Rochdale fell to defeat on the road on Saturday, losing 2-0 to promotion chasing Exeter City at St James Park.
Goals in either half from Timothee Dieng and Matt Jay sealed the victory for the Grecians.
Rochdale went to Exeter depleted by injury, with several key players missing from the squad. James Ball, George Broadbent, Tahvon Campbell, Joel Coleman and Jeriel Dorset had already been ruled out for the remainder of the season, but Dale were also without Danny Cashman, Paul Downing and Liam Kelly.
There were two changes to the side that lined up against Hartlepool United on Easter Monday, with Max Taylor coming in for Downing and Abraham Odoh replacing Corey O’Keeffe. There was also a place on the bench for youth team scholars Jordan Scanlon and Peter Thomas.
Rochdale started the game superbly and had two brilliant chances to opening the scoring early on, only to be denied by Cameron Dawson in the Grecians net.
Abraham Odoh sent Dale on their way from deep inside the home side’s half, finding Done who in turn played in Jimmy Keohane. The former Exeter City man had a powerful effort well saved at the near post, with the ball ricocheting off Odoh and behind for a corner.
Moments later, Dale were in again through Done. He found Keohane who, in acres of space, forced a fine save from Dawson, with the ‘keeper diving to his right to push it away. Luke Charman had shot deflected wide on the rebound.
The promotion chasing hosts grew into the game and enjoyed a string of opportunities, which Dale stood firm against, before they went on to break the deadlock shortly after the half hour.
Offrande Zanzala met Pierce Sweeney’s ball to the back post and headed narrowly wide of the upright. Jay Lynch was then out quickly to deny Archie Collins who was through one-on-one with him.
Keohane put in an all-important block to steer Jevani Brown’s powerful shot over the bar. Jimmy McNulty then diverted behind Josh Key’s volley from 20-yards.
The resulting corner was played short before being sent into Zanzala who came the closet yet, guiding an effort narrowly wide of the upright as he left Lynch rooted to the spot.
Captain Eoghan O’Connell then put a good block on a Collins shot, only for it to fall for Timothee Dieng who had a shot from outside the area well beaten away by Lynch.
The Grecians’ goal came in the 34th minute, when Dieng poked beyond Lynch from close range, turning home a free-kick that was swung into the area from the right.
There were shouts for a Rochdale penalty before half-time after Odoh charged forward from the halfway line and broke into the area before having his run cut off, but the referee was quick to wave away the appeals.
Dieng headed over the bar from a ball into the back post sixty seconds after the restart, but the second half never really got going during the opening quarter of an hour due to its stop state nature, with several lengthy stoppages due to fouls and misdemeanours, including a yellow card for McNulty.
A double Dale substitution came in the 57th minute with Charman and McNulty making way for Alex Newby and O’Keefe.
Exeter doubled their advantage soon after. Lynch had initially denied Brown’s powerful effort at the near post, but Jay sent home a stooping header on the follow up.
Newby had a shot charged down on the edge of the area, before Cheick Diabate flashed an effort over the bar.
A third and final change followed, as Josh Andrews replaced Done.
Eight minutes from time, the Grecians appealed for a penalty when Brown went to ground after rounding Lynch, but the forward was instead booked for simulation.
Rochdale rallied late on and had couple of opportunities to half the deficit but couldn’t convert. Andrews also felt he should have had a penalty having had his shirt clearly pulled when he was in on goal.
O’Connell had a half volley well-blocked from a corner, before Andrews had a shot kept out by the shoulder of Dawson and Keohane headed wide on the rebound.
Newby then had an effort held by the ‘keeper.