Yeovil Town battled out a 0-0 draw against Rochdale near the foot of League One, as both sides remained where they were in the final match before Christmas. The home side were the ones with the attacking intent, with the Glovers content to block out their hosts for almost the entire game. Predictably Dale were the ones who created the glut of chances, with Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro twice hitting the woodwork, whilst Rene Gilmartin had to play out the final 30 minutes after he appeared to dislocate a finger.
Five team changes were made after the direness of Tuesday night's FA Cup defeat against Fleetwood Town. In came the loan trio of Rene Gilmartin, Gavin Massey and Jonathan Obika, whilst Kerrea Gilbert and Dominic Blizzard were also recruited into the starting line-up. Luke Ayling was switched across to the left-back position, allowing Max Ehmer to move into the centre, whilst Gilbert took the right-back slot. Meanwhile Blizzard's return meant Conor Clifford could play at the top of the diamond - all three of Tuesday's strikers were relegated to a bench composed entirely of attacking players.
The Glovers opened relatively well with Jonathan Obika's powerful break up the field seeing a ball coming in square for Conor Clifford to meet, much in the same way that he had done at Fleetwood in the away FA Cup match. On this occasion, Rochdale keeper Matthew Edwards was able to save with his legs to prevent the opening goal. Largely though, the first half belonged to Rochdale, with the Glovers relying upon Gavin Massey and Jonathan Obika playing as wide forwards - virtually as wingers, with the ball being put up to them on the flanks to run onto, but with the obvious problem being that they had few people around them to make any break count.
In the Rochdale line-up, Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro and Nicky Adams were the two danger men, with Akpa Akpro getting three excellent chances to open the scoring as the Glovers struggled to defend down their flanks. Adams had a shot that deflected for a corner early on, but their best attempt of the half came through Akpa Akpro, whose blistering shot came off the crossbar, much in the same way that Notts County had a similar attempt from Alan Judge denied on the previous week. Adams and Akpa Akpro then combined with the latter putting his chance wide, whilst a great defensive block from Kerrea Gilbert stopped another similar attempt.
The gameplan for Yeovil as the half progressed was to stick all ten outfield players behind the ball, and try to block out Rochdale's attempts to get in the ball past Rene Gilmartin. They achieved that task relatively well leading up to the break, although at the cost that the longer the half went on, the more the attacking intent reduced.
The second period opened up with more of the same, with it pretty much becoming a training match of Attackers vs Defenders. However, the situation became all the more complicated when Rene Gilmartin suffered a hand injury during the second half that saw him receive lengthy treatment for what appeared to be a dislocated finger. Fairly incredibly the Watford loan man chose to continue, and immediately was tested through a 20 yard Harry Bunn shot, with Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro firing the loose ball wide.
Rene Gilmartin then had to continue to work through the pain barrier, as he saved from a Nicky Adams free kick that was curled around the corner of the wall, then forced an Akpa Akrpo shot onto the post as Rochdale's striker struck the woodwork for the second time during the game. However things got that little bit tougher, when Kerrea Gilbert - already on a booking - put in a poor tackle on Rochdale full-back Joe Widdowson. Referee Chris Sarginson appeared to bring out a straight red card which would mean a three match ban for the former Arsenal player - regardless, Yeovil were down to ten men and with no defenders on the bench, Andy Williams had to fill in as a right-back as the Glovers played out with a 4-4-1 formation.
The remainder of the game was unsurprisingly played out with an extreme rearguard action - made even more so when Jonathan Obika was withdrawn for Alan O'Brien in the dying minutes - technically leaving the Glovers with no strikers up front, although the objective was for the left-winger to provide that outlet. Somehow they survived the pressure and five minutes injury time. It was a worthy away point and one that they would have taken before the game, but to get it they certainly had to sacrifice their footballing principles to get it in the bag.
Final Score: Rochdale 0 Yeovil Town 0.
21. Matthew Edwards
17. Dean Holden 22. Stephen Jordan 4. Marcus Holness 3. Joe Widdowson
11. Nicky Adams 8. Gary Jones 7. Jason Kennedy 26. Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro
9. Harry Bunn 39. David Ball
32. Danny Taberner (GK) 2. Stephen Darby 6. Brian Barry-Murphy 10. Ashley Grimes (71 mins for David Ball) 16. Andrew Tutte (90 mins for Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro)
Yeovil Town: (4-1-2-1-2)
1. Rene Gilmartin
15. Kerrea Gilbert 5. Paul Huntington 14. Max Ehmer 2. Luke Ayling
20. Paul Wotton
6. Dominic Blizzard 8. Edward Upson
37. Conor Clifford
21. Gavin Massey 29. Jonathan Obika
7. Andrew Williams (67 mins for Gavin Massey) 9. Steve MacLean 10. Gavin Williams (59 mins for Conor Clifford) 17. Alan O'Brien (87 mins for Jonathan Obika) 18. Kieran Agard
Rochdale Bookings: Harry Bunn (90 mins, foul)
Yeovil Bookings: Kerrea Gilbert (42 mins, foul). Red Card: Kerrea Gilbert (77 mins, serious foul play)
Referee: Chris Sarginson (Staffordshire). Assistants: Ian Hussin (Liverpool) and Paul Marsden (Lancashire). Fourth Official: Christopher Kavanagh (Lancashire).
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