Town: Mark Halstead, Matt Tootle, Mark Ellis, Nat Knight-Percival (c), Abu Ogogo, Mat Sadler, James Collins (Shaun Whalley, 76), Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, Larnell Cole, Jordan Clark (Tyrone Barnett, 84), Sullay Kaikai
Subs not used: Shaun Rowley (GK), Ian Black, Junior Brown, Liam McAlinden, Liam Lawrence
Rochdale: Josh Lillis, Joe Rafferty, Jimmy McNulty, Oliver Lancashire, Peter Vincenti, Calvin Andrew, Donal McDermott (Joe Bunney, 74), Jamie Allen (c) (Matthew Lund, 74), Andy Cannon, Tom Kennedy, Ian Henderson
Subs not used: Ashley Eastham, Lewis Alessandra, Reuben Noble-Lazarus, Jonathan Diba Musangu, Callum Camps
Referee: S. Stockbridge
Assistants: A. Greenwood & S. Meredith
Fourth Official: G. Hilton
Martin Wild reports from Spotland
Shrewsbury fell to their first away defeat of the season at Keith Hill’s Rochdale this evening. They appeared to be in for a clobbering when they went three goals behind in just 15 minutes, but goals from Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro and a James Collins penalty cut Dale’s lead to a single goal by the interval. And despite a spirited second half performance from Town, their endeavours failed to produce at least a point that they richly deserved. Ultimately, their poor start to the game proved to be their undoing and Rochdale held out.
In team news, Collins was preferred to Tyrone Barnett having put in an eye-catching 45 minute appearance during the win over Blackpool. The only other change was Junior Brown being recalled to the sub’s bench with Sam Paterson the man to drop out.
On a perfect evening for football it was Town who kicked off wearing their change colours of sky blue and white stripes to avoid a kit clash with the hosts.
Shrewsbury got off to a dreadful start with Dale ahead just after four minutes and from their first real attack. The referee played a good advantage down Town’s right hand side and when Calvin Andrew picked out Peter Vincenti at the back post, he volleyed deftly past Mark Halstead. It wasn’t the greatest of connections but it was always going to find the net by directing it back across goal with the keeper totally exposed.
Vincenti was involved again after 12 minutes when his header struck the arm of Mark Ellis to win Dale a penalty. The award looked harsh but Ian Henderson ignored the controversy and thumped the ball high into the net to double the home side’s advantage, and leave Town in real trouble.
There was a sparse crowd inside Spotland but the locals were loving it. They were soon celebrating again when Vincenti fed the ball inside to Donal McDermott and his low delivery into the six yard box was flicked home by skipper Jamie Allen at the near post. Three-nil in just 15 minutes and the home side looked like scoring every time they came forward with Shrews in complete disarray. Poor Halstead had only touched the ball three times and each one was to fish the ball out of his net.
Their last visit to this ground ended in a 4-0 defeat but at least it wasn’t snowing this time! Just before the half hour Town had a reasonable opportunity to give themselves a lifeline. JLAA did well to come away with the ball and slipped Collins into a bit of space down the left. He dragged the ball past the last defender to give himself an unopposed route to goal but the end result was a poor one, with the striker putting in a tame shot straight at Rochdale goalkeeper, Josh Lillis.
With ten minutes to go before the break, Shrews pulled one back and much of it was down to Jean-Louis. He did well to force a corner and when Sullay Kaikai delivered deep to the back post, there was the Frenchman climbing highest to plant the header in off the post for his third goal in two games.
A minute or so later Kaikai’s header landed on the roof of the net and all of a sudden Salop had found a bit of belief. A lightning burst forward by Larnell Cole had to be well defended or the lead might have been down to just one goal. After 41 minutes, that’s exactly what the lead had become. JLAA went down in the box and the official pointed immediately to the spot, and Collins smashed the spot-kick plum into the bottom corner to give Lillis no chance.
Those locals were now twitching and when Matt Tootle went down under a challenge in the 18 yard box, all eyes went to the man in the middle. Having awarded two penalties already, Mr. Stockbridge was in no mood to complete a first half hat-trick. What a game – you didn’t want it to end.
Half-Time: Rochdale 3 Town 2
At the resumption Collins had another decent chance but as he shaped his body to go across goal, it gave a retreating defender time to get in a deflection and the corner came to nothing.
The next goal was likely to have a huge bearing on the outcome and Town had come out all guns blazing. Akpa Akpro’s deliciously probing ball across the box was begging for someone to apply the finish, and Cole’s trickery in trying to keep the ball alive saw the youngster just run out of pitch, with the linesman signalling a goal-kick.
Down below, Micky Mellon was shouting words of encouragement to his players –perhaps sensing his side would leave Lancashire with something to show for their efforts, after a first 15 minutes where only one outcome looked possible.
As Town went again, Kaikai’s mazy dribble took him across the 18 yard line but his shot was comfortable for Lillis.
This game was wonderful to watch. Full of quick movement, slick one-touch passing and bone-crunching tackles. Whatever the end result, you couldn’t question the desire or commitment of either set of players. Mellon made his first change with 14 minutes left with Shaun Whalley replacing the industrious Collins, and they threatened once more with Kaikai’s ball right along the six yard line again eluding everyone before being turned behind.
In Kaikai and Cole, Micky has unearthed a couple of gems and they were terrorising the Dale defence time and again. Rochdale’s early promise had fizzled out with almost all of the play now in their half. Barnett came on for Jordan Clark after 84 minutes with the clock now running down at a rate of knots and Shrews still trailing.
Dale spent the first of four additional minutes trying to run the clock down in the corner, so anxious were they to protect their lead. And protect it they did with huge sighs of relief coming from the home stands at the sound of the final whistle.
Full Time: Rochdale 3 Town 2