Football: Rochdale 2 - 3 Fleetwood
Date published: 27 December 2019
Rochdale lost by the odd goal in five in a bruising Boxing Day encounter against Fleetwood Town despite twice taking the lead. Aaron Wilbraham twice put Dale ahead but Fleetwood levelled on each occasion.
Rhys Norrington-Davies was stretchered off in the 83 minute after colliding with Fleetwood goalkeeper Billy Crellin meaning Brian Barry-Murphy’s side would play the final seven minutes plus thirteen minutes stoppage time with just ten men having already made all of their substitutions. As the home side adjusted to their man less; Fleetwood netted the winner through substitute Wes Burns.
The first half was lacking in goalmouth action with neither side registering a shot on target until Rochdale scored in the 41st minute. Prior to that, Rochdale had to scramble away a Fleetwood freekick from the right that landed in the six yard box; Jack Sowerby with an air shot with the goal at his mercy.
The only goal of the first half came when Aaron Wilbraham’s header squeezed in at the near post from Stephen Dooley’s left sided corner. The veteran striker removing his shirt to reveal a t-shirt to celebrate the life of his mother who passed away just before Christmas.
Fleetwood levelled early into the second period through Paddy Madden. The livewire striker reacted quickest after Ched Evans’ header was only parried by Sanchez in the Dale goal; Madden lifting the ball over the stricken keeper from an acute angle.
Parity was only restored for seven minutes as Wilbraham got his second of the afternoon in the 60th minute with a brilliant cushioned volley. Luke Matheson’s cross was headed on by defender Harry Souttar directly to Wilbraham whose side footed effort beat Crellin low down to his right.
Having already clashed off the ball with Luke Matheson in the first half, Fleetwood’s Ched Evans was lucky not to go into Andy Haines notebook for a late challenge on Robert Sanchez leaving the Dale man receiving lengthy treatment from the medical team.
Matty Done then felt his hamstring and had to leave the field and as Dale readied a substitution, Fleetwood levelled again with a goal that had more than a hint of luck about it. Having only been on the field a matter of seconds, Kyle Dempsey’s speculative shot at goal screwed up off Wilbraham and into the bottom corner leaving Sanchez stranded.
Rochdale responded by bringing on 16-year-old Kwadwo Baah with the youngster getting straight into the action and forcing a fine save from Billy Crellin. Baah ran at the visitors backline before unleashing a powerful angled shot that Crellin did well to push over the crossbar.
The turning point of the game came in the last 10 minutes when Dale lost Norrington-Davies to a serious facial injury. Some good interplay down the left side saw the defender race into the box and as he challenged for the ball with Crellin; the keeper’s knee clattered into the defender's face resulting in the Rochdale man receiving lengthy treatment before being stretchered off. Having already made three changes, Barry-Murphy’s side would play the final 20 minutes with just 10 men.
With the 90 minutes almost up, Fleetwood got their winner. Coyle’s cross from the right was headed back across goal by Evans to Burns who’s neat turn and shot flew past Sanchez.
Defeat leaves Dale four points above the drop zone heading into two away games at Gillingham on Sunday 29 December and Accrington Stanley on New Year's Day.
Rochdale: Sanchez, Matheson, O’Connell, Norrington-Davies, Keohane, Ryan (Rathbone 61), MJ Williams, Camps ©, Wilbraham, Dooley (Andrew 78), Done (Baah 66)
Subs: (not used) Lynch, Magloire, Gillam, Tavares
Fleetwood: Crellin, Coyle, Eastham, Souttar, Andrew, Coutts ©, Biggins (Dempsey 64), Sowerby (Burns 64), Morris (McAleny 75), Madden, Evans
Substitutes: (not used) Cairns, Clarke, Saunders, Hill
Referee: Mr A Haines
Assistants: Mr D Avent & Mr P Graham
Fourth Official: Mr A Moore
Attendance: 3,167 (256 from Fleetwood)
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