Keith Hill’s Rochdale inflicted their third defeat of the season over Crewe Alexandra with a comfortable 4-0 win at Spotland. The Alex were second best on the night and didn’t do themselves any favours either by conceding two penalties in the game.
Rochdale’s captain Ian Henderson confidently slotted home both spot-kicks and his strike partner Joe Bunney also helped himself to a second half brace, as Crewe lost their third consecutive away game.
Crewe’s best chance fell to Jamie Ness with the score at 0-0 but after an excellent counter attack and pass from Nicky Ajose, he couldn’t control his finish over Jamie Jones.
With the experienced Alan Tate suspended following his red card at the weekend, Steve Davis re-introduced Jon Guthrie and Anthony Stewart into a back four. Therefore, the usual left wing-back Greg Leigh returned to the substitutes’ bench and Ollie Turton moved back into a midfield role.
There was another change in the forward positions with Brad Inman earning a recall ahead of Marcus Haber, as Crewe adopted a 4-3-3 system with the versatile James Jones on the right hand side of the three.
The former Crewe loanee Febian Brandy was on the bench for Rochdale. The early exchanges were frantic and the ball was spending a lot time in the air, but an early free-kick from Jamie Ness did see captain Harry Davis flick a header straight at Jamie Jones in the Rochdale goal.
A similar free-kick from Rochdale’s Michael Rose saw his well struck shot from 30 yards take a nick off the Alex wall and send it behind for a corner. A combination of Guthrie and Harry Davis managed to clear the danger.
On 12 minutes, a really loose header from George Ray landed invitingly at the feet at Ian Henderson and Anthony Grant was forced to trip him close to the Crewe penalty area. Again Rose struck it well but Paul Rachubka was equal to it to push it behind for another corner.
Following some combative play from Turton, he won the ball back for Grant and his excellent pass found the run of Stewart but his shot was straight at Jamie Jones.
On 25 minutes, Ray gave away possession in a dangerous position and Rochdale quickly sent Henderson through the middle, only for the covering Davis to make a last ditch challenge on the forward to prevent him really testing Rachubka. It was a timely tackle.
A couple of minutes later, Crewe broke with real purpose and the quickness of the counter attack saw a two-on-one situation. Ajose played through an inch perfect pass through to Ness but he couldn’t control his finish as he tried to lift the ball over the advancing Jones. It was a wonderful move that just lacked a composed finish from the Scot.
Grant was then booked for Crewe after previously having a warning from referee Paul Tierney and likewise Rhys Bennett for the home side for dragging Inman down as he embarked on a run.
More concerted pressure from Keith Hill’s side saw Crewe forced to defend deep inside their own penalty area and when the ball was finally played back out to Rose, the midfielder with another explosive shot struck it just wide of Rachubka’s left hand post.
On 36 minutes, Rochdale were awarded a penalty. Henderson fed the overlapping right back Joe Rafferty and as he turned back inside, the retreating Inman tripped him with his trailing leg. Tierney had no option but to point to the spot and the Alex players didn’t complain. Although Rachubka went the right way down to his left, Henderson’s spot kick had too much powerful behind it.
Three minutes later, the home side nearly doubled their advantage from a Rose corner from the left. His deep cross caught Rachubka in two minds and Ashley Eastham came through a crowd to head goalwards, only for Stewart to produce a goal saving clearance from the line. Crewe were hanging in there and needed the half time whistle to regroup.
Sporting a headband from an earlier cut, Peter Vincenti nearly bustled his way through but after lifting the ball over Rachubka, the covering Davis did well again to read the situation and clear the danger behind his goalkeeper.
Bennett also had a late chance to make it 2-0 before the break but he couldn’t get enough on his lob to trouble a back tracking Rachubka.
Following the interval, Marcus Haber replaced Jones as Crewe switched back to 4-4-2 with Turton moving to the right and Inman on the left.
Five minutes into the second half, Rochdale nearly caught us out on the counter attack from our own corner. Crewe couldn’t quite keep the ball alive at the near post and after the ball was thumped clear, Henderson broke into space down the Crewe right and floated a cross field pass over to the supportive Vincenti but his low drive was wide.
Moments later, Jamie Allen shot straight at the Crewe goalkeeper after another promising break from the home side. Rose also went close with a bending effort from 25 yards out.
The second goal for Dale arrived on 58 minutes, Henderson again attacked the Alex back line and as he ran at Stewart, the covering Grant tried to poke possession away from him but in doing so could only direct it into the path of Joe Bunney and he confidently drilled it home into the bottom corner.
Rochdale made an immediate change with Scott Tanser replacing Rafferty at full-back.
Just after the hour mark, Haber did well to flick the ball into the path of Ajose and he looked to be through but in having a slight delay in getting a shot off, he was caught and a timely tackle from Eastham halted him in front of Jones’ goal. If the Alex striker had gone to ground following the initial challenge it could have been interesting, as he looked as though he had been clipped.
After Stewart was hounded and lost possession too close to our penalty area, Allen fed Bunney and to his credit Stewart recovered to make a challenge, but Bunney got up quickest and Rachubka had to make the save.
On 73 minutes, Crewe conceded their second penalty of night. Guthrie bundled into the back of Bunney just inside the area and referee Tierney pointed instantly to the spot. Henderson stepped up and this time placed through the middle for 3-0.
Crewe lost Turton due to a head injury as he went up to challenge Jamie Jones in an aerial dual and he had to be replaced for Chris Atkinson.
With 10 minutes remaining, Rochdale conjured up a fourth goal with Vincenti playing a clever reverse pass into Bunney and his composed finish gave Rachubka no chance.
The final change saw from Steve Davis saw Billy Waters replace Inman.
Nicky Ajose had a late chance to grab a consolation but he shot wide of the target in the Rochdale rain. It was a miserable night at Spotland in front of 1,954. 222 braved the weather from Crewe.