A brace from Ian Henderson and one from Rhys Norrington-Davies sealed three points for Rochdale on the opening day of the 2019/20 campaign.
Ian Henderson scored a brace in the victory, while debutant Norrington-Davies, on loan at the club from Sheffield United, netted the other.
Henderson opened the scoring from the penalty spot on 13 minutes and extended Dale’s lead three minutes into the second half with a sublime chip. Norrington-Davies finished off a fine team move in the 69th minute to give Rochdale a commanding and well-deserved 3-0 lead.
Tranmere pulled one back a minute before time through a Stephen Dooley own goal, while Connor Jennings prodded home deep in stoppage time to add another. In the aftermath of the goal, the hosts were reduced to ten men, as Rushian Hepburn-Murphy saw red for throwing MJ Williams to the ground.
The first half was relatively even, although the home side started brightly and enjoyed the best of the action during the opening exchanges. However, as Dale stood firm, they were limited in their number of clear-cut opportunities.
Manny Monthe headed wide from an Ollie Banks set-piece into the area, while former Dale midfielder David Perkins stung the palms of Robert Sanchez with a powerful effort from 20-yards. Stephan Payne tried his luck from range, but his shot was always rising.
Soon after, Rochdale opened the scoring in the 13th minute. Brian Barry-Murphy’s side hit Tranmere on swift counter-attack up the left after Norrington-Davies was sent away down the flank by MJ Williams. He in turn picked out Stephen Dooley, who dinked the ball into the area for Callum Camps, and as the midfielder turned to get his shot away, he was upended. Captain Henderson stepped up to take the spot-kick and he made no mistake as he found the back of the net from 12-yards.
But despite going behind, the hosts continued to put Dale under pressure, and Sanchez got down to keep out a close-range volley from Payne at the near post seven minutes later.
Tranmere hit Dale on the break, and after Perkins got up the left, he delivered into the area for the runner in Jordan Ponticelli, but despite being through on-one-one with Sanchez, he couldn’t keep his effort down and he turned it well over the bar.
Rathbone sent a looping header over, while Sanchez again denied Payne, after the Rovers frontman had looked to capitalise on a loose back-pass header.
Shortly after the half hour, Henderson came within inches of netting his second of the afternoon. Rekeil Pyke flicked the ball onto Jimmy Keohane, who found the Dale Captain, and his first-time shot travelled just the wrong side of the upright.
Before the half was out, Rathbone spotted ‘keeper Scott Davies off his line a long way from goal but his audacious effort was off target, and Sanchez kept out Payne at the near post with his feet.
HT | TRANMERE ROVERS 0-1 ROCHDALE
Rochdale doubled their advantage three minutes into the second half, as Henderson bagged his second of the game in style.
Norrington-Davies’ dangerous corner was initially headed away on the goal line, but MJ Williams and Camps combined to keep the pressure on. From Camps' lay-off, Hendo found the top corner of the net with a sublime chip, reminiscent of his goal at Cheltenham Town during Rochdale’s 2013/14 promotion season.
Dale’s first substitution came shortly before the hour mark, when Rathbone had to be replaced by Aaron Morley following a robust challenge by Banks.
Minutes later, Norrington-Davies extended Rochdale’s lead further. It was fine team goal, with Dale enjoying a large spell of possession and a countless amount of passes before the left-back finished beyond Scott Davies with the outside of his boot.
Matty Done was introduced onto the field of play in place of Rekeil Pyke in the 70th minute, while the third and final change came seven minutes later, as debutant Eoghan O’Connell made way for Jimmy Ryan, who also made his debut.
Rochdale were extremely comfortable and the football they had been playing at times was sublime, but a strange Dooley own goal saw the home side pull one back in the 89th minute. It appeared that the Northern Irishman had been fouled as the ball ricocheted off him and into an empty net.
Tranmere ensured a nervy ending to the match when they added another deep in stoppage time. A corner to the back post was partially defended away, and as Dale scrambled to clear the ball back in, Jennings prodded home from close range.
In the aftermath, the hosts were reduced to ten men, when Hepburn-Murphy was sent off for throwing MJ Williams to the ground.
Rochdale saw out the next two minutes to claim their first victory at Prenton Park since 1976.
FT | TRANMERE ROVERS 2-3 ROCHDALE