WANDERERS (4-2-3-1) Lonergan; McNaughton, Mills, Ream, Moxey; Spearing, Medo; Danns, Feeney, Hall; Beckford.
Subs: Fitzsimons, Sellers (for Moxey 82), Threlkeld (for Feeney 87), Bolger, Wilkinson (for Medo 72), C Davies (for Beckford 72), Riley (for McNaughton 79), Dervite, Vela (for Hall 66).
WANDERERS continue to look well short of the finished article but showed enough to get the job done comfortably at Spotland last night.
Goals from Neil Danns and Conor Wilkinson gave them a second pre-season win against a Rochdale side still bubbling from last season’s promotion to League One.
Freedman had pledged to start narrowing down his options and the team announced at Spotland was not far off his strongest available.
The problem for the Whites boss appears to be that with the futures of some of his biggest names in a state of flux, no-one can yet guarantee what pool of players he will have at his disposal when the real business starts at Watford on August 9.
Three or four names stood out in their absence once again, however, and while Liam Trotter and David Wheater’s spell on the sidelines this summer has been explained away as injury-related, there is a sight more conspiracy about Adam Bogdan and Mark Davies.
Both players have been strongly linked with moves elsewhere this summer and in Bogdan’s case, talk of an extended contract has been shelved while the club and the player weigh up their options.
Davies seems to have existed in a perpetual state of speculation for the last few years despite his run of injury problems – but his lack of action in pre-season has given some onlookers reason to believe he is gearing towards a move elsewhere.
Chung-Yong Lee is another name who has not yet graced a pre-season team sheet, and another player who is no stranger to the transfer gossip columns.
The winger was married back home in Seoul after the World Cup, so his absence can be excused, but another who you would perhaps expect to be in the starting line-up at Vicarage Road.
The side he did name looked balanced, with Liam Feeney and Rob Hall either side of Jermaine Beckford up front and full-backs Kevin McNaughton and Dean Moxey offering back-up.
Unfortunately, it is also lacking in serious goalscoring clout.
Danns’ sublime opening goal aside, it was a rather frustrating first half for Wanderers, whose attacking football seemed to happen in coughs and splutters as opposed to any genuine fluency.
Beckford was having one of those days.
He got two clear sights of goal in the opening 45 minutes, finding his route blocked by keeper Jonathan Diba Musangu in the first instance and then stabbing tamely wide from close range with the second.
That clinical edge Freedman rued so often last season has shown no signs of sharpening, leaving a huge amount of responsibility on the man he worked so hard to sign from Leicester City last summer.
He has yet to win over many Wanderers fans, especially in the lone central role he found himself in at Spotland last night. But you had to feel for last season’s top scorer at times because of the quality of service around him.
Behind Beckford, the Whites’ inability to control the game in the first half will perhaps have concerned Freedman a little.
Danns broke the deadlock with a smart finish, swivelling to turn in the box and place his shot into the bottom corner.
But hopes that the goal would signal a spell of superiority for Freedman’s side were shortlived.
Dale looked a yard sharper for much of the opening hour – and were unlucky to be behind at the break.
Captain Ashley Eastham headed a golden chance wide from close range, while the lively Peter Vicenti tested Andy Lonergan on a couple of occasions.
Neither Jay Spearing nor Medo Kamara had really managed to get hold of the ball and draw Rochdale out to create gaps for Beckford, Hall, Feeney and Co to exploit.
But things improved in the second half – Danns racing on to a fine through ball by Feeney only to cut his cross behind the on-rushing Beckford.
Medo also had a shot that clipped off Eastham and just over the bar.
The level of control Freedman was looking for did not materialise until the last 15 minutes when he switched to a 4-4-2 with Conor Wilkinson and Craig Davies up front in an effort to keep the ball further up the field.
Within a few minutes his switch had paid dividends.
McNaughton won a second ball on the edge of the box, allowing Wilkinson to turn his man and swing a lazy shot into the bottom corner past the despairing dive of Musangu.
The home keeper was much busier in the final 10 minutes – making a good low save from Joe Riley and then another close-range block from Craig Davies.
Dale probably deserved a goal and should have had one when a mysterious trialist emerged from the bench to head wide from close range in the dying minutes.