Devante Rodney scores 95th minute equaliser as Hartlepool United made to settle for a point in 1-1 draw at 10-man Rochdale

Former Hartlepool United frontman Devante Rodney came back to haunt his former club with a 95th minute equaliser as Pools were denied a perfect Easter weekend following a 1-1 draw at 10-man Rochdale.
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Rochdale were reduced to 10-men after Kairo Mitchell was sent off following a strong challenge on Tom Parkes in the 37th minute and Pools looked to have won it thanks to Joe Grey’s acrobatic 65th minute effort, his 11th of the season, until Rodney bagged the equaliser in added time.

Pools boss Kevin Phillips made just one change as Terrell Agyemang, who won the decisive penalty against Halifax from the bench on Friday, came into the side in place of Courtney Duffus.

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There were three changes to a Rochdale team looking to bounce back from defeat at Gateshead last time out, although the Dale couldn’t count on all their home comforts at the Crown Oil Arena as a colour clash meant the hosts were kitted out in their yellow away strip.

Joe Grey scored his 11th goal of the season.Joe Grey scored his 11th goal of the season.
Joe Grey scored his 11th goal of the season.

There was a familiar face in the Rochdale line-up, with former Pools frontman Devante Rodney looking to add to the four goals he’d scored in his last seven games, while manager Jimmy McNulty had vast experience available to him on the bench, notably former Middlesbrough midfielder Adam Clayton and 39-year-old forward Ian Henderson, who was back in the squad for the first time since being sent off against Woking.

The two teams were both relegated from the Football League last season, Rochdale for the first time in their 102 year history, and like Pools the Dale had found it difficult to adapt to life in the fifth division.

McNulty, who until last season was still registered as a player, has done a laudable job under trying circumstances, leading Rochdale to 11th place in the National League prior to kick-off.

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Financial uncertainty has overshadowed much of Rochdale’s campaign, although the home side can at last look forward to operating under firmer foundations as Rochdale-born philanthropic businessman Sir Peter Ogden edges closer towards a takeover.

Rochdale frontman Kairo Mitchell was sent off for a challenge on Tom Parkes in the first half.Rochdale frontman Kairo Mitchell was sent off for a challenge on Tom Parkes in the first half.
Rochdale frontman Kairo Mitchell was sent off for a challenge on Tom Parkes in the first half.

With the Crown Oil surface looking the worse for the recent weather, both sides tried to make early inroads by avoiding the mud-soaked middle of the park.

Callum Cooke had the first effort of the game four minutes in, although his strike on the swivel never threatened Australian Jacob Chapman’s goal, while Pools had to survive a handful of hairy early moments as both the home side’s wingers pushed up high so that their 4-4-2 formation was almost a 4-2-4 in possession.

The visitors looked to be a little unsettled by the challenging surface and Rochdale’s gung-ho approach and had the woodwork to thank for keeping them level nine minutes in as Cian Hayes’ overhit cross evaded everyone and cannoned back off the crossbar.

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The home side were starting to dominate the ball and were looking particularly threatening down the right, with the lively Hayes having an effort blocked after cutting onto his left foot while, on a handful of other dangerous occasions, opting to make use of marauding full-back Kyron Gordon’s energetic forward runs.

Pools, on the other hand, were struggling to get into the game and prevent Rochdale from dictating the tempo, although teenage full-back Louis Stephenson was doing his best to give Finlay Armstrong something to think about and getting forward at every available opportunity.

Dale fans were not entirely content with their side’s patient build-up play as the hosts continued to press and probe but were still to test Jameson, while up the other end the visitors were looking to make the most of their pace down the right and, after Stephenson and Grey combined well, Terrell Agyemang had a shot blocked.

Fleetwood loanee Cian Hayes was undoubtedly the outstanding performer in the opening half-an-hour, with the tricky 20-year-old making David Ferguson’s life difficult, and the winger went close 30 minutes in after cutting inside and creating some space, but his shot sailed wide of Jameson’s near post.

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Pools had been stretched to their limits but were staying in the game without too much trouble until the 37th minute when the visitors had to rely on some poor finishing from Kairo Mitchell as the Grenadian international was unable to add to his 14 goals this term when he blazed over from eight yards after Devante Rodney had picked him out with an incisive cut-back.

And Mitchell’s afternoon went from bad to worse two minutes later when he was sent off after steaming into a challenge with Tom Parkes just inside the Pools half that left the former Bristol Rovers defender writhing around on the deck but had the home fans fuming after their side were, probably harshly, reduced to 10 men.

Unsurprisingly, the red card changed the momentum of the contest and Pools had a golden chance to take the lead in the second minute of first half added time after Callum Cooke’s excellent cross found Mani Dieseruvwe in the box with time and space but the visiting frontman was unable to sort his feet out and fired wide from close range.

While there were no changes for either side in terms of personnel at the break, the pattern of the game had altered entirely as Rochdale sat in and Pools controlled the ball, with Stephenson and Ferguson finding themselves increasingly able to advance down the flanks.

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The visitors almost unlocked a defiant Dale in the 51st minute when, after considered build-up play, Cooke found Grey with space to shoot but the 20-year-old’s strike lashed into the side netting at Chapman’s near post.

Stephenson, who was impressing again after a man-of-the-match performance on his return to the side, was beginning to make the most of his newfound freedom and forced a fine save from Chapman in the 55th minute after he continued a marauding run and latched onto a loose ball before firing goalwards, although the Huddersfield Town loanee was equal to his effort.

Pools were rewarded for a dominant start to the second half when Joe Grey acrobatically fired them into the lead in the 65th minute. After Mani Dieseruvwe’s initial effort had been turned behind, Nicky Featherstone’s corner from the far side was headed down by Mani Dieseruvwe and Grey inventively flicked the ball over his shoulder and beyond Chapman to make it 1-0 with 25 minutes remaining.

Rochdale rallied somewhat after going behind and substitute Chay Cooper had to make an important defensive contribution to deny Gordon down by the near touchline but Pools were looking to put the game beyond the home side’s reach and both Dieseruvwe and Grey went close within moments of one another as the clock ticked towards the 80th minute.

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The hosts were pressing and substitute Tyrese Sinclair had a shot from range sail well over but Pools should have been out of sight with four minutes of normal time remaining when Cooke was played through on goal by Grey but the 26-year-old’s effort was straight at Chapman.

And that almost cost Pools, who were being forced back late on, when Cian Hayes’ low strike was turned just wide of the far post by Jameson as the game headed into five minutes of added time.

The game looked to be over after Devante Rodney fired a free-kick well over the bar in the 93rd minute but the former Hartlepool frontman came back to inflict heartbreak on his former side in the fifth and final minute of added time, latching onto a long ball before rounding Jameson and poking home to deny Pools a perfect Easter weekend and rescue a point for Rochdale.

Pools: Jameson, Ferguson, Parkes, Waterfall, Stephenson, Featherstone (capt), Crawford, Agyemang (sub, Cooper, 70), Cooke (sub, Duffus, 90+1), Grey, Dieseruvwe.

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Rochdale: Chapman, Gordon, East, Ebanks-Landell (capt), Mitchell (red card, 39), Rodney, Hayes, Sassi, Gilmour (sub, Henderson, 85), Armstrong (sub, Sinclair, 75), Mather (sub, Keohane, 58).

Attendance: 2,784

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