Ten man Dale were beaten 4-0 by Bradford City at The Northern Commercials Stadium at Valley Parade.
Two quick goals from Billy Clarke and Timothée Dieng late in the first half gave Bradford the lead at the break, after Dale had made a promising start.
Niall Canavan was sent off just before the hour mark for two bookable offences. The home side took advantage and scored another two in a five minute spell, through James Hanson and Marcus Marshall.
Keith Hill had a depleted squad for the match due to having to contend with injuries and illness and he made six changes to the side that lined-up against Hartlepool United in the Checkatrade Trophy midweek. Niall Canavan, Keith Keane, Joe Bunney, Callum Camps, Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Steven Davies all returned to the starting line-up.
In addition, he named three youth team players in the squad, as Aaron Morley started in midfield, with Matthew Gillam and Andrew Hollins on the bench.
Dale began strongly and created the first chance eight minutes in. Joe Rafferty’s free-kick was partially cleared to Andy Cannon, who shifted the ball onto his left foot before dragging his shot just wide.
Rafferty again provided a cross from the right side, this time for Davies whose close range effort was superbly saved by Rouven Sattelmaier, who wasn’t aware that the offside flag had already been raised against the Dale forward.
Bunney sent an ambitious long range effort well over as Dale continued their impressive start, before the home side began to get a foothold in the game. Clarke’s free-kick was held by Josh Lillis, before Keane’s flying block denied Law’s effort from the edge of the area as it looked to be flying on target.
Davies, back at the club he plied his trade for last season, sent a header goalwards after Camps’ ball had looped up into his path, but Sattelmaier held comfortably.
As the clock ticked towards half-time the sides looked to be heading in goalless, before two goals in three minutes for Bradford gave Dale an uphill task in the second half.
Law’s cross from the left hand side was missed by players from both sides and fell perfectly for Clarke 12 yards out. He finished clinically with his right foot, past the despairing dive of Lillis, to break the deadlock.
Clarke then tried his luck from range two minutes later, which forced Lillis into a low save to his left to turn the ball away for a corner.
The resulting corner was cleared but only out to Clarke on the right wing. His left footed delivery was met by Dieng whose glancing header clipped the inside of the far post and into the back of the net.
The two quick goals appeared to have stunned Keith Hill’s side, and it could have been even worse going into the break when James Hanson headed Law’s cross wide with the final chance of the first half.
Reuben Noble-Lazarus replaced Morley just after half-time, and he inadvertently blocked Davies’ header from Rafferty’s corner as it headed goalwards, just minutes after coming on.
Lillis had to be alert as a soft back pass from Keane gave Clarke the chance to scamper in behind, but the Dale stopper was quick off his line and did superbly to stop the striker from breaking through on goal.
Shortly before the hour mark came the incident that made Dale’s task even more difficult, as Canavan was shown a second yellow card for bringing down Josh Cullen as he ran through on goal.
There was double punishment for Dale, as the home side made it three from the resulting free-kick. Hanson met the set-piece with his head which Lillis did well to save, but the forward reacted quickly to stab home the rebound.
Jim McNulty replaced Rafferty as Dale reshuffled, with Joe Thompson moving to right-back.
The hosts completed their scoring in the 64th minute, this time direct from a free-kick just right of central. Marshall stepped up and curled over the wall, leaving Lillis rooted to the spot as the ball flew just inside his left post.
Harrison McGahey replaced Bunney with 20 minutes remaining in Keith Hill’s final change of the afternoon.
Hanson could have added another when Lillis’ save from Law’s shot fell to him, but he couldn’t get the ball out from under his feet to prod home.
Noble-Lazarus and Davies sent long range efforts off target as Dale battled until the final whistle, but the game was already won for the home side.