Dale’s ten men
APOINT at home against Bristol Rovers was a decent return in the context of this clash, which saw the home side play out the entire second half with just ten men.
If anything, Dale actually improved after the dismissal of Magnus Norman on the stroke of half time, though that is no reflection on the young goalkeeper, who pulled off a fine save to keep the scores level.
His replacement, Josh Lillis, did likewise twice after the break in a half which saw Keith Hill’s men create enough chances to have won the match.
But Darrell Clarke, Hill’s opposite number, could point to several good openings for his own side – the draw a fair reflection of an entertaining, end to end contest.
Hill made a number of changes to his starting line up with goalkeeper Norman back in at the expense of Lillis. Harrison McGahey replaced Ryan Delaney, MJ Williams came in for Callum Camps, Matty Gillam for Andy Cannon and Brad Inman for Aaron Wilbraham.
The game kicked off at a frightful pace, McGahey’s pinpoint pass getting Ian Henderson in behind the Bristol defence only for his centre to be cut out by goalkeeper Jack Bonham while a Sam Hart cross was headed narrowly wide by Henderson.
Kyle Bennett had Rovers’ first real chance of the night, flashing a shot wide of Norman’s goal when the ball dropped invitingly to him on the edge of the area.
Joe Partington then sent a lethal delivery across the face of goal which just about eluded Bennett and was tapped out of play at the back post by Joe Rafferty with Scott Sinclair sniffing around.
Rovers’ period of pressure continued when McNulty’s wayward pass was intercepted by Stefan Payne and he crashed a 20-yard drive against the underside of Norman’s crossbar, the ball fortuitously bouncing out to safety.
At the other end, Rafferty’s deflected shot landed on Perkins’ boot, but with the ball spinning in the air he was unable to guide his volleyed attempt on target.
There was a blow for Dale midway through the first half when Gillam was forced to leave the field with what appeared a calf injury and he was replaced by Jordan Williams.
Rovers had a gilt-edged opportunity to score when Liam Sercombe skipped past McNulty on the edge of the area, the ball running away from him but straight into the path of Ollie Clarke, who looked certain to score until Norman raced off his line and blocked his shot with a fine stop.
Dale enjoyed a long period of possession themselves which ended when Inman couldn’t quite get enough on a Rathbone pullback – and from the following Bristol attack, the initiative swung the way of the visitors as Norman saw red.
The Dale stopper had raced out of his area to challenge Payne, who was chasing Bonham’s big kick downfield. The keeper was adjudged to have fouled Payne in crashing into the Bristol man – and McNulty – and was duly dismissed.
That meant McNulty giving way for Lillis, whose first contribution was to see Sercombe’s subsequent free-kick run wide of the post.
So goalless at the break but down to ten men for the second half – a tough 45 minutes lay ahead for the home side.
But Rathbone quickly signalled Dale’s intent with a curling shot in the opening minutes of the
Josh Lillis pulled off two excellent saves after coming off the bench on Tuesday