Date published: 24 February 2021
Struggling Rochdale and Northampton played out a dour 0-0 in difficult conditions at the PTS Academy Stadium on Tuesday night. A strong wind and a firm, bobbly pitch made flowing football difficult with the result leaving both sides in or around the relegation zone.
After a creditable 0-0 draw at the weekend, Brian Barry-Murphy made three changes for this midweek trip to Northamptonshire. Jim McNulty was given the central defensive role ahead of Paul McShane as the two veterans are eased through the two games in a week. Ryan McLaughlin returned to right back whilst there was a first professional start for January signing Conor Grant who previously had been limited to substitute appearances for both Dale and his former club Sheffield Wednesday.
The wind was strong, with the home side opting to have the wind in their favour for the first half. It meant Rochdale keeper Gavin Bazunu, who has a real strong kick on him, struggled to get beyond the halfway line with many clearances. Added to the wind, the pitch, which looked good before the game, proved to be a real problem with its firmness seeing the ball bounce high and the surface far from conducive for football on the ground.
Northampton made most of the early running, but it was a mistake from Eoghan O’Connell that created the first chance for the home side. The Dale captain misjudged a long ball before he slipped on the edge of the area with Leeds loanee Ryan Edmondson breathing down his neck. The striker picked up the loose ball before picking out Ryan Watson whose shot was brilliantly pushed away by Bazunu; Mark Marshall on the follow up was way off target.
Dale had a real opportunity to score moments later when Ollie Rathbone’s cross from the left picked out an unmarked Stephen Humphrys but the striker headed across the face of goal from inside the six-yard box when he really should have hit the target.
A move down the right saw Dale back-pedalling and when the cross came in, Mickel Miller looped a header that Bazunu stretched up to gather under his crossbar.
Northampton were using the wind advantage to get pitch position further up field and when Watson latched onto a ball through the middle, the Dale defence backed off; thankfully the midfielder’s shot went straight at Bazunu for a simple stop.
Another mistake from the Dale defence, this time from Ryan McLaughlin saw home skipper Joe Mills race in on goal and with no full back there he had time to pick out the run of Watson. His first touch let him down with his shot on the stretch being blocked by O’Connell.
With the wind behind them in the second half, Dale should have pushed on but found themselves on the back foot straight from the restart. Half-time substitute Sam Hoskins burst through the middle with his perfectly weighted pass found the run of Edmondson; his lifted shot was blocked by the onrushing Bazunu.
Kwadwo Baah was introduced by Barry-Murphy in attempt to add some more firepower and when the ball fell to the youngster seven yards out, he scuffed his shot that was easily stopped by the legs of Jonathan Mitchell.
The draw does nothing to alleviate the relegation worries for either side and with results elsewhere not being favourable, it’s tighter than ever at the bottom of the table.
Rochdale: Bazunu, McLaughlin, O’Connell ©, McNulty, Keohane, Rathbone, Shaughnessy, Morley, Newby, Grant (Baah 65), Humphrys
Substitutes: (not used) Lynch, McShane, Osho, Roberts, Done, Brierley
Northampton: Mitchell, Kioso, Jones, Sheehan, Mills ©, Watson (Sowerby 84), McWilliams, Morris, Miller (Hoskins 46), Marshall (Rose 88), Edmondson
Substitutes: (not used) Arnold, Bolger, Horsfall, Chukwuemeka
Referee: Mr K Johnson
Assistants: Mr A Bennett & Mr K Hughes
Fourth Official: Mr O Williams