Rochdale secured a point at home to league leaders Gillingham on Tuesday night in an entertaining 1-1 draw.
George Donnelly put Dale ahead on 12 minutes, but the Gills levelled terms 11 minutes after the interval.
Manager Keith Hill was forced to make two changes for the visit of Gillingham as Rhys Bennett and Andrew Tutte both missed out with knee injuries. Skipper Peter Cavanagh and Michael Rose were given the nod in the starting eleven.
Gillingham came to Spotland having lost just once on the road this season, while Dale could boast of having been the first team to inflict defeat on the Gills this season following the 2-1 win over Martin Allen’s side at the Priestfield Stadium in September, and hopes of a double over the league leaders were high after Rochdale took the lead with 12 minutes on the clock.
During what was a scrappy opening period, neither team were able to create any clear cut chances, however George Donnelly made no mistake in giving Dale a one goal advantage as he netted in style after making the most of a mix up between Gills goalkeeper Stuart Nelson and his defender.
The frontman, who was 30 yards from goal, saw the ‘keeper off his line and lobbed the ball over Nelson and into the back of the net with a goal of the season contender.
His goal came following an opening spell where Gillingham had been the better of the two sides without threatening, and it appeared to inject a renewed sense of confidence into the side, and Donnelly, and it was Dale who continued on top.
Just four minutes after taking the lead, Rose came within inches of adding a second as his curling effort went narrowly wide of the cross bar.
Rochdale dominated for the remainder of the half as they applied the pressure on the visitors’ goal in an up tempo display, but were kept at bay by a strong Gills defence. Donnelly’s effort from 20 yards, which he fired over the bar, the most notable chance as the game ticked towards the interval.
HT: ROCHDALE 1-0 GILLINGHAM
Gillingham came out after the interval all cylinders firing and within three minutes of the re-start had two opportunities to find an equaliser.
Lillis, who had very little to do in the first half, was called into action as he tipped a shot from Danny Kedwell over the bar at his near post. Just 60 seconds later, Leon Legge should have drawn the visitors level with a diving header, but missed the ball as it darted across the face of goal.
The Gills continued to apply the pressure and Fish sent a glancing header narrowly wide of the upright.
A goal always looked likely for Gillingham and they finally found a breakthrough on 56 minutes through Kedwell who got on the end of a Fish cross and headed down past Lillis from close range.
Rochdale were forced to defend for long spells, however they did have an opportunity in front of goal shortly before the hour mark as Donnelly broke on the attack. His cross-come-shot failed to trouble Nelson.
On 72 minutes a fine save from Lillis denied Antonio German from putting the visitors ahead after he went through one on with the ‘keeper. German attempted it to curl the ball round Lillis but the goalkeeper stopped him from getting the shot away.
Immediately up the other end, Bobby Grant had a shot deflected just inches wide of the post.
The effort inspired Dale on and Keith Hill’s side enjoyed a spell on top as they peppered the Gills goal.
On 77 minutes Joe Thompson was kept out by Nelson who palmed an effort from the winger into the side netting, before Cansdell-Sherriff had a header cleared off the line. Captain Cav also had a shot collected by the ‘keeper.
In the final moments of the game Gillingham were reduced to ten men as Frampton was shown red following an off the ball clash with Bobby Grant after the visitors reacted to a late challenge from Donnelly on Legge.
In stoppage time, Dale had appeals for a handball inside the box turned down, while Grant was unable to guide a Donnelly shot, which was heading past the upright, into the back of the net at the far post.
It finished Rochdale 1, Gillingham 1.