By Gerry Prewett
The seismic shock of Matty Taylor’s move to arch rival Bristol City has overshadowed the importance of Bristol Rovers trip to Greater Manchester to take on Keith Hill’s Rochdale team. Dale sit three points and two positions above the Gas and have played two games less.
When the teams met back at the Mem in early September both had got off to a bad start to the season. Rovers were 18th and Dale four places lower. A 2-2 draw did little to raise the relative positions of both teams. The visitors went in front after 17 minutes when Callum Camps rounded Kelle Roos before shooting into an empty net.
Just four minutes later Peter Hartley headed a Chris Lines corner across goal for that man Taylor to get a touch in the six-yard box. Within a minute
Rochdale were level as Joe Bunney crossed for Ian Henderson to face an almost open goal.
Taylor brought Rovers back into the game with a scissor-kick from Hartley's header soon after the break.
In their FA Cup Fourth Round tie at home last weekend, Dale were given a lesson in finishing by Huddersfield Town.
In the closing minutes of the half Logan’s goal kick was pounced upon by the Huddersfield midfield and fed through to Brown, who broke into the box and squared to Quaner for a simple tap-in.
Midway through the second period the visitors were awarded a penalty, after Hudson was brought down as a corner kick was swung in. Brown stepped up and sent Logan the wrong way, to double the Terrier’s lead.
Five minutes later substitute Hefele headed a left wing cross downwards into the corner, where Logan couldn’t stop the effort from finding the back of the net.
In the 84th minute, the Terriers counter attacked on a committed Dale. Quaner broke through the middle and squared to Hefele, who slotted home to round off the scoring.
Speaking after the game Dale Boss Keith Hill commented,
“You cannot afford to make the mistakes that we made for the first, second and third goals. The only goal that they've scored that I've got to applaud is the fourth goal, which is a typical Championship/ Huddersfield goal.”
“But the three goals prior to that are mistakes, regardless of whether we're playing against Championship nous or we're playing against a Conference side. We haven't been making those mistakes until the last three games, and now we're conceding goals because of mistakes, not great goals.”
“I can't fault the endeavour, the running power or the commitment to the plan, but ultimately we have to show a better skill level and better decision making or we'll lose games in our respective league.”
Taking a musical turn Hill ‘noted’, “It's human error. The 'Human League' spoke about it - we're only human, born to make mistakes. It's difficult because the players will start losing belief because we're goals that will saturate all your energy.”
“The timing of the first goal and the way that it was contrived was totally down to ourselves. To give away a goal like we did can be deflating so we've got to stop conceding those types on deflating goals.
“I'm asking experienced players to manage the game better than they are doing at this moment in time. I was really pleased with the contribution of Mark Kitching. I thought he was excellent against a Championship side, after being thrown in at the deep end. We've had to deal with another serious injury, which I thought we dealt with well, but we can't shoot ourselves in the foot like we did.”
“If that was a league game I'd be saying the same thing. We were playing against better opposition than League One and we were making mistakes, so it's no wonder we were beaten.”
Looking back at previous clashes between the teams it is remarkable that the games often result in draws, with 15 of the 31 games played finishing level.
The very first game between the two teams took place on 27th September 1969 at Eastville. Both teams had got off to a bright start to the season and newly promoted Rochdale were happy to play an expansive brand of attacking football to thrill the 8,653 crowd.
Harold Jarman opened the scoring with a penalty after Robin Stubbs was brought down. Great work by Butler created a deserved equaliser for Dale and in the second half they took the lead with a headed goal.
Stubbs brought the game back to parity with a weak shot past Harkin into the corner of the net. Bobby Jones put Rovers in front again as he took a high up field ball and struck it past an advancing Harkin. Dale stunned the Eastville faithful with a deserved last minute equaliser. So 3-3 for the first ever game between the clubs.
In 2002-03 season goals from Paul Simpson and Clive Platt gave Dale a 2-1 victory in Bristol, whilst Lee McEvilly scored in the 1-1 draw at Spotland in March. The following season both games finished 0-0 although the game at Spotland in December ended in high drama, as late in the game Gary Jones blazed a controversially awarded penalty over the bar.
In October 2010 Rovers just squeezed out all the points with a 2-1 win. A Jeff Hughes penalty on half-time gave Rovers the lead. Chris Lines appeared to make the game safe on 82 minutes before Byron Anthony put one past his own keeper four minutes later to ensure a nervous finish.
In 2012-13 both games finished 2-1 to the home team. The game at the Mem was a very dull affair until Ellis Harrison ran half the length of the pitch and let fly with a powerful shot into the top corner that the keeper had no chance of saving.
Dale were level on 75 minutes when defender Michael Rose hit a left foot shot from 25 yards into the top left-hand corner.
Nine minutes later Eliot Richards sent a corner into the box, which Brunt failed to knock home from close range, but the ball fell sweetly to Harrison who slotted home the rebound to secure all 3 points for the Gas.
In 2013-14 Dale won both games. The game in Bristol was Rovers penultimate game of that relegation season. Rovers took the lead through Kaid Mohamed who squeezed the ball under Josh Lillis after 17 minutes. 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.
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 Gasman 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 have been active in the January window; Keith Keane make a permanent 18-month switch to Dale from Cambridge United following a successful loan spell at the Crown Oil Arena.
Jack Redshaw joined Dale on loan from Blackpool for the remainder of the 2016-17 campaign.
Joel Taylor joined the club on loan from Stoke City until the end of the season as did Ben Wilson from Cardiff City, while Mark Kitching, who had initially joined on loan until the summer, became Hill’s final dealing of the transfer window, with the 21-year-old putting pen to paper on an 18-month deal before the 11pm deadline.