Rochdale suffered their third consecutive defeat on Saturday with a 3-2 loss at home to Exeter City, despite an improved performance on last week's defeat at the hands of York City.
The visitors scored three in the first half to take the advantage into the interval. After the break Rochdale pounded the Grecian goal and netted twice, but were unable to find the third which would secure a point from the encounter.
Rochdale donned their yellow shirt and blue shorts combination for the match, and as seen against Bristol Rovers three weeks ago, the team attacked the Sandy Lane end in the first half.
Joe Rafferty replaced the suspended Kevin McIntyre, while George Donnelly was given the nod ahead of Dele Adebola.
During the first 20 minutes of the match it looked like the luck of the yellow was with Dale once more as they began the game on top, however two goals in as many minutes from the visitors stunned John Coleman’s side. The Grecians opened the scoring on 24 minutes before adding a second just two minutes later. And despite Rochdale looking the better of the sides, it was the Grecians who went on to net a third before the interval.
Exeter City, who were relegated alongside Rochdale last season, arrived at Spotland on the same number of points of Dale in the table with just one goal the difference between the sides.
With three minutes on the clock, Exeter had the first opportunity of the match when a ball over the top for Jamie Cureton caught out the Dale defence. The frontman was through on goal but in the end his finish was poor and he sent it high over the bar.
Three minutes later and Andrew Tutte fired a shot at goal from the edge of the area which was deflected wide for the first corner of the game. Kennedy played the resulting set piece short to Peter Cavanagh who found Grant. The former Scunthorpe United man smashed the ball goalwards with his left foot which forced goalkeeper Arthur Krysiak to beat the ball round his near post.
From early in the match it was clear that Cureton was the one to watch as he again nipped in behind the defence on nine minutes, however Alan Gow, who got on the end of the through ball, was unable to test Josh Lillis.
Four minutes later, Gow sent a free-kick narrowly wide of the upright, but again failed to cause any real problems for Lills.
Almost immediately up the other end Grant forced Krysiak into another save with a low drive. The keeper did well to get down and palm his shot round the post.
The momentum was certainly with Dale and what was Rochdale’s best opportunity of the half fell for George Donnelly on 17 minutes. Grant delivered a delightful ball into the area from the right hand side for Donnelly who sent the ball wide of the target from a free header.
Despite the promising start by Rochdale, Exeter went on to inflict Dale’s first blow of the match on 24 minutes. Pat Baldwin got on the end of a free-kick which was flicked on into his path inside the area to give the visitors an undeserved lead.
And the Grecians stunned Dale with their second of the afternoon just two minutes later. Cureton, who looked to be offside, broke from the half way line, and after bombing it up the flank he picked out John O’Flynn, who had made himself inside the area, and O’Flynn slotted it into the back of the net.
Despite the sucker punch blow, the heads of the Dale Player’s remained high and they continued to play the better of the football, but to no avail.
Almost immediately after O’Flynn’s goal, Donnelly forced Krysiak into another fine save as he sent a powerful half volley at the ‘keeper from inside the six yard box.
Exeter’s third of the afternoon came seven minutes before the interval, from the counter attack, and it was again contentious as the referee failed to spot Phil Edwards had dropped to the ground with what appeared to be a head injury. With a man down, the Grecians were able to play a long ball in on goal, which was missed by Lillis, leaving it for O’Flynn to tap it into an empty net.
And as seen after the second goal, it was Rochdale who continued all guns blazing. As the half approached the interval Krysiak pulled off yet another save to deny Tutte.
The visitors went into the break with the three goal advantage, but after the interval it was Rochdale who again showed the most in final third.
Almost immediately after the re-start Grant sent a thunderous shot wide of the upright, before Gornell headed wide with from a cross which was whipped in from Grant on the right hand side.
Gornell, who extended his loan stay at Spotland on Friday morning, was certainly the man on form and he sent a wicked shot in on goal from the edge of the area on 58 minutes. It looked headed for the top right hand corner of the net but flew just narrowly wide of the upright.
Signs were certainly encouraging and on the hour mark and Dale again tested Krysiak, this time Grant with the powerful low drive. The ‘keeper spilled the shot, but despite the best efforts of Gornell to follow up on the re-bound, he was unable to get the touch which was needed to turn it into the net.
Rochdale continued very much on top and the goal which they deserved finally came on 66 minutes through Gornell who fired home from the edge of the area to give Dale a life line in the match.
After the goal, it was Dale who continued to show their attacking prowess and just 60 seconds after Gornell pulled one back for the home side, Krysiak was hand once more to keep out Tutte who sent a strike from distance in on goal.
Two minutes later and it was Dale again who were in the thick of the action as Grant headed narrowly wide.
Exeter finally had their first and only opportunity of the half on 88 minutes as Cureton shot narrowly past the upright.
Gornell netted his second of the day two minutes later, before seeing red shortly before the final whistle.
His header on 90 minutes gave Dale some hope in the remaining four minutes. But was just a minute of the match to go Gornell was shown a straight red card after kicking-out at former Dale defender Amankwaah.
It finished Rochdale 2, Exeter City 3.