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Rochdale 1 v 2 Bristol Rovers
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 2nd November 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Match Report: Dale 1-2 Bristol Rovers
Sunday, 3rd Nov 2019 12:15 by AtThePeake

A frustrating afternoon saw Dale fail to mount a successful comeback against a Bristol Rovers side that raced into an early lead at Spotland.

In the driving Northern rain, the Gas raced out of the blocks early on, clearly looking for a reaction after picking up just one point in their last three games in a run that saw them become the first team to lose to Bolton Wanderers this season.

With Liam Sercombe looking dangerous on the right, the visitors looked set to take advantage of a sluggish Dale and they did exactly that, taking the lead with just eight minutes on the clock.

A deep corner was nodded back across goal by Tony Craig and Barnsley loanee Victor Adeboyejo to turn the ball into the net from inside the six yard box.

Just three minutes later and Dale's afternoon went from bad to worse as another dangerous delivery from Michael Kelly was deflected into the net by the right foot of a desperately lunging O'Connell.

A flat opening few minutes from the Dale side had been punished and with the rain teeming down, the atmosphere essentially non-existent and the disappointment of the morning's Rugby World Cup Final result settling in, we were set for a rather miserable afternoon.

With the shock of these two early goals clearly hitting Dale hard, it took them some time to get a grasp on the game. With Gas clearly looking to sit on their lead somewhat (the time-wasting started as quickly as Dale's did whenever we took the lead towards the back end of last season), we were always going to have the majority of play from here on out.

The issue in the first half seemed to be that we had no idea what to do with it. A slightly altered shape saw both Morley and MJ slotting into the full-back positions to allow the full-backs Matheson and Norrington-Davies to stream forward - but this left a big gap between the backline and the more attacking midfield players like Matt Done and Callum Camps.

As such, Dale lacked some penetration and only really made themselves one chance in this time, with Hendo seeing a curling left-footed effort parried away by Anssi Jaakkola in the Bristol Rovers goal.

Any momentum we were gathering, in possession terms at least, was slowed down by a long stoppage about 35 minutes in that saw the lino replaced by the fourth-official, presumably due to injury.

Dale finally managed to claw their way back into the game just before half-time with a delightful goal though. Matheson's cross from the right was cushioned into the path of Camps by Rathbone and the Dale no.10 drilled home on the half-volley just before the half-time whistle.

As you'd expect, Dale continued to dominate play in the second half and as time wore on created more and more chances. Having come on for MJ just moments before, Rekeil Pyke almost marked his return from injury with a goal only for his powerful shot to be held by Jaakkola.

It just seemed that we were lacking that clinical touch. A few good breaks into the box were ruined by poor decisions, particularly on one occasion where Hendo seemed all set to cut back onto his right foot after racing clear of the defence, only to play a poor cross towards Rathbone that was easily cut out.

Up until this point, I actually thought the referee had been having a decent game but for me the two penalty appeals he turned down in quick succession were dreadful decisions - although admittedly, I am biased!

First, McShane appeared to be wrestled to the ground when trying to attack a corner and just moments later a Rathbone strike seemed to me to have been very clearly handled (purposefully) by Rovers midfielder Ogogo.

Alas, the referee waved both claims away, perhaps getting confused between sports after watching the morning's final in Japan and thinking handling the ball and wrestling opponents to the ground were within the laws of the game.

The closest Dale came to actually finding the equaliser came just moments later when Matheson's low cross was diverted towards goal by Hendo but Jaakkola was equal to him once again, and would be one more time when he parried another curling effort round the post on 80 minutes.

Worryingly, both Ollie Rathbone and Rhys Norrington-Davies seemed to suffer quite bad injuries in these final minutes as Rovers became understandably physical in their approach to seeing the game out.

Tavares and Pyke came off the bench to little effect again highlighting the lack of depth in this squad. When Pyke is fully fit I am certain he will start over Done, but looking at options off the bench in this case - are an out-of-form Done, an inexperienced Tavares and a pretty useless Calvin Andrew going to help us win points from losing positions and change games from the bench this season? No. This needs to be addressed in January.

An ambitious effort from Tavares and a blocked header from McShane were Dale's last two chances but in the end they couldn't find a breakthrough to Rovers' resistance and lost out on the points in a crucial home fixture.

Given the rather fortuitous win we managed at the Memorial Stadium towards the back-end of last season, if there's one side I actually don't begrudge a lucky away win at Scotland this season it's the Gas - but we need to put in a better performance than this is we're to pick anything up against second-placed Ipswich Town on Tuesday night.

Player Ratings:

Jay Lynch: 5 - Should have been more commanding on the first goal. Nothing he could do about the second and had very little to do after that but still miskicked some of his clearances into the stands.

Luke Matheson: 6 - Looked better going forward than he did defensively. Would certainly rather have him in the team than Keohane right now. His pace gets him out of trouble quite often when his inexperience sees him out of position.

Paul McShane: 7 - Kept looking to play passes forward into the midfield rather than backwards or sidewards as some of the other defenders did. Defended well and was unlucky to not win a penalty or score when coming up for set pieces in the second half.

Eoghan O'Connell: 6 - Actually recovered played really well for 75 minutes after a nightmarish start. Can't give anyone who scores an own goal more than a six though, one of my unwritten rules (that's now been written I guess).

Rhys Norrington-Davies: 6 - Got forward quite well and put in some dangerous deliveries but didn't always look his most comfortable defensively.

MJ Williams: 5 - Poor display from MJ, although I do think that was partly down to BBM's tactic to have him dropping into wider, defensive positions rather than between the central defenders. Needs to get that sharpness back.

Aaron Morley: 6 - Again, suffered due to the tactic of dropping in deeper to allow the full-backs to roam forward, but I love watching him play passes both short and long. Reminds me at times of when Jamie Allen was at the peak of his powers.

Ollie Rathbone: 6 - Always energetic and always has quality on the ball but nothing really worked for him in this one unfortunately. If that injury is as painful as it looked, then he could be a real loss in the coming weeks.

Matt Done: 4 - Get him out of the team Brian.

Callum Camps: 6 - Got himself on the scoresheet once again but looked a little lost with less support from the deeper-lying Morley and MJ. I think this rating says a bit about how my expectations have increased with Camps again this season though which is definitely a good thing.

Ian Henderson: 6 - By no means Hendo's best performance but he did trouble the Gas net more than anyone else and produced three good saves from Jaakkola. Needs more support earlier in games.

Attendance: 3,038

Sponsors MOTM: Paul McShane

Photo: Action Images

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