Rochdale 1, Norwich City 1 (City win 4-3 on penalties)
CHRIS LAKEY David Marshall proved the million pound man tonight as he earned City a place in the third round of the Carling Cup. Marshall steppe dup to the breach when he stopped Rochdale’s third kick, by sub Rory Prendergast, and the punched away Rochdale’s fifth kick, by Gary Jones.
David Marshall proved the million pound man tonight as he earned City a place in the third round of the Carling Cup.
The match had finished all square after 120 minutes of end-to-end football, leaving City to endure the dreaded penalty shoot-out.
Manager Peter Grant had seen his first Carling Cup tie last season ended by spot-kicks at Port Vale and would have had few arguments if tonight's clash in Lancashire had finished the same way.
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But Marshall steppe dup to the breach when he stopped Rochdale's third kick, by sub Rory Prendergast, and the punched away Rochdale's fifth kick, by Gary Jones.
Chris Brown, Simon Lappin, Chris Martin and Darren Huckerby had all scored from their spot kicks to give City a hard-fought win after Glen Murray had put Rochdale ahead before Dion Dublin equalised soon after the break.
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City were, as expected, without injured defender Adam Drury, while strikers Jamie Cureton and David Strihavka were also left behind in Norfolk with a knock and illness respectively.
But it was the return of the talismanic Darren Huckerby which will have been a sight for sore eyes as far as City's travelling support was concerned.
City were almost off to the perfect start when Simon Lappin galloped forward within the opening minute, space appearing out of nowhere, and forced keeper James Spencer to save low to his left from a 20-yard drive - sadly the Scot put the rebound wide.
But it proved to be a false dawn: the rotund shape of Rochdale central midfielder John Doolan retaliated with a tremendous strike of his own which whistled over the bar. Clearly, news of City's early goal spree against Barnet in the previous round had reached Spotland.
Jon Otsemobor did well to block Glenn Murray's effort as City almost paid for some sloppy defending, while Chris Dagnall, under pressure from Ian Murray, should have done better than fire over the bar when clear through.
Glenn Murray was also guilty of missing a quality chance when on nine minutes when he headed wide, but a minute later he made no mistake, profiting from his namesake Ian's slip on the edge of the area to slip the ball in off a post.
The Canaries were all at sea in the face of Rochdale's onslaught and cries of “Championship, you're having a laugh” were embarrassingly close to the mark. Yes, it was one of those spells when you couldn't tell one division from another.
Julien Brellier was lucky to escape a card for a nasty tackle on Dagnall - and also fortunate that the resulting free-kick came to nothing.
With 20 minutes gone Norwich had begun the heal the wound, the first sign of hope when Gary Doherty headed a Lappin free-kick into the keeper's hands.
Darel Russell, playing right of a midfield three, then headed weakly at the keeper as Huckerby began to have a growing influence.
Martin set Huckerby free down the left on 22 minutes with a lovely piece of skill in midfield and was back in the area to try and convert the low cross, which somehow Dale cleared off the line.
A goal would clearly change the complexion of the game, but it was still Rochdale who were looking more dangerous in that department, with Ben Muirhead hassling Ian Murray down their right flank and firing in a series of crosses.
Marshall turned aside a Gary Jones shot from 10 yards as the hosts racked up the corner count - and began piling on more sustained pressure.
Doolan was close to wasting Rochdale's good work with a risky challenge from behind on Lappin on the edge of the area, but referee Colin Webster ignored City's protests.
At least it signalled some forward motion by City, although Rochdale rather discourteously ignored that by resuming normal service around the visitors' area.
Marshall's slip when preparing to kick out a back pass just before half-time almost let in Dagnall - and would have summed up the embarrassment that had befallen City in the opening period.
Ian Murray had suffered a torrid opening period at left back - to be fair to him, he'd said last week it was not a position he enjoyed - and was replaced by Luke Chadwick, Lappin dropping back to defence, Russell moving from left to right and the sub taking his place in a 4-4-2 formation.
It was an attacking formation and one which, having almost produced a goal from Russell, did so on 49 minutes for Dion Dublin, who did well to flick in a Lappin free-kick from the left at the keeper's right-hand post.
Were City were up to their old tricks - poor one half, good the next? Only time would tell, but Rochdale clearly weren't prepared to go down without a fight, with Guy Branston, on loan from Peterborough, heading inches wide from Rundle's corner Huckerby produced a trademark run and shot - his first for a while - as the hour mark approached and honours were beginning to look a little more even than just the scoreline suggested.
Brellier almost conjured up a David Beckham moment with a long shot on the run in right midfield which Spencer caught below his crossbar - City fans claimed it was over the line, while home fans behind the goal were rather quieter on the subject.
Half-time had certainly improved Norwich, with Huckerby beginning to tease and the door down City's left looking more secure, but Dagnall tested Marshall with a thunderbolt and then defender Rory McArdle headed over the corner.
Huckerby set up Martin for a shot on the edge of the area which was blocked - perhaps a dummy to allow the unmarked Chadwick would have been more fruitful.
The dreaded extra-time - and even worse, penalties - was starting to cross more than a few minds, particularly as Rochdale were refusing to be ruffled by Norwich's pressure, which was beginning to look more fragmented as the match moved into the final 10 minutes.
Doherty was walking a disciplinary tightrope after a card for hauling down sub Rory Prendergast as Rochdale came to life again.
Huckerby had a golden opportunity to settle some nerves, but shot wide when he had players in the box to choose from while Brellier flashed an effort past the same post.
Extra time duly arrived - with Huckerby testing Spencer after five minutes, just before the extra attacking option of Lee Croft was introduced for Brellier.
City clearly didn't fancy penalties and headed goalwards, a series of corners ending in Dublin volleying wide - although his night ended soon after as he limped off.
Murray could have been Rochdale's hero but was denied by the only man he had to beat - Marshall.
Lappin almost put through his own net as Rochdale took their turn to press and defender Tom Kennedy stung Marshall's fingers with a thundering long-range effort.
It was end-to-end stuff - but when Dagnall missed the clearest chance of the night when clear through and Chris Brown headed at the keeper at the other end, the penalty shoot-out was inevitable.