Rochdale 0, Luton Town 2
Reporter: Martin Culshaw
Date online: 12 November 2009
Rochdale were knocked out of this season’s FA Cup 2-0 by Blue Square Premier side Luton Town in a first round replay at Spotland. The home side dominated up until the hour mark, laying siege to The Hatters goal but couldn’t find the finishing touch when it mattered most in front of a very disappointing crowd of just 1982.
Dale boss Keith Hill made just one change to the side that drew at the weekend as he was forced into playing 16 year old Danny Taberner in goal after 1st choice stopper Kenny Arthur failed to recover from the back injury that hampered his game on Saturday. At 16 years and 142 days, Taberner became the youngest ever goalkeeper to play for Dale and in what little he had to do on the night he impressed. Such is the severity of Hill's keeper problems he named 15 year old Jordan Andrews as his sub keeper. The youngster had to receive permission from his headmaster to miss his last 2 lessons at school to prepare! Also missing was Will Buckley who didn’t make the bench after a cameo appearance at Kenilworth Road on Saturday.
In front of the TV cameras, Rochdale fans will never know how their side lost this encounter after barraging Luton’s goal for 60 minutes before former QPR striker Kevin Gallen netted a brace to send the Bedfordshire side through to face Rotherham in the second round. Hill’s side signalled their intent from the off when Gary Jones played in Tom Kennedy inside the first 45 seconds but the full back fired straight at Gore in the Hatters goal from an acute angle. Dale ran the visitors ragged with Rundle in particular down the right tormenting Jake Howells whilst Tom Kennedy down the left was causing all sorts of problems for Asafu-Adjaye. After just 5 minutes, Rundle crossed for O’Grady whose first time shot was deflected wide with Gore seemingly beaten and Jason Kennedy volleying over from the resulting corner. Rundle was the next to test Gore after being teed up by Dagnall but the wingers shot was saved by the stoppers legs. At this point there only looked to be one team likely to score but a free kick by Tom Kennedy and shot from Jason Kennedy never troubled The Hatters back line.
The Dale defence seemed well drilled in the art of protecting their young keeper but when Craig Dawson sold Taberner short with a back pass, the youngster reacted well and slid in to ping the ball away and to safety off the on rushing Gallen. As the half wore on it only seemed a matter of time before Gore's goal would be breached with Rundle forcing Asafu-Adjaye into clearing from underneath his own bar and Jones snapping a shot wide from 20 yards. Rundle was beginning to receive the freedom of the Spotland pitch and with just 3 minutes remaining almost gave Dale the lead when he dropped inside of Howells and fired a shot which Gore parried wide. The resulting corner was whipped in by Kennedy with Dagnall rising the highest head goal-wards but his bullet header was cleared off the line by striker Gallen to take the teams in at the interval goalless.
Keith Hill wouldn’t have had much to say during the interval other than keep doing what you are doing and a goal will come. Well Chris Dagnall certainly listened as sent a rasping drive from fully 30 yards crashing off the crossbar inside the first minute of the 2nd period. The pressure seemed to be paying off as Dagnall forced Alan White into a mistake when he slipped under pressure from allowing the former Tranmere striker to bear down on goal but from the tight angle, Gore smartly saved. Saturday' hero Joe Thompson almost opened the scoring from the resulting corner but couldn’t quite get on the end of Kennedy’s flag kick. Luton had barely threatened up until this point but a corner to the visitors on 49 minutes almost resulted in the first goal of the night when Dawson got the ball stuck under his feet whilst trying to clear and inadvertently played a nice one-two with his own post before slamming the ball away. Again Tom Kennedy became provider as he put in an inch perfect ball but Thompson’s diving header glanced wide when perhaps he should have done better.
