Football: Defeat against Doncaster sees Dale relegated

Date published: 02 May 2021

Rochdale’s seven year stay in League One came to an end on Saturday (1 May) with a 2-1 home defeat to Doncaster. Dale needed to at least draw to have any hope of taking the relegation fight to the final day next weekend and despite Northampton, Wigan and AFC Wimbledon all losing, defeat at the Crown Oil Arena means they will be playing in League Two next season.

Coming into the game, Dale knew they needed to pick up a positive result against Doncaster and hope that other results went in their favour and Brian Barry-Murphy’s side made all the early running but could not get the breakthrough their play deserved.

Doncaster full back Joe Wright almost put through his own net whilst trying to defend a Ryan McLaughlin cross in the 4th minute; the ball going agonisingly wide.

Louis Jones in the Doncaster goal was in fine form pulling off two great saves in the first half from Jimmy Keohane.

Matty Lund, starting his first game since mid-February, came close to scoring when  his header came down off the bar only to be cleared by Doncaster player manager Andy Butler who hit the ball off the post before it was cleared. Dale’s appeals that the ball had crossed the line fell on deaf ears from the officials and that proved to be a crucial decision as less than ten minutes later, Doncaster took the lead.

The side from South Yorkshire had barely ventured forward but their pace and trickery was there to see and when they counter attacked down the right wing, Jason Lokilo’s centre ball was seized upon by Taylor Richards. The on-loan Brighton winger nipped in ahead of Aaron Morley before dispatching past Jay Lynch.

With other results going Dale’s way, they knew a win would set them up for a final day relegation scrap but as they pushed forward in search of an equaliser, it left gaps at the back and they were punished. An initial counterattack was rebuffed by Eoghan O’Connell but when Matt Smith swept the ball forward to Richards, he raced clear and clipped the ball over the onrushing Dale keeper.

Tyreece John-Jules warmed the hands of Lynch with a powerful shot before Barry-Murphy made a triple change to try and alter the flow of the game.

Stephen Humphrys, Kwadwo Baah and Stephen Dooley entered the action but with a two-goal cushion, the visitors just held the Dale attack at arm’s length; Morley’s shot from outside the box the closest they came to an early response.

With news that results elsewhere were still going in Dale’s favour, a goal from Matty Done with seven minutes remaining gave renewed hope, but Doncaster held on with ease sending Dale tumbling down to League Two.

There were tears from some players whilst others just wandered around the pitch in bewilderment as the realisation set in that a poor season would see Rochdale playing back in the fourth tier of English football for the first time since 2013/14 season.

Many of the players are out of contract in the summer so a huge rebuilding job is needed both on and off the pitch before they can re-group in August.

There is still one game left next weekend at MK Dons but with both sides having little to play for other than pride, it could be a very different side that Barry-Murphy puts out at Stadium:MK on Sunday 9 May (12 noon kick-off).


Rochdale: Lynch, O’Connell ©, Morley (Newby 78), Osho, McLaughlin (Humphrys 64), Keohane, Rathbone, Grant (Baah 64), Lund (Dooley 64), Done, Beesley
Substitutes: (not used) Bazunu, McNulty, Shaughnessy

Doncaster: Jones, Wright, Anderson ©, Butler, Horton, Lokilo (Coppinger 66), Smith (Greaves 89), James, Richards (Sims 67), John-Jules (Bogle 66), Okenabirhie (Bostock 81)
Substitutes: (not used) Bottomley, Amos

Referee: Mr S Stockbridge
Assistants: Mr A Moore & Mr B Hall
Fourth Official: Mr R Bartlett

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