Ashley Grimes had given Dale the lead shortly before the half hour, but Rochdale were forced to defend their advantage during a second half dominated by the visitors. Rotherham found a breakthrough on 78 minutes when Kayode Odejayi netted from a corner kick, and sealed the three points in injury time with a Courtney Cameron goal.
Rochdale welcomed The Millers to Spotland in confident mood following Saturday’s 4-2 win over Bradford City and Manager John Coleman named an unchanged eleven for the encounter.
The game at Valley Parade offered a performance which left supporters hungry for more of the same, and the first half performance against Steve Evans’ side didn’t disappoint.
While the first half wasn’t alight with goals, the 45 minutes did produce another solid performance from the team as they won the midfield battle more often than not.
Rochdale had the better of the chances inside the opening period, however they failed to convert despite some pleasing one touch football from the middle of the pitch into the final third.
On five minutes Andrew Tutte, Bobby Grant and Terry Gornell linked up well to send the first, albeit off target, effort of the game in on goal. Grant picked out Tutte who had set off on a run up the right hand flank and after looking up just briefly, Tutte sent the ball across the face of the goal for the awaiting Gornell who had followed the run perfectly. In the end he could only send it over the bar but the move highlighted great awareness between the players.
Three minutes later and there was another sweeping move forward, again created by Tutte who had closed down a Rotherham break in the mid-field area. He broke from just inside his own half before sending the ball out to Grant on the flank. Much of Dale’s play would come from the right hand side and through the former Scunthorpe United man, who on this occasion picked out Grimes inside the 18-yard box. The on form frontman flicked it on for Gornell who was unable to control it effectively and he sent it wide of the upright.
Rotherham got a foothold on the game for a time but they were quickly deflated by a Grimes goal which put Dale ahead shortly before the half hour.
On 16 minutes Phil Edwards was the man to thank as he cleared a Johnny Mullins header off the line, before the woodwork denied the visitors ten minutes later. Kari Arnason’s header rattled off the underside of the bar and bounced back out into play.
Momentum continued with Rotherham but they were kept out again on 28 minutes, this time Josh Lillis pulled off a fantastic save to see out Lee Frecklington who had gone through one on one with the ‘keeper. After making the decision to come off his line, it was crucial that Lillis timed his run to precision, and he did just that, to get his finger-tips on the ball to send it over the bar.
And it was on the attack from this move that Dale opened the scoring. Andrew Tutte had been caught late as the ball was played out from goal, however the referee played on which worked out to Dale’s advantage. Rafferty did well to evade his marker on the right flank before sending in a cross for Grimes who appeared to have mis-controlled the ball with his first touch. It was however a touch which was needed in order to allow him to turn and fire a left footed shot goal-wards. His shot, which he lifted over ‘keeper Andy Warrington, came off the underside of the cross bar and into the top corner of the net.
Rochdale continued to look the better of the two after the goal, but were unable to add their to tally as the Millers’ defence stood strong to keep the pressure off goalkeeper Warrington and Dale went into the interval with a one goal advantage.
Almost immediately after the re-start Dale’s first half good work was almost undone after Lillis put Cavanagh under pressure with a short pass inside his 18-yard box. Rotherham’s Ben Pringle was on Cavanagh’s shoulder as the pass was played and he was quick to make a snap challenge to take the ball away from the Rochdale skipper. Thankfully for Dale he could only send it over the bar.
It was a sign of things to come and Rochdale were forced to defend their 1-0 lead as the Millers came out the dominant of the two after the break in what became a hard fought second half.
With Rochdale defending their lead and Rotherham going in search an equaliser, Dale went for large spells without creating anything in front of goal as they dug deep to keep out the Millers. And after dominating, Rotherham finally found a breakthrough on 78 minutes from a set piece. An in-swinging cross was whipped into a packed box and after several attempts to stab the ball across the line, Kayode Odejayi somehow managed to steer it into the bottom corner of the net.
Rochdale had it all to do once more if they wanted to start 2013 with a victory and just two minutes later Kennedy came close to doing just that with Dale’s first opportunity of the half. Tutte broke before playing it out to substitute George Donnelly who picked out the head of Kennedy. He could only send it wide of the target.
And the final blow for Dale came in injury time when Courtney Cameron fired home to seal victory for the Millers. He curled the ball into the back of the net from the edge of the area to deliver the sucker punch blow.
After the goal Rochdale threw everything forward as they searched for an equaliser, but despite Kennedy coming closest right at the death with a shot which was closed down by Warrington at his near post, Dale could not find a way through.
It finished Rochdale 1, Rotherham 2.