United's unbeaten start to the season continued with a 1-1 draw at home to Rochdale this afternoon. James Constable's instinctive finish in the first half gave United the lead but Matt Lund's second half header meant that the U's had to settle for one point at home for the second game in a row.
Dave Kitson for Scott Davies was the one change to the side that drew with Wycombe the week before, allowing Alfie Potter to move out wide and Kitson to team up with Constable up front. The pair linked up for the first opening of the game after eight minutes, Kitson firing over the top at the west end of the ground after clever hold up play by his strike partner.
Dale are a good passing side and had clearly not come to purely shut up shop. Ian Henderson clipped the stanchion behind Ryan Clarke’s goal with a decent 9th-minute effort and the visitors played some attractive football on a fine August afternoon.
Constable and Asa Hall
bracketed the goal with shots before the game was 15 minutes old while Tom Newey whistled a 30 yarder just past the post a couple of minutes later. United had been on top and on 24 minutes there was a certain inevitability as Constable opened the scoring. David Hunt put over a very fine cross from the right which Hall did well to nod down at the far post. Rose showed typical determination to burst past his man and shoot but Josh Lillis was equal to his effort with a good save. Unfortunately for the Dale keeper the ball went straight to Constable, six yards out, and his return was instant and crashed into the net for his 96th goal in United colours. His ‘baby rocking’ celebration in honour of the arrival of ten-day old daughter Amelia was a great moment.
A flurry of yellow cards followed as the game continued to be fiercely contested but United were good value for their half-time lead. Sadly that lead was only to last for five minutes of the second half before Dale equalised. Rhys Bennett, a rangy left back with a turn of pace, got to the goal-line for the first time and stood a decent ball up to the far post where Matt Lund hung highest to bury a header past the helpless Clarke from two yards out to score Dale’s first away goal of the season.
United threw on Tyrone Marsh for the tiring Kitson for the last quarter of the game and his first meaningful contribution almost fed Constable into a shooting opportunity on 72 before some brave defending from the covering Scott Hogan. Marsh then crept past the visiting defence but couldn't force the ball past Lillis, with Constable unable to force the ball past the covering Lancashire on the line. Marsh's additional pace had unsettled a previously comfortable-looking Dale defence but the ball refused to run kindly in front of goal despite United's late pressure.
Credit to Rochdale for some neat football and solid defending; they will do well this season. United will take the point and move forward once again. They are second in the table but have gone the first month of the season without losing. Once again they worked hard for each other and were never truly in danger of losing this game. There is more to come and they have given themselves a more than solid foundation for the months ahead.
Fifty/50 Winning number 296984 wins £1,010
Report by Chris Williams, pictures by Steve Daniels Stats by OPTA