City fought back from behind to snatch a deserved draw against Rochdale at the Crown Oil Arena this evening.
It was a game of two halves in Greater Manchester as the hosts went into the lead early in the first half before a second half of positive play and possession brought a deserved leveller from City via the head of Tyler Walker. It was a real entertaining game which had a real ebb and flow about it, with The Imps close to snatching a late winner save for some sterling defensive work by the hosts.
The Imps made one change to the side which took on Bristol Rovers last weekend, coming into the starting line up at the Crown Oil Arena for the visitors was Cian Bolger who replaced Michael Bostwick. Rochdale also made one change to their starting line up too, as Ollie Rathbone replaced Aaron Morley who dropped to the bench.
Rochdale: Sanchez, Norrington-Davies, McNulty, O'Connell, Dooley, Williams, Camps, Pyke, Keohane, Rathbone, Henderson
Substitutes: Lynch, Andrew, Done, Ryan, Morley, Tavares, Mathieson
The hosts made a quick and progressive start, pushing forward dangerously but they found Jason Shackell the immovable object as he blocked the initial shot from Rekeil Pyke, Stephen Dooley smashed the rebound wide of goal with Josh Vickers watching it go harmlessly wide. City though were just as adept coming forward in the early exchanges, Jack Payne taking control a square ball from Callum Connolly, the Imps’ number ten slid the ball wide to Bruno Andrade, his step over took him away from Jimmy Keohane to give space for the cross but the low quick ball in was just cleared with Tyler Walker in close attendance.
It was a very open and expansive game with both sides looking to utilise the quick, damp surface which was extensively watered ahead of kick off, Dooley for Rochdale tried to make a quick attack down the City right but Cian Bolger had his eyes firmly on the ball and stroked away confidently in possession.
Ollie Rathbone tried to hit the top corner from outside the area for Brian Barry-Murphy’s side but the ball skewed wide of the mark with Vickers covering his near post. However, the next foray forward for the Dale was to bring the opener, Callum Camps tried a low shot on the turn towards the far post which the City ‘keeper saved, but he couldn’t prevent DOOLEY pouncing on the rebound.
The Imps looked to press down the left with Harry Toffolo and Andrade linking intelligently and the latter’s low cross was only cut out by Eoghan O’Connoll who stretched every sinew in his right leg to deny Payne what would have been a chance from six yards. Dale were quick on the counter however and following a free kick for the hosts being cleared by The Imps, the ball broke for Camps to shoot, his effort was blocked and it rebounded to Rekeil Pyke who cut across the ball aiming at the near post only see it hit the side netting. Rochdale were playing the ball quickly, switching play and given the opportunity to shoot, they weren’t shy, but weren’t able to stretch their lead.
Buoyed by a travelling support of over 450 of a red and white persuasion, The Imps began to get their passing game going more typified by a wonderful cross field ball from Joe Morrell which set Neal Eardley on his way down the right unfortunately though the ball into the box couldn’t be found. Morrell was growing in statue, at one point right infront of the dugouts he took on three Dale players on halfway before being inches away from feeding Payne as O’Connell just cut it out. Shackell tried to hit the target from 25 yards following a foul on Tyler Walker, but the rising effort whistled over the top.
Camps almost caught Vickers out as a shot from the Dale forward took a slight nick off Shackell on its way through but The Imps’ keeper watched it to save before grasping at the second attempt. City went close in first half injury time when Andrade’s deep cross was close to being met by Harry Anderson but he was well marked at the back post.
Rochdale 1 The Imps 0
Within 120 seconds of the restart City had the first opportunity of the second half, Payne harassing and winning the ball back inside the Dale box, Andrade taking over with a snap shot which Robert Sanchez had to get behind at the near post. It was a combative start to the second half with both sides crunching into challenges, and City were so close to being level with six minutes gone as Toffolo’s low cross rolled into the box with Walker and Payne within a toe of scoring but the ball went agonisingly untouched and out for a goal kick to the hosts.
The Imps were growing stronger by the minute with Payne heavily involved and it was he who came close to equalising, hitting hard and low across Sanchez who did well to dive to his right to save. City kept the pressure on, having arguably their best period of possession and pinning Dale into their own half but crucially for the home side they remained in front.
Morrell played a searching ball from left to right for Anderson, he slid the ball into the path of Eardley whose deep cross found Walker who returned it to the danger area, Payne tried to get a shot away through a sea of legs only to see it blocked before Andrade tried to catch everyone out with a curler to the back post but it went wide.
Payne was brought down from behind by O’Connell which gave City a chance to cross into the box again, this time out from the left but the hosts broke quickly through Ian Henderson, however just as the striker thought he may have a run through on goal, back came Morrell to cut out the chance and get back possession for City showing a real urgency to keep The Imps in the hunt.
City brought on John Akinde with ten minutes remaining, with Anderson leaving the field but it was Morrell who had the next shot on target, firing from fully 25 yards towards the bottom corner although it didn’t have the pace to beat Sanchez who scampered across his goalline to save. The visiting side were throwing a little more caution to the wind as the game crept closer to full time and as a result Dale looked to break at pace but City weren’t to be breached for a second time.
The Imps refused to lie down and with four minutes to go they hit back with a deserved equaliser, Toffolo taking control at the back post smashing hard across goal with a host of players inbetween the ball and the goal it met the near post run of TYLER WALKER who glanced home an equaliser. City pressed for the winner having all the impetus in the final moments of the game however, Dale managed to stave off the resurgent Imps to share the spoils.
Rochdale 1 The Imps 1
25 Robert SANCHEZ
3 Rhys NORRINGTON-DAVIES
4 Jim McNULTY
6 Eoghan O’CONNELL
7 Stephen DOOLEY
8 MJ WILLIAMS
10 Callum CAMPS
11 Rekeil PYKE
13 Jimmy KEOHANE
14 Ollie RATHBONE
40 Ian HENDERSON
12 Jay LYNCH
9 Calvin ANDREW
16 Matt DONE
20 Jimmy RYAN (66’ for Pyke)
28 Aaron MORLEY
37 Fabio TAVARES
41 Luke MATHIESON
GOAL: Dooley 13’
Booked: Camps 51’
1 Josh VICKERS
3 Harry TOFFOLO
5 Jason SHACKELL
6 Cian BOLGER
10 Jack PAYNE
11 Bruno ANDRADE
17 Tyler WALKER
19 Joe MORRELL
20 Callum CONNOLLY
23 Neal EARDLEY
26 Harry ANDERSON
21 Grant SMITH
4 Michael O’CONNOR
12 Ellis CHAPMAN
22 Aaron LEWIS
24 Max MELBOURNE
29 John AKINDE (80’ for Anderson)
Booked: Shackell 49’ Connolly 55’
GOAL: Walker 86’
Referee: Ross Joyce
Assistants: Gareth Mellor & Helen Byrne
4th Official: Martin Woods
Attendance: 2,659 (451 Imps’ supporters)