Rochdale were made to rue missed chances as they lost 2-0 to Fleetwood Town in the last fixture of what has been a truly memorable 2014 for the football club. First half goals from Mark Roberts and Josh Morris proved to be the difference between the two sides as Dale suffered back to back league defeats for the first time this season.
Keith Hill named four changes ahead of Rochdale's second game in as many days with Olly Lancashire, Peter Vincenti, Jamie Allen and Bastien Hery starting ahead of Rhys Bennett, Tomasz Cywka and the injured pair of Stephen Dawson and Matty Lund.
Dale opened the game with intent, creating the first opportunity of the game after just 39 seconds. Ian Henderson played a defence splitting first time ball to put Matty Done through one-on-one with ‘keeper Chris Maxwell in the visitors goal. He got his body in the way, though, as Done tried to poke the ball underneath him as he went to ground.
It was Fleetwood, however, who would open the scoring following a free kick on the left of the Rochdale box. Stephen Dobbie whipped the set-piece across the face of goal towards the back post where it was met by Roberts. His textbook downward header beat Josh Lillis and found the back of the net.
Fleetwood came within a hairs width of doubling their advantage after a clever back heel set Proctor through on goal with time to pick his shot. He used up all of his time however, and at full stretch, Olly Lancashire got a leg in the way to deflect Proctor's shot narrowly around the post.
It wasn't long until the visitors did find their second goal. After breaking down the right wing, the low bouncing ball came in and found a gap in the Rochdale defence twelve yards out. Josh Morris was first to react to the ball and threw himself at it, scuffing the ball and sending Lillis the wrong way to see it trickle across the goal line.
A chance fell to Henderson to get Dale back into the game before half time. Michael Rose drilled a free kick from 35 yards which deflected kindly into the path of Henderson in the box. The arrival of the opportunity appeared to take him by surprise however, and under pressure he fired his shot into the body of Fleetwood goalkeeper, Chris Maxwell, who stayed big.
HALF TIME: Rochdale 0-2 Fleetwood Town
Ten minutes into the half, Rochdale were handed a chance to get back into the game from the penalty spot. A Rose corner was floated towards the back post but Lancashire had no chance to get on the end of it as he was hauled to the floor by his marker. This didn't go unnoticed by the referee, however, who pointed straight to the spot. Ian Henderson stepped up to take the resulting penalty but he saw his effort come crashing back off the crossbar before being cleared to safety.
Dale were growing into the game in the second half and two chances in quick succession almost saw a goal of the season contender from Henderson. First, Vincenti was played into the box with a neat Allen ball and at an angle he looked to drive the ball past Maxwell at his near post, but the goalkeeper was alert and got across well to save the effort.
As Fleetwood began to feel the pressure, they struggled to clear their lines and the ball came back to Rafferty on the right. His cross picked out Henderson unmarked in the box and he released a first time volley back across goal. He hit the ball sweetly but saw it drill narrowly over the crossbar with the goalkeeper watching on in hope.
At the other end of the pitch, Lillis remained alert as Fleetwood broke quickly on the counter attack. Substitute Matthew Hughes turned well and showed a burst of speed to break away behind the Dale back line . As he bore down on the Rochdale goal, there was only Josh Lillis between him and a third Cod Army goal but the Dale goalkeeper remained big before getting a strong left hand in the way as Hughes tried to roll the ball past him.
One more chance fell the way of Henderson late into the game after a he got on the end of another Joe Rafferty cross. The ball was worked out to the right by Jamie Allen, finding the run of Rafferty who delivered a deep cross into the box. Cywka failed to connect with the ball with his acrobatic effort, but it ran through to Henderson in an all too familiar position at the back post. Again however, Maxwell remained big at his near post and got all of his body in the way of Henderson's effort.
FULL TIME: Rochdale 0-2 Fleetwood Town
Man of the Match: Jamie Allen
Report by Rob Anderson