Rochdale progressed to the semi-finals of the Lancashire Senior Cup on Wednesday afternoon with a penalty shoot-out win over Blackpool.
Callum Camps had given Dale a late lead at Bloomfield Road, however, his strike was cancelled out just four minutes later as Luke Higham ensured the tie went straight to spot-kicks.
After Lillis had saved a Blackpool penalty, it was up to second year scholar Nyal Bell to take Rochdale’s deciding spot-kick and he slotted home with confidence to seal a semi-final date with Manchester United.
A mixture of first team and youth team players lined up against the Seasiders, with four scholars named amongst the starting eleven - Nyal Bell, Billy Hasler-Cregg, James Hooper and Kisimba Kisimba.
Josh Lillis started in nets, while an experienced Brian Barry-Murphy was at centre half. Matty Lund returned from injury to take his place in midfield and was joined by Bastien Hery and Callum Camps. Joel Logan and Scott Tanser were also handed starts.
After a fairly even opening period where neither side created any opportunities of note, only the woodwork stood between the home-side and opening the scoring as they were kept out by the post with quarter of an hour played.
The Seasiders were awarded a free-kick on the left hand side of play, around 25-yards from goal. The set-piece, which was curled towards the back post, looked as if it would skip harmlessly wide of the upright, but the ball took an awkward bounce and connected with the inside of the post.
A minute later and Dale were in on goal at the other end. Tanser won a flick on inside of the area, sending the ball into the path of Hooper, who blasted an effort over the bar from close range.
With 20 minutes on the clock Hasler-Cregg came within inches of opening the scoring. A pacey Logan delivered a dangerous ball across the face of goal after a charge up the right hand side of play, leaving the Blackpool ‘keeper flat footed. Hasler-Cregg was unable to make a clean connection at the far post and his effort trickled past the post.
Three minutes later and Lillis pulled off an important save to deny a Seasiders striker, who was through one on one with the goalkeeper. It was a powerful effort, which was pushed away from goal, before Barry-Murphy smashed the ball clear.
Both teams, although more so Dale, huffed and puffed in front of goal as the half continued but neither were able to find an effort which would break the deadlock.
HT: Blackpool 0-0 Rochdale
There were no changes at the interval for Rochdale.
Dale started the second half brightly and were the better of the two sides during the opening exchanges, however, it was the Seasiders who forced the first save of the half, ten minutes after the re-start. A brave Lillis came rushing off his line to snuff out the danger.
Rochdale were playing some excellent football, but were unable to make it count in the final third, with the Blackpool ‘keeper having very little to do thanks to a resolute defence in front of him.
He was tested by a Dale set-piece in the 68th minute, though, as he punched clear a Hooper free-kick, which had been sent into the area from the right hand side of play.
Five minutes later, Rochdale’s patience paid off as Camps opened the scoring. Hasler-Cregg’s initial effort was parried away by the ‘keeper into the path of Camps, who curled a powerful low effort into the bottom corner of the net.
GOAL: BLACKPOOL 0-1 ROCHDALE (Camps, 73 mins)
The lead was short-lived, however, as Blackpool responded just four minutes later.
A Seasiders free-kick was headed up by Bell, and Lillis, who had come to collect, was unable to keep a hold of the ball, allowing Luke Higham to level the scoring.
GOAL: BLACKPOOL 1-1 ROCHDALE (Higham, 77 mins)
The game had sparked into life after Camps had netted and it continued after the Seasiders’ goal as both teams went in search of the winner. It was Dale who came closest in the final moments.
Hooper saw an excellent powerful header travel narrowly over the bar in the 82 minute, while Bell almost forced an error with three minutes left to play. The ‘keeper recovered superbly to clear the ball away, just a yard from goal.
FT: Blackpool 1-1 Rochdale
The game went straight to penalties, with Dale emerging as winners. After Lillis had saved a Blackpool spot-kick, it was up to Bell to take Rochdale’s deciding penalty and he slotted home with confidence to seal a semi-final date with Manchester United.