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Sunday, 27 February 2011

Rochdale hit top form


Those who thought Rochdale's squad lacked depth might want to think again.

GaryMack's assortment of quality and teenage prospects swept aside Barnsley with ease at Spotland on Saturday night. Alessandro Matri broke the deadlock just before the half-hour with a curling shot with Darron Gibson adding a second two minutes after the break. Matri then scored a penalty on the hour to put the tie beyond the Tyke's, Pablo Osvaldo and Jamie O'Hara completed the route scoring three goals in the last ten minutes, substitute Osvaldo grabbing a brace.

The scoreline was emphatic and it by no means flattered Rochdale. Those who make it into GaryMack's side are often thought of as chancers but, make no mistake, some have the potential to be leading lights in EC7046 for a long time to come.

Matri, Juraj Kucka, Alberto Botia and Ismail Koybasi were all outstanding on the night. The move to Rochdale could easily be a launchpad for Boudebouz, Ozvaldo and company as well. On this evidence, few would bet against Rochdale being a major force in 3 or 4 years .

GaryMack's trademark approach is to add quality youngsters and the Scotsman set a new benchmark for his team tonight. He named 15 under 25's in his 18-man squad and 9 of those made it into his starting line-up.

Boudebouz, who just turned 21, was the youngest on show, playing alongside Havard Nordtveit, Chris Smalling, Ismail Koybasi, Alberto Botia, Darron Gibson, Jamie O'Hara, James Morrison and the fit again Juraj Kucka . Goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard was the 'old man' of the side at 26 while Alessandro Matri and later Pablo Osvaldo offering a semblance of experience. Nonetheless, with an average age of 23, this was still the youngest ever side to represent Rochdale in the league.

Last season GaryMack's fledglings were lucky to stay up, but a dramatic turnaround has seen them slowly creep up the table. They didn't exactly impose themselves on the tie but, at first, the visitors made life uncomfortable for their young hosts. With Jens Hegeler orchestrating a three-man midfield, the Tykes denied Rochdale space to express themselves in the early stages. As a result the home side enjoyed a territorial advantage, and the likes of Matri, Morrison, Boudebouz and Kucka enjoyed some neat touches, but clear-cut chances were few and far between.

Boudebouz had the first opportunity to force the Tykes on the back foot but his low cross after seven minutes had too much pace and too little direction for Matri to convert. Five minutes later Nikolay Mihaylov misjudged a left-wing corner and tipped the ball onto Botia's head. The ball arrived too fast for the Spaniard to direct his effort on goal.

Botia went much closer to his first Rochdale goal after 25 minutes after kick-starting a forward move and staying up for its denouement. When the ball reached the 22-year-old just inside the box he steadied himself before clipping a shot towards the far corner. Mihaylov dived full length to tip the ball past the post.

The visitors struggled to make inroads of their own but when they did push on Vladimir Koman and Sebastian Leto were at the heart of their better moments. Leto was a livewire early on and wriggled past three challenges before scuffing his shot when well-placed.

At the other end Boudebouz looked as likely as anyone to break the deadlock and one nutmeg from the Algerian had the crowd raving. In the event, Boudebouz was the provider as Matri opened the scoring. Gibson got Rochdale moving through the centre and Boudebouz turned smartly away from his marker before feeding the Italian striker. Matri advanced and stroked a low effort past Luciano Balbi and beyond the reach of Mihaylov from just outside the box. It was a confidently-taken goal from a man in form.

It was the excuse Rochdale's young team needed to relax and express themselves. Within minutes Kucka had a shout for a penalty after linking up brilliantly with Morrison and Matri. O'Neil Thompson was given the benefit of the doubt after his rash sliding tackle appeared to miss both ball and man.

But after the break Rochdale didn't have to wait long to effectively put the tie out of sight. O'Hara was the architect of their second goal, forcing the Tykes defence back with a marauding run through the left channel. The young Englishman was eventually ushered away from goal but wrongfooted everybody with an outrageous backheel. Even Gibson looked surprised but, with Thompson keeping him onside, the Irishman calmly dispatched a lovely sidefoot shot past the on rushing Mihaylov.

After holding their own for just under an hour, Barnsley were shellshocked. Boudebouz skipped past Romain Inez on the edge of the box and looked odds on to score before Georg Niedermeier needlessly brought the young Algerian down, resulting in a penalty for the home side. Up stepped the inform Alessandro Matri who calmly slotted home his second of the night, It was a classy finish from a class act - taking his tally to 10 goals in 8 starts this season.

From wondering whether this Rochdale side was just a tad too inexperienced, the home fans were now speculating about how many they would score. There would be three more goals to cheer before the 90min mark. Koybasi had already tested Mihaylov early in the second half before the left-back lofted a pass down the left flank. O'Hara controlled it on the turn with his shoulder, taking Koman completely out of the game, and raced in on goal before lifting an audacious effort over the Tykes keeper.

Barnsley were in disarray and they conceded a fifth two minutes later. A short corner found substitute Pablo Osvaldo unmarked just outside the right-hand corner of the box and he fizzed a low shot past Mihaylov at his near post. The crowd rose as one for fan's fovourite Osvaldo, who had only been on the park 9min's.

There was no let-up for Real Khai's beleaguered side. Koybasi headed Boudebouz's corner just over the crossbar and O'Hara should have scored again on 85 minutes, rolling the ball past Mihaylov but wide of the post after Gibson's pass had dissected the Tykes defence.

The sixth would arrive a minute later though. Substitute Obertan picked out Osvaldo in the left channel and the Italian produced another stunning finish to complete his brace. No wonder GaryMack looked as pleased as punch on the touchline. For him, his young team and the rest of us, their next game can't come quick enough.


  1. Interesting read here

    15 under 25's that'll be great for the future as well as for now,

  2. You have built a decent side there Gary and I have made you this weeks banker on the Bookie Challenge which I will be putting games up for soon.