It was turning into a night of frustration for those with a Dale persuasion with many feeling it just wasn’t going to be. Dagnall was next to try his luck when O’Grady played him in but under pressure from White, Dale’s leading scorer could only fire into Gore’s body. The turning point of the game was on 59 minutes when Thompson was played into the 18 yard box and the former product of the youth system at Spotland fired a ball goal wards which TV replays, clearly shows hits the hand of Pilkington but referee Bates waved play on as Gore gleefully collected the loose ball. From the keepers long punt up field, Burgess bundled past Holness and fed the over lapping Craddock who whipped in a ball for veteran Kevin Gallen to fire home at the near post to give the visitors the unlikeliest of leads.
Hill was forced into a change with Thompson feeling a strain and he was replaced by Higginbotham which was shortly followed by Rundle being replaced by Manga, changes that seemed to upset the balance of the side. After taking the lead, Richard Money’s side seemed to be lifted and took the game to Dale forcing the league side onto the back foot and when Tom Kennedy was caught in possession inside his own box by Gallen the striker fired towards Taberner but a smart block by McArdle sent the ball over the bar. As the ball was whipped in from the corner Pilkington was the first to react to the ball at the back post heading the ball back towards goal which Taberner tipped up into the air expertly but the ball fell to Gallen on the goal line to bundle the ball home to double their lead. Dale’s attacking prowess had turned into a shy kitten with the clock ticking towards 80 minutes. Dagnall and Jones fired weakly at Gore whilst the subs linked up well but Manga’s header was tame and as the referee blew for full time, Dale fans were left to ponder what might have been. Former Dale striker Adam Le Fondre watched on from the stands as he saw which team his new club Rotherham would be facing in the second round of the FA Cup. Unfortunately, it won’t be Rochdale and as the old cliché goes, they can concentrate on the league from here on in.
Keith Hill spoke to the gathering press after the game. He said: "The only thing I was disappointed with tonight, except for the scoreline was, over the last 10 to 15 minutes we probably changed our strategy due to, I suppose a little bit of questioning from the crowd which is not our style of play. We have specific strategy; we are not a long ball team which I think is quite obvious so we can’t resort to it as we haven’t got the personnel to do so.”
“They scored against the run of play but the type of football on offer tonight represented what we will endorse to achieve for success on a football pitch and our results so far this season have mirrored the performances – just not tonight. I'm not frustrated at all as I know with our honest endeavour and the quality in our side we will be successful. Sometimes you have got to taste defeat, probably tonight we ran out of a bit of luck I suppose with respect to not converting our chances.”
“The more chances you get the more you miss, if we had scored one of those opportunities then I don’t think the opposition would have been able to sit in. Superb tactics from the opposition, we fully respect what they have done but there has to be a little bit of patience from our supporters. I'm not having a go but what they say seeps onto the pitch and affect what the players do.”
“We have got a little bonus tonight with the live TV game which gives us a little bit of cash. This game has gone, it bears no significance on the remainder of our season. We will just forget about it although we have got one or two injuries I had to bring Adam Rundle and Joe Thompson off after they complained at half time of little muscular pains. We are a bit low on bodies. Danny Taberner didn’t have much to do but he had to be mentally switched on throughout and what little he had to do; I thought he was excellent. His distribution was brilliant. For a 16 year old to be making his debut on TV he was superb. I think he’s got a bright future.”
Rochdale: Taberner, McArdle, Dawson, Holness T.Kennedy, Rundle (Manga 66), Thompson (Higginbotham 61), J.Kennedy, Jones, Dagnall, O’Grady.
Subs (not used): Andrews, Brizell, Flynn, Spencer, Byrne.
Luton Town: Gore, Asafu-Adjaye, Howells, White, Pilkington, Jarvis, Burgess, Hall (Newton 68), Nicholls, Gallen (Charles 83), Craddock (Gnakpa 76).
Subs (not used): Blackett, Reynolds
Booked: White, Nicholls, Gnakpa
Attempts (On target): Rochdale 20 (10) Luton 6 (5)
Corners: Rochdale 10 Luton 5
Referee: A. Bates