Rochdale produced an excellent second-half comeback as they came from three goals down to draw at home to Crewe Alexandra.
It was both teams first game for a number of weeks, after suspensions due to coronavirus outbreaks in each teams camps, which allowed several of Dale’s first-team to return to fitness and make an appearance against David Artell’s side.
Gavin Bazunu, Oliver Rathbone and Jake Beesley all returned to the starting eleven, whilst Matty Done started at left-back after Tolaji Bola’s loan from Arsenal was cut short earlier this week.
Today's team 👊#RAFC
— Rochdale AFC (@officiallydale) January 9, 2021
There was certainly a lot of hope amongst the Dale faithful before the game, as on very few occasions this season have we been treated to a near full-strength team, but that hope was to be short-lived, as Crewe took the lead with their first attack.
In typical Dale fashion, the home side refused to clear the ball when in a dangerous position and after winning back possession, Owen Dale crossed into the box where Oliver Finney was found in acres of space and he volleyed well past Bazunu to give the away side the lead with just six minutes on the clock.
Dale responded well and were close to an equaliser when Stephen Humphrys turned well on the edge of the box and saw his deflected effort go just over Will Jääskeläinen’s crossbar.
Done was the first player to test Jääskeläinen, the son of Bolton Wanderers legend Jussi, when he headed an effort into the ground, forcing the shot-stopper to claw it away from his top corner.
However, the away side were more than happy to sit back and counter-attack and they clinically punished another Dale mistake with 23 minutes on the clock.
A heavy touch from Haydon Roberts allowed the away side to win back possession and they played it forward with the style of a team that has impressed since promotion last season, with Charlie Kirk finding Finney on the edge of the box, who selflessly passed the ball to League One Player of the Month Dale, who slotted past Bazunu to make it 2-0.
At least we saw Dale score once in the first half.
Humphrys was trying to get Dale back in the game all by himself and after a superb run, his shot was always rising and failed to trouble the Crewe ‘keeper.
Unfortuantely for Dale (the team not the player), it was 3-0 not long after, following some frankly shambolic defending.
A corner for the home side was cleared and Kirk was suddenly through on goal and he squared it across the box for Finney to tap it in for 3-0.
To add injury to insult, captain Eoghan O’Connell picked up a knock as he was running back to defend, and he was replaced by Paul McShane.
Crewe then passed the ball around comfortably for the remainder of the half and given their superiority and control on the game, few would’ve predicted what happened next.
Half Time: Rochdale 0-3 Crewe Alexandra
Dale made the perfect start to the second-half as after beating his man on the left-hand side, Aaron Morley crossed a dangerous ball into the box, with Stephen Humphrys claiming a touch as it flew past the goalkeeper to make it 3-1.
Crewe pushed forward in the hopes of killing off any chance of a comeback and Mikael Mandron, who bullied our centre-backs throughout, perhaps should have made it 4-1 when the ball fell kindly to him in the box but he steered his effort wide of Bazunu’s post.
With an hour on the clock, Dale ramped up the pressure and found their second goal through Matty Lund, who continued his superb start to the season.
Beesley was found in the box and eventually turned the ball back to the Northern Irishman on the edge of the box, and he finished excellently past Jääskeläinen to make it 3-2.
With 65 minutes on the clock, referee Andrew Haines pointed for a Crewe penalty for a handball but after some deliberation with the linesman, he reversed his decision, as it definitely looked to have come off a head rather than a hand.
Brian Barry-Murphy’s side came close to an equaliser when a long ball over the top left Jääskeläinen in no man’s land and the ball broke to Done 25 yards out but his deflected effort was just wide of the post.
Finney had a great chance to make it a hattrick with 15 minutes remaining after turning well inside the box but could only shoot straight at Bazunu.
The Manchester City loanee then did brilliantly to turn Dale’s cross-shot onto the post, as the away side looked to score a fourth to end the home side’s comeback.
They would rue these missed chances as with less than 10 minutes remaining, the home side won a corner after a superb effort from substitute Kwadwo Baah and Jääskeläinen flapped at Morley’s corner, leaving Lund free at the back post to smash a volley in to complete a comeback.
Great character from the lads to come back from 3-0 down at half time. All you need is Lund 🤣 @SkySports It was my goal so can you change that please. Great assist @AaronMorley27 😉 #UpTheDale @officiallydale
— Humps (@HumphrysStevie) January 9, 2021
Both sides then seemed to settle for a point, with Barry-Murphy’s side frustratingly wasting a free kick opportunity in the dying moments but considering the horror show of a first-half, a point against a very decent Crewe side is not to be sniffed at.
Full Time: Rochdale 3-3 Crewe Alexandra
Man of the Match: Matty Lund