Dale record their first clean sheet since October
Rochdale secured a well-earned point on the road on Friday night in a goal-less draw against Cheltenham Town at the Abbey Business Stadium.
The Robins beat the freeze to ensure the League Two encounter went ahead, and although it wasn’t snowing on the night, the game was played in difficult and bitterly cold conditions.
A strong contingent of Dale fans braved the elements to make the trip to Cheltenham, with 124 supporters taking in Keith Hill’s first game back in charge.
Hill, who was appointed on Tuesday afternoon, made two changes to eleven who went down 2-1 at Dagenham almost a fortnight ago - Jason Kennedy replaced Brian Barry-Murphy, while Joe Rafferty who missed the match against the Daggers through suspension, returned to the right full back position in place of Matty Pearson.
It was a fairly even opening period as both teams looked to get a grip on the match, but Dale quickly rallied to dominate the half.
Andrew Tutte sent Dale’s first opportunity of the half goal-ward on ten minutes with a wild volley from 25-yards, and while it went well over the bar, it saw the start of a lengthy spell of pressure from Rochdale.
Just 60 seconds after Tutte’s strike, play opened up for Jason Kennedy which allowed him to skip past three markers before stabbing a shot at goal from less than six-yards out. The effort however failed to troubled ‘keeper Scott Brown and it trickled past the upright.
Dale really began to ask questions, and on 16 minutes Ashley Grimes attempted a curling effort from just outside the area. The strike, which was aimed for the top corner of the net, went narrowly wide of the post.
A minute later and Bobby Grant forced Brown into his first save of the match with a shot from the edge of the area. The powerful effort, which again look destined for the corner, was tipped up and over the bar by the ‘keeper.
Opportunities were limited for the home side during the half, but they did put the Dale defence under pressure on the half hour mark in a move which led to shouts for a handball in the favour of the Robins.
Joe Rafferty threw his body on the line to block the first incoming shot from Cheltenham, but as Kaid Mohamed blasted a follow up effort in goal, appeals went up for a handball inside the area. The referee was quick to wave play on, and Dale broke on a swift counter attack.
Grant made his way at pace from his own half towards the edge of the 18-yard box, and as he released a dangerous ball into the path of Andrew Tutte, he was adjudged to have been felled and was awarded a free-kick. On this occasion the advantage may have been more beneficial to Dale as Kennedy was already through on goal and would have had a free shot on the target. Grant fired the resulting set-piece over the bar.
The momentum very much continued with Rochdale and just moments before the interval Grant came within inches of finally finding the much deserved opener with a right footed driving effort, but he blasted over the bar.
HALF TIME: CHELTENHAM TOWN 0-0 ROCHDALE
The weather deteriorated after the break and conditions were difficult as driving rain and a swirling wind battered the Abbey Business Stadium.
The Robins started the half brightly and just a minute after the re-start Sido Jombati headed a Billy Jones corner just wide of the target. The home side certainly saw more of the ball during the second of half, but despite increased pressure for a spell, they failed to test Lillis.
Dale were playing into the wind during the second half and on 64 minutes, Grant fired Dale’s first effort of the half goal-ward, but could only look on as the wind appeared to carry his ball well over the bar.
Lillis was then on hand to pull off a fantastic save to deny Keith Lowe at the other end. Substitute Daryl Duffy, who had been on the pitch for less than 60 seconds, flicked the ball on for an unmarked Lowe who was kept out by the’keeper.
Two minutes later and it was Dale who were on the prowl again, and Captain Peter Cavanagh was involved in the action as he sent a ferocious strike from distance at goal. Rochdale had been awarded a free-kick inside Cheltenham’s half, but as the wind carried it up and away from the 18-yard-box, it fell at the feet of Cav who fired a rocket shot, which took a deflection to take it wide of the upright.
On 70 minutes, Marlon Pack tested the Dale goal with a deflected effort, before Keith Hill’s men were forced to defend in numbers. This saw a melee follow on the edge of the area before the ball was whipped away and out for a corner kick.
Clear cut chances were limited as the game approached full time - Grimes failed to test Brown from distance, while Lowe’s free-kick was pushed wide by Lillis.
It finished Cheltenham Town 0, Rochdale 0.