Rochdale exited the FA Cup with Budweiser on Tuesday night following a 1-0 defeat at the hands of fellow League Two side Morecambe at Spotland.
A first half goal from Gary McDonald was enough to separate the two sides on the night and earn them a trip Coventry City’s Ricoh Arena.
John Coleman made four changes to the starting eleven for the visit of the Shrimps, two of which were enforced due to suspensions to Bobby Grant and Ryan Edwards. Phil Edwards returned in the centre of defence in place of his name sake, while Dele Adebola replaced Grant. Matt Pearson was given the nod ahead of Joe Rafferty, while George Donnelly started in place of Terry Gornell who was ineligible for the tie.
Rochdale started the match on top and spent much of the early period in the opposition half but Morecambe soon found their way back into the half and netted just before the interval.
After a bright start Ashley Grimes sent Dale’s first effort goal ward on five minutes following a neat one two with Donnelly, but he could only send it over the bar.
Moments later and Rochdale were again causing problems for the Shrimps as Matt Pearson broke forward up the flank before sending a menacing low drive across the face of goal. Donnelly and Grimes both swung a foot at the ball as it travelled at pace through a packed six yard box, but neither were able to make a connection with it.
Morecambe had a rare opportunity in front of goal on 15 minutes when Kevin Ellison powered a header goal-wards but he was kept out by Pearson who made the most of his first start since September.
It was Dale who continued to pose a threat and just 60 seconds later Rhys Bennett fired a shot over the bar after getting on the end of a Phil Edwards’ knock down following a Jason Kennedy corner.
After a series of half chances, Rochdale’s first real opportunity of the match finally came with 20 minutes on the clock from a long range throw. Adebola got a looping cross-come-shot away forcing goalkeeper Barry Roche to back-pedal in order to get a hand on the ball which looked set for the back of the net.
Despite holding possession of the ball, Dale were unable to create many clear cut opportunities as the Shrimps’ defence kept the home side out. Grimes again was denied the chance to get a shot in on goal as his attempt to curl the ball round the Morecambe back line was blocked. It was disappointing end to some neat attacking play which saw Donnelly beat his man before pulling the ball back and slotting an inch perfect pass into the feet of his fellow frontman.
Shortly after the half hour Grimes was in on goal again, this time sending a powerful header off target after a fine cross from Pearson.
The visitors then began to find their feet and Jim Bentley’s side upped the pressure as they looked to make their mark on the game. Most notably Lewis Alessandra came within inches of finding the target following a good cross to the back post from Izak Reid. In the end he was unable to get the vital touch which would turn it into the net.
And much to Dale’s disappointment the Shrimps opened the scoring just a minute before the interval. Rochdale were left a man down at the back as Bennett received treatment off the pitch for what looked like a back injury, and the goal came during that time.
Lillis pulled off a fantastic save to deny an initial header from Alessandra, but he could do little to keep out Gary McDonald who crept in at the back post to send the visitors into the lead just before the interval.
Bennett was unable to continue due to his injury and was replaced in the centre of defence by Neill Byrne.
There was a much higher tempo to the game at the start of the second half resulting in opportunities at either end.
On 50 minutes Grimes sent a low free-kick narrowly past the upright, while just moments later the Shrimps’ Andrew Flemming headed over at the back post.
Morecambe went onto frustrate Dale as they kept possession without creating much in front of goal. This stifled the opportunity to play fast attacking football and Manager John Coleman opted to make a change shortly after the hour mark with Ray Putterill replacing Grimes.
The game continued in a similar fashion for a spell with both teams lacking an attacking prowess in the final third.
Dale’s third and final substitution came on 73 minutes with Kennedy making way for Ian Craney.
The game exploded into life shortly after as Rochdale threw everything forward, but despite continued efforts to break down Morecambe, the visitors defended in numbers to keep the home side out.
Dale sent ball after ball into the box but it was to no avail as they were cleared time and time again by the Shrimps.
Adebola came closest to finding the equaliser on 87 minutes but his downward header was deflected over the bar from less than six yards out by Stewart Drummond.
It finished Rochdale 0, Morecambe 1.