Rochdale 2-2 Colchester United

Date published: 15 October 2011

A Gary Jones strike with 2 minutes left on the clock salvaged a point for Dale against 10 man Colchester.

The U’s raced into a 2-0 lead before the 15 minute mark but the game turned on its head on 29 minutes when Magnus Okuonghae saw red when he hauled down Jean Louis Akpa-Akpro when the Frenchamn was through on goal. Marcus Holness’ header just a minute before the break gave Eyre’s men hope but it took until the 88th minute for the equaliser against a very stubborn U’s defence.

Manager Steve Eyre gave a start to on loan Matthew Barnes-Homer in place of David Ball who has returned to Peterborough in an otherwise unchanged starting 11. Ahmed Benali made the bench.

A slow start by Dale cost them dear as John Ward’s Colchester side took the lead after just 3 minutes when Ian Henderson drilled home a 30 yard freekick after Nicky Adams’ foul on Michail Antonio. Henderson scored the winning goals in both last season’s meetings with this low strike evading the wall and Jake Kean.

The U’s looked very sprightly and pushed for more against a Dale side looking a little out of sorts in the early stages. Anthony Wordsworth saw his curling shot go wide whilst Dale’s first attempt on goal was an Akpa-Akpro flicked header that evaded the far post.

The visitors doubled their advantage on 14 minutes when Kayode Odejayi turned in a Brian Wilson cross. It all seemed so simple for Ward’s men as they strolled through the Dale backline and it looked a long way back for the home side.

Akpa-Akpro was pushed upfront as Eyre looked to change his side’s fortunes and an almost immediate effect. Gary Jones angled cross into the area gave the Frenchman a free header but Williams in the U’s goal gathered easily.

Just before the half hour mark and the game saw its major turning point. Andrew Tutte sent a long ball over the visitors defence with Okuonghae favourite to collect but Akpa-Akpro wriggled goal-side of his man and raced away but the big defender hauled him down 20 yards from goal. Referee Webb had little choice but to show him the red card and in doing so lifted the hopes of the home faithful. The dangerous Henderson was replaced by defender John White.

The sending off certainly disrupted the visitors and the belief crept back into Rochdale. With 60 seconds left of the first half, Marcus Holness gave Dale a real lifeline. Gary Jones’ freekick was cleared to Adams who sent a delightful right wing cross for Holness to glance beyond Williams.

Kean had to be alert right until the last second of the first half when Antonio’s cross-cum-shot had to be blocked.

Ahmed Benali was introduced at half time for his football league debut in place of Matthew Barnes-Homer.

The second period began with Dale camped inside the U’s half with John Ward’s plans turned into turmoil when 60 seconds after the restart, centre back Matt Heath had to be replaced after picking up a knock in the first half.

Sitting back and soaking up the Dale pressure, Colchester’s main attacking threat came on the counter attack. Antonio fired over when well placed in a rare U’s attack.

The home fans had to be patient as Dale probed for an opening against a resolute U’s defence. Gary Jones stung Izzet’s delicate area with a fierce drive with referee Webb halting play so the visiting captain could receive treatment, much to the annoyance of home players and fans alike with Dale on the attack.

Goalmouth action was few and far between as the game became more like a training ground exercise of attackers versus defenders. Coker had a shot pushed away by Kean whilst Tutte fired over from 20 yards for Dale.

Just as time looked to be against Dale, Captain Gary Jones fired the equaliser. Neal Trotman was pushed up as a makeshift striker and his presence in the Colchester 18 yard box caused chaos. A lofted ball towards him was nodded down with Grimes and Trotman trying to free the ball from a mêlée of defenders but as the ball popped out, Jones was there to fire home from just inside the area to earn a well deserved point.

October always looked an important month for Steve Eyre’s men and it is now 4 games unbeaten in all competitions. With a trip to rock bottom Exeter next weekend, can Dale continue this unbeaten start to the month at St James’ Park.

Dale manager Steve Eyre, said: “A draw was a fair result and I have just said to the lads it’s a game we could have lost. Credit to Colchester for the way they started. Hand on heart? I don’t think we deserved to win so yes a draw is about right. It was hard to break them down but we kept going. They did to us what we have done to others this season in terms of the start. They looked a yard quicker and a stone heavier but our ball retention wasn’t good enough at the start and we paid the price. We urged Andrew Tutte to play balls forward rather than sideways and his ball put pressure on their defence. It was an obvious red card and we gained momentum. We got the goal just before half time and myself and Frank (Bunn) decided we wouldn’t even mention the first 35 minutes until one day this week after training and concentrate on getting back in the game. Colchester bedded in a sat back which made it difficult with 10 men behind the ball. We were craving a gap so we had to go out wide and had to be patient. I genuinely believe we were worthy of the leveller but maybe not of a winner. I’ve just called Gary Jones ‘Johnny on the spot’ in the dressing room as he always seems to be the right man in the right place.

“We will head down to Exeter next week in full spirits looking to continue our unbeaten run. We have had a defender in for the last fortnight to have a look at and we are trying to arrange a deal until the end of the season so he can play for Rochdale. He has the capability to do that. We are keeping tabs on David Ball; I will speak to him socially later on and see what happened today. They (Peterborough United) have lots of games coming up but I think we need to forget about Bally for the time being and give credit to the players we have got at the club. I gave chances to a couple today; I’m not convinced they took their chance. We are looking for another striker and we have spoken to 2 but no further news yet.”

Att – 2226

Rochdale: Kean, Darby, Holness, Trotman, Balkestein, Adams, Jones (c), Tutte, Akpa-Akpro, Barnes-Homer (Benali 46), Grimes

Subs (not used): Lucas, Twaddle, Barry-Murphy, Kennedy

Colchester United: Williams, Okuonghae, Heath (Duguid 47), Izzet (c), Antonio (O’Toole 81), Bond, Odejayi, Henderson (White 32), Wilson, Wordsworth, Coker

Subs (not used): Gillespie, James

Referee: Mr D Webb
Ass Ref: Mr P Curry, Mr M Parry
4th Official: Mr Roberts

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