Gillingham 2 (Jackson 13, 58 pen) Rochdale 1 (Dagnall 36) - Full Time Report

Date published: 10 May 2009

Rochdale’s 35-year stay in the basement division of the football league was extended for another season after they went down 2-1 at Gillingham in the second leg of their play-off semi-final.

Dale fell behind when Simeon Jackson turned in Andrew Barcham’s low cross at the near post but Chris Dagnall brought the visitors back into the tie when he turned at the back post and fired convincingly beyond Royce. Jackson’s second half penalty, for a foul by Rory McArdle on John Nutter, ultimately separated the sides and Dale never quite did enough to pull level once more.

The tense and tight nature of the opening leg continued early on in the second with both sides struggling to find the key that would unlock the others defence. Josh Wright was never going to find it with a shot from fully forty yards out that sailed well over the top. Lee Thorpe came closer at the other end when he nodded Tom Kennedy’s cross just over.

As Dale looked to settle, Gillingham took the lead. There appeared to be a clear handball in the build-up when Dennis Oli blocked Rory McArdle’s attempted clearance and the home side broke away. Oli fed Andrew Barcham to the byline and he cut the ball into the six yard box for Simeon Jackson to finish.

The home side were buoyed by their goal and pushed for a second and Barcham was a constant threat down their left side. He beat two men and burst from midfield to leave Gillingham three on two but Barcham allowed McArdle to get back and block his eventual shot.

Dale had offered very little in attack but they were level through own element of luck. Joe Thompson burst into the box from the right. Garry Richards was on hand to clear but his attempt struck Thompson and popped up for Chris Dagnall at the back post. The striker turned inside Simon King and rifled an unstoppable shot beyond Simon Royce.

The visitors started the second half brightly and put Gillingham under a period of extended pressure but there was nothing to really test Royce other than a tame Lee Thorpe header straight at the keeper.

Proceedings turned back in Gillingham’s favour from the penalty spot when full back John Nutter burst onto Barcham’s ball into the box and was taken out by Rory McArdle. Jackson stepped up and rifled his spot kick low and hard, giving Fielding no chance.

Gillingham had one foot at Wembley and it could have been both had Richards’ looping header dipped a couple of inches instead of pinging the top of the crossbar.

With only one goal in it Dale were still well in the tie and Keith Hill went for broke with the introduction of Jon Shaw and Will Buckley from the bench to go three up front and try and rescue the Wembley dream.

They say in tight games that the team behind always gets one chance to save themselves and Dale’s came to McArdle with two minutes to go as he got in front of his marker but nodded Tom Kennedy’s cross over the top.

Into injury time and Dale won corner for which Fielding came forward but the kick went straight into the hands of Royce. They were offered one more opportunity when the ball broke to Le Fondre on the edge of the box and he spread the ball to Buckley but his low shot across goal went inches wide with Shaw and Dagnall close to turning it in. 

Gillingham: Royce, Fuller, Nutter, Lewis, King, Richards, Jackson (McCammon 90), Wright (Bentley 71), Oli (Southall 85), Weston, Barcham.
Subs (not used): Julian, Jarrett.

Rochdale: Fielding, Ramsden, Kennedy, Stanton, McArdle, Rundle (Le Fondre 67), Thompson (Buckley 60), Toner, G. Jones, Dagnall, Thorpe (Shaw 67).
Subs (not used): M. Jones, Holness.

Booked: McArdle, Kennedy, G. Jones, Stanton.

Attempts (on target): Gillingham 4 (2) Rochdale 6 (3)
Free kicks: Gillingham 16 Rochdale 10
Offside: Gillingham 1 Rochdale 0
Corners: Gillingham 3 Rochdale 4

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