Rochdale fell to a 4-2 defeat away at Bristol Rovers on Saturday.
Jake Beesley netted twice in six second-half minutes to put Dale level after the home side had opened up a two goal advantage, but the Gas scored two late goals to put the game beyond Dale’s reach and secure the victory.
Jim McNulty and Alex Newby returned from injury to replace Max Taylor and Josh Andrews in the starting eleven, as Manager Robbie Stockdale made two changes to the side that lined up against Hartlepool United midweek.
It was all Dale during the opening five minutes as they started the game brightly.
They came close to opening the scoring a couple of minutes after kick-off, but Newby saw his strike from Aaron Morley’s low corner deflected wide.
McNulty then thread an inch perfect pass through to Abraham Odoh who drove forward and exchanged passes with Jake Beesley before dragging a shot wide.
Soon after, Luca Hoole headed down and narrowly past Jay Lynch’s post from a ball in from the left, in the Gas’ first opportunity of the match,
The hosts broke the deadlock with ten minutes on the clock. Evans left the Rochdale ‘keeper with no chance of a save, as he curled a free-kick from 22-yards into the top corner.
The goal gave the home side impetus and they had chances to extend their lead further.
Sam Nicholson got away down the right and into the area before seeing an effort well held. Trevor Clarke then got to the byline and squared the ball across the face of goal, where McNulty and Jeriel Dorsett combined to somehow keep it out, as the ball looked certain to spin across the line.
Lynch then pulled off a brilliant save to deny Clarke’s volley, flying to his left to turn away the goal bound strike.
A couple of minutes before the interval there was panic inside the Gas area when Beesley charged down James Belshaw and saw the ‘keeper’s clearance come ricochetting off him before bouncing inches wide of the upright. In the end, the referee adjudged the ball had come off the Rochdale forward’s hand, however.
On the stroke of half-time, Evans went for goal from distance, striking past Lynch’s post.
HT | Bristol Rovers 1-0 Rochdale
Bristol Rovers’ Evans tested twice shortly after the restart. He firstly poked a shot goal wards which was kept out by Lynch, before he fired a shot straight at the Dale goalkeeper.
The Gas doubled their advantage on 51 minutes, as Collins rifled a snap shot into the top corner from 20-yards, leaving Lynch rooted to the spot.
Rochdale grew into the half after conceding the second and had a two very good opportunities to halve the deficit before the goal finally came.
Beesley forced Belshaw into a finger-tip save to turn his effort over the bar, while McNulty was denied on the line. After a corner was played short to Corey O’Keeffe, he crossed for Beesley who saw his header deflected up in the air and McNulty was first to it, nodding goal wards.
A double substitution followed, with Aidy White and Morley making way for Andrews and Stephen Dooley.
Dale deservedly got themselves back in it, on the hour, with a superb team goal. Great link up play on the right lead to O'Keeffe at the byline pulling a ball back across goal, where Beesley flicked home a backheel from close range.
Rochdale were level six minutes later thanks to Beesley’s spot-kick. The forward was brought down inside the area after being played in by Newby, and he drilled his penalty down the middle to net the equaliser.
Despite the resurgence, Dale still had to be wary of the Gas’ threat, and Captain Eoghan O’Connell stood firm to clear away Collins’ low ball into the area after he’d shown a turn of pace to get down the right. Nicholson then headed wide.
Rochdale were on the ascendancy and Liam Kelly released Andrews through one-on-one with Belshaw, but the ‘keeper unfortunately forced him wide. He managed to get the ball off to Beesley, who had a shot blocked.
Soon after, Andrews did brilliantly to keep the ball in play before finding Newby. As the goal gaped ahead of him, his shot was superbly blocked to keep him out.
It looked like Dale could go on and win it as the momentum swung in their favour but they were dealt a sucker punch when Bristol Rovers went back in front with six minutes remaining. Lynch got a hand to Anderson’s strike from inside the box but it squirmed over the line and into the far corner.
Dale’s final substitution came sixty seconds later, with George Broadbent replacing Kelly.
Collins put the game out of Rochdale’s reach with a minute to go, slotting beyond Lynch.
Deep in stoppage time, Beesley had a header held, but ultimately Bristol Rovers secured the victory.