Accrington’s seven match unbeaten run came to a end on Wednesday afternoon as they were narrowly beaten at home by Rochdale.
The away side broke the deadlock in the fourth minute of first half stoppage time through the the clubs top goalscorer, Ian Henderson, before Stephen Dooley doubled Dale’s lead just after the hour mark against the run of play.
Stanley did manage to pull one back as Offrande Zanzala poked home on the 91st minute, but it was to little to late as Brian Barry-Murphy’s men held on for only their second win in ten league matches.
The home side started positively with Dion Charles having the first attempt on goal of the afternoon when his swerving effort was beaten away by Robert Sanchez.
The prolific Ian Henderson had his first sight of goal when a perfectly timed ball over the top ball by Ollie Rathbone found the Dale captain, but his volleyed effort went over the bar.
Stanley midfielder Ben Barclay was extremely lucky to still be on the park after half an hour when he lunged into a challenge just minutes after being booked, but was somehow not given a second yellow.
It was no surprise to see him substituted straight after the incident, with Stanley knowing they probably got away with one.
Minutes later, John Coleman was forced into a second substitution as Sean McConville suffered what looked like a nasty ankle injury and had to be stretchered off.
Dale came close on the 43rd minute when Dooley broke forward with pace, before his blocked effort fell to Jimmy Keohane who sliced the second attempt over the bar.
In the dying moments of the first half, the deadlock was broken.
Kwadwo Baah attacked down the left-hand side, before playing the ball into Callum Camps. He played Henderson clean through on goal and the veteran striker showed his experience as he cooley chipped the ball over the onrushing Joe Bursik.
Stanley dominated the opening stages of the second half, but were hit with a huge sucker punch as Dale doubled their advantage on the 64th minute.
Rathbone’s defence-splitting pass set Dooley free and he made no mistake as he curled his effort beyond Bursik.
Accrington responded well and missed another opportunity on 75th minute, this time a cross towards the back-post was smashed into the Clayton end by Pritchard.
The away side nearly made it 3-0 when Calvin Andrews header was cleared off the line, before Zanzala stabbed the ball home from close-range in injury-time to set up an exciting finish, but they couldn’t get an equaliser.
Full Time– Accrington Stanley 1-2 Rochdale
I took the opportunity to tick off my 28th English ground as I travelled to Lancashire on New Years Day.
The game itself was entertaining, but Stanley will be disappointed as they created enough chances to win the game.
I was excited to see how Ian Henderson performed as I’ve seen how prolific he has been in League One over the years.
The 34-year-old is the definition of a clinical striker that everyone would love in their side. He took his goal well, showing good composure to lob it over the Stanley goalkeeper.
I think both sides will finish around mid table this year and have nothing to worry about with relegation.
The ground itself is one of the smallest I’ve been to, but it was a nice little set up and everyone was helpful and friendly.
Accrington Stanley XI
Bulsik, Johnson(74), Stykes, Hughes, Opoku, Barclay(29), Clark, McConville(33), Finley, Charles, Zanzala
Subs- Evtimov, Alese, Carvalho(74), Conneely(29), Diallo, Pritchard(33), Rodgers
Sanchez, Magloire, O’Connell, McShane(73), Keohane, Rathbone, Ryan, Camps, Baah(88), Dooley, Henderson(85)
Subs- Lynch, Gillam, Mclaughlin(73), Pyke, Andrews(85), Taveres(88), Wilbraham
Referee- Tom Nield
Attendance- 2,975 (804 Rochdale)
Goals- Henderson(45), Dooley(64) Zanzala (90)
Yellow Cards- Barclay(22), Finley(55)
Red Cards- N/A