale looking dangerous on the break and it was end to end for ten minutes until the game was suddenly ended as a contest when White was given his second yellow card for persistent fouling. Although Rochdale did not add to their goals tally, Darlington’s threat considerably subsided and they struggled to create any further chances.
Commenting on the sending off Rochdale manager Keith Hill said: “I think the movement of our strikers was superb and played a big part in why Darlington committed so many fouls. When Glenn Murray is playing like that defenders have to commit fouls to stop him and I thought Alan White deserved his red card.”
“It was a three one game because we did not play well,” said Hill’s opposite number David Penney. “But the referee made some dubious decisions. There were two penalties in the game and there should have been none. Ian Miller got the ball but once the referee has made the decision he has to send Miller off so I don’t know whether the referee knew he had made a mistake.”
Both teams went into the game high on form and confidence although Darlington had lost their previous game at home to Peterborough while Rochdale came from two goals down to earn a point from their trip to Macclesfield.
Darlington made two changes to the side that lost to Peterborough, Pawel Abbott was relegated to the bench in favour of Greg Blundell while Michael Cummins made way for Ricky Ravenhill.
Keith Hill made three changes to his side, giving starts to the three substitutes from the Macclesfield game who had all played a part in getting Dale back into it. John Doolan replaced Lee Crooks in midfield, while Thompson was given his chance after Kallum Higginbotham was not judged fit enough to start. Adam Le Fondre replaced Lee McEvilly up front.
Despite a nervous start from 19 year-old Thompson he grew in confidence after his goal, setting up Rochdale’s second and displaying some nice touches. He was given a standing ovation by the home faithful when he was replaced by Higginbotham midway through the second half.
Darlington’s frustrations grew seemingly with every blow of the referee’s whistle as their, at times, over-physical approach met with little sympathy from the official. White was an almost constant offender and he was lucky to still be on the pitch at half time after the linesman adjudged him to have hauled down Le Fondre but a second booking did not follow. Neil Austin produced a particularly nasty looking challenge on ex-Darlington winger Adam Rundle but was only booked and Rundle also went into the referee’s notebook for his reaction to the foul.
Rochdale had begun to display some fine flowing football by the time they were two goals to the good and a Darlington defence that had only conceded six goals away from home all season struggled to contain them. One particular move saw Rochdale flow from right to left as Le Fondre found Gary Jones charging through the middle but Rundle failed to supply the finishing touch to the Dale skipper’s lay off.
At the other end former Darlington goalkeeper Sam Russell produced a crucial top drawer save to maintain Rochdale’s two-goal advantage. A Darlington corner was only cleared as far as Ravenhill and his header was destined for the top corner before Russell nudged it over at full stretch.
The visitors were not without their chances despite Rochdale’s dominance. Simon Ramsden produced a superb block tackle in the Dale box after Julian Joachim played overlapping full back Neil Austin in round the back of the Dale defence. Ramsden blocked Austin’s low cross with Blundell sniffing round for any scent of a chance.
A few minutes later and Ravenhill should have done better than to fire straight at Russell from inside the Dale box after latching onto Rob Purdie’s perfect cut back from the left touchline.
David Penney introduced Pawel Abbott in place of the ineffective Joachim midway through the second half in a bid to increase Darlington’s goal threat at a time when they were well on top in the game. However, that thinking was undone just two minutes later when White was given his marching orders for a soft looking foul on Murray. However, the referee had had enough of White’s persistent fouling and showed him a second yellow card.
The sending off ended the game as a contest and Rochdale comfortably played out the remainder to record a fourth victory in five games and extend their unbeaten run to seven matches.
Rochdale: Russell, Ramsden, Stanton, McArdle, Kennedy, Thompson (Higginbotham 57), Doolan, Jones, Rundle, Le Fondre (McEvilly 75), Murray.
Subs not used: Spencer, Crooks, Holness.
Booked: McArdle, Rundle.
Darlington: Stockdale, Austin, White, Miller, Ridley (Smith 86), Joachim (Abbott 72), Ravenhill, Keltie, Purdie, Wright, Blundell (Wiseman 77).
Subs not used: Brackstone, Liversidge.
Booked: White, Austin, Ravenhill, Wright.
Sent Off: White.
Attempts (on target): Rochdale 10 (4) Darlington 8 (3)
Freekicks: Rochdale 33 Darlington 16
Offside: Rochdale 4 Darlington 6
Corners: Rochdale 6 Darlington 8
Referee: R Lewis.
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