Sunday, April 12, 2015

Rochdale Association FC – Yeovil Town FC (28-03-2015)


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I had initially planned to spend this Saturday watching games in the Athens area, but because of an international game of the Greek national team, and security concerns over domestic games, I decided to change my plans and take a flight to Manchester a day early and see a game with my colleague A. I had told him to suggest a game, as long as it wasn’t of one of the big corporate teams (i.e. Manchester CityUnited), and he came up with Rochdale Association FC (RAFC). Well done!


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It's a typically cold, grey, rainy day when A. and I arrive in Rochdale, a grim North English town roughly 15 km (10 miles) north of Manchester. We park at a nearby Church and make a small “donation” as a parking fee.

 
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We are almost two hours early and the stadium looks deserted. A few stewards are milling around, used to the cold and rain. The small fan shop is remarkably well-stocked and has some supporters in it, who are trying to profit from the 50% off sale on soon to be out of date merchandise.



 
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Spotland Stadium is a classic old-school English football stadium, built in 1920, and currently shared between RAFC and Rochdale Hornets RLFC, the local rugby (union) club. It holds 10,249 people, but most of the time the stadium is not even half full. RAFC was promoted into League One (Third Division) last season. 


 
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We circle the stadium, passing a little youth pitch, to get to the Main Stand. We pass a group of Japanese youth players who must be on a kind of practice camp here and wonder what they are thinking - taken from undoubtedly modern urban setting to this grim small town site of industrial decline.



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We get tickets for the Main Stand for a staggering 20 pounds (cheers A!) – remember, this is technically the third (!) division of English football! To kill time we go to the pub, which is integrated into the stadium and supporters home. On one screen they show a live game from somewhere else, on the other a video of past glory of RAFC.


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Upon entering the stadium through old-school turnstiles, a steward wants to take away my camera. After making a deal that I won't use it inside, I can take it in. Fairly insane given that half the stadium has s smartphone with an almost equally good camera on it.

 
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Inside there are allegedly 2,650 people. The audience is remarkably old and white. They are mostly local, but definitely not all working class (maybe that is in part because I am on the most expensive Main Stand). There are also some 100 of them from Yeovil, a good 380 km (235 miles) south of Rochdale!




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The first half was overall quite poor, which was in part because of the horrible conditions. The rain was very heavy, the pitch full of sand and water, which slowed the ball down unexpectedly and made combinations over the ground almost impossible. Although Yeovil is fighting relegation, it clearly is the better team in the first half, producing some nifty plays at times, even if the final pass was often lacking.

 
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RAFC plays mostly a physical game, few combinations, much through the air, and hoping for a lucky bounce or tip. They create little in terms of chances, but somehow don’t concede a goal either. Half time score: 0-0.



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At the beginning of the second half the rain settles down a bit and the conditions become a bit better. Yeovil continues to be the better team, playing quite sophisticated football for a third division English club, but it is RAFC that draws first blood. A few minutes into the second half the hosts score a surprising opener: 1-0. 

 
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Within two minutes they score again. Their second goal is a true comedy capers with Yeovil’s star player kicking over the ball in the box and leaving an easy tip in: 2-0. Again two minutes later Yeovil get one back and the game seems open again: 2-1.



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The rest of the game continues with Yeovil being the better team, but getting fewer and fewer chances, as RAFC just tries to hold on to the lead. High point is when a RAFC player lifts the ball from less than 5 meter in front of the goal a good meter over the goal! Never seen anything like it! It doesn’t matter, as RAFC wins the game 2-1.



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All in all, Rochdale Association FC was exactly what the doctor had ordered: an old-school English football experience. Old small stadium with close access to the pitch, mostly local fans, and horrible weather. Only the quality of the game was higher than expected, but that was mostly because of the visitors.

4 comments:

John Ridehaugh said...

"RAFC plays mostly a physical game, few combinations, much through the air, and hoping for a lucky bounce or tip."
I think you were getting a little mixed up, Rochdale were playing in blue and were far better than Yeovil on the day. Admittedly, the game was spoiled by atrocious conditions in the first half. The stadium on 3 sides has been rebuilt since 1990, only the satnding area dates back to the 1950`s.
http://www.upthedale.nl

John Ridehaugh said...

RAFC stands for Rochdale Association Football Club, not Athletic!

Grondhopper said...

Thanks for pointing out the oversight John, I have now corrected it.

Regarding the football, one of us must be colorblind. ;-)

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