The Rochdale Verdict: Fantastic performance deserved greater reward

Image by Thomas Gadd (

Image by Thomas Gadd (

Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to Rochdale offered plenty of talking points for the WOAP pundit team to sink their teeth into. Damien Wilkinson, Gareth Walker and Nick Beanland share their views on the team’s performance, refereeing controversies and the importance of Jon Stead.

What did you make of the team’s performance?

Gareth: Fantastic performance from the team. Our ten men dominated against (dare I say it?) their 12.

We were the better team all over the park, and every single player was an eight out of ten.

If you were to look for negatives then it would have to be the defending in the box for Rochdale’s second goal, but I hope that the players don’t focus on the negatives and that they manage to draw on the many positives from the game; not least their attitude, desire and the fact that they were simply far better than ‘Dale. The better team lost.

Damien: I would certainly echo Gareth’s comments – an absolutely terrific effort and the team really deserved something from the game. 

After such an early dismissal and a penalty that nearly didn’t go in, it would have been very easy for us to feel a bit hard done by and throw in the towel, and at that stage I was fearing the worst.  However, at no point thereafter did it look like we were playing with 10 men – I can’t remember Ben Williams having to make any saves of note up until the second goal. I thought we gave it a massive go, and left the ground feeling very proud of the performance. 

Nick: The performance was one of the best of the season. For Phil Parkinson to be brave enough to stay positive and stick with two up front was a joy to watch. Based on how well the team played I would’ve felt slightly disappointed to have drawn, so Dale’s last gasp winner really was painful.

The team played with such intelligence. To highlight a few: Filipe Morais playing narrow when we were defending and then stretching the pitch when we had it; James Hanson effectively played as a striker and an auxiliary midfielder; whilst Jon Stead was sensational in pretty much all he did.

Do you think it was a red card?

Nick: From my vantage point in the luxurious environs of the Bantams Bar, my initial reaction was of slight bewilderment, but understanding of why the referee Gavin Ward gave a red card. Having seen it back since, we had two players back behind the ball and the player had been forced wide, so the red looked harsh in the extreme.

Sadly that was the first of many, many poor decisions by Ward. I would mind less if he were consistent in his decision making but, to pick one example from many, the decision not to book Done for his very late challenge on Sheehan in the first half was mind boggling.

Damien: My view was also that it was certainly a definite penalty, and I must admit I did think a red card would follow. It was one of those instances where the keeper has to commit himself and deal with the consequences really.

Perhaps Jordan Pickford was a bit rash in making the challenge, and it was a bit similar to the Matt Duke League Cup final incident where the letter of the law outweighed common sense. The referee Gavin Ward didn’t exactly cover himself in glory subsequently, and there were some very strange and inconsistent decisions, Gary Liddle’s booking being one that springs to mind.

Gareth: At the time I thought that it was a straightforward decision – a penalty and a red card –and it was probably one of the few decisions that Ward got right all afternoon.

Having seen the replay, it maybe wasn’t so clear cut. The defenders were getting back to cover and the ball was going out of play, so it wasn’t really a clear goal scoring opportunity.

No arguments about the penalty being given. As for the red card, then you see them given and you see them not given so I don’t feel too aggrieved – it certainly wasn’t the referee’s worst call of the afternoon.

How important is retaining Jon Stead and what role do you see him playing for the rest of the season?

Damien: If I was Phil Parkinson, Jon Stead would be one of the first names I would be putting on the team sheet each week.

I thought he was excellent on Saturday. He continues to add an extra dimension to our play and seems to be able to work well with whoever he partners. We saw him link effectively with Billy Clarke earlier in the season, but the last few matches with James Hanson would suggest that they can work well together also, and I thought both had very impressive games and caused the Rochdale defence problems.

A very astute bit of business to get Stead signed for the rest of the season.

Gareth: I’ve said it before and I keep saying it: every time that I see him play, Stead looks too good for League One. He is big, strong and surprisingly skilful too. He’s improved us no end; not least because he seems to be able to play with just about any type of partner. I was delighted that we managed to retain his services until the end of the season.

Nick: When we signed Stead on loan in October I was surprised, having not been massively impressed with him last season. Added to this was feedback from a few Huddersfield Town-supporting friends who felt he had little hunger left for the game. How wrong we were.

His footballing intelligence is fantastic to watch and Saturday was possibly his best yet, with numerous drops of the shoulder and sharp turns buying himself time on the ball and allowing the team to push up the pitch. If the ball is played up to him it almost always sticks and is then distributed cleverly.

Right now he’s undroppable and it’s a question of getting legs around him to make use of all his good work (something Billy Knott has done well of late). Stead not only looks good as an individual, he makes the players around him look better.

Categories: The Verdict

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4 replies

  1. Once again an interesting article benefiting from 3 different contributors. I wonder if they may be slightly more varied, if they were conducted separately, as I get the impression that there is a tendency, that the comments of one may influence the others.
    In respect of Jon Stead, then when I spoke to some of my friends who support Oldham (where he had been on loan), they were singularly unimpressed with him. His performances during this loan have been very good and I have become a fan. It will be interesting to see what happens when he becomes a free agent.
    Keep up the good work.

    • For what it’s worth Rod, I write my comments without reading the others first as I agree that otherwise there’s a decent chance of producing something that isn’t all your own work.

  2. With regard to the red card, and the comment “you see them given and you see them not given”, the evidence suggests that they are not given and the red card does not appear. Watch Sky’s Football League show – we need consistency from officials. If Ward was correct, the other referees who issued yellows in (arguably) much more clear cut situations were wrong. However the late lapses are worrying, costly and far too frequent.

  3. I was also thinking about what will happen when Stead becomes a free agent, and I wonder if we will sign him properly. Maybe the reason we didn’t sign him in January was because we didn’t want to pay a fee, maybe we’re winding the clock down and want to take him on a free at the end of the season. Would like to know everyone else’s thoughts on this…

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