A dominant Rochdale were left to rue missed chances on Saturday as they left the Memorial Stadium empty handed.
Dale dominated the match but found themselves a goal behind on 62 minutes when Ellis Harrison opened the scoring for the home side. Michael Rose netted a more than deserved equaliser on 75 minutes with a fine strike, but Harrison scored his second of the afternoon six minutes from time to seal the three points for John Ward’s side.
Uncertainty surrounded the game following heavy rainfall over night in Bristol, but after four pitch inspections the match was finally given the go ahead at 1.30pm.
Manager Keith Hill named an unchanged eleven for the encounter at the Mem as he chose to stay with the same side that secured a point on Tuesday night in the goalless draw against York City.
The performance against the Ministermen was a contrast to the high level, energetic showing as seen at home to Wycombe Wanderers last weekend and Dale opened the game at the Memorial Stadium with the same attacking intent as shown in the 4-1 win over the Chairboys.
With less than a minute on the clock Bobby Grant won Dale’s first corner of the match, but despite coming to nothing, it was a sign of things to come as Keith Hill’s side went on to enjoy the better of the opportunities in front of goal.
On five minutes George Donnelly sent a powerful effort from 20 yard over the bar, before Grant saw a curling effort flash the wrong side of the upright a moment later.
Rochdale were forced to play with ten men for a short spell after Rhys Bennett hobbled off for treatment for what looked like a knock to his knee. During this time the home side looked to take advantage of extra man and Josh Lillis was called into action to keep out a low effort from Gas skipper Tom Parkes.
Bennett was unable to continue due to his injury and he was replaced by Michael Rose on eight minutes.
Rochdale continued to look the most likely to opening the scoring and on 21 minutes Donnelly came within inches of converting. Rose picked out Grant on the right hand flank who sent a precision cross into the six yard area for Donnelly whose glancing header scuffed the woodwork on its way past the post.
While Rochdale were asking the majority of questions in the final third, when the Gas did threaten, the Dale defence stood strong to soak up the pressure. With 25 minutes gone Bristol Rovers broke on the attack, and after being played in, Eliot Richards was through on goal. Kevin McIntyre did well to intercept the ball as he looked to strike it past Lillis.
On the half hour mark, goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall was called into action again as Donnelly applied the pressure once more. Rose delivered a fine ball into the box, and although the frontman couldn’t get a touch on it as he came in at the near post, he did enough to make the Mildenhall look shaky and the ball deflected off the ‘keeper and out for a corner.
The home side were fortunate not to be reduced to ten men on 32 minutes when John-Joe O’Toole appeared to grip Phil Edwards round the back of the neck after having a penalty claimed turned down, instead he was shown a yellow card.
As the half approached the interval Bristol’s Ryan Brunt had a powerful effort saved by Lillis, while ‘keeper Mildenhall pulled off a vital save to keep out a low curling effort from Grant which looked destined for the bottom corner of the net.
HT: BRISTOL ROVERS 0-0 ROCHDALE
There were no changes for Dale at the break as Manager Keith Hill stayed as was for the start of the second half.
Weather conditions deteriorated following the interval and the players had rain, hail and strong winds to contend with at the Mem.
Rochdale would be left to rue missed opportunities in the first half.
Three minutes after the re-start O’Toole forced Lillis into a low save with a trundling effort, before the home side sent a menacing cross inside the area, 10 yards from goal, which ran behind Brunt who was stood with just Lillis to beat in front of goal.
On 57 minutes Rochdale had yet another chance go a miss as Donnelly’s effort came off the woodwork.
With Dale unable to make their presence in front of goal count, it was the home side who went on to take the lead of 62 minutes. Ellis Harrison picked the ball up 25 yards from goal and fired a rocket shot past Lillis and into the back of the net.
After Bristol opened the scoring, Dale were on the ascendancy and netted a well-deserved goal on 75 minutes through a stunning strike from Rose. His powerful shot from distance nestled into the top corner of the net leaving ‘keeper Mildenhall with no chance of a save.
Despite Rochdale giving themselves a fighting chance of at least a point, the Gas regained the lead less than ten minutes later – Harrison with his second goal of the game on 84 minutes. Lillis did well to keep an initial shot from Brunt out with his legs, but was unable to stop Harrison as he followed up with the re-bound.
Rochdale continued to work hard despite falling behind for second time and dug deep to find an equaliser. They pressed forward, applying the pressure, but were unable to create any clear cut chances.
Tutte’s strike from distance which went over the bar in stoppage time was the most notable chance in the final moments.
It finished Bristol Rovers 2, Rochdale 1.