Jones fires Rochdale heroes to victory
Date published: 27 January 2008
Stanton sees red
MK Dons 0
Rochdale 1 (Jones 32)
Yet another away game and yet another remarkable Rochdale win. Indeed, this has to go down as one of the greatest victories in their recent history after playing 75 minutes of the game with ten men against top of the league MK Dons. A Gary Jones goal midway through the first half sealed the points after Sam Russell had saved a penalty in the Dale goal and Nathan Stanton had been sent off.
Russell was the hero for the visitors, diving full length to keep out Keith Andrews spot kick and then producing a string of fine saves during an MK onslaught that lasted throughout the second half. None were better than when he kept out a Kevin Gallen header, somehow palming the ball away to safety from on the goal line.
The penalty award seemed harsh on Rochdale as Dean Lewington appeared to go to ground fairly easily under Stanton's challenge and he was booked for his protests. The Dale centre half did not leave it there and before the penalty was taken he made a final remark to referee Mick Thorpe, which earned him a second yellow card.
Dale were forced to plug the gap vacated by Stanton and striker Adam Le Fondre made way for centre half Marcus Holness. Rochdale boss Keith Hill and assistant Dave Flitcroft both put their arms round Le Fondre, explaining that the sending off had forced the substitution.
Rochdale took the lead through a delightful goal. Gary Jones fed the ball through for Kallum Higginbotham and he scampered away from Drissa Diallo. Jones had continued his run and Higginbotham found him with a perfectly weighted low cross into the six yard box, leaving Jones the task of tapping home.
“If that had been a Premier League goal they would be showing it time and time again on the highlights,” said Dale manager Hill. “How old is Gary Jones yet he runs around like a seven year old kid? It’s a good forward run into the box, a run worthy of the passage of play and the passage of play was worthy of a goal.”
Goal, sending off and missed penalty aside the first half was a fairly quiet affair. The Dons enjoying all the possession but it would take until Paul Ince could have a word with them at half time for them to learn how to combat themselves against Rochdale’s defensive wall.
Rochdale had already made a clearance off the line before the penalty incident, Simon Ramsden hooking Wilbraham’s shot away to safety.
Two low crosses into the six yard box narrowly evaded Wilbraham and then Andrews got on the end of one only to blaze high over the crossbar. By the end of the half the midfielder had spurned a hat trick of chances as he glanced a Leamington free kick narrowly over the top.
The visitors endured attack after attack from the Dons in the second half. Crosses rained in on the Dale goal both from open play and from a total of thirteen corners, yet somehow the home side could not find the net.
However, Rochdale were not without their chances on the counter attack with the Dons pushing everyone beyond the half way line at every opportunity. Only once however did they manage to break their way into a shooting opportunity. Higginbotham came inches from doubling Dale’s advantage when he rifled an unstoppable shot inches past the far upright from the tightest of angles.
The ball spent almost the entire forty-five minutes in the Rochdale half but the Dale defence, bossed by the immovable object that was Rory McArdle, held firm. The Dons of course were not without their chances and the most culpable candidate for wayward shooting came in the form of Sean O’Hanlon when he somehow blazed over the crossbar from three yards out after Aaron Wilbraham’s header had struck a post.
Russell then made his wonder save from Gallen’s header and Lewington blazed high and wide when well placed on the left hand side of the penalty area.
Rochdale gained some respite through an unlikely source as the sprinkler system at Stadium MK inadvertently went off in the middle of the match, soaking an assistant referee and forcing the referee to stop the game. The Dale players took on vital fluids and continued the manful defence of their unlikely lead.
In a bid to make up for his shocking miss O’Hanlon powered a header beyond Russell but Higginbotham was on hand to clear off the line and in the dying stages Lewington blazed over once more and emergency forward Matt Carbon headed straight at Russell when well placed to do better.
MK Dons: Gueret, Lewington, O’Hanlon, Swailes, Diallo, Dyer, Andrews (Miles 82), Navarro, Wright, Wilbraham (Gallen 63), Johnson (Carbon 90).
Subs not used: Abbey, Hadfield.
Rochdale: Russell, Kennedy, McArdle, Ramsden, Stanton, Perkins, Jones, Doolan, Howe (Thompson 68), Higginbotham (Rundle 86), Le Fondre (Holness 16).
Subs not used: Spencer, Muirhead.
Booked: Stanton, Russell, Perkins.
Sent Off: Stanton.
Attempts (on target): MK Dons 17 (9) Rochdale 3 (2)
Free kicks: MK Dons 14 Rochdale 20
Offside: MK Dons 3 Rochdale 3
Corners: MK Dons 13 Rochdale 2
Referee: M Thorpe.
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