Football: Bristol Rovers 1 - 2 Rochdale

Date published: 01 February 2021

An Alex Newby brace saw Rochdale end a seven-game winless run and earn a first win of 2021 against relegation rivals Bristol Rovers. Newby scored a goal in each half to earn maximum points which moves Brian Barry-Murphy’s men four points clear of the relegation zone.

Having dropped points in stoppage time in their last two games, Dale were looking for a big performance in the South West against a Bristol Rovers side that started the day level on points with their visitors.

The Dale manager made just one change from the midweek defeat to Oxford; Alex Newby was given a start ahead of Kwadwo Baah with the winger looking to stake a claim for his place in the starting line-up more regularly after fleeting appearances from the bench in recent games.

The home side took the game to the visitors in the early stages with the lively duo of Brandon Hanlon and Sam Nicholson proving a handful for the Rochdale defence although Gavin Bazunu wasn’t tested; Hanlan shooting wide the closest they came to troubling the scoresheet.

Goals haven’t been a problem for Rochdale in recent weeks and they took the lead in the 16th minute with a real poachers goal from Newby. An Aaron Morley corner from the left was brilliantly flicked on by Matty Lund at the near post which may have gone in; Newby on hand to make sure from one yard out.

The Gas looked dangerous though and had a couple of half chances, again, Hanlan missing the target when teed up by Luke Leahy.

Matty Lund should have added to his season’s tally with what looked like a simple tap in on the half hour mark. Humphrys’ counter attack saw Rovers’ defence back off and when Newby was picked out down the right the goalscorer turned provider with a teasing ball across the face of goal with Lund opting to use his right foot when the left looked the better option; the result was the ball flashed the wrong side of the left hand upright.

That miss looked like it could have been crucial as within five minutes, the home side were level. Captain Max Ehmer found himself in space on the right to send a perfect cross towards the left hand corner of the box; Leahy providing an exquisite side footed volley that flew into the top corner.

Paul Tisdale’s side came out fired up for the start of the second half and once again put Dale on the backfoot with Bazunu earning his pay with two vital stops. The dangerous Leahy down the left was having a lot of joy at sending balls into the box and when he picked out Hanlan unmarked the striker saw his blistering drive beaten behind for a corner by Bazunu.

One of Dale’s Achilles heals this season has been defending corners and when Oztumers ball in wasn’t cleared and after a bit of ping pong the ball eventually fell at the feet of Alfie Kilgour but Bazunu was out bravely to block the central defenders goalbound shot.

Rovers were laying siege to the Dale goal; Nicholson having a pop from 20 yards clipping the top of the crossbar on the way through the closest they came as Barry-Murphy’s men soon re-took the lead.

Newby, wanting to show why he feels he should start, jinked his way inside the area with his left footed shot squeezing under Joe Day in the Rovers goal for his 7th of the season.

Rovers looked a bit shell shocked and invited Dale onto them with Humphrys, who had a quiet game by his standards, racing onto a through ball but firing wide under pressure from Kilgour.

A couple of changes from Tisdale for the home side seemed to freshen things up as they imposed themselves on the game once more. Nicholson being denied by Bazunu whilst Hanlan was denied by an assistant’s flag. Zain Westbrooke’s freekick was only parried by Bazunu with Hanlan firing in the re-bound only for his celebrations to be cut short.

Rathbone, another to have a quiet day, saw his close range shot blocked by Cian Harries with the remainder of the game being played at the other end as Dale tried desperately to hang onto their lead.

After conceding deep into stoppage time in the last two games, nerves were tested as the 4th official showed 5 minutes of added time and when Rovers earned a corner; it was nail biting for those of a Dale persuasion.

Nicholson picked up outside the area with his cross/shot flashing across the face of goal with substitute Jonah Ayunga unable to get a touch but it was to get a little more tense a minute later when Leahy capitalised on a mistake by Jimmy Keohane to slide the ball towards the back post but George Williams could only find the side netting.

It was a huge result for Rochdale who now have a week until their next game and with the transfer window closing on Monday there could be one or two additions to help navigate the second half of the season.


Rochdale: Bazunu, Keohane, Osho, Roberts, Done, Dooley, Morley, Rathbone ©, Newby (McNulty 87), Lund, Humphrys (Baah 76)
Substitutes: (not used) Chalton, Tavares, Hopper, Dunne

Bristol: Day, Ehmer ©, Kilgour, Harries, Williams, Westbrooke (Barrett 83), Ogogo (Grant 45), Oztumer (Ayunga 68), Nicholson, Hanlan (McCormick 83)
Substitutes: (not used) Van Stappershoef,Tutonda, Rodman

Referee:  Mr D Bourne
Assistants: Mr L Marks & Mr B Hall
Fourth Official: Mr C Husband

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