Report: Exeter City 0 Rochdale 1
Exeter City fell to a 1-0 defeat against Rochdale at St James Park.
It was a goal by Jamie Allen on the stroke of half-time that proved the difference between the two teams – both teams had more chances to find the net but the visitors travelled back to Lancashire with all three points.
There were two changes for the Grecians from the midweek meeting against Morecambe as an Irish duo led the line to begin. Jimmy Keohane and John O’Flynn were recalled into the starting XI, with Eliot Richards and Tom Nichols primed amongst the subs during a hectic home period.
Pat Baldwin still missed out for City with a hamstring tweak, meaning another game at centre-half for Scot Bennett. And Christy Pym made a third start in the continued absence of Artur Krysiak.
And it was Pym that was the first stopper called into action when Dale dangerman Scott Hogan charged through and set up Matty Done to square a ball for Jamie Allen – it was the feet of the teenage goalkeeper that kept it out in the opening minutes.
Almost immediately at the other end, Keohane wormed his way into the box on the right-hand byline and teed up O’Flynn, but his shot was blocked out by Joe Rafferty.
Soon after Liam Sercombe, was released down the right by O’Flynn, but his lofted delivery looped off the forehead of Keohane and over the bar harmlessly as Josh Lillis remained unchallenged.
Both sides were cancelling each other out with little to really worry about for either goalkeeper. A tame effort by Arron Davies was the most that Josh Lillis had to worry about, while Pym didn’t have a lot to do with a series of crosses being dealt with by the defence.
Matt Grimes had the chance to show his quality from dead-ball situations when Keohane won a free-kick midway inside the Dale half wide on the right. A fine, strafing delivery just evaded the attention of O’Flynn at the back stick.
Then O’Flynn squandered a glorious opportunity to take the lead when Craig Woodman’s free-kick from deep was allowed to bobble around – it fell to the striker ten yards out, who blazed over.
Hogan did well to escape on the shoulder of the City defenders and struck a firm effort from a narrowing angle on the right, which Pym did well to save initially and then smother at the second attempt.
And on the stroke of half-time, Pym was powerless to keep City’s sheets clean when he saved Ian Henderson’s lob from a tight angle, because Allen was arriving at the far post to tuck inside the post.
Half-time: Exeter City 0 Rochdale 1
City hadn’t been at their most fluid in the first half, which necessitated a change in tack after the break. Richards and Nichols were introduced at the break in place of Keohane and Davies.
Allen had a chance to get his and Dale’s second within seconds of the restart as the ball was set up nicely from the right, but he totally miscued his effort and hit an air-shot.
The subs for Exeter were beginning to make a telling impact, and it was Nichols that drew one of the saves of the game from Lillis. O’Flynn had teed up Sercombe to shoot but his effort was scuffed, but the striker picked up the ball and worked space to smash an effort from 12 yards which Lillis fingertipped over the bar.
And it was the other sub Richards that also came close as he found space on the left hand side and wound up a shot from 30 yards, which rippled into the side-netting.
Matt Lund came within inches of doubling the lead for the Dale as he struck a firm effort when Henderson had teed him up. It struck the base of the post, flew back across the face of goal, and crossed the byline for a goal-kick.
David Wheeler was City’s final sub, replacing O’Flynn for the final quarter of an hour.
City continued to put pressure on – with Pym occasionally left as the only man in the Grecians’ half – but a stern Dale defence were making it hard to create anything.
Rochdale sub George Donnelly went on a bundling run through the Grecians’ defence which almost brought a goalscoring opportunity, but his firm effort from a tight angle was blocked behind.
With the clock running out, Wheeler turned a ball round the corner for himself to run onto and delivered a low cross into the six-yard box, which Nichols was oh so close to turning in until Oliver Lancashire put in a fine recovery tackle at the last.
It was the last chance of note of City as the Dale held onto three points from their trip to Devon.
Full-time: Exeter City 0 Rochdale 1
Exeter City: Pym; Butterfield, Bennett, Coles, Woodman; Sercombe, Grimes, Oakley, Davies (Richards 46); Keohane (Nichols 46); O’Flynn (Wheeler 75).
Subs: Hamon, Moore-Taylor, Parkin, Gill.
Rochdale: Lillis; Rafferty, Lancashire, O’Connell, Done; Cavanagh; Henderson, Lund (Kennedy 88), Allen (Donnelly 68), Rose; Hogan (Vincenti 68).
Subs: Thomson, Eastham, Gray, Porter.
Goal: Allen (45).
Attendance: 3,169 (147 away).