Rochdale inexplicably threw away what would have been a valuable point at home to Oxford United on Tuesday night, with the visitors claiming a 4-3 win.
There were two changes to Dale’s side from the weekend, when they also conceded a last-minute goal, with Matty Done and Stephen Humphrys returning to the starting eleven.
Tonight's team 👊
Stephen Humphrys and Matty Done return to the starting line-up ✅
Ryan McLaughlin has been forced to self-isolate and misses out ❌#RAFC
— Rochdale AFC (@officiallydale) January 26, 2021
Oxford came into the game in excellent form and started much the better team, dominating the opening 10 minutes before opening the scoring with their first shot on goal.
In typical Rochdale fashion, we gifted the opposition a corner with our insistence to play out from the back, and from the second attempt, the corner fell to Dan Agyei on the edge of the box who walked past two home defenders like they weren’t there, before sending a low shot past Gavin Bazunu from the edge of the box to make it 1-0.
This gave Dale the kick up the backside they needed and suddenly they were finding a lot of space and using possession positively.
Matty Lund did brilliantly to flick a long ball on which found Stephen Dooley in all sorts of space, and he advanced forward before finding left-back Matty Done, who surprised everyone, including himself, by finding the bottom corner with an excellent strike.
1-1 with 22 minutes on the clock.
Not long after and Dale would take the lead. Good work from Ollie Rathbone lead to Dale winning a corner, and Aaron Morley finally whipped the ball in instead of floating it, heeding the advice that I’ve been shouting at my computer for the entire season, and lord behold, we scored – Humphrys with a delightful backheel flick.
Dale continued to press before half-time but the only opportunity of note came the way of Oxford, as after Bazunu fumbled Cameron Brannagan’s shot, Matty Taylor tackled the ball into the net, but he was well offside.
Half Time: Rochdale 2-1 Oxford United
After an impressive first-half display, things quickly went downhill in the second.
Morley gifted Oxford possession for the 50th time with an underhit pass and Jordan Obita was played through, but his shot went just wide.
However, they wouldn’t have to wait long for their equaliser, as Elliot Moore found the back of the net with a superb header from James Henry’s free-kick.
Dale clearly hadn’t learned their lesson from the reverse fixture, when the centre-back scored twice, although, in fairness, he is about 7 foot 8.
There were warning signs when Bazunu kept out Agyei, before the visitors took the lead thanks to a stunning goal from Henry, who smashed the ball into the top corner from outside the box. Not for the first time this evening, however, the positioning of the 18-year-old ‘keeper could be questioned.
That made it 3-2 to the away side but Dale made it 3-3 just two minutes later, thanks to Matty Lund, who continues his brilliant goalscoring season so far.
Alex Newby, on for Kwadwo Baah, was found down the right-hand side and after twisting and turning he found Morley and his delivery was perfect, allowing Lund to turn the ball in at the far post.
Brian Barry-Murphy’s side arguably looked the more likely to score the next goal and perhaps should have had it when the excellent Ollie Rathbone stole possession and broke forward, only for Moore to recover superbly with a last-ditch tackle as the midfielder was about to shoot.
Morley then nearly caught out the Oxford keeper with a shot from behind the half-way line but he recovered to beat the ball away.
It looked as if Dale would be heading for their third consecutive 3-3 home result before a moment of madness from Bazunu.
Gabriel Osho looked to have the ball under control but the on-loan Manchester City man came steaming out of his goal to make the clearance, before gifting possession to Olamide Shodipo, and he found the empty net from 35 yards.
Heartbreaking for Dale and although it’s difficult to point the finger at Bazunu as he’s only 18, what he did was completely unjustifiable.
Full Time: Rochdale 3-4 Oxford United
Man of the Match: Elliot Moore