Goals from Ian Henderson, George Donnelly and Jason Kennedy saw a dominant Rochdale side record a comfortable victory over ten man Fleetwood Town on Saturday.
Henderson opened the scoring on nine minutes, before Donnelly added a second half an hour after the interval. Goalkeeper Josh Lillis then saved a penalty from the Cod Army’s Andy Mangan, before the home side were reduced to ten men. Kennedy wrapped up the points on the 90th minute.
Rochdale went into the match on the back of Easter Monday’s important win over Exeter City and Manager Keith Hill made just one change to the side who were victorious at St James’ Park. Joe Rafferty was given the nod ahead of Kevin McIntyre who dropped to the bench.
Rochdale started the game in a bright and confident manner and, as seen on Monday, the opposition were given little time to get a foothold on the game.
From the whistle Dale were in control and netted a deserved opener with just nine minutes on the clock following several pacey passages of play which put the Cod Army under pressure.
Within two minutes of kick-off Rochdale were already showing an attacking prowess and Ashley Grimes had an effort blocked by goalkeeper Scott Davies after great link up play with Bobby Grant.
A moment later and Davies was on hand once again to keep Dale out after he pulled off a quick reaction save to deny a George Donnelly header from close range.
Momentum was with Rochdale and they deservedly opened the scoring through Ian Henderson on nine minutes after a sweeping move forward. Grant played a sublime pass through to Donnelly on the right hand side of play and he cut inside before sending a delightful ball across the face of goal for the onrunning Henderson who fired the ball past Davies and into the back of the net at the first time of asking.
After the goal Fleetwood, who were still hoping to seal their place in the play-off positions, attempted to push on as expected, but despite enjoying a very short spell of possession, they failed to apply the type of pressure needed to break down a strong Rochdale defence.
They had a half chance on 17 minutes, however Junior Brown’s high headed effort was saved comfortably by Lillis.
It was another energetic display from Keith Hill’s side and they continued to keep Fleetwood on the back foot, however despite a dominant showing, they were unable to add to their advantage before the interval.
Just after the half hour mark, Jason Kennedy had a low drive, which was heading for the bottom corner, smothered by a stretching Davies, before the ‘keeper got down low to collect a shot from Grimes.
Although the Cod Army had offered very little during the half, Lillis was called into action on 35 minutes as he was forced into a finger-tip save to send a long range effort from Fleetwood’s Brown over the bar.
The effort didn’t phase Dale and they continued to work the ball well and get it into dangerous positions, and with five minutes left of the half Davies blocked a shot from Grant on the edge of his six yard box with his legs.
HT: FLEETWOOD TOWN 0-1 ROCHDALE
Fleetwood Town Manager Graham Alexander made a half time substitution with Andy Mangan replacing Paul McKenna, before introducing Ryan Crowther at the expense of Gareth Evans nine minutes later. And while the home side did start the half brighter than their first half showing, Rochdale were very much still in charge.
Within five minutes of the re-start Grimes and Grant had applied pressure on goalkeeper Davies, while Donnelly had an effort deflected wide of the target.
On the hour mark, Grant fired a low drive narrowly wide of the upright, before Donnelly finally gave Dale a two goal cushion just a minute later. Kennedy drove forward down the middle of play before slotting in Donnelly whose initial shot was kept out by the ‘keeper. Davies couldn’t keep a grip of the ball and as it rolled backwards towards the net, Donnelly used his quick pace to ensure it crossed the line to send the travelling support behind the goal into celebration.
There was no stopping Dale after the goal and they continued to push forward for a third and on 75 minutes Davies pulled off a fantastic save to deny Donnelly for a second of the afternoon.
Four minutes later however against the run of play, the Cod Army were awarded a dubious penalty after the linesman adjudged Michael Rose to have felled Jamille Matt inside the area. The decision seemed unjust after it looked like the Fleetwood man had tripped over the already grounded Rose, but substitute Mangan stepped up to the resulting spot kick and justice was done as Lillis saved well to deny the home side.
The day went from bad to worse for Fleetwood and they were reduced to ten men with 81 minutes on the clock when Nathan Pond was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence.
Rochdale continued to batter the Fleetwood goal and on the 90th minute Kennedy fired into the top corner of the net from just inside the 18-yard box to seal another invaluable points for Dale.
It finished Fleetwood Town 0, Rochdale 3.