LINES FROM LONDON V ROCHDALE



It was clear from the off against Portsmouth that we were going to struggle as like in the Peterborough game we failed to match the speedy pace of a couple of swift strikers. I think we battled well against Peterborough and rode our luck but it never looked like happening against Portsmouth. Several hours after Saturday's match when I'd finally summoned the resolve to look at the league table, I was pleasantly surprised to see that we weren't that far adrift and that a win today coupled with those above us dropping points could move us back into a much better position to challenge for a top two spot and we still have that game in hand on everyone above. Well, I can hope but it's clear that we're lacking zip and our passing on Saturday left a great deal to be desired at times. Wyke has finally shown he can put himself in the right place at the right time to get goals but the other stikers haven't impressed much at all. O'Nien will definitely be out but Flanagan and Sanderson will both be in contention and I don't know of any injuries. Rochdale have lost four games so far and are just below mid-table so we've got to fancy our chances of a win tonight. Some of our rivals are starting at 7.00, forty-five minutes earlier than us so we'll know how they've done. Rochdale have never beaten us so let's hope that doesn't change. It'll be SAFSEE audio again for me and I think we'll win and I'm going for 2-1.

I got the team-news just after 7.00 and there were four changes to the starting line-up with McLaughlin, Flanagan, Dobson and new boy Sanderson all in and Willis, Scowen and Leadbitter on the bench and of course O'Nien suspended.

I got the commentary on and was pleased to hear that we were in red and white but with red shorts. It had stopped raining after a very wet day. Rochdale started much the brighter and won the first corner about four minutes in. Sanderson seemed to be defending well at any rate. After ten minutes we'd only had one forward move worthy of the name and needed, as Benno said, to get a feel of the ball. Very soon things sounded a lot better and we at last made Bazunu in goal do some work. Maguire had a good effort on target but the rebound didn't fall kindly for Wyke and the chance was gone. Still the game had turned in our favour and just as I typed that a great Gooch cross was met by Wyke and he headed us into the lead in the fifteenth minute. Four in four games isn't bad if he has indeed been awarded that goal against Crewe. We kept at them and if they approached our end, Sanderson sounded as if he was in the thick of things to good effect. Rochdale fought their way back into it and after having one effort blocked by Wright, Lund was soon there again in the twenty-fifth minute to get a free header and put them level. After having a very tight defence we've been slipping into sloppy mode in the last two games. Rochdale were edging it and winning a corner or two with ten minutes to the break with Rathbone sounding a distinct handful. We won a free-kick with around five minutes to go and Maguire's kick was punched away before coming back in for Wright to head it home. With no noise coming down the line and a bit of a delay I thought it'd been disallowed but no, and we were in the lead again. It looked like we'd go in ahead but it wasn't to be as we allowed a Rochdale cross to come in and failed to close down Lund again so he had time to pick his spot for the equalizer. The half ended 2-2. Elsewhere Hull, Charlton and Lincoln were all winning and our other two rivals were drawing so we needed to pull our socks up and win too or we'd be slipping further behind.

As we kicked off again it felt like any score was possible, anything other than 2-2 that is. We had a good move five minutes in, when a Hume cross produced a Maguire shot that was cleared but we kept it up and were sounding dangerous. Next thing Sanderson was down injured for a while and I had visions of another new signing being out for ages but thankfully he recovered. Meanwhile other games were finishing and a bit of a glimmer was that Peterborough had only drawn at home to Burton. Lincoln and Hull had won though. We passed the hour-mark and there hadn't been another goal surprisingly. I wondered who Parky would bring on and imagined another man upfront was likely but when? Finally Scowen came on for Maguire with around a quarter of an hour left. After being a fan of Scowen's for the first few games of the season I thought he'd gone off the boil recently but I hoped to be proved wrong. We won our first corner of the game a few minutes later and Scowen took it but he put the ball out of play... Sanderson was yellow-carded for a deliberate trip on the tricky Rathbone and conceded a free-kick in a dangerous spot outside our box. We won another corner after a good header friom Wyke was well saved by Bazunu. We still had time to nick it as Graham replaced Wyke but of course Rochdale could do the same. The game was going from end to end though time was slipping away all too quickly but there was sure to be a good wedge of stoppage-time. A Power shot came off the bar and Graham headed the rebound goalwards but Bazunu made another good save. I felt that that would be our last chance but with us pressing strongly and five minutes of stoppage-time I couldn't help raising my hopes again. A Rathbone shot went narrowly wide in the last minute and it ended 2-2.

An away point isn't to be sneezed at but I feel disappointed that we let them get two goals by more sloppy defending. Four of our immediate rivals won and one drew plus we've slipped out of the top six, so it's been a bad night all round for me.


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