As April began, Dale had eight games of the season remaining, including two over a busy Easter weekend period.
The month started with a trip to Preston North End’s Deepdale on Good Friday, where Keith Hill’s side fell to a 1-0 defeat despite a battling display. Jermaine Beckford’s goal from a tight angle, which he netted late in the first half, was the only goal in a tight game from which Dale deserved more. Rhys Bennett had a first half header ruled out for offside, whilst Ian Henderson sent a header over from close range, the latter being the best chance Dale had to equalise in the second half.
Days later and Rochdale were in action at Spotland as they hosted Port Vale on Easter Monday, and who could forget the late drama that the game produced. The match appeared to be heading for a goal-less draw until substitute Calvin Andrew headed home deep in stoppage to spark brilliant celebrations as the three points kept Dale’s play-off hopes alive.
Click HERE to view Calvin’s goal.
Next up was a trip to Doncaster Rovers and Dale came from a goal down to earn a deserved point at the Keepmoat. Kyle Bennett fired Rovers into the lead on 17 minutes, before Ian Henderson equalised shortly before the hour mark. The result left Rochdale, who still had a game in-hand over most of their league rivals, four points from the top six.
Games continued to come thick and fast as Keith Hill’s side faced Swindon Town at Spotland in the mid-week fixture and clinical finishing proved to be the difference between the two sides as Rochdale fell to a 4-2 defeat. Despite a strong performance from Dale, the damage was all done in the first half as a Ben Gladwin hat-trick and a goal from Michael Smith gave the visitors a four goal advantage. Henderson gave Dale a glimpse of hope as he scored from the spot on the stroke of half time but by the time Nathan Thompson put the ball in the back of his own net deep in stoppage time, the game was over as a contest.
The long journey to Gillingham followed and nine man Rochdale fell to 1-0 defeat at the Priestfield Stadium. In six second half minutes Dale were reduced in personnel as Jamie Jones and Matty Lund were sent off in controversial circumstances. However, it was Bradley Dack’s first half header which was enough to separate the two sides.
Three days later and Dale were back in action at Spotland as they welcomed Leyton Orient. The match was Rochdale’s game in hand and a win was if vital they were to keep their play-off dreams alive going into the final home game of the season against MK Dons on the Saturday. Ian Henderson’s second half strike, which marked his 21st goal of the season, was the only goal of the game in the important victory.
You can hear what Hendo had to say about the goal on our YouTube channel HERE.
Supporters were daring to dream as Dale went into the clash against MK Dons, which was a must win for both teams. Rochdale needed a win to take the play-off dream to the final day of the season at Barnsley, while MK Dons knew a victory would keep them in contention for an automatic promotion spot.
In a thoroughly entertaining encounter, MK Dons took a two goal lead into the interval through goals from Samir Carruthers and Daniel Bowditch, before Dale battled back into the game as Peter Vincenti halved the deficit. Daniel Powell restored the Dons' two goal advantage before Ian Henderson set up a thrilling finish, producing an brilliant atmosphere inside Spotland as fans willed the team on for at least a point. Sadly, it wasn’t to be in terms of securing a play-off place, but after an excellent season, Dale were still on track to secure their highest ever league finish on the final day of the season.
Click HERE to view the goals from the five goal thriller.
Dale travelled to Oakwell for the final fixture of the 2015-16 campaign and despite slipping to a 5-0 defeat, they clinched an eighth placed finish. It meant Rochdale surpassed their previous record of finishing ninth in the third tier in the 2010/11 campaign, a feat set by manager Keith Hill during his first managerial spell at the club.
Have you watched our Season Highlights video on YouTuve yet? Click HERE to view it.