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Lincoln City 1 v 2 Rochdale
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 13th March 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Match Report: Lincoln 1-2 Rochdale
Saturday, 13th Mar 2021 17:15 by AtThePeake

In a remarkable, backs to the wall performance, Rochdale earned themselves a magnificent 1-2 away win over promotion-chasing Lincoln City.

After Ollie Rathbone's first-half strike was cancelled out by a wonderful solo effort from Morgan Rogers, Stephen Humphrys was on hand to score the winner and secure an unexpected victory for the relegation-threatened Dale.

Brian Barry-Murphy made just one change from the 0-2 home defeat to Shrewsbury, with Ollie Rathbone returning from suspension and slotting into the midfield, seeing Eoghan O'Connell slipping into the back three alongside Gabriel Osho and Paul McShane ahead of goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu.

Jimmy Keohane and Ryan McLaughlin took up the wing-back roles, with Rathbone joined in midfield by Conor Grant and Conor Shaugnessy plus Matt Done again partnering Stephen Humphrys in the front two.

In what would have been a perfect excuse for the cliché "when things aren't going your way", Dale almost conceded within five seconds, with the ball being rolled back to Rathbone from kick-off and his intended ball forward being closed down by Callum Morton and spinning up in the air and towards Bazunu's goal, thankfully dropping just a few yards wide.

After that, Dale enjoyed a bright start and put the hosts under some pressure, with Done having a long-range effort blocked and Lincoln managing to scramble the ball away as it rebounded around their six yard box with both O'Connell and McShane unlucky not to turn the ball home - as they would have without some heroic defending.

Lincoln started to find more space between the visitors' midfield and backline after that, with a chance almost opening up for Callum Morton before he was closed out by Shaugnessy and Tayo Edun flashing a poorly executed volley well wide.

Dale were very much in the game though, as evidenced by them earning their fifth corner of the game before the 17 minutes mark. Osho won the header from said corner and Humphrys attempted to turn it home acrobatically, but the Lincoln keeper Alex Palmer reacted well to punch it away. Another minute later and another corner for Dale saw them come close again with Keohane flicking on Done's delivery and O'Connell blazing over from the six yard line. On first viewing, he should've done better, but on reflection he probably didn't expect the chance to fall his way.

Lincoln created what had been their best chance at that stage a few minutes later as Dale put themselves under pressure in trying to play out from the back and the ball was eventually won by Morgan Rogers off Gabriel Osho. His cross was diverted goal wards by an onrushing midfielder but crashed into the back of Morton and the visitors' defence could breathe a sight of relief.

Another corner gave Dale their next chance, this time a deeper cross from Done again finding O'Connell, but the skipper's header was right into the hands of Palmer from a difficult angle. There were a few more efforts blocked away too, Done and Grant finding space in and around the box but having their attempts closed off, with the ex-Sheffield Wednesday man arguably having the better of the two.

And then FINALLY, after 700 minutes, Rochdale finally scored a goal. I don't mind admitting to you that a lot of frustration and anger came out in a celebration in my front room that included plenty of expletives and no doubt some worried glances from the neighbours.

Another of Shaugnessy's long throws was headed away but only as far as Ollie Rathbone who did brilliantly well to shift the ball from his right foot under pressure onto his left, where he had enough space to fire a long-range, bobbling effort beyond Palmer and into the bottom corner.

WOW.

It was almost two before the half-time break too, a wonderful long ball (imagine that) from Rathbone found the run of Done who slid a wonderful pass across goal into Humphrys, who did well to lift the ball over the onrushing Palmer under pressure from two Lincoln defenders, but the ball spun agonisingly wide of the post.

Worryingly however, the Dale's star striker picked up an injury in trying to turn the ball home and he clearly struggled through the final minutes of the half, failing to burst into the box when Done again ventured down the left-hand side.

Unsurprisingly, Lincoln threw men forward and looked for an equaliser before half-time, with James Jones having a shot closed down and Bazunu just about managing to parry away the resulting corner.

Half-time came and frankly I needed a breather at this point, never mind the players.

Dale started the second period with the same momentum however, and had the first chance of the half when Done did brilliantly well to force the ball to Humphrys just inside the box, but the striker, who had recovered from the knock he picked up just before the break, saw his fierce shot pushed away and the rebound was turned behind before Keohane could get to it.

And just a few minutes later, Dale came closer yet still to doubling their lead, with Done's best corner of the game flying above the heads of the Lincoln defence and finding an unmarked Osho who connected well with the header to send it seemingly goal wards, only to see Connor McGrandles clear it off the line. The iFollow camera didn't help me here as I didn't see the Lincoln man and was certain it was 0-2 until the ball was sent flying in the opposite direction. My nerves were already shredded - and 35 minutes remained.

