Rochdale 1 Newcastle United 1
- David Coote
League One side Rochdale earned a replay at St. James’ Park in the Third Round of the FA Cup after holding Newcastle United at Spotland.
The Magpies opened the scoring through Miguel Almirón and should have been home and hosed by the interval, such was their dominance in the first half.
But United dropped off markedly after the break and allowed the home side – 18th in the third tier ahead of the game – a route back in. After a period in the ascendancy, they drew level through substitute Aaron Wilbraham, a thorn in the Magpies’ side throughout the second half.
Oliver Rathbone even had a chance to win it for Rochdale but saw a late chance go begging, meaning Newcastle are taken to a Third Round replay by lower-league opposition for the second season in a row.
It was down the left-hand side that United looked at their most threatening early on. Christian Atsu – deployed as a wing back in Jetro Willems’ absence – quickly showed he had the beating of Rochdale’s Tyler Magloire, who struggled to cope with the Ghanaian’s trickery. Atsu forced Dale defender MJ Williams into a crucial last-gasp clearance six minutes in before teeing up Joelinton with a low cross, though the frontman wasn’t able to keep his strike on target.
But Rochdale failed to heed the warning signs, and they found themselves trailing after another Atsu centre. The wide-man got the better of Magloire again before darting to the byline and putting the ball on a plate for Almirón, who lashed beyond goalkeeper Robert Sánchez from the near side of the area.
Joelinton twice came close to doubling the Magpies’ advantage during the following exchanges, firing wide from 18 yards after a fine run from deep before nodding Isaac Hayden’s cross high of the target with 30 minutes on the clock. Dale boss Brian Barry-Murphy responded by hooking Magloire and introducing youngster Luke Matheson, with the hosts immediately looking a touch more solid on their right flank.
That said, Newcastle could easily have led by two going into the break. Yoshinori Muto ought to have found the net after meeting DeAndre Yedlin’s cutback from the right, while Joelinton brought a low stop out of Sánchez after swivelling inside the area.
The latter chance was also brought about by Yedlin, with the focus of the Magpies’ attacks switching from one side to the other as time wore on. The American helped win the visitors two free kicks in dangerous positions shortly after the interval, with Sánchez making an important stop to keep out Almirón’s curler following the second.
The introduction of veteran frontman Wilbraham at half time gave Rochdale a bit of presence in the final third of the pitch, however. Having offered little up to that point, they started to get a foothold as the hour approached, with Martin Dúbravka twice having to deny midfielder Rathbone. The ‘keeper spilled the second attempt, and was fortunate the angle facing Ian Henderson was tight enough to make a successful rebound difficult.
Although Joelinton came close with a deflected header and substitute Ki Sung-yueng twice let fly for Newcastle, Rochdale were starting to ask serious questions of the Magpies’ defence for the first time in the game. Dúbravka was forced into his most important stop yet after 72 minutes, standing tall to deny Rathbone, who had worked an opening inside the area after gathering Matheson’s square.
United were looking increasingly vulnerable, though, and with just over ten minutes of normal time remaining, parity was restored at Spotland. During a Magpies attack, Joelinton squandered possession on the edge of the Dale penalty area and the hosts broke quickly. Matheson again found room on the right from which to deliver a cross, and Wilbraham took a touch before neatly picking out the near corner with a confident finish.
Ominously, it was the home side who looked the likelier to go on and win it after that, with the Magpies fading badly. However, they managed to avoid any further embarrassment as Rathbone side-footed wide from a decent position in the final minute of normal time.