Rochdale fell to a Boxing Day defeat at the Pirelli Stadium on Wednesday as Burton Albion emerged as 3-2 winners.
Billy Kee gave the home side the lead on 15 minutes before Calvin Zola doubled their advantage 10 minutes later. A fine volley from skipper Peter Cavanagh saw Dale pull one back shortly before the interval and Rochdale level proceedings nine minutes after the break when Bobby Grant made the most of an error from Nathan Stanton. However Burton responded just three minutes later, Kee with the goal which sealed a victory for Gary Rowett’s men.
Rochdale made the trip to the Pirelli Stadium buoyed by Friday night’s 4-1 win over Cheltenham Town, and Manager John Coleman named an unchanged eleven for the Boxing Day encounter.
It was the home side who had the better of the opportunities during the first half, and Dale found themselves two goals down inside the first half hour.
On six minutes the Brewers came close to opening the scoring with the first chance of the match after Jacques Maghoma was allowed to run at the Dale defence up the left hand flank before cutting inside. He was closed down by Rhys Bennett but was still able to release the ball to Calvin Zola who rattled a shot from the edge of the area. His effort was deflected as it travelled goal-wards and ‘keeper Josh Lillis was forced into a finger-tip save to send it over the bar.
Six minutes later and Burton were threatening again, this time from a set-piece. The initial free-kick was sent into the box for Maghoma who smashed the ball in on goal – Ryan Edwards was there with a well timed block to take the sting out the shot and in the end it was comfortable save for Lillis.
The first half was some what a scrappy affair, and with the number of free-kicks awarded during the half reaching double figures, the match lacked tempo due to the stop/start nature of the game.
And it was from a set-piece that the Brewers took the lead on 15 minutes. Skipper Peter Cavanagh was adjudged to have felled Robbie Weir just outside the area, giving the Brewers an opportunity on goal from 20 yards. Billy Kee stepped up to take the resulting free-kick and smashed the ball low and past Lillis into the back of the net.
Dale responded well after the goal and were quick to put Burton goalkeeper Dean Lyness under pressure. Andrew Tutte’s shot from distance had beaten the ‘keeper but was kept out by the woodwork as it rattled the underside of the bar. Ryan Edwards was there for the follow up but was denied by the ‘keeper who pulled off a fantastic reaction save to deny the young defender from less than six yards.
Momentum stayed with Dale for a short time and on 23 minutes Ashley Grimes, who netted a double in Friday night’s victory, broke from the half way line before sending a shot in on goal. His effort, which was deflected, fell perfectly for Bobby Grant who sent it back in on goal for Adebola who had made the run into the box. But despite getting a head on the ball, the veteran striker could only send it over the bar.
Despite Dale responding well for a time, it was the home side who went on to double their lead - Zola with the goal on 25 minutes after linking up well with Kee. Zola got on the end of a goal-kick in his own half and flicked it on for the on-running Kee. He was given time to hold the ball up before laying it off to Zola who raced forward on the overlap. The move left the Dale defence with everything to do and he went through one on one with Lillis before slotting past the ‘keeper and into the back of the net.
The home side looked comfortable after opening up a two goal lead, but Rochdale were far from out of the game, and the never say die attitude of the players was evident as Captain Peter Cavanagh pulled one back for Dale with a dipping volley from 20 yards. The goal, which was Cavanagh’s first for Dale, appeared to inspire Dale and they finished the half on top.
The Brewers started the second half in a lively fashion and they had two early opportunities, both of which went narrowly wide of the target. On 48 minutes Maghoma’s effort rippled the side netting, before Zola’s over head-kick trickled past the upright.
Despite the home side having the best of the opportunities during the opening stages of the half, they failed to test Lillis, and it was Rochdale who went on to level the score.
On 54 minutes, Grant capitalised on a mistake from former Dale defender Nathan Stanton deep inside the opposition’s half, and after rounding ‘keeper Lyness, Grant slotted the ball home from two yards to make it 2-2.
The home side responded almost immediately however and just three minutes later were they back in front. Kee tapped it past Lillis from less than six yards to make it 3-2 after getting on the end of a fizzing ball across the face of goal from Zola.
The Brewers continued to apply the pressure but again failed to find the target. On the hour mark Zola sent another effort narrowly wide of the upright, before Kee sent an overhead kick past the post.
In the final 20 minutes of the match Rochdale showed the attacking prowess which had been missing from their play and began to apply the pressure needed to make a break through.
On 71 minutes Grimes’ shot from an acute angle could only find the side netting, before Ryan Edwards and Kennedy both tried to break down the Burton defence.
In the closing stages of the game Kennedy and Grant both forced saves from Lyness, but it was substitute George Donnelly who had the chance to secure a point for Dale. Grant sent a cross across the face of goal for the on-running Donnelly who was unable to steer the ball into the net from with his from six yards.
It finished Burton Albion 3, Rochdale 2.