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Rochdale 2 v 2 Gillingham
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 25th January 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Match Report: Dale 2-2 Gillingham
Sunday, 26th Jan 2020 02:48 by AtThePeake

Dale earned a valuable point in their fight for survival on Saturday afternoon after a thrilling 2-2 draw with Gillingham at Spotland.

After an Ian Henderson penalty gave Dale the lead, goals from Jordan Roberts either side of half-time had seemingly turned the game around for the Gills, but a wonderful equaliser from Stephen Dooley earned the hosts a well-deserved point.

Brian Barry-Murphy's men certainly made the better start but both teams struggled to create chances in the opening stages aside from a couple of speculative attempts from MJ Williams and Jimmy Ryan which were both blocked by Gillingham defenders.

The game finally came to life on 27 minutes however when Dale were handed a penalty. A fine lofted through-ball from Ryan found Rhys Norrington-Davies on the left, who was flattened by the onrushing Gills keeper Jack Bonham as his first time lobbed attempt bounced off the crossbar.

So, up stepped Ian Henderson to convert with trademark coolness to take another step closer to becoming the club's all-time leading goalscorer. 1-0 to Dale.

It took less than five minutes for the visitors to equalise however. Clearly favouring Steve Evans' rather agricultural approach to the game, the Gills appeared to be playing in a direct style and with the likes of John Akinde and Max Ehmer in the squad - plus Connor Ogilvie with his long-throws, they were always going to be a threat from set-pieces.

After a free-kick from Olly Lee was deflected out for a corner, the former Birmingham midfielder whipped a dangerous corner into the six-yard box where Ipswich loanee Jordan Roberts was on hand to power in a headed equaliser with Lynch crowded out in the goal.

Before the break it was the visitors who looked most likely to take the lead, with a couple of dangerous crosses troubling Lynch - the ex-Fylde keeper choosing to punch one away whilst watching Akinde head another well wide.

It was Dale who had the best chance of the final moments of the half though. Another raking ball from Ryan found the advancing Norrington-Davies, who recovered well after mis-controlling to find Jimmy Keohane only for the Irishman to fire a powerful drive just wide of Bonham's right post.

Gills started the second half with a rare bit of sustained possession but Dale had the first real chance of the half. Again it was Norrington-Davies finding space down the left after some neat passing in the midfield - but his low cross was turned over by Tyler Smith from inside the box.

It was Gillingham who eventually took the lead though and again it came from a set-piece. Akinde managed to knock down one of Ogilvie's long throws from the left hand side and Roberts was on hand to react to the bouncing ball to slam home his second of the game and put the visitors ahead.

Much like Dale's lead earlier however, Gills' didn't last long. Just moments after being introduced from the bench, Aaron Wilbraham was on hand to knock down a long ball which was cleverly dummied by Henderson for the onrushing Dooley.

Clearly unaffected by the rather poor performance he had been enduring up until the point, the Irishman steadied himself and struck a wonderful first-time effort with his right foot which arrowed into the top corner for 2-2.

With the away side always a threat from their set-pieces, Dale took control of the possession again at this stage and almost went ahead just four minutes after the equaliser, as Wilbraham used his strength to hold off Ehmer and dink in a cross which was headed off the line by Stuart O'Keefe.

The tempo at this stage was electric with both teams looking to snatch the winner. Next to go close was Roberts, searching for his hat-trick, who latched onto a wayward Dooley pass in midfield and drove towards the Dale goal only to see his low strike dragged just wide from around 25 yards.

Referee Paul Marsden's inconsistent calling appeared to have favoured the visitors throughout the game and he was the subject of more of the Dale fans' ire as he failed to miss an obvious push by Ogilvie on Wilbraham who looked all set to head home from a Henderson cross.

A spell of Dale pressure which resulted in Norrington-Davies and Matt Done coming close from range was responded to by Gillingham as Brandon Hanlan's effort was blocked away by O'Connell who also did well to deal with a few more dangerous balls into the box from Lee.

There was another penalty shout for Dale in the final minute of normal time as Henderson managed to get goal-side of Alfie Jones on the edge of the area with options to aim for in the box. The Dale skipper went down - but Marsden waved play on.

The final last-ditch attempt for Dale came through the bright Done, who turned on a sixpence in the centre-circle before launching a speculative effort at goal which certainly had Bonham scrambling and almost gifted the Spotland faithful the most dramatic of endings to a highly entertaining encounter, only for the ball to sail just over the crossbar to end the game at 2-2.

Player Ratings:

Jay Lynch: 5 - There's not much Lynch can do about his size - but you can't help but feel that Gillingham's main threat from balls into the box would've been neutralised by the more dominant Sanchez.

Luke Matheson: 7 - Another strong, energetic display from Luke. He got down the right hand side well a few times to link up with Hendo and Keohane and kept finding space down the flank in the second half.

Eoghan O'Connell: 8 - Not sure where we would be without this man this season. His touch is so good that if he was slightly more mobile he would make a pretty impressive attacking midfielder, but he's doing a fine job at centre-half right now.

Paul McShane: 6 - Would've hoped for us to look slightly less shaky from set pieces with his experience back in at the back but that said, he dealt very well with the aerial threat of Akinde in open play.

Rhys Norrington-Davies: 8 - Sponsors' Man of the Match and with good reason. Defended well for the most part and created quite a few chances, including winning the penalty, through his driving forward runs on the left. He's got a successful career ahead of him at a higher level than this.

Jimmy Keohane: 7 - Keohane has earned the opportunity to play in a slightly more natural role after filling in at the back for so long and he performed well today. I get the feeling that he carries out BBM's instructions better than anyone else in the squad.

MJ Williams: 5 - I understand that it's the manager's choice to have him slotting in between the centre-backs to distribute the ball - but it isn't the manager's choice to have him be quite so cumbersome with it.

Jimmy Ryan: 7 - His performances of late have been much improved and this was another strong showing. The wayward passes are few and far between now and he even looks like he might be a goal threat when he gets within shooting range.

Stephen Dooley: 4 - Never before have I seen a player perform quite so badly, misplace passes so often, get shrugged off the ball so many times... and score such a brilliant goal! Couldn't believe he was still on the pitch at that point.

Tyler Smith: 5 - A pretty anonymous debut from the Sheffield United loanee. Starved of service, yes, but did blaze his one chance way over the bar from inside the box after arguably our best move of the game.

Ian Henderson: 7 - One of Hendo's better performances in recent weeks for me. Caused the Gillingham centre-backs tonnes of problems and always looked dangerous in and around the box. Scored the penalty too of course.

Photo: Action Images

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