Wanderers suffered a 2-0 reverse against Rochdale at the Crown Oil Arena despite hitting the woodwork three times and seeing home goalkeeper Robert Sanchez make several stunning saves to keep Keith Hill’s men at bay.
A goal in each half from Luke Matheson and Jimmy Ryan ensured the points stayed in Rochdale but the scoreline didn’t tell the whole tale as luck cruelly robbed Wanderers of a point they deserved.
Manager Keith Hill made five changes from the team that suffered a narrow defeat against Burton Albion on New Year’s Day.
New signings Ethan Hamilton and Toto Nsiala came into the back line alongside fit-again Liam Edwards and Yoan Zouma while Sonny Graham returned to start in midfield.
Muhammadu Faal and George Thomason, who were both recruited earlier in the week, were named amongst the substitutes while Daryl Murphy was handed the captain’s armband.
Callum Camps tried to get an early lead for the hosts but failed to connect with a overhead kick after a decent cross from the right by Luke Matheson.
At the other end, Josh Emmanuel sent in a good cross from the right which just evaded the head of Murphy.
Ronan Darcy curled a shot that went wide after some good play just outside the box from Hamilton.
Remi Matthews then held on to a deep Camps free-kick after the ball evaded both sets of players.
Wanderers were unfortunate not to take the lead shortly afterwards when Hamilton’s volley rebounded off the foot of the post. Again, Emmanuel sent in a great cross from the right which was headed into the path of the Scot by Murphy.
The big Irishman was on defensive duties and cleared away Dooley’s lofted free kick after Nsiala committed a foul just outside the box.
Zouma then cleared away the danger after Camps attempted to put through Matheson who was lurking at the far post.
Jimmy Ryan sent in a thunderbolt from 20 yards after being laid off by Wilbraham but the ball went straight into the arms of Matthews.
Emmanuel was looking dangerous every time he got the ball out wide and his great run and dribble was thwarted at the expense of a corner.
Again Emmanuel put in a deep cross from the right hand side which found the head of Murphy, but then nobody was around to pick up on the loose ball from the Irishman’s lay-off which was ultimately cleared.
Nsiala’s pass found Murphy on the wide, but he overhit the ball as he tried to put it in the box.
Hamilton picked out Dodoo over on the far side with a glorious pass, the attacker then cut in from the left but curled his shot wide.
Wanderers caused a bit of panic in the Dale box when Hamilton put in a dangerous cross. The ball fell to Sonny Graham who chipped it back in but the hosts eventually cleared.
At the other end, Ian Henderson wasted a chance as his shot flew over the bar.
Hamilton was causing all sort of problems and his ball found Darcy, whose well hit shot was somehow blocked by a Dale defender.
Matheson put the hosts in front just before the break after his persistence paid off. He charged towards goal and evaded every challenge before thumping past Matthews.
Hamilton thundered in a shot on the turn from distance but it was well-held by Robert Sanchez.
Wanderers restarted the second half on the front foot and it wasn’t long before Emmanuel was causing mayhem on the right flank. This time his cross evaded everyone as it was begging to be smashed in the Rochdale goal.
Hamilton was picked out by Emmanuel just outside the box and his right footer cannoned off the bar. The ball work its way back to him and his follow-up shot didn’t trouble Sanchez.
Wanderers had the bit between their teeth once again and found themselves with a glorious chance to equalise when Hamilton was felled just outside the box. He picked himself up and his hard, low strike was only parried away at the far post by Sanchez. Dale eventually cleared the ball.
Hamilton was thwarted yet again by Sanchez who flung himself low and to the right to keep out the on-loan man’s drive.
At the other end, Wilbraham’s shot on the turn just in side the box went wide as Dale tried to extend their slender lead.
Dooley’s shot from distance moments was always rising and went narrowly over the bar.
Faal was handed his debut when he came on for Graham and the young striker was given a rapturous welcome by the 2,600 strong travelling faithful.
Liam Edwards got to a corner first but his near post header went wide.
Dale were having a purple patch after Wanderers’ second-half superiority and substitute Fabio Tavares saw his shot deflect for a corner.
Toto Nsiala made an important clearance as the hosts piled the pressure on the Wanderers defence.
Wanderers made another attacking substitution with former Dale player Chris O’Grady coming on for Dodoo.
Dale’s second had a great swathe of fortune about it as RJimmy yan’s long ranged effort took a strong deflection to wrong foot Matthews.
Despite a strong showing and plenty of chances falling their way, Wanderers left the Crown Oil Arena with no points to show for their efforts.