Doncaster Rovers were brought crashing back down to earth with a bump by Rochdale.
‘Bump’ being the operative word.
Keith Hill’s out of form side knew they would have to work their proverbials off to end a run of seven league games without a win against a Rovers team seemingly riding on the crest of a wave and looking for their fourth straight win.
And they did exactly that to notch what Hill later described as a “perfect win” thanks to two late goals from Ian Henderson.
Doncaster lacked the spark that saw them run Blackpool ragged at times the previous weekend. They struggled to play through Rochdale and seemed to run out of attacking ideas as the game went on.
But that was arguably credit to the visitors who left nothing at all out on the pitch and set about spoiling things from the very first whistle.
It was not particularly pretty, and it was far from good to watch, but from Rochdale’s point of view it was incredibly effective.
The away side’s physical approach, and also their high foul count, made for a stop start first half that Rovers nonetheless edged.
There were definite signs during that first period that Hill’s men fancied their chances on the counter attack though, often springing forward in good numbers and catching Rovers out numerically.
Andy Williams, with four goals in his last three games, saw a good few chances come and go as the scoreline remained blank.
And so it was left to Henderson late on, first with an expert finish from another quick breakaway and then from all of two yards out following a mistake by Harry Middleton, to win a game that could have gone either way but had looked destined to end goalless.
Rovers fans really ought to know by now not to get carried away.
There was understandably a very optimistic atmosphere around the Keepmoat Stadium as their side went in search of four straight wins for the first time in three years to the very month.
Darren Ferguson’s very decisive and pro-active brand of management appears to have filled players and supporters alike with belief.
But, without overreacting, the nature of this defeat served as a very timely reminder of the scale of the job facing the Scot.
Had Rovers went ahead in the first half, when they created the most meaningful opportunities in front of goal, the chances are they would have gone on and won this game, or at least not lost it.
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However, this is a team for whom it will take a lot more than three successive wins to shake off some of the mental baggage associated with recent seasons.
And this was a defeat which was almost like a flashback to last season’s toils on home soil; Rovers huffed and puffed before succumbing to the counter attack.
Their most optimistic of fans will put it down as a blip, the most pessimistic will say old habits die hard.
It was certainly not that Rochdale wanted it more than Doncaster, just that they took their chances and Rovers did not. They concentrated on disrupting Rovers in the first half, but were by far the better team in the second half.
The best of Rovers’ chances before the break fell to Williams.
He should have made more of an opening created by Nathan Tyson before failing to get a clean connection on James Coppinger’s cross, which led to Cedric Evina striking the outside of the post from a tight angle.
He was, however, unlucky to see his volley from Evina’s cross flash just wide and then Joel Castro Pereira save his low shot in stoppage time.
The visitors’ main threat came on the break and they went close when the impressive Donal McDermott broke quickly and lobbed an effort just wide.
Rochdale started the second period the brighter. Joseph Bunney was played in but he was denied by an excellent block from Evina.
Rovers had not got going at all and they were rocked further when substitute Keshi Anderson had to be stretchered off with his leg in a brace.
Good play from Conor Grant on the left teed up Coppinger as Doncaster attempted to up the ante in the closing stages, only for the veteran’s strike to be blocked by Jim McNulty.
And it was from that Rovers attack that Rochdale broke to score what proved to be the crucial first goal. Callum Camps worked the ball to Henderson and he curled home from inside the area.
Rochdale put the gloss on their win in stoppage time when McDermott seized upon a poor pass from Middleton and, after being denied by Stuckmann, squared it for Henderson to tap home from two yards out.
Rovers: Stuckmann 6, Mattioni 6 (Stewart 87), Alcock 6, Butler 7, Taylor-Sinclair 6, Evina 7, Middleton 5, Coppinger 6, Grant 7, Williams 6, Tyson 6 (Anderson 57 (N’Guessan 75)). Subs not used: Marosi, Davies, Whitehouse, Forrester.
Rochdale: Pereira 7, Bennett 6, McNulty 7, Lancashire 7, Kennedy 7, Camps 6 (Rose 87), Cannon 6, McDermott 8, Vincenti 6 (Andrew 62), Bunney 7 (Mendez-Laing 81), Henderson 7. Subs not used: Lillis, Eastham, Alessandra, Tanser.