ROCHDALE 2, ALDERSHOT TOWN 1
Rochdale ended a barren run of form in Vanarama National League with a much-needed victory against Emirates FA Cup giantkillers Aldershot Town.
It was a massive victory from Dale as it was only a fortnight earlier The Shots put seven goals past Sky Bet League Two side Swindon Town.
Dale, now only four points outside the top seven, turned the form book upside down with only their second win in nine league games against The Shots who had won five of their previous games.
Goals from Jimmy Keohane and Kairo Mitchell enabled Dale, who had fallen behind to a Jack Barham strike, to produce a stirring fightback to the delight of manager Jimmy McNulty.
He said: “It was a deserved victory. We had full control of the game and were more than value for the win.
“It was a long week reflecting on a last-minute loss (last Saturday at Wealdstone) when on the chances we created we cannot believe we lost. We should have been out of sight.”
McNulty admitted Dale are still coming to terms with relegation from the EFL, adding: “We should have more wins. We are still learning and trying to build this, and there is still so much more to do.
“I agree this is a statement victory against what has recently been a powerhouse of a team with a front three who have scored 30 goals between them.”
The early stages were dominated by The Shots complaining about the match ball which was changed twice in the opening quarter of an hour…and still they were unhappy.
Manager Tommy Widdrington’s side came close to making an early breakthrough as inside two minutes Josh Stokes’ fiercely struck shot brought a fine save from Louie Moulden.
But it was not until the latter stages of the opening half that the game exploded to life.
The Shots took a 37th minute lead through a well-crafted goal which was executed by Jack Barham.
Cian Harries won the ball and released Lorent Tolaj who cut the ball back for Barham to score with a low shot on the turn, his eighth of the season.
Dale levelled five minutes later through right back Jimmy Keohane’s fifth goal of the season.
Jesurun Uchegbulam cut in from the left and his drive was parried by keeper Jordi Van Stappershoef. The ball looked to be going out for a corner only for Kairo Mitchell to back heel it from the by line for Keohane to fire home from six yards.
Dale, lifted by their leveller, were far more of a threat in the second period.
They almost took the lead for the first time just short of the hour when Bradford City loanee Ryan East saw a shot on the turn fly narrowly wide.
And they went even closer when Adam Clayton’s quickly taken free kick released Kairo Mitchell whose effort was brilliantly saved by Van Stappershoef.
Dale eventually found a winner with 11 minutes remaining when Mitchell was free at the far post to head home Clayton’s cross, his ninth goal of the season.
The Shots were shy in front of goal as they pressed for a leveller as Dale defended resolutely, substitute Tommy Willard seeing a shot fly wide, their only late chance of note.
Shots’ manager Tommy Widdrington refused to make excuses as his squad was shorn of six players, four being probable starters.
“We lost the game because we switched off for their two goals, but credit to the opposition who were on the front foot and attack minded,” he said.
“We controlled the first half and were disappointed with the goal we conceded just before half time as we thought there was a handball, a big decision.
“They had the better of the second half and we couldn’t get our passing going.”