Morecambe 3 Rochdale 0
How about Pope Kevin the First - or even Saint Kev?
Rome - where the Pope could be found until earlier this week - is built on seven hills. Apparently. Rochdale is built on one. And he's called Keith. And Keith Hill must be well and truly sick of the sight of Jim Bentley's Morecambe team. At Spotland in October, Jack Redshaw - who was roundly booed today by the large travelling contingent from the other side of the county every time he got the ball - scored twice and the Shrimps won 1-2. Shortly afterwards, Morecambe were lucky to hold today's visitors to a draw in the FA Cup First Round and but for an outstanding display from home keeper Barry Roche would certainly have lost the match. But once again, the Shrimps came up with the goods in the replay and a goal from Kevin McDonald saw them into the Second Round against Coventry.
So that was three played; one drawn and two lost to today's hosts this season as far as Mr Hill was concerned before today's game kicked-off. Surely his charges could do better this time...
Dale had the first chance of the game when Bobby Grant had Roche sprawling full-length to his right with a low shot which only just curled round the post after two minutes. But from their very first corner with barely eight minutes played, outstanding home defender Chris McCready bundled home Ryan Williams' dead ball kick as ex-Shrimps player Josh Lillis stood and watched along with his static defence.
Clearly, Dale hadn't come to defend.
Up front, they had skilful and mobile players in the shape of Terry Gornall and Ian Henderson and but for some outstanding blocks throughout the afternoon by McCready, they may have got Rochdale onto the score street. Mr Hill must be pulling his hair out, however, when he looks back on some of the very basic blunders the team in the yellow and blue strip committed today. Straight after Morecambe scored, Dale won a corner on their left which Michael Rose put straight into touch. With just over ten minutes on the clock, Henderson blasted a free-kick from a nettable distance wildly out of the ground. A minute later, Rochdale were awarded another free-kick in their own half - once again, it was booted straight into touch for a throw to the home side. The nearest the visitors came to equalising was after Roche somehow denied Gornall with his feet when the striker was in with a clear shot on goal after twenty minutes. But Normal Service was soon resumed when, after 23 minutes, Bobby Grant managed to put a shot from about 30 yards right over the home fans' stand roof. The next good opportunity fell to the Shrimps just about half way through the opening period when a seemingly panic-stricken Shane Cansdell-Sherriff headed the ball backwards as Redshaw buzzed around and about him: the ball cleared Lillis but - very fortunately for Rochdale - went for a corner: it could just as easily have ended up in the back of the net. From this corner, Dale struggled to clear their lines and when the ball was played back in from the left by Andy Fleming, Redshaw simply wasn`t big enough to bury it with his head. My, how the supporters with the blue scarves behind the goal jeered...
With half an hour played, Rochdale again seemed to show a lack of discipline when Gornall produced another wild shot which was more of a threat to the guttering on the stands than it would ever be to Morecambe's goal.
However, as the half time whistle blew, this contest was far from being over. Morecambe looked unbalanced - at the back and in midfield (with Stewart Drummond imperious today), they looked in control. But up front, Chris Holroyd huffed and puffed but struck me at least that he didn't know what he was supposed to be doing; Redshaw - the smallest player on the field - was too often isolated in the classic Centre Forward position and I personally felt that the impressive Lewis Allesandra was playing too far back in basically a midfield position to be a consistent threat to Dale's rearguard.
And this shapelessness seemed to be replicated during the early stages of the second half. Rochdale bossed the game and Morecambe appeared to be only trying to play on the counter attack as they increasingly retreated towards their own penalty area as a unit. A betting man would have put his wager on the visitors equalising next.
Until Jim Bentley played his very own winning hand in the shape of Kevin Ellison after 54 minutes as Holroyd made way. Just before the hour mark, Big Kev effectively sealed the victory for the home side with a strike which was nothing less than miraculous. He must have been at least 40 yards out when he struck a ball dropping from a great height without letting it bounce straight into the top left hand corner of Rochdale's net. Lillis had no chance at all - it`s probably just as well for him that he wasn`t in the line of fire. This was a goal worthy of winning any game of football and when Fleming scored another with a training-ground finish which again gave the visiting goalkeeper absolutely no chance just three minutes later, there was a real fear that the floodgates would open. But they didn't. Dale heads seemed to drop after Ellison's wonder strike and they looked like a beaten side once they conceded a third but Morecambe didn't push home their advantage any further before the end of the match.
As a sideline, it was fascinating to watch the way Rhys Bennett tried to pinch a few precious yards every time he took a throw-in from the Rochdale right throughout the second period. Referee Carl Boyeson blew his whistle, wagged his finger and told him to retreat almost every time - he even had a quiet word with Dale's right-back at an appropriate moment. Much good did it do: young Mr Bennett simply galloped up the touch line to the point from which he had been forced to retreat and then threw the ball as Mr Boyeson stood, looked on and did nothing further about it. I thought the Man In The Middle had a pretty good game today. But why bother making a fuss about the throw-ins in the first place if you're not going to do anything about it?
Morecambe found themselves in tenth position at the end of the game. Rochdale slipped one place to sixteenth. We are led to believe that smoke will be rising from the Seven Hills of Rome in the next little while. But I suspect that if we had looked carefully at Dale's Keith Hill - particularly after his sloppy team shipped the third of today's goals - we might have seen steam escaping from his ears. He must thank his lucky stars that his team don't have to play Morecambe every week.
Morecambe: 1 Barry Roche; 2 Nick Fenton; 15 Chris McCready (23 Chris Doyle 90 mins); 6 Will Haining (C); 8 Andrew Wright; 10; 17 Andy Fleming (Y) (14 Jordan Burrow 76 mins); 16 Stewart Drummond; 9 Lewis Allesandra; 26 Chris Holroyd (11 Kevin Ellison 54 mins); 27 Jack Redshaw.
Substitutes not used: 25 Andreas Arestidou; 24 James Short; 20 Joe Mwasile; 3 Robbie Threlfall.
Rochdale. 1 Josh Lillis; 3 Rhys Bennett; 5 Shane Cansdell-Sherriff; 6 Brian Barry-Murphy (29 Joe Thompson 65 mins); 7 Jason Kennedy (C); 12 Phil Edwards; 22 Bobby Grant; 25 Michael Rose (14 Kevin McIntyre 65 mins); 27 Terry Gornall (11 Ashley Grimes 73 mins); 28 Ritchie Jones; 40 Ian Henderson.
Substitutes not used: 13 Steve Collis; 2 Joe Rafferty; 23 Andy Haworth; 9 George Donnelly.
Ref: Carl Boyeson.
Written by Morecambe fan Roger Fitton.