WIGAN ATHLETIC 1
James Tavernier capped a fine individual performance with a stunning long range strike just before half time, but an experimental Latics went down against a lively Rochdale side despite enjoying the majority of possession and carving out some great chances.
The former Newcastle defender has impressed during this pre-season programme and he provided most of the danger again at Spotland with some superb deliveries from the right hand side. His goal was worthy of winning any match but the main objective here was to give extended playing time to the whole squad and prevent injuries - as well as to take a look at some of the younger players.
Uwe Rosler included eight development squad players in the squad; Ryan Jennings and Tim Chow who have featured against Walsall and Besiktas, both started, in front of a back five of James Tavernier, Leon Barnett, Ivan Ramis, Thomas Rogne and Aaron Taylor-Sinclair. After featuring in a Latics XI versus Southport in midweek, Grant Holt also played the entire match.
But the match did not start well for Latics. Lee Nicholls had already saved well from Iain Henderson when the Dale winger latched on to a long ball down the left channel after just five minutes, Rogne failed to prevent him from cutting back from the goal line and he chipped the ball beautifully over Lee Nicholls from a tight angle to give the hosts the lead.
Latics responded quickly with Tavernier putting in two really dangerous crosses in from the right, which the Dale defence were at full stretch to clear. Young St Helenser Chow found space to shoot low from the edge of the box, which Josh Lillis did very well to parry to safety.
The keeper immediately pulled off a second great save in quick succession to push away a Holt header from point blank range after another superb Tavernier delivery, this time from a free-kick. Tavernier did force Lillis into a third save when he floated the ball over the wall from a freekick 30 yards out, but it was straight at him.
Jennings should probably have equalised when Holt put him through after half an hour, his pace created the opening but he placed his left foot drive narrowly wide with Lillis beaten.
Latics paid for not taking their opportunities when they failed to clear a ball out of defence and Bastien Hery picked it up on the edge of the box, skipped past a couple of challenges before firing low past Nicholls. A good finish.
Latics’ possession was finally rewarded just before the break when Tavernier chested down a ball 25 yards out and rifled a fantastic drive past Lillis in off the underside of the bar – certainly underlining what an exciting signing he is in prospect.
Scott Carson was introduced for the second half as Latics continued to dominate possession, Chow coming closest to scoring when Lillis came off his line but he was not able to get the ball past him, then Jennings failed to get a good enough connection on Tavernier’s cross.
Gary Caldwell replaced Ramis for the final half an hour as Latics continued to press for the equaliser, quickly followed by Juan Carlos Garcia, back from the World Cup in place of the afternoon’s trialist.
Jennings had another half chance when he pulled down a long ball forwards on the edge of the box, but Lillis snaffled the ball before he was able to shoot. Latics looked to have strong penalty claims when Holt went down in the box from a corner but the referee was not interested. Another fabulous delivery from Tavernier should have resulted in the equaliser but Taylor-Sinclair headed wide from close in.
It was to be the outstanding Tavernier’s last contribution, young midfielder Declan Poole was given his first taste of first team action when replacing him with just under 20 minutes to play, Chow showing his versatility by moving to right wing-back, before himself being replaced by Michael Wilson.
Carson was called into action for the first time on 74 minutes to tip over a strike by Callum Camps, immediately foiling Joe Bunney from the follow up corner with a smart save close in. Matty Hamilton replaced Jennings for the final few minutes for his first taste of first team action as well – great for the supporters to see some of the exciting Development Squad talent coming through at the club.
Caldwell was inches away from giving the near 500 Latics fans who made the trip to Spotland something to cheer about in the final second of the match but his header from Fraser Fyvie’s lofted free-kick flew inches wide of the post.
Rochdale: Lillis, Rafferty, Bennett, Lancashire, Lund (Bunney 70), Hery (Park 62), Done, Tanser, Donnelly (Cannon 70), Allen, Henderson (Camps 70)
Subs: Barry-Murphy, McGinty, Eastham, Vincenti, Musangu, Collis, Rose, Logan
Latics: Nicholls (Carson 46), Tavernier (Poole 70), Barnett, Rogne, Ramis (c) (Caldwell 59), Taylor-Sinclair, Chow (Wilson 76), Fyvie, Trialist (Garcia 62), Jennings (Hamilton 86), Holt
Subs: Johnson, Burke