Rochdale’s abysmal home form continued as they were outclassed by MK Dons at the Crown Oil Arena, with the visitors earning a 4-1 victory.
It was impressive that the game was even on due to the heavy snow that had been falling in Rochdale for much of the day, but the players were unable to repay the ground staff’s efforts, as they produced a dismal second-half display.
Brian Barry-Murphy made three changes from the side that lost to Charlton at the weekend, as Alex Newby, Matty Done and new signing Connor Shaughnessy came into the starting eleven.
Tonight's team 👊
Conor Shaughnessy makes his Dale debut, whilst Alex Newby and Matty Done return to the starting eleven ✅#RAFC
— Rochdale AFC (@officiallydale) February 9, 2021
Dale nearly got off to the perfect start when Stephen Humphrys charged down Andy Fisher’s clearance from kick-off but he was unable to make the most of it.
However, it would be MK Dons who took the lead after just five minutes, as the impressive Ethan Laird danced down the right-hand side to cut the ball back for Matt O’Riley, who was afforded far too much time and space to curl an effort in the bottom corner.
Gavin Bazunu may have been unsighted, or just cold, but his dive looked very late and the shot didn’t have a lot of power on it, so perhaps he should have done better.
The first of several baffling decisions by referee Carl Boyeson came minutes later when Stephen Humphrys was bundled over inside the box, only to have a foul given against him.
The former Southend striker then had a great opportunity to equalise when he was gifted possession with Fisher way outside of his goal, but his touch let him down and he couldn’t get a shot away.
Fisher then made two good saves to deny Matty Lund, first after a great cross from Matty Done, and second after a good ball over the top from Aaron Morley.
Bazunu was then nearly caught out from the halfway line from a superb effort from Harry Darling but recovered to tip the ball over the bar.
Dale’s captain Eoghan O’Connell was then replaced through injury – hopefully that isn’t a reoccurrence of the injury that kept him out recently, as it does feel as if he has been rushed back in the hope that he can fix our leaky defence.
Humphrys then dragged a shot wide after Lund robbed Darling at the back, as mistakes started to occur more regularly as a result of the extreme conditions.
Dale would get their equaliser thanks to a mistake from Dean Lewington, as he gifted possession to Ollie Rathbone from a quick free-kick, who drove forwards and fed Humphrys and he squared for Lund who was left with a tap in for his 12th goal of the season.
Barry-Murphy’s side had a great opportunity to take the lead when Fisher did his best Alisson impression and gifted Newby the ball, but he shot straight at the Dons ‘keeper when he had to score.
There was still time for Russell Martin’s side to have the ball in the back of the net after more superb work from Laird, but Zak Jules’ effort flicked off the head of Cameron Jerome who was in an offisde position, so it was ruled out.
Half Time: Rochdale 1-1 MK Dons
There was a feeling that this game could go either way after a tightly contested first half but in the second 45, MK Dons completely outplayed Dale.
Dale’s new attacking ‘weapon’ in Shaughnessy’s long throws led to a counter-attack, not for the first time on the evening, and the away side earned a corner.
Jerome headed against the crossbar and Dale’s defenders stood and watched as Jules nodded in the rebound to make it 2-1.
It was 3-1 before Dale had a chance to react, as Morley was robbed of possession and Scott Fraser had plenty of options going forward, but smashed a shot into the net from the edge of the box himself.
Again, Bazunu didn’t bother diving.
Dons were in confident form now and Dale had given up.
It was 4-1 just after the hour mark as an impressive passing move led to Will Grigg cutting it back for Jerome to slide in, although the defence was non-existent at this point.
There was still time for Grigg to round Bazunu and miss an open goal, with the wintery conditions ensuring that he was not on fire for his return debut for the Dons, at least from a goalscoring perspective.
Kwadwo Baah then showcased his talent by nutmegging about 16 players on a mazy run, before curling an effort wide, in what was the only real point of excitement for Dale fans in the second half.
Bazunu then turned an effort onto the post after gifting Dons possession from a poor kick, but luckily for Dale, it would end up finishing 4-1, when it could have been much worse.
Full Time: Rochdale 1-4 MK Dons
Man of the Match: Ethan Laird
I like BBM and want him to succeed, but our home record is horrific and there are no excuses for the defensive record.
Dons played in a similar possession style of play to Dale, but actually played progressive passes forward and looked dangerous throughout, whereas the home side played themselves into trouble by constantly passing back to Bazunu.
Things need to improve drastically ahead of Saturday’s game with AFC Wimbledon, as on current form, we will be back in League Two next season.