Barnsley FC travelled to Spotland in the first round of the Capital One Cup. Michael Roach provides his match report on a thrilling away victory for the Reds versus Rochdale.

The league cup is traditionally nobody’s favourite competition by the furthest stretch of the imagination. The cup has usually come around only days after the beginning of league campaigns, often becoming a nuisance to sides wishing to find their feet in their respective leagues. This year, the tides have turned slightly, as the Olympic and European programmes have caused a change to the fixtures, this time bringing the cup around a week before ‘the big kick off’.

Whilst this alone made the potential for a more fiery affair, the prospect of Hillcroft and numerous players making their return to Spotland certainly brought around more interest among the Red’s travelling support, with bumper numbers making the trip to Lancashire.

Rochdale Vs Barnsley FC Line Up 1
Onto the game, where the Reds lined up as they have throughout the pre-season just gone, in a 4-2-3-1 formation, giving competitive debuts to Ben Alnwick and Kelvin Etuhu, with Jacob Mellis making his first start since his permanent capture, and John Stones making his first competitive start at right back, having previously come on as a substitute.

The Rochdale fans were delighted to welcome back Scott Wiseman, David Perkins, Kelvin Etuhu and Matt Done, as well as Chris Dagnall who was on the bench, with a special mention going to Keith Hill and David Flitcroft, the duo who were responsible for the club’s most successful ever period.

The Reds have not enjoyed the league cup in recent times, having gone out in the first round for the past two seasons, the first occasion being where Keith Hill’s Rochdale passed the Reds off the park at Oakwell to earn a 1-0 victory.

Only 5 minutes in, and it looked like the Reds could have been on their way to an early exit again, when Scott Wiseman’s missed headed allowed Andrew Tutte in to score an impressive goal. It had been a slightly nervy start for the Reds, and it looked like the goal could have condemned the Reds to yet another non-descript performance and early exit in the cup, nearly going 2-0 down just 14 minutes in, when Ashley Grimes missed a free header, which he should have dispatched. However, the travelling support were soon to be fired up, when Kevin McIntyre sent Jim O’Brien into the ad-boards on 17 minutes in retaliation for an earlier challenge by the Scottish winger. It looked like the omens would be against Keith Hill’s travelling side, as O’Brien was stretchered off having looked to have broken his arm, an injury that has since transpired to be a dislocated shoulder, which is set to keep the fan favourite out for 6 weeks.

On came Chris Dagnall to prove a point to his former club, with the Reds switching tactics to 4-4-2, with Kelvin Etuhu moving out to the right wing. The Reds looked bereft of confidence, and whilst they enjoyed slightly more possession, the game was lacking a spark of genius. This was all to change though, as just before half time the Reds were given a free kick, which was delivered by Jacob Mellis onto the head of John Stones, who scored his first professional goal to bring the Reds onto level terms.

The second half came about with the Reds growing into game having shook off their early nerves. Barnsley had the better of the possession again slightly, though a deep-defending Rochdale and strange referee decisions were impeding the Reds’ ability to make a breakthrough. In the 69th minute Keith Hill decided to make a tactical switch, bringing one debutant on for another, with Tomasz Cywka coming into the action following his capture on a free transfer last week, replacing Kelvin Etuhu. The Reds looked brighter towards the end of the game, and looked to have won it when Craig Davies turned and dispatched a shot through ‘dale keeper Josh Lillis’ legs with 10 minutes to go, though at the time not a soul in the crowd had an idea how the game would turn from comeback cup win, to the downright bizarre.

The Reds looked to close out the game in comfortable fashion, with no real action to speak of other than an injury to young right back John Stones, which brought Bobby Hassell into the game. However the Reds were to be flung out of their comfort zone with two minutes to go, with an extraordinary decision meaning the dismissal of Reds keeper Ben Alnwick, after Rochdale substitute Ray Putterill fell to the ground clutching his face following little or no contact with the Barnsley man, after words had been traded given that Alnwick had kept the ball to time waste after an offside had been given. The referee consulted his assistant, and awarded the Dale a ludicrous penalty, given that the game was inactive at the time of the incident. Having used all of their subs, it was left to Bobby Hassell to take up the spot between the sticks for the upcoming penalty. Unfortunately, Bobby guessed the wrong way, and Jason Kennedy brought the home side onto level terms, sending the game into extra time.

Rochdale Vs Barnsley FC Line Up 2
The Reds had to completely rethink their tactics and play out of their skins come extra time, with Hassell keeping the gloves after Hill’s tactical talk on the field. Wiseman was switched to his favoured right back position, with David Perkins filling the gap in the defence. Despite being a man down, Keith Hill kept two upfront, with Chris Dagnall running off Craig Davies.

