Fleetwood Town’s Under 18s suffered a 1-0 defeat to Rochdale in the first group game of the EFL Youth Alliance Cup on Saturday.
Rochdale striker Fabio Tavares scored the only goal of the match to inflict a first defeat of the season for Town, after picking up four points from their opening two league matches.
Coach Simon Wiles made just one change to the side that beat Blackpool Under 18s 2-0 at Poolfoot Farm last weekend, with midfielder Katlego Mashigo coming into the starting 11, replacing Greg McCarragher.
Town were looking to make it two wins in a row, and produced a brilliant passing move in the early minutes. Midfielder Anthony Williams squared the ball to Jay Matete, who flicked it on to Shayden Morris, and he knocked the ball past his man on the byline, but the assistant referee deemed it to have gone out of play.
Sam O’Halleron, who scored both goals in the win over Blackpool last weekend, had Town’s first clear-cut chance of the match. Liam Goldsborough crossed the ball in from the right, and O’Halleron guided the ball towards goal, but it was well saved by Rochdale goalkeeper Brad Wade.
Rochdale almost took the lead in the 19th minute when right-back Luke Matheson hit a clever ball into the channel towards striker Musambya Kisimba, who cut back onto his left foot and hit a low shot towards the near post, but it was well saved by Town goalkeeper Alex Clayton.
The home side pushed forward when a quick counter-attack led to Lewis Bradley finding Matheson in the box, and Clayton was again on hand to make the save.
Fleetwood then had a good opportunity when Lewis Cooke, who was playing in a more advanced role on the right-wing, crossed in the ball from a corner, but captain James Hill was unable to find the target with his header.
Cooke then went close himself when he picked the ball up on the edge of the box, turned his marker and hit a low shot towards goal, but it went just wide of Wade’s left post.
Rochdale again threatened to break the deadlock with another dangerous counter-attack. Wade’s long ball found Tavares, who squared it to Bradley, but his effort was straight at Clayton. After producing a brilliant display against Blackpool last weekend, it was proving to be another solid performance from Town goalkeeper Clayton.
Both sides pushed for the opening goal as half time approached, with Matete almost getting on the end of Ryan Rydel’s cross for Town. Bradley then went close from range for Rochdale, and Florent Hoti almost got on the end of Tavares’ cross, but it finished goalless after 45 minutes.
Rochdale had a bright start to the second half as Matheson, who was impressive throughout the match at right-back, burst forward, and the resulting cross by Dunne just evaded Tavares in the box.
However, it didn't take long for Tavares to get his goal. In the 50th minute, the Rochdale striker latched onto Hoti’s clever reverse through ball, and he lofted a powerful effort past Clayton to give the home side the lead.
Rochdale continued to press in the attacking third when Matheson again found Dunne out wide, his cross found Hoti, whose effort was diverted for a corner. From the resulting cross, Tavares found space just six yards out, but he failed to capitalise as his header went over the bar.
Town almost had an equaliser through Cooke, who intercepted the ball from the Rochdale defence 25 yards from goal, dribbled past two defenders and hit a powerful strike that went just over the crossbar.
Town central midfielder Mashigo then played it out to Goldsborough, he crossed the ball into the box, but Cooke wasn't able to get on the end of it at the back post.
Fleetwood almost found the net in the 81st minute when Goldsborough, who provided a constant attacking threat from full-back, crossed the ball in, but it was cleared from danger by Rochdale forward Kisimba. The resulting corner found Cooke on the edge of the box, but his effort was well blocked.
Town continued to apply the pressure late on in the game as Matete found space in the box, and his effort was fired over from close range. In added time, Matete had another big chance, but he sliced his effort wide of Wade’s goal.
In the last minute of the match, Town had a glorious opportunity to find an equalising goal. Metete crossed in the free-kick and the ball found its way to the feet of Williams, but it wasn't meant to be as his effort went just over the bar.
Town were left to pay for their missed opportunities as the referee blew for full-time to confirm a 1-0 win for Rochdale, on what was a frustrating afternoon for the Cod Army.