It was goals galore at the Coral Windows Stadium on Saturday afternoon as supporters were treated to a six goal thriller.
All goals came in the first half as Dale romped to a 4-2 lead to end 2012 on a high.
Terry Gornell put Dale ahead on six minutes before Alan Connell levelled from the spot twelve minutes later. Rochdale re-gained the lead on 27 minutes through Andrew Tutte, before Grimes made it three for Rochdale just six minutes later. The Bantams were then awarded their second penalty of their afternoon on 33 minutes which was converted by Connell, but Dale weren’t finished yet and Gornell netted again shortly before the break to make it 4-2.
Manager John Coleman made two changes to the starting eleven for the match at Valley Parade as Terry Gornell, who returned from suspension, was given the nod ahead of Dele Adebola, while Joe Rafferty started ahead of Rhys Bennet.
Both sets of supporters, who were in voice throughout, added to the atmosphere inside the Coral Windows Stadium, and with the noise almost deafening at times, Dale certainly rose to occasion.
In what was a lively encounter, Bradford City had the first opportunity of the match with just a minute on the clock as former Dale duo Rory McArdle and Gary Jones linked up to send the first effort in on goal. McArdle however could only head Jonah’s corner ball wide of the target.
Just 60 seconds later and Ashley Grimes’ speculative effort from 35-yards dropped just inches over the wrong side of the bar. The strike had looked destined for the stand behind the goal but it dipped at the final moment making the unsuspecting Matt Duke look uncomfortable.
Rochdale looked full of confidence and after what had been an even first five minutes, Dale put that self-found belief into action as Gornell, who had returned from suspension, blasted Dale into the lead with a fine strike on six minutes. It was a well worked goal in which Bobby Grant had played the ball forward into the feet of Gornell on the edge of the area, and after taking one touch to see off his marker, the onloan Shrewsbury Town man smashed the ball from an acute angle straight through the hands of ‘keeper Duke and into the top corner of the net.
Seven minutes later, Bradford almost levelled the game with a fortuitous effort, however luck was on Dale’s side and Alan Connell’s effort bounced along the top of the bar and out for a goal kick.
On eighteen minutes, the Bantams did net the goal which would make it 1-1 as Connell converted from the spot. The referee had no option but to award a penalty kick after Connell was pushed to the ground by Ryan Edwards inside the area. Phil Edwards had put Lillis under pressure after slicing a clearance high into the air, and as Connell waited inside the area to meet the ball with a header, he was felled. Connell stepped up to the resulting kick and slammed it past Lillis to pull Bradford level.
Rochdale continued to play some fine football and went on re-gain the lead on 27 minutes through Andrew Tutte. Grimes, Kennedy and Tutte all linked up superbly as Dale thread their way past the Bantams from inside their own half, and after getting to the edge of the area, Tutte rattled the ball past the ‘keeper and into the bottom corner of the net to make it 2-1.
Dale opened up a two goal advantage just six minutes later with 33 minutes on the clock - Ashley Grimes this time adding his name to the score-sheet with a fine volley. Duke did manage to get a hand on the strike but the power behind the ball carried it past the ‘keeper and into the net.
The game continued at pace and within moments of Rochdale opening up a 3-1 lead, the Bantams clawed one back through Connell who netted his second from the spot. Bradford were awarded penalty number two after Phil Edwards was adjudged to have handled inside the area.
Supporters had already seen five goals but the entertainment was far from over as Gornell netted Dale’s fourth of the afternoon five minutes before the interval. His looping header from a Rafferty cross left Duke with no chance as it nestled itself in the net and sent the Dale faithful into party mode.
As would be expected Bradford City came all out on the attack at the start of the second half as they looked to over-turn the deficit, but full credit must go to the Dale defence who stood strong against a barrage of pressure. Despite the Bantams having more of the ball, they created very little as they were closed down effectively by a strong Rochdale side.
On 57 minutes, the home side eventually found a way through, but Connell, who was on for a hat-trick, headed just inches past the upright from a Kyel Reid cross.
While Rochdale were digging deep to defend their lead, they also looked a threat on the attack and within 60 seconds of Connell’s header, Dale were on the move forward. Grant cut inside before taking the ball on his right foot and smashing an effort goalwards. He was denied by the woodwork as his effort came off the outside of the post and out for a goal kick.
Dale continued to defend well and looked to make the most of any opportunity on the break, and on 75 minutes Grimes, Grant and substitute George Donnelly were all involved in an attack which forced Duke into a save. Grimed played Donnelly in on the right hand flank, and after cutting across the edge of the area he released the ball for Grant who had made himself available. Grant got himself into a useful position in the centre of the pitch just outside the 18-yard box and sent a curling effort towards the top corner of the net – it was saved by Duke who rose to snatch the effort from the air.
Bradford were unable to find a way through from open play, and they had no luck from a set-piece on 81 minutes either, as Ross Hannah’s driving effort was deflected wide and out for a corner ball.
In the closing stages of the match Dale continued to search for a fifth as Kennedy broke on the counter attack. He did well to knock the ball past Stephen Darby with his head before picking out the on-running Grant who found Grimes. In the end it was deflected wide of the target.
And on 91 minutes Connell could only look on as his flashed across the face of Dale’s goal and out play.
It finished Bradford City 2, Rochdale 4.