Illness decimates Rochdale squad as Hill’s men secure FA Cup replay against Aldershot

Rochdale AFC’s FA Cup dream continues after Keith Hill’s side earned a 0-0 draw against Aldershot Town, despite the squad being ravaged by illness before Sunday’s fixture.

Hill could only name five players on the bench for the second round tie, with three members of his team succumbing to a virus the evening prior to the game.

Undermanned Dale were comfortable for large periods of the encounter against their Vanarama Conference opposition, although goalkeeper Conrad Logan was required to make a crucial late save to ensure a replay.

Speaking to BBC Radio Manchester, Hill said: “We left four members of staff/players at home because of a virus and we lost three overnight who travelled with us so subsequently we’ve changed the side and obviously we only had five on the bench.

“The illness affects the whole group. We’ve tried to quarantine groups of players but we haven’t managed to do it and there still might be more [illnesses] to come.

“It’s been testing but at the end of the day we’re still in the FA Cup.”

Michael Rose was employed at right back while striker Calvin Andrew was given a start as manager Hill shuffled what remained of his pack, with Olly Lancashire and long-term absentee Peter Vincenti also returning.

Before the game started both teams came together for photographs in a show of solidarity which was mirrored at grounds around the country, with the football community remembering the 1914 Christmas truce.

Once underway, Aldershot spurned the best opportunities to score with Dan Holman missing two first-half chances.

Shots striker Brett Williams was then also denied twice by Logan in the Rochdale goal as the hosts pushed for a late winner.

Hill was pleased with the majority of his side’s performance, but acknowledged that the Conference outfit finished the stronger of the two teams.

“I think a draw was a fair result. There’s no question that Aldershot in the last ten minutes of the game could have scored, but if we take the whole 90 minutes in its entirety I think we were more than comfortable,” he said.

“The last ten minutes we were under severe pressure and our goalkeeper stood up and made sure we’re through to the next round, albeit we’ve got to play a replay.”

The result means another fixture will be added to an already cluttered festive period, with Aldershot travelling up to Spotland Stadium on Tuesday, December 16.

Rochdale are no strangers to the requirements of a replay, having squeezed past Northampton Town by the same manner in the previous round.

However, before Dale take on Andy Scott’s Shots for the second time they have to deal with a difficult League One encounter away at Colchester United.

Hill will be hoping that his players can weather the virus that is currently sweeping through the squad before this clash, but will be encouraged by the return of key personnel who have been missing in recent weeks.

Rangy forward Vincenti was making his first appearance since mid-October having recovered from a serious knee injury, and manager Hill was pleased to have one of his main attacking outlets back on the pitch.

“He’s superb. I’m over the moon. I wanted to leave myself in a situation where he would only play 60 minutes but because of the casualties we’ve had I couldn’t even get to that,” Hill said.

“The good thing about Peter is he will get better and better, stronger and stronger, and we have to play him, stick with him, and give him opportunities to increase his match fitness again.”

Top scorer Matty Done is also due to return having served a three match ban for his dismissal against Doncaster Rovers last month as Hill’s squad begins to take shape again after a punishing November.

The draw for the third round of the FA Cup takes place on Monday night, with Rochdale and Aldershot represented by ball number 64.

Main image courtesy of Official Rochdale AFC via YouTube, with thanks.

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