By Gerry Prewett.
Looking back at previous clashes between the teams it is remarkable that the games often result in draws, with 18of the 38 games played finishing level. In Bristol, Dale has proved to be a real bogey team for the Gas with Rovers recording just 4 wins from 18 games whereas the Lancashire team has 5 victories to its name.
The very first game between the two teams took place on 27thSeptember 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 at the Mem.
On 16 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 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.
Last season, Rovers turned in a woeful performance, Liam Sercombe going closest to a goal with a 78th minute shot from outside the box, which flashed inches wide. It was a forgettable game of few scoring opportunities as Ethan Ebanks-Landell excelled at the heart of a strong visiting defence.
Rochdale looked comfortable for most of the first half, but gifted Rovers the best chance on 24 minutes as Sercombe latched onto a poor pass from goalkeeper Josh Lillis and burst forward only to shoot wide of the far post. Veteran Rochdale centre-forward Aaron Wilbraham caused problems in the air, but their only first-half efforts came from distance, despite some promising approach play.
The visitors clinched a deserved three points when Ethan Hamilton controlled a ball cut back by Ian Henderson to find the top corner with a precise left-footed chip 0n 82 minutes.