Rochdale gave their slim survival hopes a boost as they beat fellow strugglers Swindon Town 2-1 at Spotland on Tuesday evening, in what was a first home win in six months for Brian Barry-Murphy’s side.
After a disappointing 1-0 defeat against Fleetwood Town at the weekend, Barry-Murphy made three changes to his starting lineup, with Stephen Dooley, Aaron Morley and Paul McShane returning to the side in place of Kwadwo Baah, Connor Shaughnessy and Haydon Roberts.
There was also a place on the bench for top scorer Matty Lund who looks to have recovered from injury in time for the relegation run-in.
Both sides have been in woeful form recently but it was the visitors who had the first opportunity of the game, as Hallam Hope curled narrowly over from the edge of the box.
Dale were playing some nice football in the opening 10 minutes and created their first opportunity when Ollie Rathbone turned superbly in the box but instead of shooting, he inexplicably cut the ball back for a Swindon defender to clear.
However, the home side wouldn’t have to wait too long to make the breakthrough as they opened the scoring on 12 minutes.
Ryan McLaughlin burst down the right-hand side and crossed for his opposite wing-back Jimmy Keohane, who brought the ball down and expertly curled into the top corner for his seventh league goal of the season.
John Sheridan’s side were allowing Dale all sorts of time on the ball and Morley forced Camp into a good save as the home side pushed for a second.
They perhaps should have had it when Jake Beesley was found through on goal thanks to a good pass from Dooley, but once again he neglected to shoot and instead looked for a cutback that simply wasn’t on.
Beesley being found behind the Swindon defence, who were playing a strangely high line when considering their lack of pace at the back, would become a common theme throughout the game.
Dale were nearly made to pay for their missed chances when Dooley, who was playing with such confidence that he decided to dribble across his own box, was robbed by the dangerous Jack Payne, but Jay Lynch was out quickly to make an important save.
Rathbone was then presented with another excellent chance to double Dale’s lead as a long kick from Lynch put him through on goal, but he shot straight at Camp.
Half Time: Rochdale 1-0 Swindon Town
Dale started the second half with the same positivity as the first, whilst Swindon showed very little to suggest that they are fighting to avoid relegation back to League Two this season.
Another good move from Dale saw Conor Grant find Dooley and his shot was palmed straight into the path of Beesley who nodded in the rebound but he was fractionally offside.
The second goal would come not long after, as an excellent break from Rathbone saw him find Beesley, who drove forward before finding Dooley in the box.
The winger went past Anthony Grant far too easily and cut the ball back to Beesley and he was fortunate that his weak effort was spilt into the path of Conor Grant, who tapped in for his first professional goal. He won’t score many simpler than that in his career.
It could have been 3-0 not long after as Dale threatened to run away with it, as more confident play on the edge of the box led to Morley unleashing a venomous strike, that definitely looked to be turned over the bar via Taylor Curran’s arm, but the referee decided it was just a corner.
Rathbone then wasted another excellent chance on the edge of the box as he shot wide, and if Dale hadn’t been without a home win in six months then you feel the scoreline could have been a lot more comfortable.
However, Dale never like to do things easily and decided to make the last few minutes extremely stressful, as Morley was robbed of possession and Payne’s cross from the left was turned in by substitute Jordan Garrick to make it 2-1.
Fortunately, Dale were able to see out the game and earn the three points, although wins from Wigan Athletic and Wimbledon mean it’s going to be extremely difficult to finish outside the relegation spots this season.
Full Time: Rochdale 2-1 Swindon Town
Man of the Match: Stephen Dooley