|Rochdale 2 v 0 MK Dons|
SkyBet League One
Tuesday, 22nd October 2019 Kick-off 19:45
Match Report: Dale 2-0 Milton Keynes
Wednesday, 23rd Oct 2019 02:26
Dale made it three wins from three to rise into the top half of the League One table on Tuesday night with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Milton Keynes.
Well that table is starting to look more and more agreeable as Dale's third win in 10 days takes them to 11th place and just three points from the play-offs as we edge towards the winter months.
Matt Done gave Dale the lead in just the third minute by deflecting in Callum Camps' fierce shot before a second half header from Ian Henderson wrapped up the points in a dominant display.
That blistering start came so early that this moderator had only just managed to make it to his seat, almost missing kick-off thanks to Northern Rail for the second time in a matter of days, although thankfully this time the back-up plan taxi ride was shorter, cheaper, and didn't involve missing the first 20 minutes.
A deep, deep corner from Aaron Morley was struck sweetly by Callum Camps on the volley and took a nick from the lurking Matt Done on it's way into the goal and almost immediately Dale had a lead to protect.
To say that Dale dominated from here on out would be disingenuous as although MK showed little in the way of drive or ingenuity, they did fashion the odd chance and they were almost level straight away only for Jordan Bowery to head over.
Done had a glaring chance for his second a few moments after as he raced onto a phenomenal through ball from MJ Williams, cutting back and placing the ball over the advancing Nicholls, but the ball sailed over the bar when really it should have been 2-0.
The 31 year old had the next big chance too, but failed to connect on Rhys Norrington-Davies' cross. The Welsh U21 international then went close himself with a long range effort that looked a lot closer from my angle in the Main Stand than it probably was in reality.
Callum Brittain had the best chance of the first half, and indeed probably the game, for the visitors, and though his tame volley had enough to beat Jay Lynch, Eoghan O'Connell was on hand to clear off the line for Dale.
MK's best spell of the game came in the 15 minutes before half-time, but it was still Rochdale who came closest in this time as a quick breakaway saw Norrington-Davies lay the ball off to MJ, who was desperately unlucky to see his fine effort cannon back off the upright.
The introduction of Ben Reeves for the visitors at half-time brought back some bad memories of him changing games from the bench against us in the past but it wasn't to be for the Franchise in the second half as they struggled to find a route back into the game.
Some fine build-up play in the early stages of the second-half lacked a finishing touch from the hosts, but it wasn't long before the captain popped up to make it two.
An in-swinging corner from Morley beat the visitors' backline all ends up and was nodded in by the waiting Henderson from around six yards out with Nicholls again out of position. 60 minutes gone, 2-0 and Dale in cruise control.
Rathbone came close a few minutes later, blasting a long-range strike just wide, whilst Tavares had a great chance to make it three as he raced on to a clever Henderson flick but his connection was far from sweet and the ball spun over the top.
MK may well have been trying to find a route back into the game, but it certainly didn't feel like it as they struggled for any sort of possession or creativity, with their only two real chances in the second half falling to Brittain, who volleyed wide, and substitute Kieran Agard, who couldn't direct his header goalward.
Dale had one more chance of their own in the closing stages, Tavares playing a lovely ball wide to Andrew, who saw his cross headed wide by Camps, but it wasn't to matter as by that point the boys had done enough to secure the three points and a third consecutive win
Tactically, I felt a few tweaks were made ahead of this game that really helped Dale to get the ball forward slightly quicker from the midfield.
Whilst we kept the ball patiently at the back, both Morley and Williams appeared to have been encouraged to look forward for the switch pass more often, complimented by the willingness of both Keohane and Norrington-Davies to progress down the flanks a bit quicker.
Defensively, McShane's decision-making and organisational skills are an upgrade on McNulty and it's no coincidence that these three victories have come since his arrival.
I still feel we need more options in attack. A front three of Wilbraham, Tavares and Andrew finished the match and that won't exactly strike fear in any opponents if we're looking for ways to change games from the bench, even if we do have injuries at the moment.
But all in all, there's little to complain about at the minute and confidence will be high among the squad as we head into a tougher run of fixtures, starting with a trip to fifth-placed Oxford United this coming Saturday.
Our Player Ratings:
Jay Lynch: 6. To be honest he didn't really have anything to do. MK created a few decent chances here and there but when they did find some space they failed to get their efforts on target, which to an easy home league debut for the 26 year old.
Jimmy Keohane: 6. Got up the pitch in support well but struggled to make any impact with the ball and mis-controlled some of the more ambitious cross-field passes from Morley and Williams. Had little to do defensively.
Eoghan O'Connell: 7. Quickly becoming one of the best signings we have made in recent years. So solid at the back and made a fine goal-line clearance - some of his long forward passes were a little wayward, but when they land they can be a real threat
Paul McShane: 7. More of the same from McShane. His experience is proving to be massively beneficial to this defence and his ability to know when to take risks and when to simply clear the danger is reassuring.
Rhys Norrington-Davies: 8. Seemed really up for this one and aside from 5 minutes before half-time where he made some panicky decisions in and around our box, showed real application and played terrifically well in both attack and defence.
MJ Williams: 6. A slightly better performance from MJ after a rather flat showing at Bolton over the weekend. The pass to Done in the first half was stunning, but his overall contribution was limited to one or two stand-out moments.
Ollie Rathbone: 8. Like the Duracell bunny. Another all-action display from Rathbone. He might be our most consistent player now. Unlucky not to score but his energy and commitment was key once again.
Aaron Morley: 8. One of his better performances in a Dale shirt. Very rarely loses the ball and is capable of making some stunning long-range passes. Both of the goals came from his corner-taking too.
Callum Camps: 7. Made some confident flick-ons and is clearly revelling in the freedom he has been offered by Brian Barry-Murphy so far this season. If he keeps trying things, he'll keep making things happen. He may not be our most consistently productive performer, but he may be our most inspirational.
Ian Henderson: 7. Some good, experienced, old-fashioned forward play made it a difficult night for the MK defenders. Edged ever closer to those scoring records. (P.S. Marry me Hendo).
Matt Done: 5. The opening goal may have been credited to him but he needs a proper goal for his confidence. Lacking in sharpness and should have done better with those two chances in the first half.
Fabio Tavares: 6
Aaron Wilbraham: N/A
Calvin Andrew: N/A
Sponsors' MOTM: Ollie Rathbone
Photo: Action Images
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