Bristol Rovers vs Rochdale: Match Report

Rochdale claimed their first three points of 2021 with a hard-fought win against Bristol Rovers on Saturday afternoon.

Brian Barry-Murphy’s side travelled to the Memorial Stadium having conceded heartbreaking late goals in each of their last two fixtures against Oxford United and Gillingham, so needed a result against relegation-threatened Rovers.

Dale made one change from midweek as Alex Newby came in for 17-year-old Kwadwo Baah,  who is said to be attracting interest from the likes of Bayern Munich and Juventus for his performances this season.

The decision to drop him paid dividends, however, as it was Newby who opened the scoring with the first real opportunity of the game.

Dale won a corner and Aaron Morley whipped the ball in for Matty Lund to divert a header goalwards, which left Newby the easiest of tap-ins to make it 1-0 with 16 minutes on the clock.

Bristol Rovers looked threatening from corners but it was Dale who were on top in the early stages, and they should’ve made it 2-0 just eight minutes after their opener, but Lund somehow missed the target after a great breakaway from Barry-Murphy’s side.

He then headed over from Jimmy Keohane’s cross a few minutes later, although the referee blew for a foul, as he often did without much reason in the first half.

The Northern Irish midfielder was left to rue those misses as Paul Tisdale’s side equalised with a rare foray forward, although it was an excellent goal from the Gas.

Overlapping centre-back Max Ehmer was afforded far too much room to send in a cross that went over Keohane’s head, and it was met by an unstoppable right-footed volley from Luke Leahy, which flew into the top corner of Gavin Bazunu’s net to make it 1-1.

Half Time: Bristol Rovers 1-1 Rochdale

The wind picked up at half-time and so did Rovers’ performance, as they dominated the opening 15 minutes of the second period.

Brandon Hanlan had a shot saved by Bazunu before the ‘keeper brilliantly denied Alfie Kilgour at the back post when Lund couldn’t clear a corner.

Leahy was causing all sorts of problems down the left-hand side with his attacking play and sent in dangerous crosses throughout the afternoon.

More good play from the home side led to Sam Nicholson, who was also impressive, crashing an effort against the bar, with Rovers looking far more likely to score the next goal.

However, Dale would take the lead with 64 minutes on the clock after excellent work by Newby.

The Rochdale Ronaldo, as he is so often dubbed on Twitter, weaved his way into the box before smashing a shot at Joe Day, which squirmed under his grasp and into the net to make it 2-1.

Awful goalkeeping, but sometimes you need a bit of luck when you’re near the bottom.

Stephen Humphrys then sent a shot wide as Dale countered the hosts, but it was a surprisingly quiet afternoon for the front man.

Dale were sitting deep, with Gabriel Osho and Haydon Roberts defending everything thrown at them, but they were nearly undone by another baffling decision from the referee.

Substitute Jonah Ayunga clattered into Stephen Dooley on the edge of the box but it was the home side who were awarded the free-kick, despite Nicholson having already used the advantage by taking a shot from the edge of the box.

Zain Westbrooke’s free-kick was saved by Bazunu into the path of Hanlan, who fired home, but he was rightly ruled offside.

The home side piled on the pressure and nearly equalised with seconds remaining after another dangerous cross, but Dale held on for an important victory.

Full Time: Bristol Rovers 1-2 Rochdale

Man of the Match: Alex Newby, but an honourable mention to Osho, who has been excellent since joining

 

 

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