Dale catch cold again

Sky Bet League One
Rochdale 2 Doncaster Rovers 3

ROCHDALE'S defensive frailties were exposed again as Doncaster Rovers ensured that they are now without a league win for five weeks.

It could have been all so different had Ian Henderson, faced with an open goal, not smacked the ball against the crossbar midway through the first-half.

But Lady Luck is not with Keith Hill's men at the moment, even though they were the better team for much of this game.

And they will be kicking themselves about Henderson's miss, as well as a number of chances they failed to take in the opening 45 minutes.

Goals from Ali Crawford, Andy Butler and Jermaine Anderson moved Rovers to fourth in the league, as they maintained their impressive start to the season under new manager Grant McCann.

The evergreen James Coppinger, 37, provided assists for the three goals, as well.

Dale haven't won in the league since a 3-0 victory over Gillingham on September 15 and now find themselves plummeting towards the relegation places.

They were, however, the better side in the first-half.

Rovers, who had lost their previous two league games, had their backs against the wall as Brad Inman went close within the first few minutes.

Inman then turned provider as he crossed the ball in for Zac Clough, only for the on-loan Nottingham Forest forward to see his effort cleared off the line by Rovers defender Niall Mason.

Rovers' first effort didn't come until the quarter-hour mark when John Marquis, who has already registered nine goals this season, launched the ball from just outside the area, but it was safely caught by Dale goalkeeper Josh Lillis.

The home side kept surging forward in search of the opener, and nearly got it when Clough chipped the ball inside the box, only for Rovers keeper Marko Marosi to catch it with ease.

Then Oliver Rathbone's free-kick was met by Kgosi Ntlhe, but he headed the ball into the side netting.

The visitors took the lead in the 23rd minute against the run of play.

Mason fed Coppinger on the right flank and the veteran crossed the ball in for Crawford, who rifled it home past Lillis to record his first goal for the club since signing I the summer from Scottish side Hamilton Academicals.

Dale kept testing Marosi, but found the Slovakian stopper in fine form.

He tipped a fierce Clough strike around the post and then did the same to keep out Joe Rafferty's long-range effort.

Dale's best chance came when Inman threaded the ball to Henderson inside the area.

The striker's shot was cleared off the line and it fell to him again and, as Marosi was nowhere to be seen, he had an open net to place the ball into, yet smashed it against the crossbar in what should be considered, so far, the miss of the season.

Inman then went racing down the right minutes before half-time and played the ball in for Clough, only got his effort to be blocked on the line by Butler.

There was still time for Marquis to hit the post as the seconds ticked down to the end of a frenetic first-half.

Dale had the worst start possible to the second-half when Rovers added a second in the 50th minute.

Their defence failed to deal with Coppinger's corner and Butler easily headed it past Lillis.

The home side's heads seemed to drop, with misplaced passes galore and none of their players calling for the ball.

They were given a lifeline on the hour mark when Ntlhe was brought down in the box, with referee Scott Oldham pointing to the penalty spot.

Henderson stepped up to hit the resulting spot kick past Marosi.

But they failed to capitalise on their momentum and found themselves another goal down in the 68th minute.

Coppinger was again at the heart of the action when he delivered the ball for substitute Anderson to turn it home at the back post.

Dale continued to push forward and went close through substitutes Calvin Andrew and Andy Cannon.

And their persistence paid off in the 82nd minute.

Inman's corner was headed down in the box and the ball fell for Ntlhe who poked it home.

Dale just couldn't make it count, though, with Andrew's effort again cleared off the line after some neat play from fellow substitute Stephen Dooley.

McCann said: "Rochdale had a lot of shots from distance and for our keeper to deal with, but we showed a ruthless edge.

"We dealt with the elements, especially in the second-half when the wind was swirling.

"The boys' effort was outstanding and I thought they dug in, as we are not going to play the opposition off the park every week."

Hill said: "The goals we conceded were avoidable and we have to keep our concentration levels high, whether we are in possession or not.

"We were caught cold and they scored twice from within our six yard box, which isn't right.

"It is difficult to accept, but we have to roll our sleeves up and get on with it."

Rochdale: Lillis; Rafferty, McGahey, Ntlhe, Hart (Cannon, 58); M J Williams (Dooley, 74), Rathbone, Perkins (Andrew, 58); Inman, Clough; Henderson.

Substitutes not used: Moore, Morley, McNulty and Williams.

Doncaster Rovers: Marosi; Mason, Butler, Wright, Andrew; May (Wilks, 73), Whiteman, Crawford (J Anderson, 60), Blair; Coppinger (Taylor, 81), Marquis.

Substitutes not used: Lawlor, Horton, T Anderson and Beestin.

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