Rochdale delivered a knockout punch on Boxing Day, with a 3-0 win over Chesterfield at the Crown Oil Arena to rise to fourth in League One.
An Ian Henderson brace and a Calvin Andrew goal secured Dale’s ninth consecutive league win at home, despite an early penalty miss from Steven Davies.
Henderson put Keith Hill’s side ahead with a stunning effort just before the break, before Andrew doubled the lead in the second half. Henderson sealed the win with his second in the final ten minutes, to cap off another superb home performance.
Andrew replaced Joe Thompson in the only change from Dale’s win at Northampton Town last weekend.
Dale began strongly and enjoyed the better of the opening stages, despite Gboly Ariyibi forcing Conrad Logan into action inside the opening ten minutes with a low effort from the edge of the area.
Just a minute later and there was a golden opportunity for Dale to take the lead from the penalty spot. Davies’ cross was spilt by Chesterfield goalkeeper Lloyd Allinson, who brought down Matthew Lund as he attempted to claim the loose ball. Davies stepped up, but Allinson made amends by stopping and holding on to the spot kick low to his right.
Keith Hill’s side continued to edge proceedings, but without creating a clear goalscoring opportunity. Callum Camps sent a free-kick just over the bar from 35 yards, whilst at the other end a mix up between Jim McNulty and Keith Keane saw Ariyibi break through, but his shot to the far post was held by Logan.
As half-time approached Dale began to turn the screw on the visitors. Henderson chipped a cross from the left under the crossbar which was headed clear by Ian Evatt, before Joe Bunney’s cross was met by Andrew, but the striker’s header flew wide of the right post.
Just a minute before the break and Dale grabbed the goal their play had merited, and what a goal it was. Keane carried the ball through midfield and found Rathbone, who turned the ball on to Henderson on the corner of the 18 yard box. With his first touch he curled the ball over Allinson into the far corner to give Dale the lead at the break.
Five minutes into the second half and Joe Rafferty should have doubled Dale’s lead. Bunney’s free-kick was missed by Allinson and hit a Chesterfield defender, ricocheting into the path of Rafferty who headed over from inside the six yard box.
A loose pass from Keane out of defence saw the visitors flood bodies forward on the counter attack, but Ched Evans chose not to use them and went for goal himself, seeing his effort tipped wide by Logan.
Just a minute before the hour mark, Dale secured a two goal cushion thanks to Andrew. Davies broke with the ball down the left and squared into the area towards Henderson, who allowed the ball to run through for Andrew. He struck first time left footed and the ball squirmed under Allinson and into the back of the net.
Keith Hill’s men were firmly in control of the game and Andrew could have added another midway through the half, but his header from Bunney’s corner was held.
Dion Donohue sent a fizzing effort just wide from 35 yards, before Evans fired into the side netting at the near post after the visitors had worked a quick free kick on the right side.
As the game entered the final ten minutes, Dale made sure of all three points thanks to a second goal from Man of the Match Ian Henderson. Davies did superbly to win the ball and beat his man on the right side, before he squared for Henderson who rifled into the roof of the net from eight yards out.
Henderson was replaced shortly afterwards by Andy Cannon, whilst Jamie Allen also came on for Oliver Rathbone as Dale saw out the remaining minutes comfortably, their ninth consecutive home league win moving them up to fourth in the table ahead of Friday night’s visit of Shrewsbury Town.