Rochdale 1-1 Walsall (Rochdale won 3-1 on penalties)

Date published: 05 October 2011

Rochdale progressed to the third round of the Football League Trophy 3-1 on penalties at the expense of Walsall after the game ended 1-1 at 90 minutes. Jake Kean was the hero for Steve Eyre’s side when he saved two spot kicks to ensure Dale’s name went into the hat for the third round.

The Dale manager used the game to give some fringe players their chance as he made 5 changes to his starting 11 from Saturday. Ahmed Benali, a deadline day signing from Manchester City made his senior debut whilst Mark Twaddle and Matt Barnes-Homer both made full debuts. Jason Kennedy partnered Captain Brian Barry-Murphy in midfield. Pim Balkestein and Andrew Tutte were rested.

As with recent games, it was Rochdale who made all the early running but were limited to shots from distance by a stubborn Saddler’s defence marshalled by former Dale trialist Paul Butler. Twaddle and Kennedy saw drives go wide whilst Thompson saw a dipping effort saved by Walker.

In a relatively tame first period, devoid of much goalmouth action, it was the Saddlers who almost broke the deadlock on 43 minutes. Will Grigg had a shot deflected but Keane saved whilst seconds later Martin broke through the home defence but Keane got down well to save although Holness’ clearance wasn’t clinical which allowed Nichols in but again Keane was equal.

Jean Louis Akpa-Akpro replaced Joe Thompson for the second half as Eyre looked for his side to push on from the restart.

The opening goal duly came 4 minutes in and it was Dale who scored. Kennedy picked up after a Dale corner was cleared but his shot was blocked with the ball falling kindly to David Ball. The on loan striker rather sliced his shot but was happy to see it hit the post and nestle in the back of the net for his 4th goal of the season.

Rochdale should have added to their lead around the hour mark when firstly a succession of corners ended with Akpa-Akpro heading wide from 6 yards whilst 2 minutes later Ball was presented with a glorious chance. A long clearance by Keane caught Butler out on the half way line when he missed his chance to clear with the ball falling to the pacey striker who looked favourite in the race towards goal but Butler managed to make up the ground and pressurised Ball into shooting wide.

It was a chance that looked to have been very costly as moments later, Walsall were level. A mis placed throw by Dale led to a swift counter attack that wasn’t dealt with. Firstly a left wing cross was cleared by Trotman but the follow up cross from the opposite flank was presented to Saddlers sub Kevan Hurst who calmly volleyed home from 6 yards.

From that point there only looked like one team likely to get the winner as the visitors pushed on. Martin’s mazy run evaded Adams and Darby but his shot was saved whilst Nichols’ run and shot went wide.

With the clock ticking down, Eyre’s men again sprang into life when sub Adams and Ball played some great passing football but Ball’s shot was well saved. Adams again showed his skill when he and Grimes linked but his cross went agonisingly across goal with nobody gambling.

With that chance went the full time whistle and to penalties.

Jake Keane was the hero for Dale with 2 great saves with Ball and Grimes both scoring for the home side. Nichols then scored for Walsall and Kennedy for Dale but when Ryan Jarvis fired his penalty high over the cross bar, the celebrations began as Eyre’s men booked their place in round 3.

Speaking after the game, Steve Eyre, said: “Credit to both teams, we made 5 changes and those players had a point to prove and worked ever so hard. There really wasn’t anything between the sides; it was a hard fought contest.

“Ahmed (Benali) will hopefully get a run of games and go and have a fantastic career. He will look back at this one as a tough debut, he showed flashes of his quality and I thought he showed lots of energy but I feel he was trying to impress myself and Frank (Bunn- assistant manager) but he was a pleasure to watch. Mark Twaddle’s got a very good left foot and his service upto the front man is excellent he’s got a tough job to try and dislodge Joe Widdowson from the left back slot. Barnes-Homer showed how direct he can be but he tired towards the end of his time on the pitch.

“We have taken a lot from tonight, money doesn’t come into this competition until the latter stages but we talked before the game about momentum. We won on Saturday and put in a winners performance tonight to take to Bournemouth. Players of David’s (Ball) type will always get that luck when they miss hit a shot but they all count.

“I was disappointed with their goal as we could have avoided the ball getting into our half when we rushed a throw which resulted in them attacking. We practiced penalties yesterday knowing it may come to that and we scored everyone yesterday so we told the lads in the huddle before to be positive and not change their mind on direction. The team spirit was there to see individually and collectively. We will enjoy the trip to Bournemouth on the back of the last 2 performances.”

Rochdale: Kean, Darby, Holness, Trotman, Twaddle, Thompson (Akpa-Akpro 46), Kennedy, Barry-Murphy (c), Barnes-Homer (Adams 64), Benali (Grimes 73), Ball

Subs (not used): Lucas, Jones

Walsall: Walker, Westlake, Sadler, Butler (c), Smith, Chambers (Taundry 90), Grigg (Jarvis 62), Nichols, Gnakpa (Hurst 62), Peterlin, Martin

Subs (not used: Grof, Paterson

Referee: Mr D Mohareb
Ass Referee:Mr D England, Mr P Thompson
4th Official: Mr D Handley

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