Reality check for Dale in season opener

Date published: 11 August 2007

Peterborough United 3 (Low 10, Mclean 44, Crow 90)
Rochdale 0

Rochdale fell down to earth with a quite mighty bump in their season’s opener against the favourites for League Two, Peterborough United. Expectations were high in both camps going into a game that had the potential to be a real cracker in the hot opening day sun, but the high spending home side steam-rollered Rochdale, adding clout to Keith Hill’s belief that ‘The Posh’ will be the Champions of League Two this term.

Peterborough’s dominance was created by their winning all of the important individual battles on the pitch. The Dale defence simply never looked like getting to grips with the superb Posh strikers. Livewire Aaron Mclean never stopped running and constantly found space, whilst the clever turns and touches of strike partner George Boyd enabled a constant flowing link up between the two.

At the other end the small Dale strike force of Chris Dagnall and Adam Le Fondre had no chance in the air against the dominant Craig Morgan, and when the two strikers did manage to get the ball down at their feet there were always two or three defenders snapping at their heels.

Fortunes did not change for the visitors until the second half introduction of Glenn Murray, by which time they were already two goals down and forced into chasing their way back into proceedings. Murray created aerial problems for the Posh defence and became the foil that Dagnall and Le Fondre needed, with Dale switching to a 3-4-3 formation upon Murray’s introduction.

Dale finally managed to build up some pressure that may have seen them get back into the game but as chances went begging, largely thanks to the continuous brick wall-esque qualities of the home defence, goalkeeper Shwan Jalal remained untested.

Sandwiched in between this Dale pressure and a final chance for the visitors, Peterborough came within the width of the crossbar from closing the book on their goal of the season award with only an hour of the season gone. From an angle outside the right hand edge of the Dale box, Chris Whelpdale teed himself up and then smacked a volley that had James Spencer beaten all ends up, only for the ball to slam off the face of the crossbar. Low was presented with the rebound but his volley hit the bar and bounced down for Rory McArdle to clear off the line.

Dale’s final chance to get back into proceedings came when Le Fondre was unable to capitalise on the only occasion when he got clear of the defensive line and had a chance to run at goal. After the ball got stuck under the striker’s feet and the Posh defence converged like vultures, Le Fondre could do nothing but stab the ball wide.

Within two minutes of the miss Peterborough tied up the victory when Dale were caught on the break and Danny Crow turned in Josh Low’s low ball across the six-yard box.

In truth it was clear within five minutes of the start of the game that for all Dale’s high hopes going into this campaign, they looked as though they were going to be in for a baptism of fire here. The Dale rearguard in particular was set for a long hot afternoon as the two Peterborough strikers started like the proverbial locomotive. A lovely interchange between the two set the tone for proceedings, Mclean eventually drilling a low warning shot across the Dale bows.

More flowing football came and it was not long before it gave Peterborough the lead. Mclean held up the ball having collected it in the left hand channel, he fed Low, who side stepped Crooks and slammed the ball emphatically into the top corner.

Dale’s only chance in the first half came Dagnall’s way as he stretched to get on the end of Tom Kennedy’s deep cross, Dale’s top scorer from last term managed to make contact on the volley in front of goal, but the ball sliced wide.

Peterborough looked like they might grab a second during every attack but it looked as though Dale might scramble through to a much needed half time regroup just one goal in arrears. Cue the sucker punch thanks to some shocking defending. Morgan’s punt up field was met with indecision between defence and goalkeeper, allowing Mclean to steal in and knick the ball under Spencer; a poor goal conceded at a desperately poor time, leaving Dale with everything to do in the second half. They couldn’t do it, they couldn’t come close, Peterborough were just too good.

When asked to name some positives to take from Dale’s opening fixture, manager Keith Hill said stoically: “Well…there’s forty-five games left!”

Another positive? Dale are a more than capable side and will get better. Here they did not necessarily play particularly poorly it was just Peterborough have spent enough money on a range of high quality players in the hope of propelling themselves smoothly into League One. If they put in displays like this regularly, they will certainly achieve that.

Knowing Keith Hill’s side they will be stung by this early setback, but heads will not be down, instead they will be eager to right the wrongs, first by giving Stoke a competitive game in the League Cup on Tuesday and then by kick starting their league campaign at home to Chester next Saturday.

Aaron Mclean – It was all the Dale defence could do to try and deal with George Boyd, so to then have the ever-running Mclean to deal with was simply too much. A tidy finish for his gifted goal and a well worked assist for Peterborough’s first. There will not be many other strike partnerships that are as enjoyable to watch at this level.

Attendance: 5,575.

Peterborough: Jalal, Newton, Blackett, Morgan, Day, Whelpdale (Westwood 77), Hyde, Keates, Low, Mclean (Howe 89), Boyd (Crow 82).
Subs not used: Tyler, Lee.

Booked: Morgan.

Rochdale: Spencer, Ramsden, Crooks, McArdle, Kennedy, Muirhead (D’Laryea 54), Jones, Perkins, Rundle (Murray 54), Dagnall, Le Fondre.
Subs not used: Watt, Russell, Prendergast.

Attempts (on target): Peterborough: 13 (6) Rochdale 7 (2)
Freekicks: Peterborough: 17 Rochdale 20
Offside: Peterborough 5 Rochdale 4
Corners: Peterborough 5 Rochdale 2

Referee: R Lee

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