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Report: Rochdale 1 Rovers 1

19 July 2016

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Danny Graham was back on the scoresheet as Rovers and Rochdale played out an entertaining 1-1 draw on Tuesday evening.

The striker, who had notched the winners against SV Ried and Bury this pre-season, opened the scoring at Spotland with a smart header from Elliott Bennett's 11th minute centre.

Rovers should have had more goals to their name in the first half as Scott Wharton, Anthony Stokes and Graham all saw efforts kept out by Dale keeper Josh Lillis.

But the second half was a more even affair, and a bright spell from the home side just past the hour mark saw them draw level through a fantastic free-kick from Donal McDermott.

In testing conditions both sides worked tirelessly throughout in what was a very worthwhile encounter.

Before the game boss Owen Coyle opted to start Danny Graham and Anthony Stokes together for the first time. The duo lead the line in a 4-4-2 formation that saw Liam Feeney and Elliott Bennett occupy the wide positions with Darragh Lenihan and Hope Akpan in the centre.

Jason Lowe captained the side at right back, Stephen Hendrie on the left, with Jason Steele behind the centre-half pairing of Elliott Ward and Scott Wharton.

Craig Conway was absent with a slight thigh injury, whilst Ben Marshall missed out due to illness.

In stifling heat at Spotland, it was the hosts who started the better of the two sides, but without ever threatening the Rovers back line.

But in contrast it was Rovers who grabbed the opening goal from their first meaningful attack of the match after just 11 minutes.

A quick throw on the right found Elliott Bennett, and he delivered a pin-point cross to the back post to where Danny Graham took his pre-season goal tally to three with a well-timed header back across goal.

Liam Feeney tried his luck from distance with a shot that Lillis held comfortably, before the Rochdale stopper did well to keep out a header from young defender Scott Wharton as Rovers threatened once more.

With the visitors dominating possession, Jason Steele was rarely troubled in the Rovers goal, but he was called upon to make his first save on 38 with a routine stop from a stabbed Ian Henderson effort.

Rovers ended the half in control and they could have added further goals. Good interplay between Graham and Stokes saw Graham fire goalwards only to be denied by a diving Lillis, before a storming run from Jason Lowe picked out Stokes, but his first time strike was straight at the keeper.

The manager chose to freshen things up at the start of the second half with a couple of personnel changes and change of formation as Jack Byrne and Danny Guthrie replaced Feeney and Lenihan.

Graham continued to lead the line with Stokes out on the left, Bennett on the right, and Byrne in the centre as Rovers switched to to 4-2-3-1.

Play was centred around the Rochdale goal in the early exchanges of the second half as a trio of corners from Bennett caused consternation in the home defence, but Rovers couldn't take advantage.

But despite seeing plenty of the ball, it was Dale who grew into the game. Just past the hour mark a ricochet midway in the Rovers half sent Henderson racing in on goal but Steele saved well with his legs.

However as play was cleared to the right, the home were awarded a free-kick, and Donal McDermott hit a stunning strike that flew over Steele and into the top corner of the net from what seemed like an impossible angle.

Boosted by the goal, Keith Hill's side very nearly added another straight away, and it was that man McDermott with the chance, but Steele saved well with his chest.

Adam Henley and Jack Doyle were introduced in the closing stages, whilst John O'Sullivan replaced goalscorer Graham, who was warmly applauded by the travelling supporters as he left the field.

His strike partner Stokes had worked tirelessly throughout, but unfortunately he couldn't cap an industrious display with a goal. A late free-kick gave the former Celtic man the opportunity, but his effort just cleared the crossbar.

It was an excellent workout in stifling heat for for Owen Coyle's side, the Rovers are back in action this Saturday when they travel to Bloomfield Road to take on Blackpool.

ROCHDALE: Lillis, Rafferty, Tanser, McNulty, Canaan, Andrew (sub Bunney 73 mins), McDermott (sub Noble-Lazarus 73 mins), Allen, Cannon, Camps (sub Hooper 80 mins), Henderson (c) (sub Morley 74 mins).

Subs not used: Dieng (GK), Barry-Murphy, Kearney.

Goal: McDermott 64 mins.

ROVERS: Steele, Lowe (c) (sub Henley 64 mins), Ward, Wharton, Hendrie (sub Doyle 66 mins), Feeney (sub Guthrie 46 mins), Lenihan (sub Byrne 46 mins), Akpan, Bennett, Stokes, Graham (sub O'Sullivan 80 mins).

Subs not used: Fisher, Nyambe, Raya.

Goal: Graham 11 mins.

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