Rochdale 0-3 Bolton Wanderers

  • November 02, 2021 | By Chris Mann
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Oladapo Afolayan, Declan John and Eoin Doyle all struck in the first-half as Bolton booked their place in the Papa John's Trophy knockout stages with victory at Rochdale.

Wanderers opened the scoring with 16 minutes on the clock at the Crown Oil Arena as Afolayan cut in from the left before curling an outstanding strike into the top corner from distance, moments before John doubled the lead by rifling in from the edge of the box after Doyle's initial effort had been blocked.

Doyle wasn't to be denied in first-half stoppage-time, however, as he made no mistake from the penalty spot after Afolayan had been brought down by Dale goalkeeper Jay Lynch.

Having gone into the game without a victory in five, Ian Evatt named a strong side as he looked to inject some confidence into his struggling team - making just three changes from the weekend defeat at Portsmouth.

Kieran Lee was afforded a rest following his recent exploits, while both Will Aimson and Nathan Delfouneso were named amongst the substitutes. Taking their places in the starting line-up were Josh Sheehan, Alex Baptiste and George Thomason.

Despite finding themselves a league below their visitors, it was Rochdale who had the first sight of goal as Matty Done pounced on a loose ball from Baptiste before drilling wide from 25 yards inside three minutes.

Dale were back on the attack a matter of minutes later, with Conor Grant racing to the byline before cutting back to Danny Cashman, whose first-time attempt was straight at Joel Dixon in goal.

Wanderers' first sight of goal arrived with 11 minutes played, with Elias Kachunga latching on to a diagonal ball from Baptiste, cutting in from the right-hand side before having an effort deflect behind.

Doyle was next to try his luck for the Trotters, racing clear of the home defence, but was ultimately unable to beat Jay Lynch from a narrow angle.

The deadlock was broken on 16 minutes, however, as Bolton took the lead in spectacular style. Picked out on the touchline by a superb long pass from MJ Williams, Afolayan took the ball under control, cut inside from the left before curling an outstanding strike into the top corner from 25 yards to make it 1-0.

That lead was doubled less than three minutes later as Kachunga's cross from the right provided Doyle with a shooting opportunity. His goalbound effort was blocked but a loose ball fell into the path of John, who lashed home a rebound from the edge of the box for 2-0.

Ricardo Almeida Santos headed over as he connected with a corner from Sheehan on the half-hour, while Doyle headed straight into the gloves of Lynch as he met a free-kick from John shortly before the break.

Five minutes of time was added for stoppages, during which the visitors were awarded a penalty as Afolayan went clean through before going to ground under the challenge of the Dale goalkeeper.

Doyle took responsibility from 12 yards and made no mistake, sending Lynch the wrong way to put Evatt's side into a commanding 3-0 lead.

Not content there, Afolayan came close to adding a fourth with an attempt similar to his opening goal, but Bolton would have had no complaints with the margin of their lead going into the interval.

There were no changes to either side as the players returned for the second period, which began with Corey O'Keeffe firing a yard wide of Dixon's target within five minutes of the restart.

With a three-goal lead to their name, Wanderers were in no hurry to push forward in search of more and it wasn't until the hour that their next chance arrived. When it did, it was Afolayan who played a ball across the face of goal where Doyle was inches away from making the telling touch that would have made it 4-0.

Doyle then turned provider four minutes later and, in similar fashion to Afolayan before him, his pass across the six-yard box was just too far ahead of Kachunga, whose search for a first Wanderers goal continues.

Stephen Dooley tested the concentration skills of Dixon with a little over 20 minutes to play, bringing the Trotters goalkeeper into a routine save, while Jeriel Dorsett and Done combined minutes later to tee-up Abraham Odoh, who couldn't keep his shot down from 10 yards.

O'Keeffe saw a goalbound attempt blocked by John in the latter stages, before the final cheer of the night came from the visiting supporters at Liam Edwards was introduced as a substitute for what was his first appearance, however brief, in 22 months following a lengthy battle against a knee injury.

Wanderers will have to wait a week for the group stage to reach a conclusion, and subsequent draw for the second round, but Evatt's side can rest safe in the knowledge that they will top the group after a perfect return of three wins from as many games.

They return to action this coming Sunday when they are in cup action yet again, this time hosting Stockport County in the first-round of the FA Cup.

Rochdale: Lynch, Dorsett, Taylor, Graham, O'Keeffe, White, Broadbent, Dooley, Done, Cashman (Odoh 44), Grant
Subs Not Used: Coleman, Dunne, Kelly, Keohane, Morley, Newby
Booked: Cashman

Bolton Wanderers: Dixon, John, Baptiste, Santos, Isgrove (Edwards 90+1), Thomason, Williams, Afolayan (Delfouneso 72), Sheehan, Kachunga, Doyle (Henry 90+1)
Subs Not Used: Gilks, Aimson, Gordon, Johnston
Goals: Afolayan 16, John 19, Doyle 45+1

Referee: Andrew Kitchen
Attendance: 1,116

Sky Bet League One Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
7 Plymouth Argyle 46 80
8 Oxford United 46 76
9 Bolton Wanderers 46 73
10 Portsmouth 46 73
11 Ipswich Town 46 70
View Full Standings >>


Who is Bolton's 2021/22 Player of the Year?
32.58% Oladapo Afolayan
30.96% Gethin Jones
21.72% Ricardo Almeida Santos
5.51% Declan John
4.05% Kieran Lee
3.08% MJ Williams
1.78% Joel Dixon
0.32% George Johnston