Rochdale got back to winning to ways with a well deserved 2-1 win over Bristol Rovers on Easter Monday.
Dale came from behind to secure the important victory after the Gas went ahead against the run of play in the 18th minute, with a goal which appeared not to have crossed the line.
The home side went into the break with the one goal advantage, but Rochdale hit back within sixty seconds of the re-start through Joe Bunney and went on to take the lead shortly after the hour mark through Matty Lund.
A fine save from Josh Lillis deep in injury time ensured Dale secured the full three points.
There were five changes for the game at the Mem as Joe Rafferty, Matty Done, Peter Cavanagh, Joe Bunney and Scott Hogan missed out. They were replaced by Rhys Bennett, Peter Vincenti, Jamie Allen, Bastien Hery and George Donnelly.
A bumper crowd of over 8,000 turned out in the sunshine for the Easter Monday fixture, including 560 Dale fans, making for an excellent atmosphere inside the Mem, and Rochdale rose to the occasion.
An energetic Dale started brightly and during the open exchanges they could have been ahead, if not for Steve Mildenhall who twice denied the visitors. In the third minute an Ian Henderson free-kick troubled the ‘keeper, who was forced to push the ball up and over the bar as Matty Lund pressured inside the six yard box.
Two minutes later the brave goalkeeper was on hand to deny a close range volley from Vincenti at his near post.
Rochdale had started the game on the front foot and were causing all the problems in front of goal, but they found themselves behind against the run of play, and in controversial circumstances, as the Gas hit them on the break.
The counter attack left the Dale defence stranded, with Kaid Mohamed having the easy task of slotting beyond Lillis. He had beaten the ‘keeper, but as his effort struck the post and bobbled across the line, it looked as though Bennett had done enough to hook the ball clear. The goal was awarded, however.
GOAL: Bristol Rovers 1-0 Rochdale (Mohamed, 18 mins)
Rochdale continued in a positive manner with Keith Hill’s side having the best of the clear cut chances during the remainder of the half, despite being forced into an early change after Vincenti failed to recover from a head knock. He was replaced by Bunney shortly after the half hour mark.
The home side did have one notable opportunity shortly after the change as Lillis denied Harrold with his legs, but Dale should have gone into the interval at least level.
In the 33rd minute Ian Henderson was denied by the woodwork for third consecutive game, as his effort from distance, which had beaten Mildenhall, rattled the cross bar.
Seven minutes later and another golden opportunity presented itself to Dale as they continued to work hard in the final third. A scuffed Donnelly shot landed at the feet of an unmarked Bunney, who could only drag his shot wide of the target.
HT: BRISTOL ROVERS 1-0 ROCHDALE
There were no changes for either side at the interval.
Rochdale had been knocking on the door during the first half and they took less than sixty seconds after the re-start to score a more than deserved leveller.
Bunney was sent through on goal by a fine pass from Allen and he made no mistake in firing a shot beyond Mildenhall.
GOAL: Bristol Rovers 1-1 Rochdale (Bunney, 46 minutes)
Dale continued at the same tempo as seen throughout the game, as they looked for a second, and the goal came shortly after the hour mark, albeit fortuitously.
Rose slipped as he crossed the ball, but an alert Donnelly was able to pick out Lund with a back heeled pass inside the six yard box. With the Bristol Rovers defence left standing, all Lund was left to do was tap it over the line at the post.
GOAL: Bristol Rovers 1-2 Rochdale (Lund, 63 minutes)
Rochdale were playing with the type of freedom seen so often this season, as they went in search of a third, and Manager Keith Hill freshened up Dale’s attack in the 71st minute as Graham Cummins replaced Donnelly.
Dale looked threatening every time they drove forward, but the home side also posed a danger as they effectively hit Rochdale on the counter.
With 76 minutes played an opportunity fell for John-Joe O’Toole as Dale failed to hit clear, but the unmarked frontman could only steer an effort well wide of the target.
Seven minutes later and the Gas were almost gifted an own goal, but for an alert Lillis. O’Connell attempted to head clear a long pass forward from Mildenhall, but after getting to much on it, it look destined for the net. Lillis did well to tip the danger up and over the bar.
And deep in stoppage time, Lillis, who has pulled off some important saves this season, stepped up to the plate again as he clawed a looping header from Harrold, which was destined for the top corner of the net, off the line.
It finished Bristol Rovers 1, Rochdale 2.