Dale fell to their first defeat in five games as they lost 4-1 away to Port Vale…
Vale scored two goals late in the first half courtesy of Theo Robinson and Michael O’Connor. Keith Hill made three substitutions at half-time but it wasn’t enough to rescue the game, with JJ Hooper and O’Connor grabbing a third and fourth either side of a stunner from substitute Calvin Andrew.
Dale were unchanged from Tuesday night’s draw with Gillingham.
The first chance of the game fell to Dale. After soaking up possession for much of the game’s opening play, Donal McDermott caught Vale by surprise in the eighth minute as he suddenly sped through their midfield and lashed a shot away from 25 yards. Jak Alnwick did well to stretch for the ball and tip it out for a corner, as it was looking likely to dip just under the crossbar.
Vale went close in the 13th minute. Some interplay between Sam Foley and Theo Robinson allowed Foley the chance to flash the ball across the 6-yard box, but Joe Rafferty managed to get a foot to it before the advancing JJ Hooper.
And they had a first shot on target five minutes later, after a Michael O’Connor set-piece found the towering Richard Duffy at the back post. Despite heading from close range his effort didn’t trouble Josh Lillis.
The home side were becoming more and more dangerous as the game crossed the half hour mark. JJ Hooper utilised his pace to break away from Ashley Eastham, but his eventually his pace worked against him as he became unbalanced, eventually fired away a tame left-footed effort that Lillis dealt with comfortably.
Port Vale ahead in in the 37th minute. Robinson picked the ball up on the left side of the box after receiving the ball from JJ Hooper, and after cutting inside and pushing the ball out of Rafferty’s reach, he curled the ball into the top right, out of Lillis’s reach.
It was almost 2-0 just minutes later as JJ Hooper had a goal ruled offside. Robinson caused the Dale defensive some trouble again fired a cross through the goalmouth to find Hooper at the back post. He tapped in from close range but the linesman’s flag was raised instantly.
With two minutes of the first half remaining Dale conceded a penalty. Foley was fouled just as he swung his leg back to fire off a shot, and the referee took no time to point to the spot. O’Connor stepped up to take the penalty, and sent Lillis right, but placed the ball centrally. 2-0 Port Vale.
HALF-TIME: PORT VALE 2-0 ROCHDALE
There were three changes at the half for Dale, with Calvin Andrew, Ian Henderson and Grant Holt coming on to replace Callum Camps, Joe Bunney and Donal McDermott. It was Henderson’s first game in four after serving a ban. Michael Rose moved to left-back, and Jim McNulty moved into defensive midfield.
Just two minutes into the second half Port Vale scored a third. JJ Hooper broke the offside trap and after breaking away, he calmly slotted the ball into the net.
Dale pulled one back in the 51st minute. Henderson received the ball on the halfway line from Jamie Allen, and after surging through the Vale half he whipped a pass over to the right and found Calvin Andrew. Andrew moved the ball onto his left foot and fired a ferocious effort into the top left from just outside the area.
It was end to end stuff at the start of the second half, and Vale came right back at Dale. The duo of Robinson and Hooper were causing Dale problems, and from forced Lillis into a couple of fine saves after striking the ball from distance in successive minutes.
Dale were becoming to string attacks together, and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing went close in the 63rd minute. He linked up with Rose and Henderson on the left, and after cutting inside he curled the ball just over the crossbar.
Rose and Henderson linked up again the following minute. A searching cross from Rose was met in the box by Henderson, but he didn’t get enough contact on his header and the ball glanced past the right post.
Henderson missed another chance in the 67th minute after Calvin Andrew chased down a long ball under pressure from Ryan McGivern. Andrew brought the ball down and squared it to the oncoming Henderson, but he fired over from outside the area.
A minute later Vale were came close to a fourth. Hooper was in on goal with plenty of room but Lillis sprinted bravely from his line and intercepted the ball with an outstretched arm.
In the 72nd minute Lillis came to Dale’s rescue once more. Robinson chested the ball down and played in Ben Purkiss down the right, and after marauding past Rose he powerfully drove the ball at Lillis’s near post, but the ‘keeper got down low and parried the ball away.
And with 15 minutes remaining they were awarded a second penalty after a push in the box. O’Connor stepped up for a second time and beat Lillis again, this time firing left as Lillis dove right.
Robinson was a constant threat for Vale, and he went close again in the 82nd minute after smashing a shot from close range that forced Lillis into another impressive save.
Dale nearly pulled another goal back in the final few minutes after Mendez-Laing played Andrew in down the left. Andrew fired a shot away from close range, but the angle was too tight and Alnwick got a fist to it. The ball came back out to Mendez-Laing but his follow-up shot was blocked on the line.
FULL TIME: PORT VALE 4-1 ROCHDALE
Report by Danny Edwards.