Rochdale produced one of their best performances of the season as they earned a 2-1 win against promotion-chasing Lincoln City away from home.
Brian Barry-Murphy’s side made the trip to the LNER Stadium on the back of seven games without a goal and no wins in the last nine games, which had seen them drop to the bottom of League One.
There was one change from the side that lost out against Shrewsbury Town in midweek, as Ollie Rathbone returned from suspension in midfield, with Eoghan O’Connell dropping back into a defensive role after featuring as a midfielder in recent fixtures.
It was a superb start from the Dale as in the first five minutes they put the home side under a lot of pressure, winning corner after corner and keeping the hosts pinned in their own half.
O’Connell saw a header comfortably saved by Alex Palmer, with the on-loan ‘keeper also denying Stephen Humphrys’ acrobatic effort.
Despite looking the more dangerous side, it was Lincoln who had the best opportunity to take the lead, as Brennan Johnson won the ball back from Gabriel Osho just outside the box, before feeding James Jones, but his goalbound shot was blocked by his own player.
However, Dale continued to dominate proceedings and continued to push forward, with a long throw from Connor Shaughnessy leading to the opening goal shortly after the half-hour mark.
His throw into the box fell to Rathbone on the edge and after faking to shoot and switching to his left foot, he fired into the bottom corner past a despairing Palmer.
The midfielder’s celebration spoke volumes, as he and the rest of the team rushed to Barry-Murphy and the rest of the Dale staff to celebrate, with everyone involved with Rochdale extremely relieved to finally see the ball hit the back of the net.
Dale suddenly looked confident and keen to go forward every time they had the ball and should’ve made it two before half-time when a lovely ball from Connor Grant found Matty Done over the top, but Humphrys somehow turned his cross wide when found in the six-yard box.
Half Time: Lincoln City 0-1 Rochdale
Dale came out for the second half in the same fashion they ended the half, with Osho seeing a header cleared off the line after an excellent delivery from Done.
It felt as if it might not be Dale’s day, however, when Humphrys was denied one of the most stonewall penalties I’ve ever seen, with Tayo Edun wiping out the forward after he nutmegged him inside the box.
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It was a real kick in the teeth for Dale therefore when Lincoln immediately went up the other end and found the net with one of their first shots on goal.
Morgan Rogers, who has already scored some memorable goals for the Imps during his time on loan from City, played a one-two with Callum Morton and fired an absolute rocket past his City academy teammate Gavin Bazunu for 1-1 with 60 minutes on the clock.
Dale heads could have gone down at this point but they picked themselves up well and continued to push forward in search of another goal.
They would find it with 15 minutes remaining, as a long ball was picked up by Humphrys on the edge of the box and after skipping past a couple of Lincoln defenders, his left-footed shot beat Palmer and went in off the post.
Again, the relief was clear to see, with Humphrys also going to celebrate with BBM. Although some fans might not like it, it seems obvious that the Irishman is here to stay, especially after his contract extension was almost announced by David Bottomley in midweek.
Dale were happy to sit back at this point, which wasn’t good for my stress levels, as Lincoln started to send balls into the box for the final minutes.
But for a few nervy passes from the Dale players, however, they looked solid and never really looked like conceding, and would hold on for an absolutely massive three points that gives us a real chance of staying up this season, but only if we match that performance on a consistent basis now.
Full Time: Lincoln City 1-2 Rochdale
Man of the Match: Ollie Rathbone