Football: Rochdale 1 - 1 Walsall
Date published: 24 December 2017
Joe Thompson - Rochdale v Walsall
Joe Thompson returned to the Rochdale squad for the first time since he battled cancer for the second time but his return was not a winning one as Walsall left it late but denied Dale a first league win in three with a stoppage time equaliser through substitute Maz Kouhyar.
Calvin Andrew had earlier given Rochdale the lead but Dale could not hold on for victory.
The news that Thompson was appearing on the team-sheet for the first time since March was a surprise as its only been six months since he was given the all clear for the second time.
In a poor first half, Callum Camps almost fluked an opener as his cross flew over Mark Gillespie but bounced off the face of the crossbar and cleared to safety.
The second half was a little better but on a poor Crown Oil Arena surface, pretty football was rarely on show as both sides struggled with the conditions.
Walsall’s danger man was Erhun Oztumer and the diminutive midfielder thought he netted the opening goal two minutes into the second half but his close-range shot was ruled out for offside.
Josh Lillis had to make sure full back Luke Leahy did not get his name on the score sheet with the Dale keeper tipping over the defender’s effort.
Rochdale scored the first goal of the game through Calvin Andrew’s persistence. The striker was played in down the right by Camps and, after beating one defender, he saw his first effort blocked but his quick reaction saw his second shot creep beyond Kory Roberts and into the bottom left hand corner.
Dale almost doubled their lead 15 minutes later but Andrew missed his shot from close range and when the ball fell to Thompson, who had only been on the field five minutes, a last gasp bit of defending denied him what would have been a dream return.
With the clock ticking to the end of the 90 minutes Walsall grabbed a late equaliser when Oztumer wriggled free down the right before pulling a delightful ball back to Kouhyar who rifled past Josh Lillis from inside the box.
The draw, along with other results, drops Dale down to second from bottom of Sky Bet League One.
Rochdale: Lillis, Rafferty, McGahey, Daniels, Bunney, Camps, Rathbone, Williams (Thompson 72), Henderson ©, Andrew, Done (Inman 46)
Subs: (not used) Moore, McNulty, Keane, Kitching, Gillam
Walsall: Gillespie, Devlin, Guthrie, Roberts, Leahy, Edwards (Flanagan 87), Chambers ©, Oztumer, Ismail (Kouhyar 80), Morris (Jackson 71), Agyei
Subs: (not used) Kinsella, Donnellan, Candlin, Ganley
Referee: Mr A Haines
Assistants: Mr I A Dudley and Mr R Bartlett
Fourth Official: Mr B Toner