A seven goal thriller at the Spotland Stadium saw Coventry under 18’s edge out Rochdale under 18’s 4-3. Rochdale captain Billy Hasler-Cregg had opened the scoring, a strong fight back saw James Maddison score a brace alongside a goal from Sky Blues forward George Thomas and Kyle Spence. Dale showed great character, though, and goals from James Hooper and substitute Harry Pratt saw Rochdale reduce the arears with a late come-back, but it was Coventry City who progress into the third round.
The first chance of the game came in the third minute, when Coventry City captain Maddison fired a low free-kick towards goal from just outside the area. The ball skidded off the slippery surface and cannoned off Dale keeper Jonathan Diba’s right hand post to the relief of Dale’s players.
The Sky Blues controlled the majority of play in the first ten minutes and could have opened the scoring through their influential skipper Maddison in the tenth minute. Nice inter-play between Spence and Maddison led to the captain curling an effort towards goal that was smartly tipped over the bar from Diba.
But it was Dale who opened the scoring in the eleventh minute through their own captain, Hasler-Cregg. Dale’s number eleven James Hooper turned his marker on the right wing, crossing the ball into the box for the midfielder to meet the ball sweetly from five yards out to score his fifth goal of the FA Youth Cup campaign.
Dominic Reid has been in fine form this for Dale under 18’s this campaign scoring fifteen times and the midfielder nearly added to his seasons tally in the eighteenth minute. A flicked on header from Nyall Bell led Reid racing through on goal but his powerful shot was fired straight at the Coventry goal keeper.
In the thirty-first minute, Coventry captain Maddison had his third free-kick and was unlucky not to equalise. His shot from the edge of the area looked destined to go into the net but Diba pulled off another athletic save to keep the score at 1-0 to Dale.
An equalising goal was always on the cards with the Sky Blues having most of the first-half possession and their goal did come ten minutes before half-time through forward George Thomas. Another Maddison free-kick could only be parried by Diba and Thomas was there on hand to fire in from close range to the delight of the away side’s bench.
Half-time: Dale 1-1 Coventry City
There was hardly time for the supporters take re-take their seats at Spotlands before the visitors took the lead. Straight from kick off, Maddison scored his first goal of the game as he ran onto a clever ball and fired a low shot into the goal at the Pearl Street end of the ground.
Minutes later, Maddison got his second and his side’s third goal of the game from the penalty spot. In the fourty eighth minute of the game, the Coventry number ten beat his man in the box and went racing through on goal, he beat Diba to the ball and in the process was clattered to the ground. From the resulting penalty, Maddison stepped up and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom right hand corner of the net.
Rochdale forward Hooper had the chance to get his side back into the game with fourty minutes of the game to go. His team mate Reid ran from his own half and found himself in Coventry’s final third. He squared the ball to Hooper but the ball was dragged wide of the goal and the away side kept their two goal cushion.
On the hour mark it looked as though Coventry’s youth team had put the game beyond doubt as they went 4-1 up. Spence got his reward as clever play from winger Kelly-Evans led to the wide man bursting into the box and squaring the ball for Spence to tap into an unguarded net.
Rochdale earned themselves a lifeline with just over twenty minutes to go through a cultured effort from Hooper. The ball fell to the striker’s feet on the right hand side of the pitch and with one touch, the ball was swept over Jake Richards’ head and into the Coventry goal to make it 4-2.
It was evident that Dale had given their all in the game and they continued to fight valiantly. Rochdale fought valiantly and in the eighty fourth minute scored their third of the game. Substitute Pratt sent a strong header at goalkeeper Richards from a Kisimba Kisimba cross, the stopper dropped the ball at Pratt’s feet and the sub was quick enough to smash the ball into the net from a yard out, making the final stages of the game nervy for their opposition.
However it wasn’t to be and despite a spirited fight back from 4-1 down, Dale dropped out of the Youth Cup with their head held high against a side top of their respective regional division. Coventry City will now travel to AFC Bournemouth in the third round of the competition.
Report by James Burch.