A soft first half penalty netted by Plymouth Argyle’s Reuben Reid was enough to separate the two sides at Home Park on Saturday, as Rochdale made the 300 mile trip back home empty handed.
Manager Keith Hill made two changes for the game against the Pilgrims - Javan Vidal was handed his debut as he replaced Joe Rafferty in the right back position, while Matty Done started ahead of George Donnelly who was missing from the side on paternity leave after his partner gave birth earlier in the week.
It was Plymouth who tested first and they went on to dominate much of the half in terms of chances created. Marvin Morgan had their first opportunity, forcing Josh Lillis to palm a glancing header up and over the bar from a corner ball. Four minutes later, Morgan had another opportunity in front of goal. This time he picked up the ball with his back to the target, turned and found space, before sending an effort at Lillis. In the end it was a comfortable save for the ‘keeper.
The early stages saw end to end football in what was another fiery encounter, and while Dale threatened, it was the home side who went on to dominate and have the better of the opportunities in the final third.
On nine minutes, Reuben Reid had the ball in the back of the net, but it was ruled out for a foul in the build up play.
Ten minutes later, Reid was involved again, this time he missed an open goal from six yards after Lillis flapped at a corner ball, allowing it drop at the feet of the frontman at the back post.
And on 24 minutes Plymouth took the lead from the spot.
Lillis had come off his line to try and intercept a ball into the box which was intended for the awaiting Morgan, and while it appeared that Lillis had made no connection with the Pilgrim player, the referee awarded the home side a set piece from 12 yards.
Reid stepped up to take the resulting penalty and slammed it into the corner of the net.
GOAL: PLYMOUTH ARGYLE 1-0 ROCHDALE
It was Plymouth who continued to ask all the questions during the rest of the half, however Lund tried his luck from 25 yards shortly before the half hour, leaving ‘keeper Luke McCormick rooted to the spot. The effort fizzed up and over the bar.
As the game approached the interval, Lillis again was called into action as he had to pull off a quick reaction save on 34 minutes to deny Morgan from close range after he got a head on the end of a Hourihane free-kick.
Five minutes later and the woodwork kept out Rommy Boco, whose curling effort from distance rattled off the cross bar and out of play.
In stoppage time, Dale had defender Jack O’Connell to thank for keeping the scoreline as was after he produced two timely challenges to stop Boco and Morgan getting their shots away from close range.
HT: PLYMOUTH ARGYLE 1-0 ROCHDALE
There were no changes for Rochdale at the interval as Manager Keith Hill stayed as was for the second half.
Just a minute after the re-start, Matty Lund had Dale’s best opportunity of the game so far, as he forced goalkeeper McCormick to punch a header off the line.
Two minutes later, Henderson fired a shot from distance over the bar, before Neal Trotman sliced a clearance and almost turned the ball past his own goalkeeper, who had to be alert to keep out the mistake.
It was better from Dale, and in what was a game of two halves, they created more opportunities in front of goal and stood strong to stop the home side from producing as many chances as they did during the first half.
With Dale unable to find a break through, Hill made two changes in quick succession in the approach to 70 minutes. Matty Done and Andrew Tutte made way for Joe Bunney and Bastien Hery, respectively.
The substitutions, and in particular the introduction of Hery, had a positive impact as Dale started asking all the questions.
They were turning the screw, but despite the possession and fantastic build-up play with some intricate passing, they were unable to truly test ‘keeper McCormick.
Dale threw everything at the game during the five minutes of stoppage time and Bunney came closest to an equaliser with a glancing header which went wide of the upright.
It finished Plymouth Argyle 1, Rochdale 0.