Ten man Fleetwood Town somehow rescued a point against a strong Rochdale side as Saturday’s contest ended 2-2 at Highbury.
Ashley Eastham had given Town a first half lead, but Rochdale scored twice in five second half minutes to take the lead, before Cole leveled things up late on.
Substitute Wes Burns was dismissed midway through the second half for a tackle on Callum Camps – a controversial moment in the game.
Uwe Rosler made one change from last week’s fantastic win at Plymouth Argyle, with Aiden O’Neill replacing George Glendon in the starting line-up, who dropped to the bench. Conor McAleny returned to the match day squad after returning from injury picked up at Portsmouth last month.
Action was plentiful in the early exchanges at Highbury with Cole threatening with a cross deep into the penalty area, which just missed Kyle Dempsey on the edge of the area.
Both sides were playing good football in the centre of the park, and it was midfielder Camps who had the visitors first meaningful chance as he hit his volley straight at Alex Cairns in the Town goal.
Cole was next to go close as he got a head to Dempsey’s looping cross, but he could only head onto the roof of the net – an inch lower and Town would have been ahead with Josh Lillis beaten.
Fleetwood took a deserved lead before the half hour mark. O’Neill’s corner was turned in by Eastham from inside the six yard box with Rochdale failing to clear. It was Eastham’s second goal of the season, and one against his former side. It was the third consecutive game in which the Cod Army have taken the lead.
The hosts continued to pressure their opponents and were looking lively when O’Neill struck an effort just wide a few moments after the restart.
Town looked good for their lead but Rochdale were still having a go. Good defending from Amari’i Bell prevented Ian Henderson from threatening, before M.J Williams fired wide on the half volley.
At the other end, Dempsey’s free kick was well caught by Lillis after a Bolger header, which concluded a fine half of football for the Cod Army.
Rochdale began the second half well and were level just three minutes after the break. After Town failed to clear their lines, the ball eventually fell to Bradden Inman on the edge of the area whose deflected effort found a way past Cairns.
With Rochdale level, they found themselves on the front foot, and in a five minute spell found themselves ahead. After breaking on the left, Rochdale’s Joe Bunney crossed for striker Ian Henderson, whose diving header sailed into the back of the net.
It was a disappointing start to the second half, but with over half an hour of the game remaining, Fleetwood were by no means out of it.
Rosler introduced Burns and Ashley Hunter into the fray and Town felt they should have had a penalty shortly after their arrivals, as the latter was bundled over in the area, but the referee waved away remonstrations.
Burns’ appearance was to be cut short when the referee showed him a red card for a challenge on Bunney near the touchline. It was a 50-50 challenge and extremely harsh on the striker.
All this did was fire Town into life, who were desperate for an equalising goal. Hunter had looked lively since his arrival to the field and was causing problems for Rochdale in the final third.
With ten minutes left to find a goal, McAleny made his return to the side, taking the place of Captain Nathan Pond.
Having been kept at bay in the second half, Town eventually did find that goal. After smart work down the right hand side by Hunter, he played the perfect cross into the six yard box and it was bundled in by Cole to restore parity.
Fleetwood were hungry for a winner and the home crowd were soon vocally behind their boys as the match closed in on 90 minutes. Rochdale had produced little since their second goal, but Cairns was forced into a low save from Jordan Williams.
Hunter and McAleny both tried late on to win it for the hosts, but Town had to settle for a draw in this one.
Fleetwood XI: Cairns (GK), Coyle, Bell, O’Neill, Eastham, Pond © (McAleny), Hiwula (Burns), Dempsey, Grant (Hunter), Bolger, Cole.
Subs not used: Neal (GK), Glendon, Schwabl, Cargill.
Rochdale XI: Lillis (GK), McNulty, McGahey, Andrew, Camps, MJ Williams, Done (J Williams), Inman, Daniels (Rafferty), Bunney, Henderson ©.
Subs not used: Moore (GK), Nthle, Slew, Rathbone, Davies.
Referee: J Brooks
Attendance: 3260 (628 away)