Rochdale left the Highbury Stadium empty handed on Saturday as Fleetwood Town recorded a 1-0 win over Dale.
Josh Morris’ 25-yard strike, their only shot on target, was enough to secure all three points for the home side, in a game where a share of the spoils would have been a fairer outcome.
Manager Keith Hill named an unchanged eleven for the match. There was one change on the bench, though, as Olly Lancashire returned from injury to take the place of second year scholar Nyal Bell.
Rochdale dominated the first half, but failed to capitalise on their majority share of the possession, with clear cut opportunities at a premium due to a resolute Fleetwood Town defence. The home side failed to test Jamie Jones at all during the first half.
After a scrappy start to the game, Rochdale worked the first opening, with goalkeeper Chris Maxwell keeping out Jamie Allen at his post on four minutes. Jack O’Connell’s cross into a packed 18-yard box was chested down by Rhys Bennett, and after being brought under control by Allen, he sent a shot goal-wards, which was kept out by the ‘keeper.
In the 19th minute Allen sent Ian Henderson through on goal with a ball over the top, but the forward could only drag his effort wide of the upright.
Moments later, some great play from Allen led to Peter Vincenti firing a shot goal-wards. A brave Mark Roberts blocked the powerful effort inside the area.
Shortly after the half hour mark, Joe Bunney sent Hendo in on goal, but Maxwell was able to get down low to snuff out the danger before Henderson could get his shot away.
A minute later Roberts was there with an important blocked to steer a ferocious Michael Rose drive away from the target.
Dale remained on top but were unable to make their possession count and the teams went in level at the interval.
HT: FLEETWOOD TOWN 0-0 ROCHDALE
Fleetwood Town looked like a different side after the break and started the second half with an urgency.
Less than sixty seconds after the re-start the Cod Army carved open their first effort of the game as Josh Morris fired a shot narrowly wide of the upright.
With 49 minutes on the clock, Vincenti was flattened inside the area as he attempted to attack a Cannon ball into the area. Appeals for a spot-kick were turned away by the referee.
Five minutes later and Dale were denied on the line as Maxwell got an important hand to a Bunney effort from close range.
And shortly after, the home side opened the scoring with their first and only shot on target. Morris’ fired into the back of the net from 25-yards. Controversy surrounded the goal, however, as Rhys Bennett had been fouled in the build to the goal.
GOAL: FLEETWOOD TOWN 1-0 Rochdale (Morris 59 mins)
Substitutions followed for Dale as Scott Tanser firstly replaced Vincenti and Bunney later made way for Febian Brandy.
Despite Dale’s best efforts to net what would have been a deserved equaliser, they were unable to find a way past a resolute Fleetwood Town defence, who limited Dale to shots from the edge of the area.
Rochdale went on to survive a scare in the 85th minute as a speculative long range effort from Stewart Murdoch, which had left Jones back pedalling, was kept out by the bar. The effort rebounded back into play, but Morris could only fire wide of the upright.
The home side had resorted to time wasting tactics half shortly after their goal and the fourth official rightly added on five minutes of stoppage time.
As the clock ticked towards the full time whistle Henderson found Jack O’Connell on the edge of the six-yard box, but the centre-half was unable to control the ball quickly enough and as he attempted to strike goal-wards, he had the ball taken away from him.
It finished Fleetwood Town 1, Rochdale 0.