Rochdale undeservedly fell to a 1-0 defeat at league leaders Bristol City on Saturday – a score-line which was not a true reflection of the game.
Dale had the better of the opportunities, the majority of the possession and played some excellent football against the Robins, but they were unable to find the goal they deserved to claim at least a point, as Aaron Wilbraham’s bullet header on 15 minutes proved to be the only goal of the game.
Manager Keith Hill made four changes to the side lined-up against Sheffield United on Tuesday night. Jamie Jones, who joined Dale on loan on Thursday, was handed a debut, while Rhys Bennett, Jamie Allen and Joe Bunney also started. Josh Lillis, Febian Brandy, Bastien Hery and Joel Logan dropped to the bench.
Rochdale started the match brightly and had the better of the early opportunities, coming close twice in the opening ten minutes.
With two minutes played, Rose delivered an excellent ball in towards back post for the runner in Ian Henderson, who headed narrowly over the bar.
Seven minutes later, Peter Vincenti was denied by the woodwork. His free-kick from 30-yards was kept out by the cross bar.
Dale were looking comfortable, but conceded in the fifteenth minute from a corner ball. Aaron Wilbraham powered a bullet header beyond Jamie Jones after getting on the end of the set-piece.
It was a blow for Rochdale, who had more than matched the league leaders during the opening exchanges. Dale responded excellently after going a goal behind and stuck to task as they continued to pose a threat going forward, while looking comfortable defensively.
In the 17th minute, Keith Hill’s side had another effort on goal, as Ashley Eastham headed just over the bar from close range.
Dale then arguably had their best opportunity of the half with 25 minutes on the clock.
Jamie Allen was firstly denied by Frank Fielding, who pulled off an excellent save to deny the midfielder. The re-bound fell for Vincenti, who hit his effort into the ground, taking it up and over the unguarded net.
Rochdale continued to pressure and a minute later, superb vision from Allen saw him play an excellent through ball for Henderson, which could have taken him through on goal. Unfortunately the frontman was unable to control the pacey pass and it skipped out of play.
Dale enjoyed the majority of the possession as they half progressed and they continued to pressure, without netting the equaliser they deserved. They did, however, go into the interval with lots of positives to take from a solid (overall) first half performance.
HT: BRISTOL CITY 1-0 ROCHDALE
There were no changes for Dale at the interval.
Rochdale had all of the opportunities in the second half – the first of which came eight minutes after the re-start, but they were again denied by an excellent Fielding save.
Eastham had picked out Vincenti with a perfect pass, and as the ball left the head of the Jersey man and travelled across goal, it looked destined for the corner of the net. Fielding, however, kept out the effort as he got a hand to it with a stretching save.
Shortly after the hour mark and Vincenti was involved again. This time he was unable to connect properly with a ball into the area from Rafferty, but still forced the Robins ‘keeper into a save at his near post.
Dale were probing without just rewards as Bristol City failed to test the Dale goal at all, and Manager Keith Hill made his first substitution of the match on 67 minutes as Joe Rafferty was replaced by second year scholar Nyal Bell.
The youngster showed some great confidence shortly after joining the action as he took on two Bristol City defenders and the ‘keeper. Fielding was able to get down low to smother eventually, though.
A second substitution followed in the 76th minutes as Joe Bunney made way from Febian Brandy.
Four minutes after the change Henderson glanced a header just inches wide of the upright after getting on the end of a Tom Kennedy cross.
And deep in stoppage time Hendo came agonisingly close as his effort looped up and into the roof of the net.
A dominant Rochdale were unable to find an equaliser they deserved and Bristol City claimed all three points from the League One fixture at Ashton Gate.
FT: BRISTOL CITY 1-0 ROCHDALE