Rochdale recorded a comfortable win over Torquay at Spotland on Saturday to give Keith Hill his first victory since returning to the club last month.
A first half goal from Rhys Bennett was enough to separate the two sides in a match dominated by the home side.
There was one change to the starting eleven from last weekend’s trip to Northampton - Brian Barry-Murphy started in midfield as Joe Rafferty dropped to the bench. Mid-week signings, Michael Rose and Ritchie Jones, were named amongst the seven substitutes as Peter Cavanagh again missed out through injury.
Rochdale welcomed Torquay to Spotland looking for a first win under Keith Hill following two draws and a defeat in the last three outings, and Dale looked in confident mood as they took control of the game from kick-off.
Dale started the game brightly and enjoyed the lions share of possession without asking too many questions of Gulls goalkeeper Michael Poke. Andrew Tutte’s scuffed shot from distance, which went wide of the upright, was the most notable effort of the opening five minutes.
Rochdale looked comfortable, but were almost caught out with seven minutes on the clock after Shane Cansdell-Sherriff was caught in possession, allowing Rene Howe in on goal. The former Dale striker attempted to chip the ball over ‘keeper Josh Lillis who pulled off a fine stretching save to send the ball wide of the target.
Despite the early opportunity for Torquay, Rochdale remained in control and continued to look the more confident of the two sides. Opportunities in front goal began to show for Dale as their hard-work and patient build-up play began to pay off.
And on 17 minutes Rochdale found a deserved break-through thanks to an in-form Rhys Bennett. The young defender who was in at the right back position for the match, got himself into a dangerous position inside the 18-yeard box, and after being denied by Michael Poke at the first time of asking, he made no mistake in tapping home the re-bound to net his second of the season.
The goal left Torquay firmly on the back foot, and on 23 minutes Gulls goalkeeper Poke was put under all sorts of pressure after being caught out with a short back pass. The stray ball was picked up by George Donnelly, who was denied the opportunity of a shot on goal as the ‘keeper came wildly off his line to smother at the strikers’ feet. He appeared to handle outside his area, however the referee waved played on with no hesitation.
Shortly after the half hour mark Torquay’s Billy Bodin sent the first of two efforts in on goal. On 31 minutes he fired over the bar after getting on the end of the low cross into the box by Howe, before sending a header over four minutes later.
Despite the two opportunities Rochdale remained comfortable and they took a deserved 1-0 lead into the interval.
HT: Rochdale 1-0 Torquay United
Torquay came out after the interval all cylinders firing as would have been expected, but their bright start came to nothing as they were soon cooled by a composed Dale defence who stood strong to keep them at bay.
With Dale dealing with the early pressure, they again went on to take control of the game and looked the most likely to double their tally.
Much of Rochdale’s play came down the left-hand side as the quick feet of Haworth proved difficult for the Gulls defence to deal with.
And on 50 minutes, Donnelly was denied only by a fine save from Poke. The frontman fired a turning volley at goal after taking just one touch, but his effort was palmed away by the ‘keeper.
Shortly before the hour mark Dale applied the pressure once more, and the Gulls’ Lee Mansell pulled of a timely clearance to keep out Gornell who was waiting at the back-post for a Tutte cross.
Rochdale continued to search for a second as they looked to put the game out of sight, and on 71 minutes Gornell did well to send a shot goal-wards despite his marker staying tight as he attempted to make his way inside the box.
Six minutes later, Torquay had shouts for a spot-kick turned down after Edwards felled Ryan Jarvis inside the area.
After the incident, Rochdale kept the ball for a spell and on 80 minutes substitute Rose, who got a 20 minute run out on his debut, combined superbly with Grimes and Tutte on the left-hand side of play. After some patient one-touch passing between the three, Tutte finally found the space to send a curling effort narrowly wide of the post.
Five minutes later and Dale had two shots on goal in quick succession. Gornell’s low drive was kept out by Poke, before Tutte had a powerful effort block by a defender inside the 18-yard box.
Moments later, Phil Edwards stepped up to coolly clear the ball as Howe attempted to get a shot away inside the area which lead to a swift Dale break. Rose was through on goal but in the end he was unable to get a shot away as he was tracked down. Grimes then hit the side netting with an effort from less than 12 yards.
The referee added five minutes onto the play and it was nervy finish as Torquay went in search of a late equaliser. Deep in stoppage time Elliot Benyon had a diving header saved by Lillis.
It finished Rochdale 1, Torquay United 0.