Rotherham 2 (McArdle 77 o.g., Reid 90+5)
Rochdale 2 (Rhodes 43, Buckley 51)
Dale team: Russell, Ramsden, McArdle, Stanton, Kennedy, Buckley (Toner), Keltie, G. Jones, Rundle, Rhodes (Dagnall), le Fondre (Thorpe) (Thorpe s.o. 69)
A shocking comeback inside the last 15 minutes meant that Rotherham escaped with a point from this encounter at their temporary new home of the Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield.
Dale boss Keith Hill made two changes from last week’s defeat against Wycombe. Fit-again Clark Keltie replaced Ciaran Toner in midfield and new signing Jordan Rhodes took his place alongside Adam Le Fondre up front, with the out-of-form Chris Dagnall dropping to the bench. The first comment I will make is that the Don Valley Stadium has to be one of the strangest places I’ve watched football at. The fans are so far away from the pitch and you could hear a pin drop when the noise level dropped, but the travelling Dale contingent were in good voice throughout.
The home side started brightly, with the long throws of former Dale triallist Andy Nicholas and the height of strikers Ryan Taylor and Reuben Reid proving to be a big problem for Dale as The Millers imposed their physical presence. But, gradually, Dale took control of the game with some crafty passing play. Keltie and Jones were controlling things in midfield and the two wingers, Rundle and Buckley, were a constant thorn in the Rotherham side.
Chances were few and far between in the first half. Dale’s best effort was a quickly-taken free kick from Keltie which was comfortably held by Warrington in the Rotherham goal. Adam Rundle also produced a sparkling run. Cutting in from the left, he danced past 3 Rotherham challenges before bending a shot wide.The first real chance, though, fell to the home side. Some neat play on the edge of the box put Danny Harrison through, but his shot was beaten away well by Sam Russell. Just as we thought the first half was going to peter out into insignificance, Dale took a deserved lead. Jordan Rhodes did well to win the ball back 30 yards out and threaded it through to Le Fondre. He cut the ball back to Buckley, whose shot was brilliantly saved by Warrington, only for Rhodes to smash the rebound home to give his Rochdale career the perfect start.
Dale started the second half brightly and there were a few promising counter attacks as Rotherham pressed for an equaliser. Will Buckley shot wide after robbing the ball from Nicholas but the second goal followed soon after. Gary Jones stormed into the Rotherham half and set Buckley clear. The 19-year-old kept his composure to drill the ball past Warrington, before sprinting over to the nearby Dale fans to celebrate his first senior goal.
Dale were in control but Rotherham had a 10 minute period of pressure, with a few penalty box scrambles coming to nothing. Jordan Rhodes had a goal ruled out for offside but things started to go downhill from there.
Lee Thorpe, who had come on for Le Fondre minutes earlier, went in for a challenge with Rotherham’s Ian Sharps. The ball rebounded out of play and we all relaxed, only to turn around and see Thorpe leaving the field and the referee with a red card help aloft. At the time, we were at a loss to explain why, but after more reflection, Thorpe maybe went in with his studs up but video replays will have to clarify.
Dale still regained control of the match, with Toner coming on in place of the impressive Buckley, until one moment of calamity at the back. A long, hopeful ball was lofted into the Dale penalty area. Russell came charging off his line to claim it, but Rory McArdle didnt hear the shout and his skewed header looped over the back-pedalling Russell and into the back of the net. A catastrophic, almost comical misjudgement had let The Millers back into the game, and with ten men it was backs-against the wall stuff.
Rotherham began an aerial bombardment of our box but the defence held out. Sub Alex Rhodes shot wide after the bounce of the ball put him through. Dale had chances on the counter attack to with Chris Dagnall, who had come on for Rhodes, firing over and Jones was just beaten to the ball by Warrington after he had escaped the defence.
The fourth official held up the board for 6 minutes of added time as Rotherham continued to lay siege on our goal. 4 minutes into those 6, the ball bobbled around our 18-yard line and dropped to former Dale striker Reuben Reid. He smashed a volley towards goal and we sunk in disbelief as it nestled in the corner. He almost snatched all three point but he headed just wide after Broughton crossed for him.
We went home with a draw that almost felt like a defeat. Having worked so hard the boys will have to be content with a point. However, the performance was very good and we can go into next weeks match with Chesterfield in good heart.
Written by Matt Turner