10-man Rochdale earned another dramatic point as they played out a 3-3 draw with relegation rivals Wigan Athletic at Spotland.
There was one change in Dale’s side from the 4-4 draw with Charlton Athletic in midweek, as Matty Done replaced Ryan McLaughlin in defence.
Today's team 👊#RAFC
— Rochdale AFC (@officiallydale) January 16, 2021
There was an openness to the game that suggested it would be similar to the game at the Valley on Tuesday and we didn’t have to wait long for the opening goal.
Kwadwo Baah teased a challenge out of debutant Tendayi Darikwa on the edge of the box, and after Stephen Humphrys’ initial free-kick was blocked, he shifted the ball onto his left foot and fired the ball into the corner of the net via a deflection.
In typical Dale fashion, the lead would not last long.
Wigan won a corner and after it was taken short, Dan Gardner was afforded far too much space to cross for Kyle Joseph who swept a confident finish past Gavin Bazunu to make it 1-1 with just nine minutes on the clock.
Here we go again.
It was 2-1 to the away side just a few minutes later. A ball from defence was clipped over the top of Dale’s absent midfield, allowing Joseph to toe-poke a ball through to Callum Lang who, fresh from being recalled earlier this week, turned Done inside the box and slipped the ball under Bazunu to give Leam Richardson’s side the lead.
Further evidence, in my opinion, that Dale desperately need to sign a competent left-back.
Every Wigan attack looked likely to result in a goal and it should’ve been 3-1 just minutes later, when an excellent Tom Pearce cross found an unmarked Lang in the box, but he steered his header wide when it was easier to score.
It is at this point that I will question Brian Barry-Murphy’s strange decision to play Jake Beesley out on the wing and Matthew Lund up front, as we were clearly lacking the Northern Irishman’s bite in midfield, whilst Beesley looked uncomfortable out wide.
The away side were well on top at this point and the Dale players were clearly frustrated, although the actions of Jim McNulty were incomprehensible.
43' RED CARD! McNulty sent off.
Really poor from the Rochdale defender who lashed out at Kyle Joseph, causing a really uncomfortable injury.
— Wigan Athletic (@LaticsOfficial) January 16, 2021
The 35-year-old got his legs tangled with Joseph before kicking out, seemingly catching the young striker in his crown jewels, so it was no surprise that referee Bobby Madeley opted to show him a red card.
It brought an end to what had been a horrific first-half from the centre-back, who consistently saw his passes go out of play.
Whilst he’s clearly a great player to have in the dressing room, he shouldn’t be anywhere near the pitch where possible, so Dale must bring in a centre-back this month following the injury to Eoghan O’Connell, as the injury-prone Paul McShane clearly cannot be relied upon to start every game.
Half Time: Rochdale 1-2 Wigan Athletic
Ryan McLaughlin replaced Baah at half-time, with the 17-year-old unable to repeat his heroics from Tuesday night, with Jimmy Keohane shifting to centre-back to accommodate McLaughlin.
The first chance of the second-half fell to the away side, with Will Keane bringing the ball down well before firing a long-range shot that needed to be tipped over by Bazunu.
However, it would be Dale who would grab the first goal of the second 45, thanks to some frankly shocking defending by Richardson’s side, as well as the bravery of Beesley.
The former Salford striker chased down Bazunu’s long kick and rose highest to head the ball past the onrushing Owen Evans, which is even more impressive when you consider the horrible head injury the striker suffered in December when clattered into by the Plymouth goalkeeper.
It was also thanks to Barry-Murphy finally deciding to play the striker as a striker, where he was much more involved and able to win a lot more headers.
Matty Lund, who was quiet by his high standards, was unfortunately replaced after seemingly picking up a knock and his replacement Stephen Dooley had a great chance to hand Dale the lead.
The home side worked it well down the left-hand side before Done clipped a cross into the box, where Wigan’s defenders were adhering to the social distancing rules, allowing Dooley all sorts of space, but he put his header wide.
Despite their man advantage, Wigan were second best for large parts of the second half but took the lead in the 77th minute.
Former Manchester United youngster Will Keane showed some Premier League quality to bring down a bouncing ball in the box, before juggling it and flicking a volley past Bazunu to make it 3-2.
It must be noted that the goal came from another Pearce cross, with Dale regularly allowing the left-back far too much room when considering his obvious quality.
Substitute Thelo Aasgaard had an excellent chance to kill the game off from another Pearce cross late on, but his finish was more worthy of Niflheim.
Dooley saw a fierce effort saved before gifting Wigan a huge chance to seal the three points, as his stray pass led to a three-on-one counter-attack, which they somehow managed to fail to score from, and that would prove extremely costly.
Good work down the right-hand side led to McLaughlin finding space in the 95th minute, and he delivered a pinpoint cross that was met by the in-form Humphrys, whose header found the bottom corner for his sixth goal of the season to rescue a point.
90+6' GET IN THERE! 💪
— Rochdale AFC (@officiallydale) January 16, 2021
Supporting this club will be the death of me.
Full Time: Rochdale 3-3 Wigan Athletic
Man of the Match: Stephen Humphrys