Football: Portsmouth 2 - 1 Rochdale

Date published: 03 April 2021

Rochdale remain rooted to the bottom of Sky Bet League One after defeat on the road at play-off chasing Portsmouth on Good Friday. An early mistake from Gavin Bazunu saw the home side take an early lead that Dale never really recovered from; Ryan Williams tapped in from close range after Bazunu gave the ball away. The hosts doubled their lead before the break with a neat finish from makeshift striker Ronan Curtis. The second half was slightly better from Dale but with a two-goal advantage, Portsmouth rarely got out of second gear although a nervy couple of minutes ensued when Jake Beesley got a consolation deep into stoppage time but overall, it was an easy afternoon for Danny Cowley’s side.

With Dale having an enforced break due to international call-ups, this was their first game in almost a fortnight. Kwadwo Baah started the game in place of the injured Stephen Humphrys as the Dale manager made just one change from the side that drew with Peterborough last time out.

Coming to a side pushing for promotion was never going to be easy but it was Dale who were quick out of the blocks as they forced several early set piecesRochdale were unable to capitalise on the opportunities and then Portsmouth scored in the fifth minute, against the run of play. A Dale corner was eventually played all the way back to Bazunu who seemed in no trouble at all with the ball at his feet, but the on-loan Manchester City stopper took too long to clear with Curtis closing him down. His clearance fell at the feet of Michael Jacobs and with the Dale defence out of position, Jacobs picked out Marcus Harness down the right. Harness sent an early low ball towards the back post for Williams to score from close range.

That was a set-back that gave Pompey the foothold they needed, and they should have doubled their lead fifteen minutes later. Jacobs was played through after Ollie Rathbone had needlessly given the ball away, but the winger fired wide with only Bazunu to beat.

In fairness, Portsmouth created little although what they did create, punished Barry-Murphy’s side, and they scored their second eight minutes before the break. A swift move out of defence saw Curtis with space inside the area to fire a low shot across goal and inside the far post.

Rochdale’s best chance of the first half came in stoppage time. A long kick from Bazunu evaded the Portsmouth defence to pick out Jake Beesley and as the striker tried to lift the ball over MacGillivray, the stopper blocked his effort with the ricochet coming back off the Dale man which was easily defended by Sean Raggett.

There was another scare for the visitors early in the second half when Harness got down the right side with his low cross arriving at the feet of Williams once again although this time the Australian got his feet in a muddle and he missed his shot.

Dale saw plenty of the ball in the second half but with that two-goal advantage Portsmouth defended well and limited the times the opposition got near their goal.

Barry-Murphy made a couple of changes late on and one of the players who came on created what would turn out to be nothing more than a consolation. Alex Newby, who’s first team opportunities of late have been limited to appearances from the bench, made space on the right with his low ball across goal directed into the net by Beesley for his second goal in two games but there wasn’t enough time left to stage what would have been an unlikely comeback.

Defeat leaves Dale in real danger of relegation as they are now five points adrift of safety with up to two games in hand over teams above. With only one home win all season, Monday’s game against Ipswich has become extremely important.


Rochdale: Bazunu, O’Connell ©, McShane (Roberts 53), Osho, Keohane (Newby 82), Done, Rathbone, Grant (Morley 53), Shaughnessy (Dooley 68), Beesley, Baah
Substitutes: (not used) Lynch, McNulty, Hopper

Portsmouth: MacGillivray, Johnson, Whatmough, Raggett, Brown, Naylor ©, Close (Daniels 87), Williams, Harness (Cannon 82), Jacobs (White 65), Curtis
Substitutes: (not used) Ward, Bolton, Nicolaisen, Byers

Referee: Mr L Swabey
Assistants: Mr P Lister & Mr M Begley
Fourth Official: Mr C Breakspear

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