Football: Walsall 0 - 3 Rochdale

Date published: 07 March 2018

Debutant Alex Dobre scored a stunning goal to seal an important three points as Rochdale beat Walsall at the Banks’ Stadium. Dobre’s solo effort was worth the entrance fee alone when he beat a number of players before firing into the bottom corner.

Jim McNulty had earlier given Dale the lead with his first league goal in more than six years and Ian Henderson added a second midway through the second half.

Josh Lillis brilliantly saved Erhun Oztumer’s 77th minute penalty as Dale moved off the bottom of League One.

After the FA Cup exploits, Dale had to refocus on the bread and butter of trying to stave of relegation from League One having started the day twelve points adrift of safety.

Dale manager Keith Hill made just one change from the side that started at Wembley six days ago, with a slight change in formation Bradden Inman was preferred to Mark Kitching. Alex Dobre was a substitute for the first time since his January transfer window signing on loan from Bournemouth.

The early stages of this contest were even with little in the way of goalmouth action as both sides felt their way into the game.

Dale scored with their first real attack; Bradden Inman’s left-wing corner was met at the back edge of the six-yard box by Jim McNulty, the big central defender sending his looping header back across goal and into the net for his first league goal since January 2012.

Walsall, who sat seven points clear of the relegation zone at the start of play, forced Dale keeper Josh Lillis into a couple of good saves, although they were restricted to shots from distance. Julien Ngoy first stung the hands of the Dale stopper before Kieron Morris almost embarrassed Lillis with a dipping shot that he spilled before McGahey cleared.

January signing Ryan Delaney almost scored his first professional goal with a free header from another Inman corner but his connection was not powerful enough and the ball flew wide of the goal.

Delaney found himself with an even better chance just after the break from another corner ball but this time he powered his header over the crossbar.

Rochdale doubled their lead in the 71st minute through captain Ian Henderson’s 16th of the season. Camps’ clever through ball picked out the leading scorer who curled his effort around the despairing dive of Liam Roberts.

Walsall were given a lifeline five minutes later when Delaney was adjudged to have felled substitute Amadou Bakayoko inside the area. Referee Rob Lewis initially waved away Walsall penalty appeals until an assistant’s flag and he pointed to the spot.

Erhun Oztumer, who scored a hat-trick in Walsall’s 3-0 win at Southend on Saturday, saw his penalty kick brilliantly turned away by the outstretched left hand of Lillis.

Alex Dobre was introduced just before the penalty kick. The Romanian did not see much of the ball until the 87th minute and what an impression he made on the 115 travelling fans from Rochdale. Neat interplay on the right between Dobre and Cannon saw the Bournemouth loanee head towards goal. He beat George Dobson with a stunning little drag back before dropping his shoulder and firing an unstoppable shot into the bottom left hand corner to finish the scoring.

The win moves Dale off the bottom and above local rivals Bury. Although still nine points from safety, Dalel have up to four games in hand over teams above.

Walsall: L Roberts, Devlin, Guthrie, K Roberts, Leahy, Chambers (c) (Cuvelier 63), Dobson, Oztumer, Morris, Kouhyar (Shaibu 46), Ngoy (Bakayoko 70)
Subs: (Not used) Gillespie, Kinsella, Flanagan, Fitzwater

Rochdale: Lillis, Rafferty, McGahey, McNulty, Delaney, Done, Camps, Cannon, Inman (Dobre 73), Humphrys (Davies 56), Henderson (c)
Subs: (Not used) Moore, Wiseman, Kitching, Rathbone, Hart

Referee: Mr R Lewis
Assistants: Mr W Smith and Mr C Husband
Fourth Official: Mr I Rathbone

Attendance: 3,505 (115 from Rochdale)

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