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IF Kidderminster at home was a catastrophe, Rochdale away on Boxing Day was a near disaster.

IF Kidderminster at home was a catastrophe, Rochdale away on Boxing Day was a near disaster. In the end, Smith's men were lucky to escape with a point in a pulsating festive encounter.

At half-time, the strains of '80s pop band Madness could be heard reverberating around the redeveloped Spotland ground, and the tannoy man's choice of musical artist could not be faulted. From first minute to last, the action was crazy and manic: four goals, a missed penalty, loads of goalmouth incident and dodgy tackles aplenty.

This is my verdict on the 11 players who made the Dragons' line-up in their last away fixture of 2002:

ROGERS: I don't know what Kristian and his extended family do on Christmas Day, but whatever their routine is, they should do something different next year. On Boxing Day 2001, the young glovesman let a gentle toe-poke through his legs to give Notts County a goal they scarcely deserved. On Boxing Day 2002, he made several good saves but looked tentative throughout and made a couple of high-profile howlers in the first half. On current form, he is definitely third-choice keeper at the Racecourse.

CAREY: Solid performance and bailed his defensive colleagues out of trouble on a number of occasions.

ROBERTS: Competent enough but needs to work on his passing, control and shooting.

LAWRENCE: I admire "Tall Man". His attitude and commitment are first-class, and he is far more skilful than some fans would have us believe. That said, at Rochdale, he was slipping and sliding around and I am at a loss to explain why a 6' 8" defender looks so innocuous in the air.

PAUL EDWARDS: At first, I didn't really rate the ex-Swindon wing-back, but in recent weeks he has won me over. He is an assured performer on the left flank: combative, tricky and hard as nails.

CARLOS EDWARDS: Red-hot favourite for the 2002-3 player of the year award, but unable to make the killer pass against Dale.

FERGUSON: I love his silky passing but dislike his petulant, gesticulating manner. Thankfully, all we saw at Spotland was the former. In my view, he was easily the best player on the park: clever, shrewd and economical with the ball at his feet.

WHITLEY: As ever, worked his socks off, but a little untidy in his various midfield contributions.

BARRETT: Forever in the shadow of the Ferguson-Whitley axis. More tireless running but little end product.

TRUNDLE: The ex-Rhyl man said in the press that he had been "gutted" to be left out against Kidderminster, but on Boxing Day he did little to convince the doubters. He needs a lot of time to do his tricks and he very rarely gets this. When the ball is fed up to him, he works hard to keep possession, but regularly loses out to opposition defenders.

MORRELL: Two slightly fortunate goals to add to his impressive tally, but he is "in the zone" at present and goalscoring has become almost second nature.

For an average-sized bloke, he has an excellent ability to hang in the air and win headers he should, in theory, lose.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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