I should have known everything was going to be fine when the CD player in the car kicked in with Good Times, Chic’s much-sampled hymn to happy days.
Times were certainly happy for Rovers who dominated the early exchanges, taking the lead after four minutes. Mathieu Baudry’s pass found John Marquis who pulled the ball back, Alfie May helped it on and from 20 yards Ben Whiteman smashed a left-footer past Rochdale ‘keeper Josh Lillis.
Perhaps the key moments came midway through the first half. In their first attack of substance Rochdale’s Ian Henderson sent over a superb cross which Andy Cannon fired over the bar with only Ian Lawlor to beat. Two minutes later Rovers doubled their lead when May’s first-time angled shot hit Kgosi Nthle and deflected past Lillis.
Rovers led 2-0 at the break and spent much of the second period on the back foot as Rochdale sought to get back into the game. Lawlor was forced to make saves in quick succession from Henderson and Calvin Andrew and was then relieved to see Joe Bunney’s effort trickle wide.
Despite this pressure Rovers appeared largely comfortable, Baudry and Andy Butler offering a defence as tight as one of Chic’s productions while Marquis led the line superbly. So Rovers completed their third win of the Christmas period, all with clean sheets.
Ten years ago, Rovers won all three festive games and went on to clinch promotion to the Championship. Could the Good Times be ready to roll again?
by John Coyle