Rochdale’s under 18 side exited the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday evening despite a spirited performance against Nottingham Forest in the fourth round of the competition.
It was a match dominated by Chris Beech’s youngsters, however the score-line failed to reflect that as they fell to a 2-1 defeat at the City Ground.
Dale found themselves on the back foot less than a minute into the match, but responded to dominate the half before conceding ten minutes before the interval. Danny Whitehall gave Dale hope when he netted a well deserved goal for Rochdale on 78 minutes, but despite giving their all in a performance which they can be very proud of, they were unable to find a second to take the match into extra time.
On a bitterly cold evening in Nottingham, fans had just finished taking their seats when Forest opened the scoring with just 50 seconds on the clock with a scrappy goal from Derrick Otim who bundled the ball into the net from close range. The goal drew appeals from Rochdale as they debated whether the ball had crossed the line, but despite the calls the goal was given.
Despite going a goal behind, it was Rochdale who went on to dominate for a large spell and were unfortunate not to reap any rewards for their efforts.
On 11 minutes Joel Logan, who caused all manner of problems for the Forest defence with his quick footwork, had his first effort on goal after getting on the end of cross from Danny Whitehall. The striker chipped the ball up and over his marker, giving Logan the chance to a send an on-target header into the hands of ‘keeper Jordan Smith.
Seven minutes later, Logan and Whitehall were involved again. Logan’s initial effort was blocked by Smith but fell nicely for Whitehall who could only send it wide of the upright on the half volley.
Momentum continued with Dale and on 22 minutes they again drew a save from the goalkeeper after breaking on the attack from inside their own half. Whitehall first tested the ’keeper before Callum Camps responded with a follow up which was collected the stopper.
Just two minutes later and Logan attempted to find a break-through from distance with a curling shot from the edge of the 18-yard box. It was a well worked effort from the youngster who had picked the ball up on the left hand flank before cutting inside and unleashing his shot which came within inches of nestling in the top corner of the net.
Shortly before the half hour mark, Forest had their first opportunity since their goal in the first minute, however Otim failed to test Dale ‘keeper Aaron Ashley and his shot went over the cross bar.
Dale remained in control but suffered their second blow of the evening on 35 minutes when the home side netted on the break. Aristote Kameneno broke on the counter-attack and swiftly made ground in order to go through one on one with the goalkeeper and slotting it past Ashley and into the back of the net.
Dale certainly didn’t deserve to be trailing by two goals and it was a case of Forest taking the chances that fell to them.
As the half approached the interval Michael Hollingworth should have put the home side three goals to the good but could only send the ball high over the bar after getting on the end of a low drive across the face of goal from Wilfried Gnahore.
Dale had several opportunities to reduce the deficit in stoppage time, but despite Logan, Camps and Whitehall all attempting to steer the ball into the net from close range during a prolonged spell of pressure, they were unable to find a way through a packed goal mouth and Forest went into the break with 2-0 lead.
Rochdale came out on top at the start of the second half, but were unable to find a much a deserved goal despite seeing the majority of the ball. Cannon was the first with an effort and he sent a shot narrowly wide of the upright almost immediately after the re-start, before sending a curling effort, which was saved by Smith, four minutes later.
On 51 minutes defender Darcy O’Connor made his way into the 18 yard box and sent a fine looping header goal-wards – it dropped just inches over the bar.
Six minutes later and after a fantastic piece of build up play, Camps dug deep to see off three markers in order to find the space to get a shot away. Despite doing all the hard-work to get himself into a dangerous position, he could only send it wide of the target.
On the hour mark, there were calls for a Forest sending off after Kamaneno appeared hit out at O’Connor. After much deliberation, he was shown yellow much to the amazement of the Dale travelling support and the players on the pitch.
With the luck seemingly stacked against them, Manager Chris Beech bolstered his attacking options shortly afterwards and switched to three at the back with right full back Callum Hill making way for Nyal Bell.
On 78 minutes the gamble paid off and Rochdale finally scored a well-deserved goal through Whitehall. Bell had forced the ‘keeper into a fine save with an initial shot and Whitehall had his follow up effort headed off the line. But he made no mistake with the third as he stabbed it into the net to make it 2-1.
Beech went onto make a second substitution and added yet more attacking prowess to his front line with the introduction of Jack Horan. In the final stages of the game Dale bombarded the Forest goal but to no avail.
On 88 minutes Cannon forced Smith into yet another fine save with a curling effort, and in stoppage time they came agonisingly close to netting the equaliser which would send the match to extra time. A wicked ball was played across the face of goal, but Logan was unable to steer it in at the far post.
It finished Nottingham Forest 2, Rochdale 1.
Forest will now face Huddersfield Town in the fifth round of the competition.