As fixtures go, this tends to be one of those used as a precautionary tale to scare higher league footballers of the horrors of relegation. However, given Rovers good form there was a buzz of anticipation and optimism, despite the bitterly chilly afternoon prompting the season’s inaugural outing of The Big Coat.
The first half followed a frustrating script for Rovers, who dominated throughout against an uninspiring Rochdale who’s only apparent tactic was to commit fouls about thirty yards from goal. Set piece after set piece went unrewarded but nonetheless a breakthrough felt inevitable should this pattern continue.
However, with a second half display more reminiscent of their early season, Rovers allowed Rochdale to return from the dressing room with much more purpose and drive, although largely without an end product. Conor Grant and Cedric Evina – both excellent again – did their best to inspire, but a horrific leg-break for Keshi Anderson twenty minutes from time – ironically from one of Rochdale’s more innocuous tackles of the day – left Rovers looking deflated.
The visitors duly capitalised, finding space in another swift counter attack for Ian Henderson to curl home an opening goal on 83 minutes. Despite good efforts to redress the balance, a misplaced back-pass spoiled an otherwise assured performance from Harry Middleton by allowing Henderson to snatch a second.
The 2-0 scoreline was incredibly flattering for Rochdale on a bad day at the office for Rovers, leaving them out in the cold with a grimly familiar sense of frustration.