Then came a huge penalty claim. A terrific one-two between Humphrys and Grant saw the Dale no.9 break into the box and after seemingly beating the defender he appeared to be collided into very heavily. A stonewall penalty I thought on first look. Nothing given. On second look I was even more certain. One of those moments you felt would come back to haunt us.

And just seconds later it did. In one of Lincoln's first attempts at goal all game, Manchester City loanee Gray skipped past a couple of challenges on the edge of the box and lashed an emphatic right-footed strike into the top corner. Completely undeserved, but the hosts were level.

Impressively, Dale didn't let that hammer blow dampen their spirits and they continued to play with the same intensity that had seen them take the initiative throughout the game. Humphrys was unlucky with two more long-range efforts - the first being blocked and the second being dragged wide.

Lincoln almost delivered another sucker-punch though when Brennan Johnson, who had been really quiet until this point, burst through from midfield and launched a powerful effort towards the top corner, but Bazunu did well to leap high and acrobatically tip the effort over the bar.

The first sub came at this point for Dale, with the excellent Grant clearly tiring and as a result being replaced by Aaron Morley.

Humphrys had been showing some signs of a return to form with some nice touches in the second half, as pointed out by the iFollow commentary team, and then all of a sudden he found himself with the ball in space in the Lincoln half having latched onto a poor defensive header from Montsma.

Advancing towards goal with the ball on his left foot, Humphrys delayed the strike, keeping the ball at arms length from the Imps backline and then eventually getting the strike away.

It wasn't a clean connection and seemed to take an age to make it's way past Palmer and towards goal... before bouncing off the post and spinning into the opposite corner of the net.

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. YES. YES. YES. GET IN.

With 15 minutes left, Dale had retook lead they had worked so hard to gain first time around. Given that a team struggling towards the foot of the table had been hit with a gut-punch of a Lincoln equaliser, who could have expected such a resilient response? I know I didn't.

The onslaught was surely set to begin, although Dale did well to keep the Imps at bay for several minutes. Jones was the first to take an attempt at goal, but Osho read the trajectory well to clear.

Moments later and a free-kick was given on the very edge of the Dale box. Johnson took a strike at goal which for a second seemed to be swerving in, but it never dropped in time and as a result flew over the bar.

The on-loan Nottingham Forest midfielder floated a cross into the box after that and Bazunu had appeared to collect it comfortably before dropping the ball as he fell to the ground. Gratefully, Osho was on hand to hook it away - but he only beat Jones to the ball by inches.

The second sub didn't come until the final minute of normal time when Done, surely absolutely out on his feet by this point, was replaced by Stephen Dooley on his return from injury and after he was introduced, the board was sent up for 3 minutes of injury-time.

Incredibly though, Dale managed to escape those three minutes without any real incident. The Imps players, clearly frustrated with a performance that was below-par for their season and perhaps consisted of a little complacency on their part against such an out-of-form Dale side, were unable to fashion a chance.

And so the whistle went and Dale had hauled themselves off the foot of the table and back into the fight to remain in the third tier. Who saw that coming?

PLAYER RATINGS:

Gavin Bazunu - 6 - Didn't have loads to do, couldn't do much with the goal but made a fine save from Johnson's effort but flapped at a few set-pieces.

Ryan McLaughlin - 7 - Did well with the ball and showed bravery to stay on and help the defensive efforts in the final minutes despite taking a knock.

Gabriel Osho - 8 - When he is tasked with simply defending, Osho looks like a real prospect. He was the key man in those final minutes in keeping the hosts at bay.

Paul McShane - 7 - Nothing spectacular, but his experience sees him take up positions in the box where he anticipates the attack and is able to clear.

Eoghan O'Connell - 7 - See McShane. Didn't do much wrong at all aside from a few slightly over-hit first touches, but defended very well.

Jimmy Keohane - 6 - A steady, if slightly quiet performance from Keohane. He wasn't required to join in the attack so much with those ahead of him playing so well.

Ollie Rathbone - 8 - Made a huge difference in adding some dynamism and drive in the heart of the midfield. Also took his goal very well.

Conor Shaugnessy - 7 - A good performance from Shaugnessy. He still seems to take slightly too long to make his mind up on the ball, but played some nice passes and provided a solid base for the more attack-minded Grant and Rathbone.

Conor Grant - 8 - Seems to be finding his feet in men's football now. With a little more confidence to show off his control and technique he could turn into a real player for us.

MATT DONE - 9 - Anyone who has ever played football will remember a few games where they have given everything for the cause and it has come off and secured a very hard-fought and deserved win. This was one of those games for Matt Done. Fantastic effort.

Stephen Humphrys - 8 - A really slow first-half from Dale's striker but let's hope a wonderful second-half display can kickstart a return to his top form because when he plays like that, he is a huge asset to this team. A great goal, too.

SUBS:

Aaron Morley - 6 - Almost allowed the hosts in for a chance with a slip-up in midfield but helped close out the win with the defensive effort.

Stephen Dooley - Only came on for injury-time.

Photo: Action Images



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