A stoppage time goal from Bobby Grant earned Rochdale a vital three points on Easter Monday as Dale secured a deserved 2-1 win over Exeter City at St James’ Park.
It looked like Dale would be making the long trip home with a point before Grant sealed the victory on 94 minutes.
In a game dominated by Dale, the Grecians went into the interval with a one goal advantage as Jamie Cureton gave the home side a lead on the stroke of half time. Ian Henderson levelled the scoring on 85 minutes, before Grant sent the 110 Dale fans who made the journey home happy.
Manager Keith Hill made one change to the starting eleven for the trip to St James’ Park as Ashley Grimes was given the nod ahead of Joe Thompson.
And just 30 seconds into the match, the frontman who started his first match since February, crashed through the advertising boards. The incident looked nasty but after being checked over by Dale physio Gary Thompson, he was given the all clear to continue.
After a two minute break in play, the match re-started and there was an even opening to the game, despite an early opportunity for Exeter.
Josh Lillis was called into action to pull off a fantastic save to deny the home side’s Jamie Cureton from a set piece on seven minutes. Cureton sent a curling effort round the wall but the ‘keeper dived to his left hand side to push the ball out of play.
Despite the early effort, Rochdale went on to dominate the majority of the first half and their pacey passing allowed little time for the Grecians to settle into the game.
During two passages of play with 10 minutes on the clock, a creative Dale put the Exeter defence under pressure as Michael Rose, Ian Henderson and Grimes all linked up superbly. Unfortunately for the visitors there were unable to make possession count with a goal.
Momentum was with Dale and they continued to offer the most in the final third with a confident and energetic performance.
On 16 minutes George Donnelly tested goalkeeper Artur Krysiak with an awkward effort from distance, and despite putting pressure on the stopper, it was a comfortable save in the end.
Two minutes later, Dale were on the prowel again and this time Keith Hill’s side were denied by the woodwork. Henderson sent a free-kick high into the area which was spilled by Krysiak who had come to collect. Cansdell-Sherriff had gone up from his defensive position for the set piece and headed the ball towards the empty net but his effort re-bounded off the inside of the post before being cleared off the line by Danny Coles.
On the half hour mark, Dale had another opportunity in front of goal – Henderson again the man in the box. Bobby Grant picked out Henderson who was required to stroke the ball past the ‘keeper but instead curled the effort wide of the upright.
On 39 minutes, the former Colchester United man was again involved in the action as he had an effort cleared off the line by Jake Gosling.
But despite dominating throughout the match, Rochdale found themselves a goal down at the interval.
Three minutes before the break Exeter, who had been kept at bay by an impressive Rochdale, were kept out by Lillis who pulled off a fantastic block to see off a shot from Cureton who had got in on goal after turning Cansdell-Sherriff on the edge of the area.
But it was in injury time that Dale went behind - the Grecians’ dangerman giving Exeter City the advantage. The goal from Cureton was a disappointing blow for Dale after a confident and dominant first half performance.
HT: EXETER CITY 1-0 ROCHDALE
Manager Keith Hill made one change at the interval with Kevin McIntyre making way for Joe Rafferty.
After the break, Exeter City started brightly, but their initial pressure petered out as the Dale defence withstood what came their way. As seen in the first half, the Grecians found it difficult to cope with the fast flowing football from the visitors and Rochdale again went on to dominate and have the better of the opportunities in front goal.
Dale went on the attack as they looked to find a deserved equaliser, but despite numerous efforts falling to Grimes he was unable to convert.
Shortly before the hour mark, Grimes first of all was unable to send the ball into the net from a tight angle after doing all the hard to take the ball from the feet of Steve Tully, before sending an effort down the throat of Krysiak 60 seconds later.
On 67 minutes, Grimes again got himself into a dangerous position, but again hit the ball directly at the ‘keeper. He blasted over the bar two minutes later.
Rochdale continued on the front foot and finally got the breakthrough they deserved five minutes from time – lady luck finally shining on Dale on an overcast afternoon in Exeter. Henderson, who was impressive for Dale throughout the match, sent a shot in towards the back post and it was headed up and over Krysiak by his own player.
Dale continued to throw everything at the game and on 89 minutes Donnelly had an opportunity to seal three points for the visitors as he went through one on one with the goalkeeper. In the end he hit it into the hands of the ‘keeper.
But in stoppage time, Grant who had been quiet in the second half compared to his first half showing, secured three vital points for Rochdale. He latched onto a superb through ball from Donnelly before slotting past the ‘keeper and into the back of the net.
It finished Exeter City 1, Rochdale 2.