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In our first home fixture at youth level for over 2 months, we paid the price for a poor start and fell to a 4-1 loss versus Rochdale.

In our first home game since December 12th it really was a horror opening fifteen minutes that put paid to any chances that we may have had in taking anything from the game. The environs of The Barnfield Training Centre, a.k.a. Gawthorpe, are undergoing great change at the moment, and it was against the backdrop of churned earth, drainage gullies and heavy plant machinery that we kicked off. All but Khius Metz from our 2nd year scholars were in the starting XI, and the young Irish striker was present on the bench. Andy Nugent was in the side, presumably meaning his loan to Prescot Cables has come to an end.

Nashé Chakwana scored the Burnley goal

Nashé Chakwana scored the Burnley goal

The visitors kicked off the match and though we instantly won possession it didn’t last. We lost the ball in the middle of the park and Dale broke. They were the beneficiaries of a fortunate diversion from a Jamal Crawford tackle but we should have been more switched on as they carved us open and created an opening for a shot across Tony Aghayere in the Claret goal. He got down and saved, but was unable to parry the ball away from the danger area meaning the Dale 7 was on hand to score a simple tap in after 1 minute.

Just over 5 minutes later Dale attacked down the left wing and floated a ball over into the box. It dropped perfectly between our two centre halves and found the head of the Dale 7 once more. He couldn’t miss and Aghayere was helpless from the close range header. We were shell shocked and it looked like it could be a long morning.

We saw a brief flutter in our vitals as we won a corner, but when Nugent lofted the ball over, Josh Dolling couldn’t get enough connection on his header and the ball was glanced well wide. Dale took advantage of the let off by extending their lead. Their forward chased a long ball down the left wing and retrieved easily. He looked back up field and was afforded way too much time to assess his options. He picked out an advancing team mate on the edge of the box and the runner duly finished with aplomb, side footing in off the inside of the far post.

To our credit we reacted well to this goal, but in waiting until the 3rd we had really given ourselves a mountain to climb. We won a free kick high on the right wing and Nugent again stood over the dead ball. His cross caused panic in the Dale box, with Lewis Norvock getting close, but the visitors were able to clear. We also forced a corner on the left that picked out Shaun Hobson on the volley, but our lack of fortune was telling as the ball squarely hit a defender on the line when the keeper was beaten.

Around 20 minutes into the game we saw the fourth goal though. Norvock cleared out from the back with a long ball. The Dale defence were deceived by a slight deflection, but Nashé Chakwana read it well and used his blistering pace to race through. He went into the box and committed the keeper, before rounding him and walking it home. Could we see a comeback of epic proportions?

Unfortunately not.

We had to make our first change on the half hour mark as Tunde Bayode succumbed to an injury picked up 5 minutes previously. It meant a reshuffle as Chakwana went to the wing and Tommy Wood was brought on to partner Dolling. Against such big defenders you could say that taking the pace out of the equation in the centre may have been a questionable decision but, whether right or wrong, it was more the timing of the change that blunted any momentum we may have been gathering.

The half fizzled out and we broke with a 2 goal deficit. When the 2nd half began it was a scrappy affair. Both teams were guilty of petty challenges and Dale were certainly taking every opportunity to slow things down – as you would certainly expect from a side who were smelling a good win. Miles Fenton was booked for us, and their centre half also picked up a yellow.

In between the bookings it was Dale who added to the scoresheet. They had a corner on the left side and floated it over. Aghayere was under it and got two fists to the ball, but got no real distance on his punch. It broke to an opponent on the edge of the box and he struck it firmly. Aghayere got something on it, but the ball bounced down and through, hitting the back of the net.

We made more changes as Mark Howarth and Khius Metz replaced Dolling and Fenton. Within minutes we escaped a fifth goal being conceded as the linesman’s flag saw a strike disallowed. Our changes didn’t have long to make a difference, but the different type of movement that Metz offered gave Dale something to think about. He was unlucky when given a gift of a back pass, but his shot across the keeper was saved and Wood couldn’t get any kind of connection on his follow up.

All in all a bad day at the office.

Team:- Tony Aghayere, Billy Grogan, Andy Nugent, Shaun Hobson, Lewis Norvock, Hamam El-Fitouri, Miles Fenton (Mark Howarth), Tunde Bayode, Jamal Crawford, Nashé Chakwana, Josh Dolling (Khius Metz).
Subs not used:- Connor King, Wilson

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