Dale’s Under-15s were cruelly beaten 2-1 in the Floodlit Trophy Final after a stoppage time goal from Bolton Wanderers.
Bolton took an early lead through Adnaan Mustadha, but Peter Thomas pulled Dale level shortly after the interval.
Both sides had chances to win it as the game closed in on a finish, but it was Malakai McKenzie’s strike in added time that sealed the trophy for Wanderers, despite a valiant effort from Dale's youngsters.
Dale, missing a number of key players against their Category Two opponents, were forced to play players in some unfamiliar positions, as well as starting with four under-14s.
That perhaps showed early on as the went behind after four minutes, when a cross from the right side was nodded back across goal and into the bottom corner by Mustadha.
Dale responded well though, with Stevie Rawlings heading wide and Mikey Caldwell firing narrowly over from 20-yards.
Joe Wright saw a free-kick well held, whilst Bolton’s Brad Holmes fired wide in an even first-half.
After a quiet opening to the second period, Dale deservedly got themselves back on level terms.
A great team move led to a low ball across the box being partially cleared as far as substitute Thomas, who finished clinically from 12-yards.
Dale had the momentum and their opponents were lucky not to be reduced to ten men when Alex Frankie pulled back Tom Claxton as he was bearing down on goal, with Wright’s resulting free-kick being held.
Bolton thought they had retaken the lead midway through the second-half, but Mustadha’s strike was ruled out for offside.
As the game looked as though it was heading to penalties, Thomas was denied by a superb last ditch tackle in the Bolton area, before their opponents went down other end and won it.
A loose ball in the area was seized upon by McKenzie, and although goalkeeper Brad Kelly got a hand to his fierce shot, the ball managed to creep over the line, sealing the trophy for Bolton.
Dale XI | Kelly, Al Akkad, Mialkowski, McGowan, Matheson, Dunne, Wright, Clarkson, Claxton, Rawlings, Caldwell.
Subs | Brierly, Chew, Carne, Thomas, Long.