Clinical Dale secured a resounding 4-0 win over Swindon Town at the Crown Oil Arena.
Joe Bunney put Dale ahead just before the half hour mark with a back post header, before three goals in 11 second half minutes sealed a convincing victory.
Matthew Lund crashed home an effort from inside the area to double the lead ten minutes after the break. Steven Davies slotted home from his own rebound shortly after coming on as sub, and netted his second from the penalty spot after he was brought down in the area.
Dale could have added to the score as they enjoyed near total domination, securing a fully deserved three points moving them to 7th in the League One table.
Keith Hill made three changes to the side that beat Maidstone United 2-0 in Tuesday night’s FA Cup first round replay. Matthew Lund returned from winning his first international cap for Northern Ireland, alongside
Keith Keane and Oliver Rathbone. Ian Henderson returned the substitute’s bench after missing five games through injury.
On a bitterly cold afternoon at the Crown Oil Arena it was the visitors who created the first opening. There were suspicions of offside as John Goddard broke into the area, but Conrad Logan denied the forward with his legs.
Shortly afterwards it took a superb last ditch tackle from Keane to deny Anton Rodgers what would have been a certain goal, after a deflection at the near post had deceived Logan.
Dale’s first chance of the afternoon fell to Nathaniel Mendez-Laing. Rathbone drifted past a defender on the left wing before crossing to Mendez-Laing on the penalty spot, but he didn’t catch it properly and the effort flew wide.
Rathbone also had a shot blocked an attempt with a header which he couldn’t quite reach to get a good purchase on. Lund sent an effort curling well wide from outside the area as Dale started to have the upper hand.
They took advantage in the 29th minute as Bunney opened the scoring. Callum Camps created a yard of space on the right before crossing to the back post, where Bunney came steaming in to head back across goal and past Lawrence Vigoroux.
Joe Rafferty ended up on the floor inside the area as a free-kick was sent over, but his claims for a penalty were waved away by the referee. Another set piece saw a combination of Raffert and Lund meet an outswinging corner, but it was a comfortable save for Vigoroux.
Lund then came inches away from a second for Dale shortly before half-time. Mendez-Laing’s pull back to the edge of the area was struck first time by Lund, but his effort curled just wide of the right post.
There was a final chance for Swindon before the break, when Goddard broke into the left of the area, but Logan was out quickly to deny with his body.
Dale were dealt a blow in added time of the first period, when Keane limped off with an injury sustained off the ball. Harrison McGahey replaced him.
The second half was set-up for a competitive second half, but Dale weren’t interested in any of that and had the game wrapped up inside the hour.
Mendez-Laing almost scored a wonder goal after carrying the ball forward from the halfway line, but as he bore down on goal he decided to loft the ball over the goalkeeper, and cleared the crossbar in the process.
Reuben Noble-Lazarus was replaced by Davies in the 54th minute, and just a minute later Dale doubled their lead. Rafferty’s free-kick wasn’t cleared and fell to Lund ten yards from goal. He kept his composure and struck powerfully into the roof of the net to cap off a fine week for the new Northern Ireland international.
It took a fine save from Vigoroux to deny a Joe Thompson header from Bunney’s left wing cross. A minute later though, and another superb Bunney cross did lead to a Dale goal.
Davies rose highest at the back post and forced Vigoroux into another great diving save, but this time the stop came straight back to Davies who calmly slotted home Dale’s third.
The substitute had only been on the pitch four minutes, and he created and scored Dale’s fourth in the 66th minute. He chased what looked to be a lost cause into the corner and won the ball back off a Swindon defender before driving into the area, where he was upended to win his side a penalty.
Davies stepped up and outwitted the goalkeeper who dived to his right, sending the ball down the middle to double his tally.
Dale were in complete control and kept hold of the ball well, creating a number of opportunities to add to their total in the final fifteen minutes. Bunney sent a shot wide after a good move opened up space for him on the left, before Rathbone was replaced by the returning Henderson.
The visitors’ two second half chances came within a few minutes of each other, as substitute Ellis Iandolo’s header saved low by Logan at his near post, before Michael Doughty’s free-kick fell just wide of the near post.
Substitute Henderson could have marked his return with a goal on three separate occasions as the game entered the final ten minutes.
Firstly he was picked out by Bunney’s pull back, but couldn’t get the ball out of his feet quick enough before forcing Vigoroux into a low save. He then had a shot from Thompson’s pull back deflected out for a corner, before sending a half volley into the arms of the Swindon stopper from just outside the area.
Keith Hill’s side didn’t add to their tally, but had already done enough to secure their biggest win of the season with a superb display.