Rochdale AFC reached the fourth round of the FA Cup after upsetting Championship side and two-time winners Nottingham Forest 1-0 at Spotland Stadium on Saturday.
Peter Vincenti’s early penalty was enough to secure Dale’s place in the hat for the next round, with many on social media quick to point out the role played by a number of Rochdale’s youth academy graduates in securing the victory.
Manager Keith Hill handed starts to four players who had progressed through the club’s youth system, with Callum Camps making his full senior debut in a youthful midfield alongside fellow teenagers Joel Logan and Jamie Allen.
Speaking to the BBC, assistant manager Chris Beech said: “There were six players in our squad who represented Rochdale in the FA Youth Cup three years ago and for them to play in the FA Cup made me and the management team immensely proud.
“Dare I say it, it’s almost a lower league ‘Class of ’92’. It’s unbelievable and I’m so pleased for them. It’s a great day for the football club.
“We didn’t look in too much danger but the Forest players are so talented, there was millions of pounds worth of talent out on that pitch, with a massive void in finance between the clubs and the standard they play at.”
In addition to Camps, Logan and Allen, fullbacks Scott Tanser, 20, and Joe Rafferty, 21, helped provide Hill’s side with a fresh-faced appearance.
Rochdale gave an accomplished performance against their high profile opponents, with the average age of their starting XI at just 23.
However, the inexperience did not show and the defeat of Stuart Pearce’s struggling outfit means Dale find themselves in round four of the competition for two consecutive years, having stunned Leeds United at this stage last season.
The squad is still suffering the effects of a virus that emerged over the Christmas period, with several first team players including Stephen Dawson and Ian Henderson absent.
However, when Rafferty was upended by Michail Antonio, forward Vincenti was on hand to slot home the penalty for his eleventh of the season.
The goal drew praise from the Jersey man’s former club Aldershot Town, who Rochdale beat in the second round of the competition.
— Aldershot Town FC (@OfficialShots) January 3, 2015
Matt Done and Allen had further chances to make the game safe but could not capitalise, while goalkeeper Josh Lillis was kept busy at the other end.
Despite a late bombardment of the home side’s goal, Forest were restricted to minimal clear-cut chances and Dale clung on for a hard-fought victory.
Tanser, who has impressed this season in securing a position at left back in Rochdale’s system, took to Twitter to share his delight at the result.
— Scott Tanser (@ScottTanser17) January 3, 2015
Speaking to the BBC directly after the match, Rochdale chairman Chris Dunphy said: “Fantastic! A great game of football and the win was thoroughly deserved. As the chairman most of the time it’s hard work but today’s the sort of game to enjoy.
“A few young players were out there and they all stepped up for the football club.
“It’s what we’re trying to do here, bring players through our academy. Because of illness and injuries we were down to the bare bones, but they all delivered.”
A lucrative fourth round tie is now on the cards, with the draw taking place on Monday night for the fixtures which will be held on the weekend of Jan 24. Rochdale will be ball number eight.
Hill’s men will be hopeful of continuing their march towards Wembley, although a league meeting away at Bradford City next weekend will bring feet firmly back to the ground as they return to the reality of League One.
Main image courtesy of Mark Stevenson via YouTube, with thanks.