Rochdale came from a goal behind to secure a deserved 2-1 win over Bristol Rovers at Spotland on Saturday.
The visitors took the lead from the penalty spot through David Clarkeson, but in a match dominated by Dale, Andrew Tutte and Bobby Grant netted for the home side to ensure three points for John Coleman’s side.
There were three changes to the Rochdale starting eleven for the visit of the Gas with Ryan Edwards, Terry Gornell and Bobby Grant returning to the line-up in place of Matty Pearson, George Donnelly and Ashley Grimes.
Bristol Rovers won the first corner of the match inside a minute and after the set piece came to nothing, Dale broke on the counter attack. Dele Adebola could only find the side netting however.
It was a sign of things to come and the opening period continued end to end. The Gas threatened going forward and the Dale defence stood strong to keep out Derek Riordan who sent a shot in on goal from a menacing low ball which was played across the face of goal by Tom Eaves.
Straight up the other end and Bobby Grant had Dale’s first real opportunity of the game with a diving header. His effort went narrowly wide of the upright.
The visitors broke on the counter attack and Josh Lillis, who had very little to do during the half, had to stretch the length of his goal to keep out an awkward header from Joe Anyinsah.
Bristol Rovers then went on take an early lead after being awarded a debatable penalty for an apparent trip on Wayne Brown. David Clarkeson stepped up to take the resulting spot kick and fired the visitors ahead on 14 minutes.
After the goal, the Gas found themselves under the cosh and it was Rochdale who went on to pound the visiting goal.
On 20 minutes Phil Edwards drew a finger-tip save from ‘keeper Ethridge as he hit a dipped effort goal-ward from 25 yards.
Just 60 seconds later and Ethridge had to move quickly to avoid a mistake as he dropped the ball on the line after being unable to keep hold of a powerful effort from Tutte. The midfielder’s initial shot caught the Bristol Rovers’ ‘keeper off balance, and after failing to keep a hold of the ball, it bounced awkwardly on the line and back into play allowing him to clear the danger.
It was a busy afternoon for Ethridge and he pulled off yet another save, this time from Grant on 25 minutes. The former Scunthorpe United man’s strike, which had thundered along the ground, was kept out by the goalkeeper.
A minute after the set piece Rochdale were on the prowl again and the Ethridge was the difference between the two side once again as the back-pedaling stopper got a hand to a shot-come-cross from Kevin McIntyre which look destined for the top corner of the net.
And it was from the resulting corner kick that Dale netted their much deserved equaliser. Kennedy played a short corner ball which was dummied by Phil Edwards and left for the Tutte who fired it into the net to make it 1-1 with 27 minutes on the clock. The goal was a carbon copy of his strike against Torquay at Plainmoor earlier in the season.
On the half hour mark Ethridge was under pressure again as Tutte drilled a strike from distance in on goal. The shot was parried away by the goalkeeper and back into play, but despite falling into the path of Adebola, he was unable to get on the end of it.
As the match approached half time Grant forced yet another save from Ethridge, while Adebola’s shot from a tight angle was also kept out by the inform keeper.
Both teams started brightly after the interval and despite end to end football, both goalkeepers had very little to do as neither team tested in the final third.
It was Rochdale who began to take control of the game shortly before the hour mark, and they looked the more dangerous of the two sides going forward.
On 58 minutes Kennedy sent a warning to the visitors as he fired an effort from the edge of the 18 yard box past the post.
Momentum was with Rochdale and the goal which would put Dale ahead came two minutes later.
Bobby Grant’s curling effort from the edge of the area was deflected up and into the net by the head of Fabien Broghammer.
Dale continued on top and Grant proved to be a handful for the Rovers’ defence as he twisted and turned at every opportunity as Rochdale continued to take the game to Mark McGhee’s side. On 69 minutes Grant sent a cross deep into the box, and after some quick feet from Adebola to free the ball from the visitors’s defenders, he slotted the ball out to Tutte who rattled a shot at goal from 18 yards. It was blocked and sent away from the target.
A minute later Bristol Rovers found themselves down to ten men as Captain Gareth Keneth was given his marching offers for a second bookable offence. He was shown his second yellow of the afternoon for a challenge on Grant who was charging in on goal.
Peter Cavanagh stepped up to take the resulting free-kick, but despite rounding the wall, he could only send it inches past the upright.
Bristol Rovers then went on to have their best five minute spell of the match and Lillis, who had been a spectator for much of the game, was called into action as Tom Eaves tested the goalkeeper with a shot from distance.
Anyinsah was the next to send an effort in on goal and he came close to levelling the scoring with a low drive which took a deflection. Thankfully from a Dale point of view it trickled narrowly past the post.
Dale soon put an end to the danger and up the other end Gornell forced Ethridge into a finger-tip save as he fired a shot from an acute angle. From the resulting corner kick, Tutte flashed a volley goal-ward which was blocked.
In stoppage time the Gas were reduced to nine men as Elliot Richard was shown a straight red for a challenge on Grimes. It was the last incident of the game and the match finished Rochdale 2, Bristol Rovers 1.