Despite Rochdale shooting on sight, it was Barnsley’s turn to take the lead inside 5 minutes, with Chris Dagnall capitalising on Tomasz Cywka’s brilliant pass in order to score his first goal for the club and send the travelling (and dare I say critical?) fans into raptures. Rochdale were fighting to get back into the game, but were continually wasteful by shooting wide or conceding free kicks to the Barnsley defence. Bobby Hassell held firm in the net, with almost goal like celebration every time he made a save, with “England’s number one” being heard around Spotland. Despite attempts to get back into the game, it was Barnsley who were to again enjoy the adulation of scoring, with Chris Dagnall again hitting the back of the net with an impressive finish inside the penalty area on 104 minutes – the travelling fans again duly going into raptures.

The afternoon was still not over though, and the referee seemed determined to have his say on the outcome, awarding the home side a second penalty for an alleged handball from David Perkins. Jason Kennedy again stepped up, and it seemed like déjà vu with Kennedy and Hassell both picking the same, though unfortunately for Hassell, opposite sides. Dale continued to receive free kicks, and managed to draw a wondrous double save from Bobby Hassell, though the Reds grafted to a much-deserved win, against the odds.

Though the game was a thriller for the travelling support, and in my opinion one of the best, yet bizarre games I’ve seen, it did highlight a couple of concerns for the Reds. Firstly, Scott Wiseman appeared uncomfortable at left back and is much more effective from the right, though John Stones had a great game and certainly did himself no harm in terms of his selection prospects. Secondly, and perhaps our biggest concern is the suspended Ben Alnwick, who could serve three games suspended if the violent conduct charge is upheld, will Lukas Lidakevicius be ready to take his place between the sticks, or will the Reds have to draft in a keeper on loan? Finally is the ever growing injury list, with O’Brien joinging Mido and Toni Silva on the sidelines, depleting the squad even further, which could cause Keith Hill to again dip into the loan market.

Onto the numerous positives though, that the Reds stuck at it and ground out a win when the game was stacked against them. Despite being unable to endear himself to the Oakwell faithful in his short spell at the club, Chris Dagnall looked a new player when he hit his first and second goals for the club – I certainly hope that he’ll be given his opportunities by the fans and his manager to prove that he can be a good player at this level. John Stones looked good after a slightly nervy start, though like Dagnall, was filled with confidence after scoring his first club goal. Whether ‘Stonesy’ will become a regular in the side remains to be seen, however he’ll certainly provide well needed depth to the squad for the season, and could go down in club history in a few year’s time. Finally, the first look at Cywka was very positive, and the former Derby man provided some much needed skill and quality for the side, I’d tip him to be one to watch this season.

Final score: Rochdale 3 - 4 Barnsley (after extra time)

Player Ratings:

  • Alnwick – not much to do but sent off for ‘violent conduct’, could have proved disastrous – 6
  • Stones – solid as throughout preseason, more to come – 7
  • Foster – looked a bit rocky but held resilient in extra time – 6.5
  • McNulty © – gained confidence after our equaliser but needs to be a more vocal skipper – 7
  • Wiseman – struggled at left back and lead to the first goal – 6 
  • Perkins – classic Perkins performance saw the side through in extra time, always a thorn in the opposition’s side  – 9 
  • Mellis – played too deep to be at his most effective, gave away the ball a couple of times – 7
  • Etuhu – didn’t grow into the game as much as he’d have liked – 6
  • O’Brien – didn’t have long enough to get into the game, though his injury will no doubt be of concern – rating N/A 
  • Done – got at the defence and caused numerous problems and created a couple of chances – 7.5
  • Davies – great turn and shot for his goal, looked to be more like the striker from the earlier part of last season – 8 


  • Dagnall for O’Brien (18’) – looked a new player, and worked hard as always – 8.5
  • Cywka for Etuhu (70’) – was much brighter on the wing, played Dagnall in for one of his two goals – 8
  • Hassell for Stones (85’) (subsequently became goalkeeper) – couldn’t do anything about the penalties and would have otherwise kept Rochdale out for half an hour, epitomised the heroism of the Reds throughout extra time – 9.5

Rochdale line up:

Cavanagh ©
R. Edwards
P. Edwards
Grimes (Curran 84’)
Donnelly (Putterill 75’)
Adebola (Craney 84’)

As always feel free to leave your opinion or questions in the comments below, and don’t forget to follow me @MichaelRoach55 and @OnThePontyEnd on Twitter.
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