Rochdale 3 - 2 Exeter
Reporter: Martin Culshaw
Date online: 16 April 2012
Rochdale came from 2 goals down to beat fellow strugglers Exeter City at Spotland to stave off relegation for at least another week.
The Grecians looked in control after Daniel Nardiello and Liam Sercombe gave the visitors a 2 goal advantage but 3 goals in the final 11 minutes from Coleman’s side means they are 8 points from safety with 9 still to play for.
The Dale manager rang the changes after the midweek defeat at the hands of Sheffield United. Captain Gary Jones was rested whilst Matt Edwards, Marc Twaddle, Sean McConville and Nicky Adams were given starts. Also named in the starting 11 was second year Youth Team player Sam Minihan for his Football League debut.
The early exchanges were scrappy as both teams looked to get a foothold in the game.
Sercombe and Gow both shot wide for the visitors, whilst McConville shot straight at Krysiak when well placed.
The wonderfully named Troy Archibald-Henville had a header cleared off the line and at the other end, Akpa-Akpro fired into the side netting.
Dale went behind just before the half hour mark when Akpo-Akpro’s clumsy challenge on Nardiello resulted in the referee pointing to the penalty spot. Nardiello dusted himself down to send Edwards the wrong way from 12 yards.
Exeter could have gone in at the break 2 up but Jake Taylor's shot hit the woodwork.
The second half started as a non event as the game drifted into a nothing match.
Just after the hour mark, Exeter doubled their lead. Tremendous work down the left flank by Noble started a flowing move which ended up with Sercombe finishing with aplomb from inside the area.
The second goal should really have killed the game but Dale set about getting back into the game.
Akpa-Akpro had a shot saved by Krysiak and Kennedy missed the target from range.
Exeter tried to catch Dale on the break but first Edwards saved from Gow whilst Holden challenged well inside the area to keep the score at 2-0.
With 11 minutes left of the 90, Nicky Adams halved the deficit. The winger jinked into the box before firing a powerful left footed strike that was too much for Krysiak.
Dale had their tails up and were soon back on terms through Joe Thompson’s deft finish. The substitute saw Krysiak off his line and lifted the ball over the stopper from the edge of the area.
With the clock ticking down, there only looked like one winner.
Adams’ right wing centre was turned goalwards by Akpa-Akpro but the Frenchman’s effort went across the face of goal, hit the post and rolled agonisingly along the goal line before being cleared.
Exeter looked rattled and Symes had penalty claims waived away by referee Madley when he was felled, but with 2 minutes to go, Dale were in front. A well disguised reverse ball into the area by Akpa-Akpro picked out Kennedy who from close range slotted home.
After being 2-0 down, Coleman’s men have given themselves a chance of staying up; albeit a very faint chance. Dale would need to win their remaining 3 fixtures and hope that either Walsall or Leyton Orient lose their remaining games. Dale’s trip to Orient on the last day of the season ‘could’ be rather interesting.
The Dale manager spoke after the game: “What we have said to the lads is whilst it’s still achievable, you have to keep plugging away.
"If we showed the same spirit earlier in the game that we showed in the last 20 minutes then we wouldn’t have been 2-0 down. If we had shown that in the last 3 or 4 weeks, then we may not be in the situation that we are in.
"You attack as a team, you defend as a team, and it’s just a clumsy challenge so I have no complaints about the penalty.
"Goals change games and that was the case today. At 2-1 it gave us the willingness to go forward. We have good attacking players and they can be a handful.
"Great finish from Joe Thompson, I’m made up for him.
"I thought young Sam (Minihan) was magnificent. To make your debut in a struggling side, he showed a performance way beyond his years.
"We haven’t thrown the towel in, the team today was the team we thought could go out and win and they showed that. We made a decision based on what we wanted today and Gary Jones didn’t fit into that. Everybody knows Gary is a fantastic player. We decided today to go with a different system and unfortunately for Gary that didn’t include him.
"If we can go to Chesterfield and win, it will give us the platform to push on to the MK Dons game.
"If we can be going into the Leyton Orient game still with a chance then I will be delighted”
Rochdale: Edwards, Twaddle (Widdowson 66), Holden, Amankwaah, Minihan, Adams, Tutte, Kennedy, McConville (Thompson 66) Symes, Akpa-Akpro.
Subs (not used): Lucas, Grimes, Hackney
Exeter City: Krysiak, Tully, Jones, Dunne, Archibald-Henville, Sercombe, Noble, Nardiello (Dalla-Valle 75 (Cureton 85), Baldwin, Taylor, Gow.
Subs (not used): Pidgley, Frear, Dawson
Referee: Mr A Madley
Ass Referee: Mr D Benton, Mr J Hull
4th Official: Mr J Tyas
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