Lee Riley has praised the character shown by a mixed Dale squad, following Tuesday night’s Leasing.com Trophy penalty victory over Bolton Wanderers.
Aaron Wilbraham’s second half header equalised for Dale after an Ali Crawford wonder strike put the visitors in the lead just seconds before half time.
And Riley was delighted with how the team responded to the late setback.
“It was a good performance,” he said. “We were really pleased with the way the players grew into the game.
“Even more so with how they reacted to the late goal just before half time. It can be quite disheartening, but it didn’t seem to affect them when they went out for the second half.
“They came out even stronger and performed very well in the second period.
“The younger lads were outstanding. But it is also important to mention the more senior players as well, who played equally as good.
“It is important to put the younger players into these fixtures, but that has to be supported with senior professionals as well.
“Crawford’s goal was outstanding, and there is not a lot any goalkeeper could have done about it.
“We can try limit the free-kicks we give away but these things happen. Sometimes you concede good goals, which is what happened.
“The timing was the most difficult thing, but the lads handled it well.
“The only sour note is an ankle injury to Stephen Dooley.
“It doesn’t look great at the moment and we can’t put a timescale on it just yet.”
Former Wanderers man Wilbraham grabbed the equaliser in the second half, heading Matty Gillam’s cross past Bolton ‘keeper Remi Matthews.
With the games coming thick and fast, Riley explained squad rotation was imperative for retaining squad fitness.
The first team coach said: “It must be an amazing experience for the younger players coming in to be led by people like Aaron Wilbraham.
“He is a consummate professional, as always, and it shone through with how he led the younger players, and grabbed the equaliser.
“Brian is encouraging the young players, in the opportunities they get, to show the pace and skill that Fabio showed.
“When you see him doing tricks out there on the pitch, it is things he’s encouraged to do because of what he shows in training all the time.
“Some of the selection was enforced through the injuries we have picked up, whilst some was due to ensuring the lads are at their optimum every time they play.
“With the midweek games, it is imperative we manage the squad.
“There are several lads who were able to get a rest tonight, but there are others who will have to go again Saturday.
“That is the balancing act we have to try get right."
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