Spotland  - Rochdale
Saturday, October 15th, 2011,
V Colchester United, League One, 3pm
By Martyn Stimson

1. Why you were looking forward to going to the ground (or not as the case may be):

I first came to Rochdale with a Dale supporting friend of mine when doing the 92.  He got us tickets for the play-off game against Darlington a few years ago. It was a great day out. A superb supporters’ bar, terracing and we got 120 minutes of entertaining and competitive football with goals, a sending off, then a penalty shoot out and a pitch invasion all for £12.  It was one of my most memorable football trips and certainly the best value for money. 

Rochdale is a proper football club and you know that any Rochdale fan is a true football fan, living in the shadow of so many other clubs but persisting with a team that continues achieving mediocrity.  It’s what football is really about for me so this fixture was one I was really looking forward to.

2. How easy was your journey/finding the ground/car parking?

Bus replacements around London made the train journey very unappealing so my wife and I decided to go by car.  Relatively easy journey there coming off the M62 at J21 and heading towards the town centre.  Rochdale council appear to have made all council car parks free at weekends, so that proved to be a bargain.  The car park was about 10-15 minute walk from the ground and just on the edge of the town centre (near the Baum pub).

3. What you did before the game pub/chippy.... home fans friendly?

Having parked up we walked back towards the station to meet up with others who had come by train (and bus replacements).  We took in the Cask & Feathers, a short walk from the station, where they have a choice of ale and friendly service.  From there we took in the Flying Horse Hotel which also had a decent range of ale and friendly staff and customers.  Then we walked back to the Baum, which is my favourite pub in Rochdale with an excellent range of well kept ale.  We got a couple of large taxis from there to the ground to speed things up – the taxi, which was a minibus, cost £5 between 9 of us!  There is an excellent chip shop right outside the away turnstiles but the (friendly) stewards told us that the club weren’t allowing fans to take chips into the ground as from this year – the suggestion from the stewards was that the club should just buy the chip shop instead!   

4. What you thought on seeing the ground, first impressions of away end then other sides of the ground?

It’s a good looking ground with terracing behind the goal at the Sandy Lane End and three other all-seated stands.  The away fans get one side to themselves.  The view from the away end is excellent and it cost £20 to get in.  Pies looked fantastic but I didn’t actually try one and there was Thwaites available inside (although unfortunately only smooth flow from cans). 

5. Comment on the game itself, atmosphere, stewards, pies, toilets etc..

I think Rochdale were without a key midfielder and have recently lost a striker so it may have been the right time to play them.  Either way, Colchester started at a fantastic rate, dominating play and scoring 2 goals in the first 15 minutes with the Dale not actually making any attempt at our goal in the first 20 minutes.  Unfortunately one of our centre halves was sent off after about 20 minutes (and we had no replacement on the bench) – it seemed harsh but certainly met the laws of the game, he was the last man the two players got their legs tangled and if the referee (or linesman in this case) sees it as a foul then the defender has to go. 

This changed the game completely and allowed Rochdale to get back into the game a bit.  They pulled one back just before half time and then 1 minute into the second half our only remaining centre half hobbled off injured – this was going to be a tough day.  We had what seemed like a perfectly good goal disallowed and then a number of attacks broken down by what felt to me to be poor refereeing – I think it’s still a contact sport.  Then Rochdale scored with a few minutes to go to earn a draw.  Although it was hard on a Colchester team that I felt deserved far more from the game, I don’t begrudge Rochdale their point.  However, they’ll need to improve on their performance today to compete effectively this season but I think (and hope) they’d be alright. 

6. Comment on getting away from the ground after the game:

We walked back to the car amongst friendly fans from both clubs.  It took about 10-15 minutes.  We then drove back to the M62 without any real hold ups.

7. Summary of overall thoughts of the day out:

Rochdale town centre is a little run down but it has a lovely welcoming feeling about the town and in the pubs.  The club itself represents what it really means to be a football fan in my opinion.  It is a friendly club that continues to compete without throwing millions of pounds around and I highly recommend a visit for all true football fans whether it be supporting their club or just as a neutral as it really is a good day out.  If I were to move to the north-west then Rochdale would be the club I’d visit more frequently that the others.


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