Sunday, 19 February 2017

Rochdale 3 v 3 Charlton Athletic

Saturday 18th February 2017
EFL League One
Spotland, Rochdale
Admission: £22.00
Programme: £3.00
Attendance: 2,842
Match Rating: 4

When Charlton's fixture list came out for this season, a trip to Spotland was high on my target list. Originally scheduled for January 7th, it looked like it would have to wait until another season when the game was rescheduled for a midweek date. However, with both teams having a blank Saturday today due to their respective scheduled opponents playing in the FA Cup, this match was hastily rescheduled again for today. The good turn of fortune for me continued when Charlton announced free coach travel for this match.

Spotland is sensibly sized for a lower league club and offers decent facilities, but is rather bland with few if any distinctive features. Rather surprisingly, away fans are given arguably the best seating in the stadium, an all-seater stand running along one length, although only the middle third was open today. Views are excellent, with no obstructing pillars and a decent incline between steps. Along the opposite length is another all-seater stand. Executive boxes are located above the seating, with mirror windows providing reflections of the pitch, and there are some narrow supporting pillars along the front of the stand. Behind one goal is another all-seater stand, whilst behind the other is a small covered terrace. Mention should be made of a small fish and chip shop opposite the away fans' entrance, offering excellent quality food which was reasonably priced and coped admirably with the matchday visitors. The programme was interesting to read but was printed on not the best quality paper.

This would be a game between two clubs very much out of form. Rochdale hadn’t scored in their previous five league games, picking up two points, but they still came into this game in the hunt for a play-off position following an excellent first half to their season, in ninth place and three points adrift of the play-offs, following 14 wins and five draws from their 30 league games. Charlton were drifting even further away from the play-off picture, losing at Oldham in midweek and conceding late equalisers in both of their previous games. They were in 13th place, nine points adrift of the play-offs, following nine wins and 14 draws from their 30 league games. When the two teams met at The Valley in October, Rochdale won 0-1.

On an overcast but very mild afternoon – in contrast to the freezing, snowy conditions I encountered at Hatfield last Saturday – this was a real seesaw of a game, quite remarkably something of a goalfest considering that both clubs have struggled to score in recent weeks. The home side took the lead on 4 minutes when keeper Declan Rudd failed to hold on to the ball crossed into the box from a free kick by the corner flag, and Niall Canavan poked the ball home. They almost doubled their lead shortly after, when a goalbound shot was blocked by defender Lewis Page. Josh Magennis broke clear of the home defence on 16 minutes but his shot was saved, before Rochdale forced a couple of very good saved from Rudd. On 42 minutes, Charlton equalised. Magennis headed the ball over the defence for Jordan Botaka to run onto, and his eventual shot came back off the post, but the rebound fell to him at a fairly tight angle, but he managed to thread the ball through the legs of a couple of defenders' legs and into the net. 

The second half started quite slowly, until Charlton sub Stephy Mavididi went on an amazing run from his own penalty area, beating several Rochdale players before his eventual shot was saved. From the second resultant corner, Patrick Bauer headed the ball down for his fellow centre back Jorge Teixiera to bundle the ball home on 67 minutes. Bauer had a great chance to put some clear daylight on the scoreline, placing a free header over the bar, but on 70 minutes, the home side were back on level terms, Calvin Andrew burying a header following a high cross from the left wing. On 75 minutes, Andrew nearly put Rochdale back in front, when a shot from the outer corner of the penalty area hit the far top corner of the woodwork and bounced clear. But they did go back in front of 84 minutes, substitute Reuben Mendez-Laing firing a powerful low shot from just outside the area which went across the keeper and into the far corner. But Charlton tied the scoreline up again in the 89th minute with a very similar goal to their second, again Bauer heading the ball down for Teixiera to poke the ball home from close range.

So in the end the points were shared following an entertaining game containing some pretty average defending. Arguably this was a better point for Rochdale, which keeps them in the frame for play-off contention, and although Charlton showed good character to salvage a point, the feeling really is that this was a game they had to win, and not doing so probably realistically put paid to any play-off hopes. A terrific atmosphere was generated by the Charlton fans, whilst the home fans were surprisingly quiet for the most part, save for a couple of songs when they went 3-2 up.

Video highlights of this match can be viewed by clicking here

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