Dale hero: We can fin­ish job against Toon

Manchester Evening News - - SPORT - FA CUP By RICHARD PARTINGTON @MENS­ports

AARON Wil­bra­ham flew the flag for fortysome­things ev­ery­where as he in­spired a suc­cess­ful Rochdale re­vival against the Toon Army.

The vet­eran striker proved there’s no sub­sti­tute for ex­pe­ri­ence as he came off the bench at the start of the sec­ond half and can­celled out Miguel Alm­iron’s 17th-minute opener. In do­ing so, he set up a mouth­wa­ter­ing trip to St James’ Park for a re­play and en­sured Dale took their place in the hat for this evening’s Fourth Round draw.

Un­der­dogs they might have been, but Dale were nev­er­the­less dis­ap­point­ing in an un­der­whelm­ing first half in which goal­keeper Robert Sanchez kept them in the game with saves from Joelin­ton and Yoshi­nori Muto.

But the sec­ond half was a dif­fer­ent mat­ter with Wil­bra­ham pro­vid­ing a pres­ence up the mid­dle off which the likes of Ol­lie Rath­bone and Jimmy Ryan were able to feed.

Wil­bra­ham con­verted from six yards af­ter a pass by fel­low sub­sti­tute Luke Mathe­son in the 79th minute.

“It’s mas­sive for a club like Rochdale to draw against a Pre­mier League club and get a re­play at a great sta­dium like St James’ Park,” said Wil­bra­ham. “It’s a chance for us to go up there and get a re­sult.

“We have a great to­geth­er­ness at this club, from the board of di­rec­tors right down to the play­ers, the kit­man, ev­ery­one.

“Ev­ery­one keeps men­tion­ing my age ev­ery day! But I feel okay, so I’ll keep go­ing.”

Wil­bra­ham’s in­spi­ra­tional sec­ond half per­for­mance sparked Dale into life af­ter an open­ing 45 min­utes in which they strug­gled to lay a fin­ger on New­cas­tle.

Af­ter the break, the vis­i­tors found them­selves in a real con­test and were left to rue not mak­ing the most of their first half dom­i­nance.

Mag­pies keeper Martin Dubravka kept out ex-Manch­ester United youth player Rath­bone.

Dale skip­per Ian Hen­der­son hit the post af­ter an­other Rath­bone shot was par­ried by Dubravka, be­fore the im­pres­sive Rath­bone was again de­nied by a smart stop from the New­cas­tle keeper af­ter rac­ing into the area to con­nect with Mathe­son’s square pass.

Rochdale earned a money-spin­ning re­play when Mathe­son got in be­hind their back­line yet again and this time his de­liv­ery was met by Wil­bra­ham, who fired past Dubravka at the sec­ond at­tempt.

The trav­el­ling Ge­ordie hordes were al­ready call­ing out one or two of their un­der­per­form­ing stars and their dis­plea­sure was very nearly com­pounded in the 90th minute when Rath­bone had a glo­ri­ous chance to clinch the tie. But, hav­ing been neatly played in by de­fender Eoghan O’Con­nell, he dragged his shot wide from 10 yards.

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