Date published: 10 February 2021
Willbutts Lane Stand
More pressure was heaped on under fire Rochdale boss Brian Barry-Murphy after eight devastating second half minutes saw Dale crash to another home defeat Tuesday night (9 February). Matty Lund’s 12th goal of the season had levelled the score going into the half time break but three goals early in the second blew them away as MK Dons ran out 4-1 winners.
There was a debut for deadline day signing Conor Shaughnessy whilst Alex Newby and Matty Done were also given starts. Ryan McLaughlin and Kwadwo Baah were left on the bench with Stephen Dooley not in the 18-man squad.
Having demanded a response from his players after the display against Charlton, the Dale manager would not have envisaged conceding inside the opening five minutes. Matt O’Riley picking up the ball in a seemingly innocuous area but his left footed shot curled around the outstretched Gavin Bazunu and into the far bottom corner.
MK Dons looked dangerous, particularly down the flanks with wingbacks Zak Jules and Ethan Laird attacking at will. Jules tested Bazunu early on although his shot lacked enough pace to seriously test the stopper.
Dale had penalty claims waived away by referee Carl Boyeson after Eoghan O’Connell picked out Stephen Humphrys with a ball over the top; the Dale striker seemingly bundled to the ground and despite the claims for a spot kick, the referee gave a free-kick the other way.
A snowstorm from Storm Darcy made conditions difficult with the home side starting to feel their way into the game and went close through a swift counterattack nineteen minutes in. Newby made headway down the left to pick out Matty Done with the fullback crossing dangerously for Lund. The Dale leading goal scorer saw his shot gathered at full stretch by Fisher in the Dons goal.
With half-time approaching Dale managed to draw level with another quick counterattack. A mistake from Dons skipper Dean Lewington gifted Ollie Rathbone possession in midfield with Ollie, wearing the armband after Eoghan O’Connell went off injured, bursting forward. A perfectly weighted through ball found Humphrys inside the area to the left of goal but rather than shoot, the striker unselfishly squared for Lund for a simple tap in.
There was a moment of controversy in first half stoppage time when Russell Martin’s side thought they had edged in front only for an assistant’s flag to eventually cut short the celebrations. A shot from Zak Jules from inside the box appeared to deflect off Cameron Jerome and while the visitors started to celebrate, the referee, after consulting his assistant ruled Jerome was offside and the goal was chalked off.
That let off should have inspired the home side after the re-start, but it was the Dons who stepped up a gear or two and within ten minutes edged in front. A left-wing corner was met by Jerome although his powerful header crashed back off the face of the crossbar with Jules reacting quickest to nod into a virtually unguarded net.
2-1 quickly became 3-1 and then 4-1 as Dale were once again undone on home soil. A mistake between Morley and Rathbone allowed Scott Fraser to pick up and head towards goal and hitting a shot that flew past Bazunu from the edge of the area and within four minutes Dons got their fourth goal. A quick break saw Grigg unselfishly pull the ball back for Jerome to slot in in an almost identical goal to the one that Lund had scored earlier into the same end of the pitch.
From there it was damage limitation for Barry-Murphy’s side who despite throwing on Kwadwo Baah and deadline day signings Conor Grant and Jack Vale, they failed to seriously test Fisher.
The result means Dale stay two points clear of the drop zone having played more games than most of the teams below.
Rochdale: Bazunu, Osho, O’Connell © (Keohane 37), Roberts, Done (McLaughlin 78), Newby (Grant 78), Rathbone, Morley (Baah 64), Shaughnessy, Lund, Humphrys (Vale 79)
Substitutes: (not used) Lynch, McNulty
MK Dons: Fisher, Lewington ©, O’Hora, Darling, Laird (Harvie 85), Jules (Sorinola 71), O’Riley, Surman (Sorensen 85), Fraser, Jerome (Mason 70), Grigg (Brown 78)
Substitutes: (not used) Nicholls, Johnson
Referee: Mr C Boyeson
Assistants: Mr C Ward & Mr M Cunliffe
Fourth Official: Mr P Gooch