No Home Dale-ight, As County’s Pre-Season Winning Run Ends
Football came home to Edgeley Park, as the Hatters embarked upon their fourth friendly of the close season – although this brought with it for them a first defeat to follow three wins on the road.
League One Rochdale secured victory, courtesy of Joe Thompson’s strike – and fielded a strong side of senior players in each half that provided County with a toughest pre-season test to date.
The Hatters, for their part, began the evening in a 4-2-3-1 formation, showing four changes from their starting line-up against Buxton at Hyde three days previously. Chris Smalley made his first friendly appearance after recovering from a knock, while Adam Thomas, Sam Walker and Darren Stephenson were also brought in – replacing Dan Cowan, Nyal Bell, Jake Kirby, and Matty Warburton who was not involved due to work commitments.
The first attack of the night saw Thomas force a first-minute corner, when his cross from the right was deflected past the far upright by Oliver Rathbone. And, three minutes later, former Hatter Aaron Wilbraham headed wide captain Ian Henderson’s over-hit delivery at the home end.
Henderson created a potentially better chance after 11 minutes with his through-ball to Brad Inman, who duly rounded Ben Hinchliffe but then fired into the right side-netting. And County immediately sought to take advantage of the let-off through Stephenson, who shot from a tight angle on the right at visiting goalkeeper Brad Wade, as well as Thomas, whose low drive from the edge of the box fizzed narrowly shy of the left post.
With just over a quarter of an hour played, the Hatters were to enjoy an even bigger reprieve – having conceded a penalty, after Matt Done went to ground in the course of challenges by Hinchliffe and Thomas. Henderson stepped up to the spot, but screwed his kick too far left.
Henderson was then to be denied twice by Hinchliffe within four minutes – as County’s Number One first held an effort by the ‘Dale skipper from outside the area, and then leapt back to parry a flicked shot away from his line. Both Wilbraham and Michael Jordan Williams also blasted attempts over the Cheadle End crossbar ahead of half-time.
HALF-TIME: County 0, Rochdale 0.
The Rochdale team that had gone in at the interval underwent a complete outfield transformation in time for the second half, which saw only Wade continue from the earlier period. Two more ex-Hatters from County’s Football League days – namely, Jim McNulty, who took over the captaincy from Henderson, and David Perkins – were among the visitors’ 10 replacements.
Twelve minutes later, they went ahead, following a well-worked move that began on the left, before Calvin Andrew squared the ball across the edge of the box to the opposite flank – from where Joe Rafferty delivered a cross for Thompson to slide in and volley home from six yards out.
County’s best chances after the break fell inside a six-minute spell and following set-pieces – with Bell and Kirby heading, respectively, a corner and a free-kick wide of the left and the right post.
Five minutes were left on the clock when ‘Dale looked to have doubled the lead – with Rafferty following up a shot parried by Hinchliffe and firing in. But the goal was ruled out for offside.
FULL-TIME: County 0, Rochdale 1 (Thompson, 57).
Team: Hinchliffe, Minihan, Duxbury, Keane (Cowan, 31), Palmer, Smalley (Downing, 68), Thomas (Czubik, 68), Turnbull (Capt.), Mulhern (Kirby, 55 (Etches, 84)), Walker, Stephenson (Bell, 55).
Unused Sub: Ormson.
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.