Rochdale ended the year on a high with a deserved 2-0 victory over Bristol Rovers on Sunday.
The quick fire goals from Scott Hogan and Graham Cummins ensured three points for Dale at Spotland in the final match of 2013.
Hogan broke the deadlock in the 58th minute, before Cummins doubled Dale’s advantage three minutes later.
There was one change to the eleven who lined up against Mansfield Town on Boxing Day – Josh Lillis recovered from illness to replace Robbie Thomson in goals. Meanwhile, George Donnelly was back in the squad for the first time since October after being named on the bench following his recovery from an ankle injury.
Dale had the first flurry of the game after winning three consecutive corner balls, each of which were dealt with by the visitors.
It was a positive start from Rochdale, but the early momentum was brought to a halt in the seventh minute following a clash of heads between Olly Lancashire and the Pirates' Matt Harrold. Lancashire needed stitches on the wound and Dale were reduced to ten men for over ten minutes while the centre half received treatment off the pitch.
Bristol Rovers looked to take advantage of the extra man with a spell of pressure, but failed to test Lillis - their only half chance of the opening stages coming from a set-piece which skipped narrowly past the upright with 13 minutes on the clock.
It was a fairly scrappy affair as the half continued, however the visitors enjoyed the better of the pressure and had their first shot on target twelve minutes later. Lee Brown fired a powerful close range effort at Lillis, forcing the ‘keeper to send it round the upright. John-Joe O’Toole got a head on the resulting corner, but could only send it over the bar.
Rochdale began to get a foothold on the game in the latter stages of the with quick attacking football.
In the 34th minute Joe Rafferty tested goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall with a cross-come-shot which ended up in the roof of the net, before Hogan caught the visitors on the break four minutes later.
Hogan drove forward before sending the ball out to former Bristol Rovers loanee Matty Lund, who could see the ‘keeper was off his line and attempted to lift the ball up and over him. The effort was too high and went over the bar.
It was better from Rochdale and a minute later, Rafferty had another effort on goal. He controlled the ball on his chest before unleashing a volley from the edge of the area. It appeared to have been tipped round the post by Mildenhall, but the referee awarded a goal kick.
HT: Rochdale 0-0 Bristol Rovers
There were no changes for Dale at the interval as Manager Keith Hill stayed as was for the start of the second half.
In what was an energetic start to the half for Dale, they had the first effort on goal five minutes after the re-start through Henderson. Lancashire picked out Graham Cummins, who chested the ball into the patch of Henderson. He smashed his effort over the bar from just inside the 18 yard box.
It was positive from Rochdale, who had raised the tempo, and they looked the most likely to score before breaking the deadlock shortly before the hour mark through Hogan.
Rafferty played in Lund, who picked out Hogan with a perfect pass and Dale’s top scorer netted his tenth league goal of the season after turning the ball beyond Mildenhall from close range.
GOAL: Rochdale 1-0 Bristol Rovers (Hogan, 58 minutes)
Momentum stayed with Dale and they deservedly extended their lead three minutes later.
Jack O’Connell played a ball over the top for Graham Cummins, who raced onto it before smashing a well struck effort beyond Mildenhall from just outside the area.
GOAL: Rochdale 2-0 Bristol Rovers (Cummins, 61 minutes)
It was all Rochdale and moments later Henderson sent a volley over the bar.
Bristol Rovers enjoyed a brief spell of pressure, without testing Lillis and it was Rochdale who came closest to extending their lead further in the 79th minute. Lund struck an effort from distance, forcing Mildenhall to turn it round his post.
Ten minutes later, in what was the final effort of the game, Rose troubled Mildenhal from distance. The ‘keeper spilled the shot, but quickly recovered to smother the ball.
It finished Rochdale 2, Bristol Rovers 0.