Ryan Delaney’s late goal wasn’t enough to prevent Dale exiting the Carabao Cup at the second round stage after a 2-1 defeat at Championship side Middlesbrough.
Marvin Johnson opened the scoring late on in the opening period for the hosts, before Jordan Hugill doubled Boro’s lead eight minutes after the break.
Dale pulled a goal back through Ryan Delaney in the final ten minutes and created a number of opportunities, but couldn’t find the equaliser that would send the game to penalties.
Keith Hill made six changes to the starting eleven from Saturday’s game at home to Walsall. Connor Randall made his Dale debut after signing on loan from Liverpool last week, whilst Kgosi Ntlhe, Ryan Delaney, Calvin Andrew, Bradden Inman and Andy Cannon also came in.
Dale more than matched their Championship opponents in the opening period, with Callum Camps and Ian Henderson seeing efforts from distance held, whilst Andrew also sent a long-range drive over the crossbar.
Goalkeeper Magnus Norman made two strong stops to keep the hosts at bay, turning Ashley Fletcher’s effort from inside the area around his near post, before keeping hold of Paddy McNair’s powerful effort after the Northern Irishman’s run across the edge of the area.
However, there was nothing the on-loan Fulham stopper could do to prevent Boro taking the lead. Fletcher nodded Marcus Tavernier’s cross from the right against the foot of the post and the rebound fell kindly for Johnson, who smashed home into the far post area.
Dale were inches away from what would have been an equaliser when Inman’s dangerous ball across the edge of the six-yard box from the left somehow evaded three in a white shirt, before Fletcher curled an effort beyond the far post on the stroke of half-time for the hosts.
Hill’s men began brightly in the opening the minutes of the second period, as Andrew forced Andy Longergan into a tip over the crossbar, before a goalmouth scramble from the resulting corner was eventually turned away from danger by the hosts.
However, Boro extended their lead eight minutes after the break, when Hugill met Johnson’s cross from the left and powered a header home from the edge of the six-yard box.
Dale responded well and Henderson was inches away from meeting Cannon’s driven cross from the right, before the Dale skipper saw a superbly executed volley from 25-yards turned round the post by Longergan.
Stephen Dooley replaced Inman to make his Dale debut just after the hour mark as Camps and Andrew both saw efforts fly off target, either side of a curling effort from McNair which struck the far post for the visitors.
Dale put the hosts under severe pressure in the final ten minutes and deservedly pulled a goal back when Dooley’s free-kick fell to Andrew who saw a shot saved, but Delaney was on hand to stab home the rebound.
The pressure continued from Dale and produced some desperate blocks from the home side, as Dooley then Cannon forced brave defending after Joe Rafferty’s ball into the area.
Camps then saw an effort well saved after Dooley’s free-kick fell to him, from which Delaney saw his rebound cleared off the line.
Cannon forced Lonergan into another save from the edge of the area before the Boro ‘keeper held on to Ntlhe’s header in added time.
MJ Williams fired over from distance, before substitute Matty Gillam turned over Dale’s final chance in the final minute from six-yards, after a ball over the top fell kindly for him, but he couldn’t turn home to grab the equaliser Dale’s play deserved.