Saturday's top of the table clash against Walsall ended in defeat for Dale's under 18 side.
Goals from Tiven Shakespeare and Luke Delaney secured the three points for top-of-the-table Walsall, however, the result was overshadowed by a first half decision not to award Dale a spot kick, despite a handball on the line.
The young Dale side were looking for their fifth win in a row but were dealt a blow early on when winger James Hooper couldn’t continue after suffering an ankle injury and he was replaced by Brandon Smalley.
Walsall created a chance in the 12th minute but Luke Delaney’s shot was smothered by former Walsall goalkeeper Rhys Lovett.
The decision to not give a penalty for handball occurred five minutes later when Harry Pratt’s shot from six yards area appeared to have bee blocked on the line by the hand of Walsall centre back Rowley Kyle. The referee waved away the Rochdale appeals and play was allowed to continue. If the ball had hit the back of the net it would have capped off a fantastic team move that started in the Dale half.
Pratt, a thorn in the side of the Walsall defence all morning, created room for himself on the edge of the area with 32 minutes played but his shot was collected easily by Walsall goalkeeper Dan Jezeph.
The final chance of the first half fell to the Saddlers and it was Lovett who was on hand to deny them again with a fantastic double save. He saved an initial effort from 12 yards out before flinging himself in front of Rory Oliver to keep the scores level.
Walsall took the lead six minutes into the second half with a goal from Tevin Shakespeare, despite appeals for offside from the Rochdale defence. Luke Delaney skewed a shot in his direction and Shakespeare was on hand to tap in from close range.
Delaney doubled their advantage eight minutes later with an effort from twenty yards out. The midfielder skipped past two challenges before curling the ball into the top corner past the dive of Rhys Lovett.
The lively Shakespeare received a yellow card in the 61st minute for foul and abusive language towards the referee, something he would later regret.
As time ticked by Dale pushed forward for a way back into the game but were unable to find a way past Jezeph as he saved from Dominic Reid, the hat-trick hero last time out against Burnley.
Shakespeare received an early bath nine minutes later when he was booked for the second time after a late foul on Kisimba Kisimba.
Despite being a man down Walsall were able to hang on for the three points to leave them top of the Football League Youth Alliance North West Division.
Next up for Dale U18s is a home tie against Fleetwood Town on 30th September, 1pm kick off at Stainton Park.
Match report written by Michael Henson.