Rochdale earned a late point against Northampton Town after Stephen Humphrys’ superb free-kick with five minutes remaining.
The home side found themselves behind for much of the game against a Keith Curle side that certainly didn’t show up to play football, although they were able to ensure it wouldn’t be back-to-back home defeats thanks to Humphrys’ first goal back at the club.
Brian Barry-Murphy made one change from the side that lost to AFC Wimbledon on Saturday, with Humphrys replacing Jimmy Ryan in the starting line-up.
Meanwhile, Northampton Town made one change from their 3-1 win against Burton Albion last weekend, with Michael Harriman came in for Caleb Chukwuemeka.
It was a bright start from Dale as in the first 10 minutes, they looked far more dangerous than they did last Saturday, and they created the first chance of the game in the second minute.
There were shades of Luke Matheson’s equalising goal at Old Trafford as Eoghan O’Connell’s raking pass found Ollie Rathbone behind the Northampton defence on the left-hand side and his looped cross nearly found the head of Jake Beesley, before Alex Newby saw his goal-bound shot blocked.
The Cobblers were very much second-best in the opening stages but showed they could be dangerous with 18 minutes on the clock, as only great defending from Jimmy Keohane prevented Harry Smith from opening the scoring with a simple header.
Unfortunately, Dale couldn’t keep the former Millwall man quiet for long, as he thundered home a header from Mark Marshall’s corner just minutes later to give his side the lead.
Dale came close to an equaliser almost straight away but Matty Lund and Humphrys were both unable to make a connection with O’Connell’s superb cross.
Keohane then blazed a shot over the bar as Northampton sat back on their lead, with the away side more than happy to time-waste and drop deep, with Alan Sheehan somehow avoiding a booking after taking three minutes to take a throw-in, in which time he got in an argument with a Rochdale ball-boy.
Dale were unable to find a way past the resolute Cobblers defence, with two long shots from Humphrys the only other chances of note before half-time.
Half Time: Rochdale 0-1 Northampton Town
There was a half-time change from Barry-Murphy as Ryan McLaughlin replaced Tolaji Bola, with the on-loan Arsenal man often too negative when he received the ball in promising positions.
After an extended spell of pressure from the home side, the first chance of the second half fell Beesley’s way but he snatched at his shot inside the area and scuffed it way wide.
As we approached the hour mark, Sheehan once again ‘showed his experience’ by wasting five minutes of the game, for which referee Andy Haines clearly saw no issue with, as he consistently allowed the Northampton players to throw the ball away at every opportunity.
Dale came inches away from an equaliser around the 66th minute, as Ollie Rathbone received the ball in space outside the area but his deflected effort went just wide of Jonathan Mitchell’s post.
With 20 minutes remaining, Kwadwo Baah was sent on for Aaron Morley after what was another disappointing display from the midfield man. As good as his passing is, he needs to be reminded that he’s not Kevin De Bruyne, as too often his ambitious passes result in Dale losing possession.
Baah was able to make a real difference, regularly testing Harriman with his pace down the left-hand side and it was the exciting 17-year-old who won the free-kick that finally led to Dale’s equaliser.
After a brief discussion with Newby, Humphrys stepped up and smashed the free-kick into the top corner of the net, to score his first goal since returning to the club in the summer.
The home side pushed forward in search of a winner and nearly found it through Keohane, as after the ball dropped to him in the area, he curled an effort goalwards but it was well saved by Mitchell.
Baah then curled an effort just wide, with the former Crystal Palace man surely pushing for a start in Dale’s next fixture after such a promising cameo.
There was a late scare for Dale as Northampton, who had failed to threaten once during the second half, had an effort cleared off the line by O’Connell after Smith had headed the ball over Jay Lynch in the Dale goal.
Ultimately, it would finish 1-1 in a game that Dale certainly deserved to win, as without wanting to incur the wrath of any Northampton fans reading, they played horrible, albeit effective, football on the night.
Full Time: Rochdale 1-1 Northampton Town
Man of the Match: Cian Bolger – he was a rock at the back for Northampton and I don’t remember him losing a header.