Saturday 10th December 2011
N Power League One (The old Third Division)
SHEFFIELD UNITED 3 ROCHDALE 0
Grub: Fish, Chips & Curry Sauce £3, Tea £1.80
Parking: Horrendous! Ended up miles from the ground
Weather: Dull, damp, showers, cold (ok for Sheffield)
With a lot of Northern non league games either already postponed or under a late threat of being called off just before kick off me and Frugal Glenn took the safe option. We could have done Stockport v Stalybridge in the FA Trophy but I didn't fancy the ultra right wing stewarding policy at the ground with the Rugby Union pitch markings. We could have also done Ossett Albion v Salford City but the food is crap at Ossett and its not long since the last visit. So it was off to the Steel City and the delights of Bramall Lane. The only negative is that I couldn't get the camera in so there's no pictures. Last time I went to Bramall Lane I went on the train (to see a Plymouth Argyle away win, I think, or was it a draw), the time before that was a good few years back against Forest and I remembered there being lots of street parking around the terraced houses close to the ground, this time around I was dismayed to find that every single street had been designated 'permit holders' only. For 45 minutes I struggled to get a parking spot for the match shed, I ended up in another part of Sheffield behind the big bus garage, it seemed miles from the ground and Frugal Glenn was none too happy with the route march to the ground, especially as he had some new shoes on which hadn't been broken in. It was 2.30pm when I rushed into the chippy next to the ground, I hadn't had anything to eat since half a bowl of cornflakes first thing in the morning. The tiny chippy was packed with Blades fans who all appeared to be regulars. I found out they did special mini fish dinners which consisted of a smaller sized cod or haddock (which still seemed bigger than normal portions in other chippies), chips and either pea's, curry or gravy, all for 3 pounds, I found it to be excellent stuff and very reasonably priced. Me and Frugal got Main Stand tickets for £15 each, the Rochdale game had been given category C status which allows a major price drop from the bigger games in the fixture list (such as Wednesday and Charlton etc). It cost me £1.80 for a tea bag but this was league and I had to expect the rip-off, I needed a hot drink to wash my dinner down. I'm not going to go on about the ground as lots of people know the crack, I'll just mention that I find it a good stadium with good views (from where I was anyway), the all red backdrop is quite charismatic but the place really lacked atmosphere for this game, there were 15 thousand in the ground but the home fans never really got fired up about the proceedings. Rochdale took along a decent number of supporters, they got put in the lower tier of the Bramall Lane end, they did their best to support the team but its looking like a difficult season for The Dale this time around. I'll cut to the chase.... it was a crap match, simple as that. These looked a couple of very poor sides on the day. Sheffield United are a physical bunch who seem to lack flair and finesse, everything was crash, bang, wallop. None of their football flowed, it was all bits and bobs thrown together in a whirl of confusion. Rochdale look a side made up half and half between young lads and older journeymen, neither of whom can be described as quality first team material. Apart from the first 20 minutes or so Sheffields hardened pro's bossed the Dale kids around all afternoon. More experienced Dale players like Gary Jones and Jason Kennedy stood up to the challenge and applied a bit of craft where they could but the visitors never had a full deck at the card table. When Rochdale unfortunately lost their keeper David Lucas just before half time due to injury (he got knocked out for 15 minutes) things got even harder. Sheffield players like Ched Evans and Cresswell got far too much time and space from a disintegrating Rochdale back line. A 3-0 scoreline turned out about right. Sheffield were substandard, Rochdale (on the day) were far worse. A lot of Blades fans around our seats were very critical of some of the players performances and the Manager Danny Wilson came in for a lot of stick about a lack of width and the teams non-ability to put passes together. Rochdale Manager Steve Eyre is finding his first league job a lot different from being in charge of the Manchester City youth set up. Some Dale fans are on his back. I'm afraid relegation does seem a possibility if things continue as they have for the last couple of months. Dale seem to have a game plan but there is a question whether the calibre of player has the quality and technical ability to compliment it. It is noticeable that when the original starting plan goes off track (as it did today when Sheffield United went 1-0 up) Rochdale struggle to apply a different strategy to get back in the game. Dale played reasonably well for the first 20 minutes, after that they were never in the game. I dont think Steve Eyre is tactically naive, perhaps its more of a case that he hasn't the money to buy (or loan) the right type of players to play the standard of football demanded by his tactics. In that case the Rochdale board need to make some decisions (before its too late). After the game we made the long trek back to the Match Shed, we both agreed it had been a very poor game. Frugal Glenn refused to take the short cut up a muddy bank behind the bus garage claiming it would spoil his new shoes, they were only £7.99 slip-ons?