After a long summer break lasting well over two months has now come to an end. It seemed no surprise to see both Oldham Athletic and Rochdale going all guns blazing, as pre-season got into full swing.
The forward lines, in particular, were enjoying a welcome return to the football field as the Oldham ground staff offered out a surface perfect for playing free-flowing football. While the surface retained its brilliance throughout the 90 minutes, the standard of football did not.
The first half no doubt had the home fans believing they’d made the right choice between going to a potentially laborious friendly, or a trip to the Trafford Centre. Although the second showed why friendlies are not for everyone. Both managers Laurent Binade and Brian Barry-Murphy looked unsure of which players will make the first team cut, ahead of the new season which starts in just two weeks time.
Looking the more prepared after their 3-1 defeat against Huddersfield Town only a few days previous, Rochdale looked the dominant side, in particular, their forward line. Stephen Dooley, Callum Camps and leading man Calvin Andrew gave the Latics defence nightmares in the opening 20 minutes with their movement. While in the midfield M.J Williams ran the game, angling passes any top-class midfielder would have been proud of.
Oldham manager Binade had a look of horror on the touchline as his team were time and time again cut apart. Sharing an expression similar to keeper Gary Woods, so often with his arms wide open gasping at his backline as Dale mirrored a knife cutting through butter.
Though motivated by the fear of a battering, Oldham responded with a look of determination. One thing is for sure, this friendly had the attacking coaches smiling and the defensive ones worried. Particularly Rochdale’s as they play a division higher against forwarding lines much stronger to that of last seasons mid-table League Two side.
While BBM looked rather happy with his sides start, his hoody was raised over his eyes shortly after when the Latics hit back. If Dooley was Dale’s man of the match, Latic number 10 Mohammed Maouche was the home sides equivalent. Scorer of the first goal, he gave all of Boundary Park encouragement this game could go the distance with his inspiring and creative play.
Substituted in the second half, Oldham lacked the pace of Maouche plus the lift he gave to his teammates around him. Fatigue and a lack of rhythm also played a part, this due to the number of subs made. Both teams made 16 changes between them in the second half.
Ian Henderson, ironically one the visitors second half additions, struck a late winner showing even before August why he is still the key man at Spotland.
With fans twiddling their thumbs for three months at the weekend, these early games are met with appreciation. Yet most will now just want the season to start. Then at least each team can only make three substitutes.
Photo Credit: Rochdale AFC