Rochdale 3 - 1 Bristol Rovers

Date published: 08 February 2011

Two stoppage time goals from substitutes Jean Louis Akpa-Akpro and Matt Done secured the points against 10 man Bristol Rovers. Craig Dawson had headed Dale into a 72nd minute lead before Rovers’ Cian Bolger was given a second yellow card. Will Hoskins drew the 10 men level before the late flurry of goals saw Hill’s men break the 40 point barrier.

The Rochdale manager was forced into one change from the side that drew on Saturday; Joe Thompson picked up a thigh strain in training yesterday and was replaced by Liam Dickinson. Bristol Rovers had 2 former Dale players in their ranks; Rene Howe played lots of games for Rochdale during the Centenary season whilst Luke Daniels played one game on loan at Spotland earlier this campaign.

The home side started the game very brightly with Marcus Holness forcing Daniels to push a half volley over inside the opening 5 minutes. Chris O’Grady had a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock on 11 minutes when he met a Barry-Murphy centre but the strikers’ header was narrowly wide. Leading scorer Gary Jones was the next to have a pop when he let fly from 20 yards but Daniels gathered at the second attempt.

There were a few worrying minutes when Dale were temporarily reduced to 10 men whilst Barry-Murphy received treatment to a nasty head wound but after 4 minutes returned to the action sporting a large white bandage around the forehead.

Hill’s men were certainly the better side in the opening half hour and Jones again went close with a dipping first time effort which had Daniels back peddling but the shot looped just over.

The Gas’ first real attempt came with 9 minutes of the half left to play. The dangerous Will Hoskins tried from 30 yards but Fon Williams was equal to it.

The visitors came out from the half time interval like a different team. They pushed Dale back from the whistle with full back Gary Sawyer testing Fon Williams with a dipping volley which was tipped over. Scott Davies put in a centre from the Rovers’ right which picked out Hoskins but he mis-timed his kick when well placed 6 yards out.

The pressure that the visitors were applying forced Hill into 2 changes in a bid to stem the flow of Gas attack. Nicky Adams and Matt Done were brought on to replace Dickinson and Atkinson with the subs making an immediate impact on the game. Firstly Done did well to win the ball on the half way line before popping the ball down the flank for O’Grady who did really well to keep the ball in play. Done was played in with the reverse ball who in turn fed Adams but he mis-fired and the chance went.

Rene Howe scored plenty of goals in a Dale shirt in his short time on loan and almost scored at Spotland once again but Fon Williams’ low instinctive save denied him. The visitors were having a really good spell of pressure and almost took the lead through Hoskins. Davies’ long throw into the area deceived the home defence but the number 8’s turn and shot flashed over the bar.

Hill made his final change when he replaced Barry-Murphy with Jean Louis Akpa-Akpro and his added pace saw the game really open up into an end to end affair and when Dawson sent one of his trademark 50 yard cross field balls towards Adams, the substitute delicately cushioned the ball to O’Grady who fed Adams to whip the ball across goal but Akpa-Akpro couldn’t get enough of a connection to divert the ball home.

Minutes later though and Dale did take the lead. Gary Jones was upended mid way inside the Rovers’ half with Adams floating a perfect free kick into the area for Dawson to latch onto and he sent his header wide of the despairing dive of Luke Daniels to make it 1-0.

With the lead, Hill’s men also got a numerical advantage moments later when Cian Bolger was sent for an early bath after receiving a second yellow card after hacking down Chris O’Grady on the half way line. Will Hoskins however had other idea’s and with 11 minutes left on the clock he drew the 10 men level. He picked up the ball on edge of the Dale box, dropped his shoulder and fired a low drive into the bottom corner.

Not wanting to settle for a point, Rochdale pushed forward in numbers and when Akpa-Akpro pulled a ball back for the onrushing Jason Kennedy, The Sandy Lane expected the net to bulge but instead the former Darlington man fired horribly over the stand from 12 yards.

In the last 2 Rochdale game’s, stoppage time goals have changed the fate of the game on both occasions and this game was to be no different. As the fourth official signalled four minutes of added time, Jones played a tremendous through ball for Widdowson to go one-on-one but the defender saw his shot blocked away by Daniels for a corner. Adams took the flag kick which dropped in the box and after a mêlée Akpa-Akpro prodded the ball home which led to mass protests from the visiting players that the Frenchman was offside when he received the ball, protests that were waved away by Mr Madley. With Rovers pressing for another equaliser, Dale broke with devastating effect. Akpa-Akpro played a cross field ball to O’Grady and with the Rovers defence stretched, played in Done who won the race with Daniels, rounded the keeper and slotted into the empty net to secure the 3 points.

It was a great victory against a side struggling at the wrong end of the table. Hill’s men have now opened up a 10 point gap on the bottom 4 and closed the gap on Oldham in 6th to just 3 points.

Keith Hill said after the game: “You could tell what the opposition game plan was. It was obvious they had conceded a lot of goals recently so people have to accept they will come here and do what they did and it will be difficult to break them down.

“We have to be patient and I understand the strategies that they came with. For the good of the players, we have to make sure the apprehension of the supporters doesn’t seep onto the pitch.

“It was a bit worrying at times with the way the game was going, it was a bit lacklustre, and it lacked energy. You can always get done in games like that. We have to give the opposition a lot of respect and they have every right to come here and defend and then try and nick it.

“When you have a player like Will Hoskins in the side, he’s always capable of scoring a goal. The first goal was really important.

“We made the changes to bring more energy to the performance but I expected to keep a clean sheet and lock the game out at 1-0 but we gave them a goal and then had to go all out. We could have given them the game, I thought Rene (Howe) had half a chance and we were a little bit standoff-ish. I did say before the game that it was going to be an important game for the substitutes and that’s how it turned out.

“Chris O’Grady is an outstanding player but he is snatching a bit in front of goal. His all round play will always make him a starter in my side”


Rochdale 3 (Dawson 72, Akpa-Akpro 90+1, Done 90+4)
Bristol Rovers 1 (Hoskins 79, Bolger sent off 76)

Att: 2,372

Rochdale: Fon Williams, Wiseman, Holness, Dawson, Widdowson, Barry-Murphy (Akpa-Akpro 69), Dickinson (Done 59), Jones (c), Kennedy, O'Grady Atkinson (Adams 58)
Subs (not used): Edwards, Josh Thompson, Williams, Gray

Bristol Rovers: Daniels, Sawyer, Coles (c), Hoskins, Howe, Hughes, Anthony, Bolger, Davies (Regan 83), Kalala, Williams (Brown 90)
Subs (not used): Tunnicliffe, Green, Kuffour, Richards, Swallow

Referee: Mr R J Madley
Assistant referees: Mr S Clayton & Mr R Wootton
4th official: Mr R Merchant

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