First Team
National League Sat 23 September Meadowbank Stadium
Dorking Wanderers

Tom Blair put Wanderers in front and opened his account in style with a tremendous solo goal just before the hour mark, Wanderers going on to pay the price for not putting the game to bed late on as Dale skipper Ethan Ebanks-Landell found an equaliser with a just minute of regulation time remaining. Dan Pybus then received a second yellow card just into stoppage time before Ian Henderson compounded Wanderers woes by finishing from close range and snatching victory for his side at the death.

Marc White made one change to the team which defeated Wealdstone on Tuesday night, Harry Ottaway coming in for the injured Tony Craig, who came off with a knock during the midweek win. The switch in personnel meant that Dan Gallagher and James McShane would drop back into the centre of defence and midfield respectively. In the absence of Barry Fuller and Craig, McShane took the captain’s armband for the afternoon.

It was the visiting side who had the first opportunity at goal inside the opening two minutes; Dale top scorer Tyrese Sinclair fouled just outside the box and stepping up to take the free kick himself in shooting range, but unable to direct the ball over the Wanderers wall. Not long afterwards, McShane would hook the first home effort over the bar after Josh Taylor’s long throw was only half-cleared by the Rochdale back-line.

Through a disjointed opening half-hour play was fairly even, largely fought out in the middle of the park, but Jimmy McNulty’s side did carve out the better chances; Harvey Gilmour’s blocked shot ultimately leading to play being recycled and the midfielder then heading wide at the back post, before he turned provider for Jimmy Keohane, releasing a through ball from central midfield which Keohane would latch onto and drill fractionally wide of the post.

Another really well measured searching pass from deep this time dispatched by Ian Henderson found striker partner Kairo Mitchell, the Dale No9 looked to then shift the ball across to Sinclair arriving in the penalty area but Francomb slid in with a superb sliding block to make the interception. Gallagher and Prior were then called upon to make timely aerial interventions after Sinclair whipped in a dangerous cross from the left which was then recycled back in.

The rhythm of the half had been broken up with injury stoppages as Dale skipper Ethan Ebanks-Landell received treatment for a head injury early on, Marc White was then forced into two changes as Bobby-Joe Taylor stayed down inside the Wanderers box after picking up a knock, Callum Kennedy coming on in his place shortly before Seb Bowerman had to also be withdrawn from the action, Ryan Seager his replacement out wide right. Bowerman’s injury did not appear to be obvious as he left the field of play, Marc White confirming post-match the winger had picked up a muscle injury.

Seager did spurn a good chance for Wanderers into added on time at the end of the first half, the ball falling to him after a scramble in the Rochdale box, but his effort was straight down Louis Moulden.

H/T: 0-0

After the restart Wanderers began to get more on the front-foot; Francomb’s free kick floated in from the left was met with first-time side-footed effort by Prior well held by Louis Moulden, before Ottaway’s knock-down was controlled by Seager with a touch and quickly flashed beyond the top left stantion of goal.

Nearing the hour mark, Wanderers broke the deadlock and it was a moment of real quality from Tom Blair to score his first Wanderers goal, turning past his marker quickly and advancing to the edge of the box from the left flank before unleashing a low drive which managed to get between Moulden and his near post with enough power and accuracy to hit the back of the net.

Dale looked for an immediate response, Mitchell and Ebanks-Landell sending efforts wide before Male pushed Adam Clayton’s dipping free kick just round the post.

Seager brought Moulden into action with a sweetly struck volley, the Dale stopper tipping the effort wide after Ottaway’s shot was initially blocked. In a repeat of Tuesday night, Matt Briggs came on for Tom Blair to get more match minutes, and the substitute winger was key in setting up two late, golden chances. Josh Taylor the man unable to bury them on either occasion, unable to generate enough power with his first attempt before Briggs’ cut-back picked out the midfielder in space inside the box but he failed to keep his strike down.

With a minute of regulation time left on the clock, Wanderers were punished not long after the squandered chances and for a free kick giveaway midway through their own half; the resulting delivery into the box not fully cleared and sitting up nicely for Ebanks-Landell, who was able to volley the ball into the back of the net from several yards out.

Five minutes of stoppage time were indicated with the restart of play but the mission to see out the game from there immediately became harder for Wanderers when Dan Pybus, who picked up the first caution of the game during the first half, received his second yellow of the afternoon and marching orders for a careless foul on Sinclair just outside the box.

Increasingly weary and down to ten men for the closing minutes, Rochdale kept the pressure on and got reward deep into the allotted time; a pacey run down the right leading to a shot from Keohane which Henderson manged to divert over the line from close range to the jubilation of the travelling support gathered adjacent to the goal.

A testing afternoon for Wanderers with two enforced substitutions in the first half adding to existing injury concerns, Marc White’s men will also rue missing golden chances and demonstrating a lack of discipline in the late stages as the prospect of three points so very suddenly slipped away.

Unbeaten through the month of September up until this game, Wanderers will see out the month and look to get themselves back on track across two away fixtures this coming week, travelling to Ebbsfleet United on Tuesday night before making the long trip up north to Hartlepool United next Saturday.

Dan Stobbart