|Rotherham United 0 v 1 Rochdale|
Saturday, 7th December 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Match Report: Rotherham 0-1 Dale
Sunday, 8th Dec 2019 13:46 by AtThePeake
A weight was lifted off Dale shoulders on Saturday afternoon as a stunning strike from Aaron Morley handed Brian Barry Murphy's men all three points away at Rotherham.
Once again, the manager's hands were tied somewhat in terms of team selection with as many as nine injuries plaguing the squad, with once again all six outfield bench players perhaps being more suited to youth team football at this stage of their career.
And with five consecutive league defeats before this trip to South Yorkshire and a disappointing goalless draw with sixth-tier Boston United in the FA Cup last weekend no doubt affecting morale, few could've envisaged a win for Dale in this game.
Dale had the first real attempt of the game, with Jimmy Keohane's shot blocked inside the box, but Rotherham should have taken the lead just a few minutes later.
Joe Mattock's cross was met by the head of Matt Crooks inside the six yard box but bounced back off the upright. A last ditch tackle from Eoghan O'Connell managed to divert the rebound away from the lurking Chiedozie Ogbene before Ben Wiles' strike was parried away by Sanchez.
Ogbene and his strike partner Freddie Ladapo were causing us problems with a couple of attempts on goal and the hosts have a goal correctly ruled out for offside, but Dale stayed in the game and looked threatening from a couple of set pieces in this first half.
The Millers two best chances in this spell came just before Dale opened the scoring. A shot from Ogbene from the right hand side of the box forced Sanchez into a low stop before Carlton Morris headed well over the bar from a deep cross when he should perhaps have done better.
But a few moments later Dale advanced down the right and Matheson rolled a ball inside to Camps, who dummied to allow the ball to run to Morley. The 19 year old wrapped his foot around the ball to curl it into the top corner from all of 20 yards for his third goal of the season.
With the goal coming just before the half-time whistle, the second half was always likely to follow a familiar pattern. The visiting Dale side would be forced back by a play-off chasing opponent looking to turn the deficit around and this is pretty much how the game played out, with the likes of Matt Done and Ian Henderson looking to cause a threat on the counter-attack.
The Millers had chances without ever really giving us any heart-in-mouth moments. Crooks had a low shot travel wide of Sanchez's left post, Ogbene had a header well-saved and substitute Jake Hastie curled a disappointing effort straight into the hands of Sanchez after some great skill cutting in from the left hand side.
As the hosts continued to probe, Dale's defence continued to hold out. Substitutes were made, penalties were called for, but always the visitors backline held strong, particularly Eoghan O'Connell who appeared to rise high time and again to clear from increasingly desperate balls into the box.
Throughout this spell though, Dale did keep the Rotherham defence on their toes - particularly Matt Done who enjoyed a much improved performance in this game and almost opened his account for the season in the league but his powerful shot after some quick feet flashed just wide of the post.
The introduction of young Kwadwo Baah only helped Dale in their attempts to keep the ball higher up the pitch and he did well to win a foul out of Crooks. Camps' effort from the resulting free-kick certainly gave keeper Daniel Iversen plenty to think about but the Leicester loanee was able to palm it over the bar.
As to be expected with such a shock win on the cards the last few minutes were slightly nervy, with a litany of set pieces and long balls into the box, but the Dale defence stood firm to pick up a vital three points on the road and extend their winning run at the New York Stadium to four wins from four games.
I don't think we can understate the importance of this win. Rotherham, under Paul Warne, are always going to be one of the better teams in League One with the players and set-up that they have so to put in a vintage away performance at a time when we seemed to be down on luck and confidence is really encouraging ahead of a busy and important few weeks.
Oh what fun it is to see the Dale win away!
Robert Sanchez - 8. When O'Connell wasn't on hand to head away then Sanchez was there and dominated his area brilliantly. Didn't have to make any outstanding saves but dealt with all of their efforts comfortably.
Luke Matheson - 6. Was sometimes doubled up on down Rotherham's left and at times, understandably, struggled to cope. His effectiveness going forward was somewhat limited by the way the game played out with us sitting deeper to protect the lead.
Eoghan O'Connell - 9. The signing of this man is by far the best piece of business the club have done in quite some time in my opinion. Seemed to be in the right place at the right time on every occasion the ball came into the Dale box. Absolutely key to this victory and the rest of our season.
Rhys Norrington-Davies - 8. Fully justified BBM's controversial decision to play him at centre-back rather than Keohane over the last few weeks. Has the pace and strength to play this role effectively against dangerous opponents and was terrific in his reading of the game throughout.
Jimmy Keohane - 6. Much like Matheson, sometimes struggled to cope with Rotherham's quick wing play and was unable to really get forward through no fault of his own. Did enough.
Jimmy Ryan - 7. A competent display without doing anything particularly eye-catching. Kept possession ticking over when we did have it, if he can work his way back to full fitness he can still turn himself into an important player for us.
Aaron Morley - 8. Scored a stunning goal and did well in possession with some impressive passes out to the wide areas. I know I have been saying it nearly every week and it's less relevant in a game like this where we were trying to protect a lead but we have seen what he can do going forward, he has to play higher up the pitch - particularly when we're at home.
Callum Camps - 7. Unlucky with the free-kick at the end and often provided an effective out-ball for the two deeper lying central midfielders when under pressure. A better performance after a few quiet weeks.
Matt Done - 7. His best performance this season for me - I think he lives for these games when we're sitting back and trying to counter-attack so he can run and press and harry. More of this please Doney!
Rekeil Pyke - 5. There is absolutely zero conviction to anything he does at the moment. Surely only still in the starting eleven due to the injury crisis we're struggling with at the moment.
Ian Henderson - 6. Didn't really get as involved as we would've liked but his presence is always absolutely pivotal in games like this. Hopefully we can start getting him more service as the rest of the season progresses.
Photo: Action Images
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