Two poignant "Dale" memories stand out from those bygone days of the Bond era (that's John not Kevin). The first was street lamps reflecting orange hues against the red brick of row upon row of terraced streets on a damp, wet and misty Tuesday night in an era when Lancashire still had proper steak and kidney puddings and mushy peas to die for. The second was my induction into a lifetime of fatalistic gloom at the Cherries conceding late goals. I remember leaving early to catch the bus to my friend's house in Higher Openshaw, Manchester, with a 3-1 lead, two points (yes it was a long time ago) and the game in the bag. These were the days long before "Sky Sports" and mobile text updates so I rushed back to gloat at the footie results on ITV's "news at ten". I was still young and naive enough to be shocked as a 3-3 final score-line was read out at 1030pm.Today's visit was not a night game so there was little prospect of any street lamp nostalgia, although the cold December weather and mist from the hills seemed vaguely familiar, or is it just that I now live amongst our friends up north. I was delighted to spy a traditional pie/fish and chip shop built into a terraced house adjacent to the away turnstile. A "Dale" steward observed my burgeoning culinary excitement and helpfully said "Yes, you can bring them into the ground". I thanked my luck at not being a snooty premiership ground with stale overpriced baguettes and celebrated with a steaming pile of fish, chips, pie and peas, enough to make people on the "Hay Diet" scream with horror, not to mention my GP and his deadly cholesterol monitor. It also caused the odd flurry of comment from other Exiles and maybe one or two mobile phone pictures, which no doubt record the moment somewhere on face-book.
And so we come eventually to the game. Cherries kicked off in their neat white away strip with a makeshift back four of "Cummings, Cooper, Guyett and Ward" and midfield four of "McQuiod, Hollands, Bartley and Molesley". It seemed that Tubbs was "playing in the hole" as they say in modern football, with Lee Bradbury on his own up front. Dales high position in the league and good home form combined with a patched up Cherries side suggested a difficult afternoon for our boys but this was not how the game unfolded.
From the outset Cherries were brisk and quick with neat passing based on a solid looking formation keen to take the game to a home side that seemed nonplussed and unable to respond to a positive approach by the Cherries. Apart from a good tip over by Jalal from a long shot and one dangerous cross, Dale had little to offer and it was the Cherries that dominated with good and long spells of possession. Despite this Dale we able to both create and spurn two good opportunities when they were clean through on the Cherries goal. The game was very even though and we had a good "penalty shout" turned down by the referee and arguably the best chance of the lot, a shot just over the bar by Bradbury on the half hour.
The game was now flowing uninterrupted and the first free kick in a dangerous area did not arrive until the 35th minute. This gave an opportunity for the players from both teams to catch their breath and as they stood in the cold winter air with columns of steam rising from sweating bodies they resembled racehorses waiting in a paddock. I shared this moment of insight with Christine Pope who instantly replied "Yes and they need a good rub down". Priceless!. Cherries were really building some momentum now and a goal looked likely. Cherries almost scored on 40 min's from a training ground free kick that almost worked, producing a fine fingertip save from the Dale keeper at the foot of the right hand post. You could sense a goal coming and so it was after 44 min's. From a long forward kick Tubbs arrived in the penalty area and as he turned inside to bring the ball onto his weaker left foot he was pulled back by a Dale defender and a penalty was awarded to the Cherries. This proved somewhat controversial with some of the Exiles, who demanded a red card for the Dale defender based on the "last man rule", but no card was forthcoming from the referee. My reaction at the time was that it was a "soft" penalty and the ref got it right by restricting the punishment to a spot kick. Maybe not a technically correct decision but justice was done. In any event it was a thrilling penalty execution by Bradbury who thumped the ball hard to the keeper's right "Geoff Hurst style", with the net bulging from the power of the shot. Lovely stuff! Although there was more huffing and puffing from both sets of players the half ended 0-1 to the Cherries. Overall it was a very pleasing Cherries performance with strength, energy and commitment.
Cherries began the second half in similar vein, almost scoring from the restart. After 56 min's Danny Hollands was booked for an innocuous challenge. Dale them made two substitutions on 57 and 64 min's, which demonstrated their frustration at not dominating the game. I noted that after an hour of being in control, perhaps not surprisingly the players began to tire and Dale slowly forced their way back into the game. Maybe it is the curse of defending an 0-1 advantage, but why do away teams with a lead allow themselves to be pushed deeper and deeper back towards the six yard line, inviting the inevitable equaliser. Before this happened there was time for another shot on the turn by Bradbury who was giving a minor master-class in playing on your own up front and proving a real handful for nervous and less experienced Dale defenders. Despite Lee Bradbury's and his colleagues valiant efforts it was Dale who scored the second goal of the game and it was an excellent equaliser from a dangerous cross, a full blooded right foot volley from top scorer Adam Le Fondre on 76 min's that gave Jalal no time to respond. This gave Dale the confidence they previously lacked and Cherries came under concerted pressure for the first time in the game. Quinn responded with a number of substitutions, seeing Igoe, Pitman and Partington introduced for tiring Cherries players , including the (on the day) impressive Lee Bradbury who departed to warm applause from the 117 away fans.
However it was the substitution of Joe Partington that caused much amusement amongst Cherries followers as the stadium announcer applied his Lancashire accent and uniquely flat Blackburn vowels to the surname of our young Welsh midfielder. This produced a very traditional name with four repetitions at the end! - "Coming on for Buuurnemuth, number twenty tooo, Joseph Partingtun - tun - tun - tun.". More priceless stuff!. On the field there was still time for the home crowd to have a shout for a red card for a reckless Cherries change, which thankfully the referee ignored before both sides settled for a 1-1 final score.
AFCB: Jalal, Guyett, Cummings, Cooper, Ward, Bartley, Hollands, McQuoid, Bradbury, Molesley, Tubbs
Subs: Garry, Connell, Igoe (for McQuoid, 72 mins), Partington (for Bartley, 75 mins), Pitman (for Bradbury, 85 mins)
Jack Parker, Didsbury