Rochdale left Northampton Town’s Sixfields Stadium empty handed on Saturday as the home side took all three points with a 3-1 win.
In a first half dominated by Dale, the Cobblers opened the scoring through Clive Platt shortly after the half hour. Rochdale went on to level proceedings on 64 minutes, but the home side responded almost immediately to regain the lead. Aidy Boothroyd’s side added their third of the afternoon from the spot fifteen minutes from time.
Manager Keith Hill made three changes to the Dale starting eleven for the trip to Sixfields, one enforced due the four match ban handed to Bobby Grant last weekend. George Donnelly, Andy Haworth and Terry Gornell were given the nod ahead of Ashley Grimes and Dele Adebola who were on the bench, and the suspended Grant.
Dale started the game on the front foot and enjoyed large spells of possession in and around the Cobblers’ 18-yard box, but despite the early pressure they failed to test goalkeeper Lee Nicholls.
Rochdale looked comfortable in all areas of the pitch, however on nine minutes Northampton had their first opportunity on goal. Adebayo Akinfenwa got on the end of long throw deep into the area, his header dropped into the top netting.
Dale remained very much in charge during the opening period and on 12 minutes Andy Haworth came within inches of getting a head on dangerous ball which was played into the far post by Kevin McIntyre. The left full back drifted the cross deep into the six yard box for the on-running Haworth but he failed to make a connection with the ball.
Four minutes later, Rochdale had their best opportunity of the half, but were kept out by Clarke Carlisle who blocked Haworth’s 25-yard drive on the line. The re-bound ball fell for Jason Kennedy who, under pressure, could only blast a follow up effort high over the bar.
On 31 minutes in what was another good move from Dale, this time following a throw-in, Tutte sent a powerful effort down the throat of Nicholls. In the end it was a comfortable save for the keeper, and it was from the resulting break that the Cobblers opened the scoring.
Less than 60 seconds after Tutte had tested Nicholls, Clive Platt converted at the other end. Chris Hackett picked out Platt who was waiting at the far post and he headed the ball down and across the line off the woodwork. It was a blow for Dale who had been in charge throughout the half. The goal rallied Northampton and it meant for an evenly contested finish to the first half, however it was the Cobblers who came closest to adding a second of the afternoon.
On 43 minutes, Ben Harding looked up and spotted Lillis off his line and fired a shot from distance narrowly past the upright at speed.
HT: Northampton 1-0 Rochdale
Manager Keith Hill made one enforced change at the interval as an injured Andrew Tutte made way for Ashley Grimes.
Northampton started the half brightly, but despite having several efforts on goal in quick succession, they failed to make the most of a positive re-start, and it was Dale who looked the most likely to score.
On 50 minutes, Haworth went in search of a Dale equaliser and he forced Nicholls into a fine save with an effort from an acute angle – the goalkeeper palmed the ball round the post and into the side netting.
Three minutes later and George Donnelly was denied only by yet another fine save from Nicholls. Donnelly used his pace to turn his defender, before cutting inside and unleashing a curling effort towards the top corner. The ball look destined for the back of the net, but was tip up and round by the ‘keeper.
Both teams went on to have opportunities in front goal, Gornell blasted over, while Lillis pulled off a fine point blank save from Hackett from close range.
But it was on 64 minutes that Rochdale finally found a deserved break through. In a well worked piece of build- up play, McIntyre picked out Jason Kennedy on the edge of the area who fired the ball home to make it game on at Sixfields.
The Dale fans’ celebrations were short-lived however as Northampton responded almost immediately through Kelvin Langmead. He bundled the ball home in scrappy fashion inside a packed six yard box just 60 seconds after Rochdale had netted the crucial equaliser.
On 75 minutes the home side extended their lead further from the spot. The Cobblers were awarded a penalty after McIntyre was adjudged to have felled Hackett inside the area. Akinfenwa stepped up to take the resulting kick from 12-yards and made no mistake in slotting past Lillis and into the bottom corner of the net.
The goal rallied the Cobblers, and four minutes from time only the woodwork denied Roy O’Donavon – his curling effort from the edge of the area was kept out by the woodwork.
It finished Northampton Town 3, Rochdale 1.