Resolute ten man Rochdale secured their third consecutive victory with a 2-1 win over Accrington Stanley on Saturday.
Goals from Matty Lund and Scott Hogan inside the opening 13 minutes saw Dale storm into an early lead.
The visitors pulled a goal back on 24 minutes through Kayode Odejayi, but the talking point of the game was a controversial red card decision which saw Dale reduced to ten men in stoppage time during the first half after George Donnelly was given his marching orders.
Manager Keith Hill made three changes to the Dale starting eleven for the visit to the Store First Stadium. Gary Dicker was handed a debut, Peter Vincenti returned from suspension and Rhys Bennett was given the nod at right back. They replaced Graham Cummins, Brian Barry-Murphy and Javan Vidal.
Dale took the game by the scruff of the neck from kick-off and Stanley ‘keeper Marcus Bettinelli was the busier of the two ‘keepers for a spell as Rochdale proved difficult for the Accy defence with some fantastic link up play and passing.
Rochdale looked comfortable, while the home side looked fragile during the opening period, and Dale stormed into an early lead with two goals inside 13 minutes.
Matty Lund opened the scoring on six minutes, before Scott Hogan double the lead seven minutes later.
Dicker, who was making his debut after joining Rochdale on a five month deal last Friday, had a part to play in Dale’s first of the afternoon following a short corner routine with Ian Henderson. Henderson played the set piece short to Dicker who laid the ball off to the awaiting Michael Rose, 20 yards from goal. Rose smashed a powerful effort in on goal, which was denied by the face of the cross bar, and the ball fell for Lund who fired it into the back of the net to give Rochdale the lead with the re-bound.
GOAL: ACCRINGTON STANLEY 0-1 ROCHDALE (Lund, 6 minutes)
Rochdale continued on top and added a second goal just seven minutes later.
Defender Jack O’Connell sent a cross into the area, which split the Accrington defence, allowing Hogan to rise unmarked to head home from close range.
GOAL: ACCRINGTON STANLEY 0-2 ROCHDALE (Hogan, 13 minutes)
Accrington Stanley’s performance lifted after going two goals behind, without causing too much trouble for Dale, but they pulled a goal back on 24 minutes.
Shay McCarten took a swipe at the ball and missed it on the edge of the ‘D’ before getting a second attempt to head the ball forward to Kayode Odejayi. There were suspicious of an off side as the on loan Rotherham forward lifted the ball up and over Josh Lillis.
GOAL: ACCRINGTON STANLEY 1- 2 ROCHDALE (Odejayi, 24 minutes)
Stanley looked rejuvenated after their goal and looked dangerous in their pursuit to find an equaliser. After what had been a relatively comfortable start to the match for Dale, Lillis and the back four were now faced with resurgent Accrington side.
Accrington had a strong foot hold on the game, but despite the prolonged spell of pressure in and around the final third, clear cut opportunities were kept at minimum as Rochdale defended resolutely to deny every effort Stanley sent in on goal.
As the game approached the interval, the match became a scrappy and stop start affair due to a number of fouls and handball shouts.
The referee called it correctly as he dismissed suggestions that Bennett and Lancashire had handled inside the area, before booking McCartan for diving after the Stanley man went to ground too easily.
But it was inside stoppage time that Dale were left stunned when George Donnelly was controversially shown a straight red card. It is unclear why the striker was given his marching orders as it appeared Donnelly had won the ball in a 50/50 challenge with Nicky Hunt.
The incident was the last action of the half and Rochdale took a 2-1 lead into the interval.
HT: ACCRINGTON STANLEY 1-2 ROCHDALE
The second half started in a high tempo fashion, in what fast became an entertaining encounter at the Store First Stadium.
Both teams were playing positive football as Dale continued to play attacking football despite being down ten men, and as Accrington looked to take advantage of the extra man.
But it was the home side who had the better of the chances.
On 56 minutes, Odejayi was allowed the space to rise high at the back post and send a header down towards the far post from close range. It was similar to Hogan’s goal in the first half, but unlike the Dale striker, Odejayi sent his off target and past the upright.
Shortly after the half hour mark, Accrington had another fantastic opportunity after sixteen year old Connor Mahoney delivered a dangerous ball across the face of goal. McCarten came racing in at the far post, but despite stretching at length, he was unable to get a foot on to it to turn the ball into the net.
The first substitution of the match soon followed for Dale as Vincenti made way for Cummins. For a spell after the change, Dale enjoyed what was probably their best spell of the second half, but it was Accrington who again took charge as they peppered the Rochdale goal.
And 80 minutes, they forced Lillis and Lancashire into two fine saves within a matter of seconds.
The goalkeeper was forced into an initial save to keep out a powerful strike from McCarten, and the two handed save, which was palmed back into play, was fired back in on goal by Luke Joyce. He was denied by Lancashire who blocked the effort on the line with a diving header.
There was a nervy finish to the match for Rochdale as Accrington continued to pound the Dale goal, but Dale defended resolutely to ensure maximum points from the trip the Store First Stadium.
It finished Accrington Stanley 1, Rochdale 2.