One of the clubs relegated with Rovers to League Two at the end of last season, Rochdale were formed in 1907 and Spotland has been their home ground since then though it now goes by the rather grand name of the Crown Oil Arena.
We didn’t play each other until the 1969/70 season, when both games ended in draws. It was 3-3 at Eastville on 27th September 1969 and goalless at Spotland on 17th January 1970. Overall, we have now met in the league 37 times, with Rovers winning seven, Rochdale 13 and there’s been 17 draws.
The sides have never met in the League Cup, and only twice in the FA Cup. That was in 2002 when, after a 1-1 draw at The Memorial Stadium, Rochdale won the replay 3-2 at Spotland.
Last season Rovers took a point at Spotland, drawing 1-1 on 31st October 2020, while Rochdale were 2-1 winners at The Mem on 30th January this year.
If I’m honest, I’m struggling to remember an outstanding game against The Dale, though a 3-2 win for us at The Mem on February 13th 2018 was a decent one. On that occasion Liam Sercombe, Joe Partington and Chris Lines scored the Gas goals, while Ian Henderson scored both for Rochdale.
As for lows, well I guess the fact that Rochdale were 2-1 winners at The Mem in August 2002 wearing our away kit is one of them! Apparently, the fault lay with the manufacturers of their new away kit. It was delivered the day before the game but had to be numbered up, so it was decided to do that and drive it down to Bristol on Saturday morning of the game.
Schoolboy error that, thinking there would be very little traffic on the M5 heading to Devon or Cornwall on a Saturday in August! By the time the game kicked off their shirts had reached Birmingham and the team were kitted out in our change strip of stone and black quarters.
Players to have turned out for both sides include; Brian Cash, Guy Branston, Luke Daniels, Lee Hodges, Rene Howe, Matty Lund, Rickie Lambert, Tyler Smith, Ciaran Toner and Paul Tait.
Undoubtedly the pick of that group was Rickie Lambert, who arrived in BS7 from Spotland for a fee of £200,000, in August 2006, which turned out to be money well spent. Transferred to Southampton for a fee in excess of £1m in August 2009, Lambert went on to score on his England debut and, albeit briefly, play for his beloved Liverpool.
Former Rovers boss Darrell Clarke is also a former Rochdale player, appearing in 12 league games during a loan spell at Spotland.
For some perverse reason I enjoy trips to Rochdale’s Spotland ground, though that might have something to do with the Wilbutts Lane Chippy, situated behind one of the stands. You’ll have to go a long way to beat their fish and chips!
Whether you go for the football or for the fish and chips, it’s a journey of 183 miles.