Ram-Raid in Rochdale

It’s FA Vase day again & we’re off to Rochdale Town for their encounter with Dinnington Town, both Rochdale & Dinnington are struggling at bottom of their respective leagues with Rochdale only picking up one win from their opening 9 league games & Dinnington not even managing that! So we thought something had to give it was either going to be a goal-fest or a snore draw so we headed for the tram stop :-)

As the tram arrived at the station we were slightly confused with it having ‘Media City’ illuminated on the front as its final destination instead of the usual ‘Bury’? This meant we would have to change at Piccadilly in order for us to get to Victoria for our train to Castleton in Rochdale. “this may make us late” I told the big fella as our train was due to depart at 2 o’clock and it was now 1.20pm.

As we changed at Piccadilly, I was now fairly anxious as we only had 20 minutes to wait for the connecting tram, get the tickets from the machine at Vic & board the train! “No tram service to Victoria today” came the news from the Hi-Vis brigade “please change to the replacement bus shuttle service for journeys to Bury” this really wasn’t good, I was now convinced we would miss the train & a good portion of the match :-( The clock said 13.57 as we quickly walked along Victoria station concourse and after the Rhino had politely barged a bloke who had no idea what he was doing at the self-service ticket machine to one side, we jumped on the 14.00 to Leeds as the guard was blowing his whistle!

With standing room only on the train we took our positions near the doors & looked to Google maps to plot our short walk from Castleton station to Mayfield Sports Centre where Rochdale Town obviously play their home games and share with the Mayfield Rugby League team.

As the train approached our stop a familiar face was heading up the carriage who was also getting off here, a chap called Sam who is some sort of co-owner of FC United of Manchester or so his twitter bio says. We got off the train and walked up the steep station approach to join the main road at the top and we were now following Sam’s directions. After 10 minutes of walking up & down the streets of Castleton we arrived at the end of Keswick St. to find it closed off by temporary fencing because of the new houses being built! Sam then comes out with the shocking news that he had seen a sign saying Keswick St. was closed on the walk round!

I’ve never seen a Rhino turn purple but I could see the anger building up in the big fella’s face! “come out of the way” he said as Sam was now franticly re-plotting the way back, “I’ll ram-raid the bastard!” lol this I HAD to see! :-) unfortunately the big fella noticed the fencing was only tied to the gate post on one side so decided to break in without damage instead :-( and there I was with my video camera poised ready to make £250 off that piss-poor TV show!

With the fence re-attached & no further obstacles in the way we headed for the entrance and the big fella now turned to Sam, “don’t you think it was rather foolish of you not to share the ‘street closed’ information with us earlier? Like before we set off walking down the street?” :-)  the big fella actually phrased it rather differently than that using much more ‘colourful’ dialect and I’m pretty sure he called him worse than foolish but you get the drift ;-)

We bought a couple of beers in the clubhouse & Sam joined us with his can of Coke and started spewing out facts & figures about today’s teams as well as other clubs but I had switched off by now and it was just white noise reaching my ears as the mental images of a ram-raiding rhino faded into a ‘what might have been’ memory :-( at one point Sam said his football-watching would suffer this season as his Uni results had been disastrous & he would have to concentrate more on them, “shame they don’t do a highway code diploma” the big fella told him “you could fail that too!” fearing more of the same was to come, Sam left us saying he would meet us inside :-)

“wow that guy can talk some shite” I said to a now calming Rhino, “yep, although I’ve no idea what he was talking about I was just thinking about how many times you can fold a piece of paper in half when he was waffling on!” lol I understood perfectly! “we need a disguise when we go in, I’ll see what I’ve got in the bag”

Like all good football bloggers, I always carry various disguises and today was no exception with my selection of ‘Manly Moustaches’ for us to choose from :-) we paid the £5 admission and took our seats in the main stand to make our choices, I opted for the ‘casanova’ look while the big fella rather fittingly went for the ‘Villain’ and my mental images of him ram-raiding had now been completely replaced with visions of him tying Sam to the railway tracks in a 1920’s silent movie style’ie :-)

Both sides are ready to go and the very nice chap from the turnstile was now wandering round selling squares on a name card, “has Stoke City gone?” the Rhino asked as he approached us, the big fella then explained to the seller that he had once won 3 name cards all on the same day in 2 different pubs and amazingly each win was with Stoke City! The space was empty so he forked out a quid & entered his initials as the Ref got us going.

A surprisingly good opening half hour with both teams having a go and playing some good stuff. A few tasty tackles were flying in but the ref was doing his best to keep the game flowing despite the usual complaints being barked at him from the dug-outs. Matty Warburton opened the scoring for Rochdale with about 30 minutes gone when he had come up from the back for a set piece & he was on hand to squeeze the ball home after a bit of pinball-panic in the Dinnington area 1-0.

The first half came to an end with both sides still playing attacking football where they could but the Dinnington captain Andrew Sykes looked like he was carrying an injury clutching the back of his leg & stretching it whenever there was a break in play, the ref blew & we went in search of a pie. HT. 1-0.

