Rochdale (Home) – FA Cup

Jun 1, 2023 | 2023 A Season in Review

The Memorial Stadium Saturday 5th November 2022

Bristol Rovers 1 Sinclair (65)

Rochdale 0

Referee: Will Finnie

Attendance 4,679

I have to say I’m no longer convinced about the so called magic of the FA Cup even though I think it’s one of the greatest cup competitions around.

Over the years its status has, in my opinion, been devalued by Premier League sides, and even many in the Championship, fielding weakened sides against so called inferior opposition – until they get within shouting distance of a Wembley Final and a possible place in Europe, of course!

Over 4,500 hardy souls arrived at the Memorial Stadium for a game against Rochdale in the first round of this year’s competition eager, no doubt, to see goals as last year’s two league encounters produced 13 of them, with Rovers scoring four on both occasions.

Promotion has left us a division above the Dale and for this encounter we saw Scott Sinclair make his first ever start for the club, some 17 years and 210 days after his initial substitute appearance on Boxing Day 2004.

He replaced Josh Coburn whose parent club, Middlesbrough, didn’t want him cup tied, while James Connolly replaced Luca Hoole who was relegated to the bench.

If I say that the first half was distinctly underwhelming, apart from the class shown on the ball by Sinclair, then you will gather that it was devoid of any notable moments, though here were two occasions when it looked as though the deadlock might be broken.

Aaron Collins saw his tenth minute effort turned round the post by Richard O’Donnell, while at the other end Bobby Thomas almost gave the visitors the lead with a spectacular own goal on the stroke of half time.

The defender slid in to clear a cross from the right, but succeeded only in touching the ball on to the near post, with James Belshaw well beaten. Fortunately, the rebound was kind and dropped straight at the keeper’s feet, sparing defensive blushes all round.

Rochdale, who stuck rigidly to a 4-5-1 formation during the opening period, were a little more adventurous after the break.

Six minutes after the restart that wily old fox Ian Henderson should have scored the goal that would have seen him break the Rochdale goalscoring record. A younger version of the striker would have tucked his chance away, but the veteran version sliced a golden opportunity wide of the upright.

Belshaw then made an outstanding save from Devante Rodney as the visitors sensed that they had a chance of progressing to the second round. They reckoned without Sinclair, though.

With 65 minutes on the clock Antony Evans crossed from the right, James Gibbons nodded on to the back post to Sinclair who arrived unnoticed by the Dale defenders and calmly slotted home from close range.

The goal was enough to settle the tie, though there were other goalscoring opportunities. Sinclair might have scored again but was denied by the legs of O’Donnell, while Belshaw saved well from Jimmy Keohane before the final whistle.

Joe Barton’s side did just about enough to win, while the magic of the cup came in the form of a first start and first goal for the returning Sinclair.

Bristol Rovers: Belshaw, Gibbons, Thomas, Connolly, Gordon, Finley, Rossiter, McCormick (Saunders, 63), Evans (Clarke, 79), Sinclair (Whelan, 79), Collins.

Substitutes: Jaakkola, Hoole, Kilgour, Westbrooke.

Rochdale: O’Donnell, Keohane, Graham, Ebanks-Landell, John (Seriki, 66), Kelly (L) (Brierley, 40), Diagouraga (Sinclair, 86), Rodney (Kelly (O), 86), Ball (Malley, 66), Odoh, Henderson.

Substitutes: McNulty, Nelson, Rayhaan, Kelly (B).


There were no former Rovers players in the Rochdale side

A yellow card was issued to James Gibbons

Sam Finley was skipper

Three substitutes used

First Rovers goal for Scott Sinclair

Seven added minutes

(Photos courtesy of JMP)

Keith Brookman