Rochdale secured three points in their final game before Christmas, as they beat Newport County 3-0 in emphatic style at the Crown Oil Arena.
Jake Beesley scored a brace - a goal in either half, while Liam Kelly made sure of the victory deep in stoppage time.
There was four changes to the side that lined up against Bristol Rovers last weekend. Joel Coleman, Max Taylor, Conor Grant and Stephen Dooley came in for Jay Lynch, Jim McNulty, Aaron Morley and Abraham Odoh.
The impressive Rochdale opened the scoring after just two minutes and went on dominate the first half as they put the visitors under sustained pressure.
Beesley combined with Conor Grant to break the deadlock. The forward flicked a ball on for the Irishman who brought in down and turned inside before laying it off to Beesley on the edge of the area and he struck home into the bottom corner.
He had the ball in the back of the net three minutes later but it was ruled out for offside. Dooley had fired low across goal towards the back post and Beesley came sliding in to turn it home, but it didn’t count.
There was another opportunity on 13 minutes from Liam Kelly’s corner, when Corey O’Keeffe met it at the back post and sent a bullet header across goal and narrowly wide.
Captain Eoghan O’Connell then hit a first-time shot from 30-yards wide, before Alex Newby, from range, forced Joe Day to dive his right to keep out his effort which was heading towards the bottom corner.
In a rare entry into the Rochdale box, Newport’s Finn Azaz hit a shot straight at Coleman.
There were two shouts for a Dale penalty around the half hour but neither were awarded. Conor Grant was firstly brought to ground, before Beesley also looked to have been felled, less than sixty seconds later.
Still Rochdale came forward and this time Day punched away Newby’s effort.
With a minute of the half remaining, Aaron Lewis fired a shot wide of Coleman’s near post, and Dale deservedly took a lead into the break.
FT | ROCHDALE 1-0 NEWPORT COUNTY
The start to the second half was a much more even affair but for all their improvement, Newport County couldn’t carve out a clear cut opportunity as Rochdale stood firm, and Dale had the best of the chances during the opening exchanges, as Kelly struck a volley on the turn, which flew narrowly wide of the far post.
Rochdale began to turn the screw as the half progressed, though, as they kept the ball for long spells and they deservedly double their advantage with 72 minutes on the clock from the spot. O’Keeffe had done brilliantly to keep the ball in play and win it back with a strong challenge at the corner flag before racing into the area and being brought down. Beesley stepped up to take the resulting penalty and fired into the roof of the net.
The visitors rallied after the goal and Coleman raced off his line to pull off a fine save to deny Dominic Telford who was through one-on-one with him.
As they came forward again, Max Taylor blocked an initial effort before O’Connell threw himself in the way of the follow up which looked certain for the back of the net.
Dale’s first changes of the game followed, with Dooley and Grant making way for Morley and George Broadbent.
Newby should have wrapped the game up with four minutes left to play, but after Aidy White’s effort was parried into his path by Day, he struck over the bar as the goal gaped before him.
But with a a minute of the 90 remaining, Kelly made sure of the victory as he netted Dale’s third of the afternoon. Beesley broke away down the left before squaring for Kelly who, in acres of space, stroked home from close range.
A third and final change came soon after, as McNulty replaced White.
And in stoppage time Coleman pulled off another fantastic save to keep the clean sheet, flying to his right, to deny a curling effort from inside the area.
O’Keeffe could have extended Dale’s lead further at the death after doing brilliantly to get himself through one-on-one with the ‘keeper, but as he tried to take it round him, Day got down to smother at his feet.
Merry Christmas, Dale fans!