£1.50 for a very nice meat & potato offering but I didn’t manage to get any information on where they came from or who made them, in fact the girl serving did her best to avoid talking to me at all apart from telling me the price??? Maybe I should have removed the Casanova Moustache as I left the main stand but then again, it was working! Sam was nowhere to be seen! :-)

Back in the main stand for the 2nd half and we swapped Moustaches to further confuse Sam and now I was the Villain! The chap selling the squares on the name card passed us again.. “come on now folks, only 4 left, £1 a go to win £20” meaning today’s crowd wasn’t exactly massive if he was struggling to fill 40 squares :-(

On the pitch, 2 goals in quick succession as Rochdale went from a goal to the good to 1-2 down! 3 minutes in and Lanzel Reid broke the offside trap and found himself one-on-one with Mike Smith in the Rochdale goal, the No. 9 made no mistake with a thumping right-footed drive to level the scores & just 5 minutes later substitute Jason Slew, now on for the injured Sykes, took one touch to steady himself 30 yards out before unleashing an absolute rocket into the top left hand corner that would have beaten any keeper! Fantastic goal 1-2.

Rochdale stepped up a gear but the visitors seemed happy to let them come on to them and then look for the quick counter with No. 11 Martin Wade & Sub. Jason Slew who were both beginning to catch the eye as the second period went on.

The home side had a few chances to get back on terms from corners & free kicks and left back Carl Fitton’s left boot was sending in some great deliveries but Dinnington stood tall in defence and kept their goal advantage even though there was a bit of desperate defending here & there :-)

Rochdale’s Jordan James was emerging as a man of the match contender for us, the big No. 11 was good with the ball at his feet, taking defenders on even if he did try and take on one too many now & again and he definitely wasn’t too shy when it came to having a crack at goal and it was his effort that had us on our feet applauding when he levelled the scores on 75 minutes.

James cancelled out the brilliant Jason Slew goal from the first half with an even better strike of his own. Again from about 30 yards out, James looked like he was going to cross into the Dinnington area for the forwards to attack but instead hit a swerving, dipping shot with power that had Marcus Weston scrambling across his line long after the ball had buried itself into the netting! Another brilliant goal & another shot in the arm for non-league :-) 2-2.

The half fizzled out towards the end with both teams not wanting to concede rather than push on for the winner, a golden chance fell to Frank Funzo who was on for Dinnington’s goal scorer Reid, but he blasted it straight at the keeper it what looked to be a certain goal & match winner for the visitors  and that was that. FT. 2-2.

I feared for the dog sat in front of us because as ever its owner had finished his tea & sandwiches not realising there’s an extra 30 minutes of play if it’s all square on 90 minutes in the Vase. Poor Fido would have to wait another half hour before he could cock his leg up against the Dinnington team bus (why else would you take a dog to a game?) but for us an extra 30 minutes is a bonus especially when you’re watching the end-to-end stuff we had seen so far :-)

First blood to Rochdale in extra time when Luke Bredbury netted a cheeky overhead kick, the No. 9 had his back to goal when a midfield free kick was lofted in and after cushioning the ball with his chest, Bredbury flicked the ball over his head to watch it loop over the keeper and Rochdale were back in front 3-2 at the break.

The second period of extra time started & both teams were looking tired, all subs had been used by both sides and players that had been on the pitch from the start were looking exhausted. The visitors didn’t seem to have anything left in the tank other than the odd long range effort from free kicks in the middle of the park and Rochdale sewn things up when James got his second after the keeper had parried the ball into the path of the tricky No. 11 to slot home the final goal of the day. FT. (aet) 4-2.

Back in the clubhouse we celebrated the win (and that our disguises had worked as Sam was nowhere to be seen) with a beer or 2 when the name card seller walked passed. The big fella shouted over asking if he managed to fill the card & had anyone won it? “yeah I filled it in the end, Stoke City won it but nobody’s claimed it yet” the big fella set off telling him that he was the winner & reminded him of the story about him winning 3 cards in one day with Stoke and at the same time he ripped off his Casanova Moustache! The guy looked puzzled at first and then said “oh yeah I remember now” lol lol it was as if removing the stick on facial hair really did remind the guy who had bought the winning square! I was laughing that hard I think I actually wee’d a little :-(

So with a crisp £20 note in his hand the big fella headed to the bar once more & we gave a toast to Stoke City! :-) not often a couple of blokes from Manchester have done that before. The rugby team was returning home with a very convincing away win as we left so we timed it just right as they were in full-on drinking mode & I think our manly moustaches would have come under attack at some point!

The walk back to the station didn’t involve any ram-raiding or temporary obstacles of any sort to hinder our progress, so much so we had time for a quick pint in the Blue Pits Inn opposite the station as we waited for the train back to Victoria.

A 20 minute train ride later and we were getting nailed for £3.90 a pint in the station bar at Vic for larger that looked like it had been stood there for 6 hours! More walking for us as we set off through the city centre in order to find the tram back to Droylsden as they’re still not running out of Vic, but along the way we think we may have found the reason for the lack of trams running to Bury that day. Some blokes were playing a massive game of Jenga with the things in the middle of Manchester! The Rhino went over to offer some help but was politely thanked & then asked to move along lol :-)

FA Cup next week folks and we’re still undecided as to where to go but Vegas is looking favourite up to now :-) until then blog Buds……….



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