MacDonald class is too good for Rochdale

Date published: 13 February 2008

Rochdale 2 (Ramsden 7, Howe 90)
Hereford 4 (MacDonald 14, 21, 31, Hooper 73)

Rochdale succumbed to a third defeat in as many games after individual errors and a first half hat-trick from Sherjill MacDonald saw Hereford record a convincing win at Spotland.

MacDonald was head and shoulders the best player on the pitch and he showed why he is contracted to a Championship side in West Bromwich Albion by proving that, in goal-scoring terms, there is a marked difference between League Two and the team currently lying just one place below the Premiership.

It normally takes strikers at this level a few pot shots on goal before finding their range but it spoke volumes for MacDonald’s calibre that when, after Hereford had had a sum total of three shots on goal, MacDonald had already secured the match ball.

Hereford defenders and goalkeeper had taken their leave exceedingly early when Simon Ramsden nodded in to open the scoring for Rochdale from an Adam Rundle corner but this seemed to be of little concern by the time, just seven minutes later, Hereford had taken a liking to carving the Dale defence open.

For all that Hereford showed their class - the match, as a whole, portraying that they are capable of being automatic promotion chasers, while Rochdale are part of a pack of play-off hopefuls – it took a succession of gifts from the home defence for MacDonald to prove his class.

His first came when Rory McArdle, perhaps suffering the ill effects of having to be substituted after a blow to the head at Lincoln on Saturday, took on the roll of Danny Cipriani, during England’s Six Nations match against Italy on Sunday, and promptly whacked an attempted clearance straight at Gary Hooper. The striker broke away and layed on the simplest of finishes for MacDonald.

MacDonald’s second goal showed contempt for the stage upon which it was set; this kind of play was for too good for Spotland on a Tuesday night. The Dale defence could perhaps be excused for standing too far off, such was the quality when Clint Easton found MacDonald, who beat Tom Kennedy and produced a neat finish beyond Sam Russell.

The home fans were already saying ‘these are quite good’, as is the want of the locals when a side attends Spotland playing a brand of football that they understand is acceptable enough for victory, when John Doolan conceded possession for Rochdale on the half way line and within the blink of an eye MacDonald had made it three from Simon Johnson’s cut back.

Yet Rochdale should not feel too disheartened in defeat, even though Hereford’s third sealed their fate. For all that the result looks convincing and for all that Hereford deserved it, the way Rochdale equipped themselves in the second half provided positives and potential turning points.

Even before half time there was one such moment. Adam Le Fondre could have left Dale trailing by just one but he only managed to divert David Perkins’ shot turned cross onto the post via the legs of Hereford keeper Wayne Brown.

Keith Hill, Dale’s boss, fired up the troops and changed the personnel in a bid to make Hereford battle for their victory during the second half and Rochdale certainly emerged as if they had accepted a fight in the face of adversity. Mistake-makers McArdle and Doolan made way for the potential fruit of attacking youth and Kallum Higginbotham, alongside first team debutant Will Buckley, impressed with their attacking endeavour.

Of course Hereford were not without their chances, it goes almost without saying that a side of their quality will create chances when their opposition is seeking opportunities for themselves. Indeed, even before half time it might have been 5-1 if there had been two Serjill MacDonald’s on the field. As it was MacDonald could only twice feed the ball into Hooper’s path and he twice squandered the chance, first firing straight at Sam Russell and then blazing over the bar. Judging by his earlier finishes, MacDonald would have scored both.

The second half was a good game between two good sides, as it should have been in the first half had MacDonald not been far too good and the Dale defence not been far too accommodating. If Dale managed to reduce their arrears it would make for a very interesting conclusion and their second half display could have brought a goal sooner than it eventually arrived.

Had Buckley’s flick from a Higginbotham cross gone in rather being scrambled clear via post and goalkeeper things would have been made particularly interesting but as it was Hereford’s finishing prowess shone through and they got a fourth goal that sealed the match. Hooper looked a different player from the one which squandered the two first half chances when he beat Kennedy and then chipped the ball beyond the advancing Russell.

The Rochdale fans that had stayed to the end were able to celebrate one last goal, no more than their side’s second half efforts deserved, when Rene Howe rose to nod in a Higginbotham corner.

Attendance: 2884

Rochdale: Russell, Ramsden, Stanton, McArdle (Higginbotham 46), Kennedy, Perkins, Doolan (Buckley 46), Jones (Basham 74), Rundle, Le Fondre, Howe.
Subs not used: Spencer, Holness.

Hereford: Brown, McClenahan, McCombe, Rose, Collins, Taylor, Johnson, Diagouraga (Gwynne 54), Easton, MacDonald (Robinson 81), Hooper.
Subs not used: Ingham, Benjamin, Broadhurst.

Attempts (on target): Rochdale 14 (8) Hereford 10 (7)
Freekicks: Rochdale 11 Hereford 5
Offside: Rochdale 0 Hereford 2
Corners: Rochdale 7 Hereford 2

Referee: S Mathieson

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