For fans of a certain age, Rochdale will be a club they know to be relatively stable in the third tier – in the last ten years they’ve only been in the basement division for two seasons, earning promotion in one of those. That wasn’t always the case.
Indeed, when they arrived at the Bank in December 2009, they were in their 36th season of basement division football. They dropped out of the Third Division in 1974, before automatic promotion and relegation, only finishing in the top ten twice until the turn of the Millennium. They were the epitome of the side ‘you had to beat’ if you wanted promotion. You know the saying, my dad uttered the words yesterday – ‘You have to be beating the likes of Rochdale if you’re serious about finishing top half’. That was Rochdale, permanently.
Sadly, in 2009, you had to be beating the likes of Lincoln if you wanted to finish top half, and that’s what they did. The Imps were not in a good place, and we lined up Burch, Swaibu, Watts, Lichaj, Baker, Kerr, S Clarke, Hughton, Herd, J Clarke and Facey with Aaron Brown, Lenny John-Lewis and Stefan Oakes all getting a runout. Yes, Nathan Baker, Eric Lichaj and Chris Herd all went on to better things, but this was a poor Imps’ side. We had two wins in 15 league matches, and the only sides we’d beaten since October 10th were Northwich and Telford in the cup.
Lichaj and Herd contrived to put us 1-0 up, and briefly, we looked like we might spring a surprise. Within ten minutes or so, Rochdale hit back and even led at half-time, Chris O’Grady rifling in Scott Wiseman’s cross before Craig Dawson headed in Tom Kennedy’s corner to make it 2-1. Chris Dagnall later converted Joe Thompson’s far-post cross to stretch Rochdale’s lead at the top of the table to four points.
We used the defeat as a springboard of sorts, winning three of the next four (losing only to Bolton), before winter left us and we skipped autumn, prematurely moved into Somma time.