Dale lost their first game of the new season after a 2-1 defeat by Walsall at Spotland on Tuesday night.
The visitors had the better of the first half, but went ahead against the run of play midway through the second half through Andy Taylor.
Sam Mantom’s deflected effort doubled their lead five minutes later, before substitute Calvin Andrew pulled one back for Dale, with what proved to be just a consolation goal.
Keith Hill made one change from the win over Blackpool on Saturday, with Rhys Bennett coming in for Joe Bunney. Josh Lillis was in goal, with a back four of Joe Rafferty, Oliver Lancashire, Jimmy McNulty and Tom Kennedy. Jamie Allen was the deepest midfielder, with Bennett and Callum Camps ahead of him. Peter Vincenti and Donal McDermott were wide, supporting lone striker Ian Henderson.
There was an early scare for Dale when Lillis failed to collect a cross, but he made a great stop at the second attempt to deny a Walsall opener within a minute.
Other than that it was a slow start to the game, with neither side troubling the other’s goal until Adam Chambers headed straight at Lillis from a corner.
Dale’s best play came down their right side, with Henderson doing well to get to the by-line, before his cut back hit the goalkeeper and rebounded off Bennett’s arm and out of play.
Nice link up play between McDermott and Vincenti saw the latter have a shot deflected on the turn. That deflected straight into the path of Allen, but the Captain’s left foot shot flew high and wide.
That was as good as the first half got for Keith Hill’s men, as the visitors took control and came close a couple of times. Andy Taylor’s pull back from the left found Kieron Morris, whose shot flew just wide.
Sam Mantom’s half volley drew Lillis into a fine reaction save via a slight deflection, before Morris went close again after McNulty had given the ball away cheaply.
Bennett was switched to right midfield at half time, with McDermott moving into the hole and Camps dropping deeper alongside Allen, as Keith Hill tried to give his side the upper hand in the second period.
However, Camps was withdrawn just seven minutes into the half, with Michael Rose replacing him. Rafferty was then replaced by Bunney just five minutes later.
The visitors had two good chances just before the hour mark to take the lead, with Morris heading over and Flanagan’s half volley going straight at Lillis.
Those chances seemed to spark Dale into life, as they created a flurry of chances during their best spell of the game. Henderson’s clever ball found substitute Bunney, whose shot was saved into the path of Vincenti. He turned the ball over the line on the slide, but was denied by the offside flag.
A miscommunication in the Walsall defence almost lead to McDermott stealing in to turn a backwards header over the line, but Neil Etheridge got back quickly to palm the ball out for a corner.
Bunney then showed why he had been brought on by Keith Hill as he carved out three chances for himself. His first was from a corner which he managed to dig out and find the target with, but Etheridge was equal to it. He then had two identical efforts with his right foot coming in from the left, but Etheridge was behind them both again.
However, just as Dale were in the ascendency, the sucker punch came from the visitors. Taylor’s excellent run down the left saw him exchange passes with Mantom, volleying home the midfielder’s cut back.
There was a half chance for Dale to equalise just two minutes later when Etheridge’s poor kick fell straight to McDermott, but the goalkeeper rushed out well to deny the Dale man’s effort.
Vincenti was taken off for Calvin Andrew moments later, but Walsall soon doubled their lead in fortuitous circumstances.
A cutback from left came all the way to Mantom on the edge of the area. His shot took a wicked deflection off a Dale defender and looped up and over Lillis into the back of the net.
It was another killer blow for Dale who hadn’t recovered from the shock of conceding the first against the run of play.
But Keith Hill’s sides just don’t give up, and they gave themselves a lifeline with ten minutes remaining. Rose’s great cross was headed against the bar by Henderson, and as the rebound dropped out of the sky Andrew rose highest to nod the ball against the woodwork before the ball crossed the line. The referee’s assistant had to confirm it to the rest of the ground, but there weren’t too many complaints from the Walsall players.
Dale pushed and pushed for the equaliser in the closing stages, but they couldn’t find a way through a stubborn Walsall defence and fell to their first defeat of the new season.