It was a night to remember at the Crown Oil Arena, as a youthful Rochdale side secured a 2-1 win over Bury in the first group stage game of the 2018/19 Checkatrade Trophy with a highly entertaining performance.
There were debuts for 15-year-old Luke Matheson, who picked up the Man of the Match award, loanee Zach Clough and Youth Team midfielder Florent Hoti.
Two goals in two minutes saw Keith Hill’s side take a richly deserved first half lead into the break, having dominated. A controversial Caolan Lavery penalty with 20 minutes of the game remaining halved the deficit, but Dale never looked in danger, and they secured their first three points of the tournament.
Hill named a youthful side for the match, with Academy products Daniel Adshead, Aaron Morley and Matthew Gillam all listed in the starting eleven. Loan deadline day signing Zach Clough made his debut, while Connor Randall made his home debut. Youth Team players Florent Hoti and Fabio Tavares were included on the bench, as was Matheson.
And the right-back became Rochdale’s youngest-ever player, when he made his debut after just 13 minutes, replacing Randall who suffered a head injury after being caught by Bury’s Gold Omotayo.
Bury had the first half chance on goal but Magnus Norman comfortably held Jay O’Shea’s shot from the edge of the area.
Any hope of the Shakers getting a foothold in the game was short-lived, as Dale, who’d started the game brightly, deservedly took the lead in the 17th minute.
Ollie Rathone linked up with Gillam, who played in Clough, and he sent a first-time strike beyond Matthew Hudson and into the bottom corner of the net to score on his debut.
Two minutes later, Rochdale had doubled their advantage.
Matheson did exceptionally well keep to the ball in play, and after some neat link up between the young right-back, Adshead and Gillam, a pass was thread through to the latter, who toe poked an effort into the bottom corner of the net.
On the half hour, Matheson had the main stand supporters up off their seats as he drove at goal and away from three Bury players, before feeding in Jordan Williams, who went on to win a corner, with an inch perfect pass.
Before the half was out, a dominant Rochdale saw Williams fire a low shot across goal and narrowly wide of the upright, while Clough went for goal from 20-yards, forcing Hudson into a diving save.
HT | ROCHDALE 2-0 BURY
Bury made two changes for the start of the second half, and one of them – Dominic Telford, saw an effort blocked on the follow up, after Callum McFadzean had a shot beaten away at the near post by Norman, early on.
Shortly before the hour, Williams came agonisingly close to getting his name on the score-sheet, a goal that wouldn’t have been begrudged given his sheer grit and determination to create the chance in the first place. After battling hard and taking on a number of Bury players, he saw himself in on goal but could only look on as he saw his effort creep narrowly past the upright.
In a brief spell of pressure from the Shakers, Norman denied Dominic Telford from six-yards after he’d latched onto a cross from fellow substitute Nicky Adams, with the on loan Dale goalkeeper was equal to his effort.
Rochdale’s second change of the match came in the 68th minute, when Bradden Inman replaced Williams.
And it was two minutes later that Bury halved the deficit in controversial circumstances. Having been awarded a soft penalty, Lavery stepped up to take the spot-kick but broke his stride having sent Magnus Norman the wrong way from 12-yards. A long wait followed as confusion reigned at the Crown Oil Arena, before the referee awarded the goal.
It was a night of debuts, and Hoti made his first team bow with 79 minutes on the clock, coming on for Adshead who had earlier signed his first professional contract.
Six minutes from time, Hudson had to dive to his left to get a hand to a powerful shot from Rathbone, that he unleashed from the edge of the area.
In stoppage time, Gillam, under pressure, was hurried into a shot, which went wide of the target.
All in all, a thoroughly deserved victory for Rochdale.