Rochdale’s Integration Squad secured a point from their final Central League Cup group-stage game on Wednesday evening, in an entertaining tie against Fleetwood Town at the Crown Oil Arena.
The Cod Army had opened the scoring late in the first half through Chris Clarke but they were denied all three points, when a Dale trialist netted deep in stoppage time to secure a well-deserved point.
Jay Lynch, Ryan McLaughlin and Paul McShane provided experience in an otherwise youthful line-up, which also included Kwadwo Baah, Ethan Brierley and Harrison Hopper.
Rochdale had the better of the chances during a highly competitive first half but went in behind at the break, after the visitors netted four minutes before the interval.
The opening exchanges were equally matched as the two side battled for control and it was Dale who had the first opportunity on goal after 24 minutes, when Baah was denied by the woodwork. The young forward’s curling effort from just inside the area came crashing off the post.
Minutes later and Baah was in goal again, firing over after driving into the box.
Ryan McLaughlin split the Cod Army defence with a precision pass to send Adam Cullen into the area, but after initially being shoved off the ball, the youth team scholar did brilliantly to nick it back and send the ball low across the area. It went all the way through to Joe Dunne, who struck back across goal and narrowly wide of the target.
Fleetwood were denied by the underside of the bar before going on to break the deadlock, arguably against the run of play, moments later. Clarke, from the edge of the area, picked his spot after being played in with a low ball from the right, and curled his effort beyond a diving Lynch.
HT | ROCHDALE 0-1 FLEETWOOD TOWN
There were three Rochdale changes at the break, as McLaughlin, McShane and Baah made way for Luke Nock, Louie Chorlton and a trialist for the start of the second half.
Dale started brightly with the trialst proving a handful, but Fleetwood had a couple of opportunities to extend their lead early on.
Lynch was forced to push a Shayden Morris shot on the angle up and over the bar at the near post, before Clarke sent a first-time cushioned volley across goal and inches wide of the upright, after getting on the end of a diagonal ball out to him.
Rochdale then dominated for large spells and Captain for the night Brierley saw his shot from 20-yards tipped round the upright on the hour, whilst Hopper had an effort deflected wide, soon after.
In a fourth substitution, Peter Thomas replaced Cullen with a quarter of an hour left to play and shortly after his introduction he turned a Conor Grant free-kick narrowly behind at the back post, before having a header held by Joel Coleman.
In stoppage time, the trialst netted a deserved equaliser to secure a point for Rochdale. A free-kick was played to the back post for Thomas, who headed back across goal and the Trialist bundled the ball home at the back post.
Despite the point, the game marked Dale’s final involvement in this season’s competition.
FT | ROCHDALE 1-1 FLEETWOOD TOWN
DALE XI | Lynch, McLaughlin, Trialist, McShane, Dunne, Scanlon, Hopper, Brierley, Grant, Cullen, Baah. Subs: Nock, Thomas, Clarkson, Trialist, Chorlton.