Rochdale capped off 2016 with a battling 2-1 win over Shrewsbury Town at the Crown Oil Arena.
Goals from Ian Henderson and Steven Davies secured Dale’s tenth consecutive home league win.
Henderson opened the scoring inside four minutes with a calm finish, before Steven Davies doubled the lead shortly before the half hour mark from close range.
Dale had chances for a third in the second half, but Shrewsbury made it a nervy finish as they pulled a goal back late on. However, Ivan Toney’s effort proved to be just a consolation goal as Keith Hill’s men held on for a win which means they will sit 4th in League One heading into the New Year.
Hill named an unchanged starting eleven from Boxing Day’s 3-0 win over Chesterfield, whilst Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Joe Thompson did return to the substitute’s bench.
The opening exchanges were played at a fast pace and saw Conrad Logan pull off an important stop in the third minute. Former Dale man Louis Dodds found Shaun Whalley with a through ball, but his effort was saved by the legs of Logan who had rushed off his line.
The save would prove to be even more important a minute later, as Dale grabbed the early lead. Henderson broke through the Shrewsbury defence and faced goalkeeper Jayson Leutwiler one-on-one, before calmly sliding the ball past him and into the bottom corner.
It was the perfect start for Dale, although the visitors were intent on getting back on level terms as soon as possible. Whalley was again involved for Shrewsbury, as he broke the offside trap and chipped the advancing Logan, but sent the ball wide of goal.
Matthew Lund’s superb cross field pass found the path of Joe Bunney who flashed the ball across the face of goal, which had to be turned behind. From the resulting corner, Davies headed Joe Rafferty’s ball just wide after rising above his marker.
Just before the half hour mark though, Davies did find the back of the net to double Dale’s advantage. Henderson kept a Dale set piece alive by hooking the ball into the path of Davies inside the six yard box, who turned the ball into the empty net.
Although Dale were in control of the scoreline, superb sliding tackles were still required from Keith Keane and Bunney to keep the visitors at bay as they looked for a way back into the game.
Bunney also sent an effort from distance wide, whilst Oliver Rathbone’s stinging left foot effort needed to beaten away by a flying Leutwiler five minutes before half-time.
Dale’s first effort of the second half fell to Davies when he sent a left foot shot over on the half turn, before being replaced shortly afterwards by Joe Thompson.
Ian Black shot wide for the visitors, before Calvin Andrew’s whipped effort from the edge of the area flashed narrowly over.
The visitors’ best spell came midway through the second half, when Ivan Toney had a couple efforts on goal. Firstly, he headed a left wing cross wide of Logan’s near post, before lifting an effort over the Dale stopper which was on its way into the back of the net, if it wasn’t for a combination of Bunney and Jim McNulty who cleared from danger.
Rafferty was inches away from his first goal of the season as he picked up Callum Camps’ poked through ball and struck to the far corner, only for Leutwiler to get a superb touch around the post.
Rafferty then supplied a low cross to the far post where Bunney arrived late, but could only send his effort wide from close range.
Camps and Man of the Match Rathbone were replaced by Jamie Allen and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing with five minutes remaining, but just a minute later the visitors pulled a goal back.
Toney was played in behind the Dale defence and poked the ball past the onrushing Logan to cause a nervy final few minutes for Keith Hill’s men.
Dodds sent a left foot effort flashing wide in the third of four added minutes, but Logan wasn’t tested and the Dale defence held firm for a victory that was fought for right until the very end.