Attendance: 8158 (560)
By Steven Hood
Bristol Rovers remain on 47 points having lost to promotion chasing Rochdale at the Memorial Stadium.
Rovers took the lead through Kaid Mohamed in the first half but two second half goals from Joe Bunney and Matthew Lund secured all three points for the visitors.
Darrell Clarke made two changes to the side that went down 3-2 at Fratton Park to Portsmouth bringing in Seanan Clucas and top goal scorer John-Joe O’Toole.
Danny Woodards and Michael Smith missed out today through injury and the club also had Steven Gillespie missing from the bench forcing Clarke to name a very young list of substitutes.
Rochdale started the brighter testing Steve Mildenhall in the opening two minutes. An Ian Henderson free kick was directed goalwards by Oliver Lancashire but Mildenhall was quick to it and pushed the ball behind for a corner.
Mildenhall was called into action again moments later, this time to deny Peter Vincenti. A ball into the box wasn’t fully cleared by the Rovers defence and Vincenti was the first to react but lashed his shot straight at the large frame of Mildenhall.
It was the home side though that drew first blood as Kaid Mohamed squeezed the ball under Josh Lillis.
O’Toole and Clarkson linked up well initially before the Scot played the ball through to Kaid Mohamed. The Rovers wide man showed great strength to get past two Dale defenders before nudging the ball under the rushing keeper.
The ball travelled goalwards before hitting the right hand post and dribbled along the goal line before the linesman gave the goal.
Looking to add to his two goals at Portsmouth, Matt Harrold found himself bearing down on goal just after the half hour mark only to see his right-footed shot well saved by Lillis.
Dale cleared the ball straight down the opposite end and Mildenhall produced another fantastic save.
Substitute Joe Bunney provided the cross to George Donnelly who shot low, Mildenhall was able to stop the shot and Lee Brown eventually cleared the ball behind.
With just over five minutes remaining in the first half the visitors came close to leveling the game as Ian Henderson struck the post with a sensational effort from 25 yards.
The Rochdale wide man who already has 11 goals this season skipped past Tom Lockyer and unleashed a powerful right footed drive at the goal. The ball crashed against Mildenhall’s left hand post with the keeper rooted to the spot.
The visitors piled on the pressure before the break and should be been level but Joe Bunney dragged his shot wide when it looked easier to score.
Dale came out all guns blazing in the second half and with less than a minute played were level through a stunning left footed curling shot from Bunney.
The substitute advanced down the right hand side before receiving a pinpoint pass in the Rovers area, which Mark McChrystal attempted to intercept. Bunney composed himself and slotted his left footed effort in the far corner of the goal.
The visitors took the lead just past the hour mark as former Gas man Matthew Lund fired in from close range. Michael Rose whipped a low cross into the Rovers penalty area, which seemed to evade everyone before Lund popped up at the far post.
Dale could have been two goals to the good but full back Rhys Bennett headed narrowly wide of a set piece. Bennett jumped highest at the far post but couldn’t direct his header on target.
Darrell Clarke made three attacking changes bringing on Mitch Harding, Fabian Broghammer and Jamie Lucas but the home side failed to create anything clear-cut in the dying minutes.
This result leaves Rovers still on 47 points with two games of the season remaining. Rovers now have to sit and watch all the results come in this afternoon hoping things go their way.
Up next is a trip to Wycombe Wanders on Saturday 26th of April where they will be looking for their second win on the road this season in a search to keep league football at the club.
Rovers: Mildenhall, Lockyer, Parkes (Lucas – 78), McChrystal (C), Brown, Clarke (Broghammer – 65), Clucas, Mohamed, O’Toole, Clarkson (Harding – 54), Harrold.
Substitutes: Gough (GK), Broghammer, Harding, Santos, Keary, Lucas, Thomas.
Rochdale: Lillis, Bennett, Lancashire, O’Connell, Rose, Vincenti (Bunney – 31), Lund, Allen (McGinty – 90), Hery, Henderson, Donnelly (Cummins – 71).
Substitutes: Thomson (GK), Rafferty, Eastham, Kennedy, Cummins, McGinty, Bunney.