Match verdict: Rochdale 1 Doncaster Rovers 3

Doncaster Rovers' Theo Robinson celebrates his goal with Kyle Bennett and Andy Butler
Doncaster Rovers' Theo Robinson celebrates his goal with Kyle Bennett and Andy Butler

Oh how quickly the story of a game of football can change.

For so, so long at Spotland on Saturday it was a tale of frustration for Rovers, where chances for glory were allowed to slip away.

NSST 22-11-14 Rochdale v Doncaster Rovers Skybet League One - Nathan Tyson and Enda Stephens take on Calvin Andrew

NSST 22-11-14 Rochdale v Doncaster Rovers Skybet League One - Nathan Tyson and Enda Stephens take on Calvin Andrew

But after frustration came the last act moment of triumph from an unlikely hero and the struggle and doubt which preceded it was swept away by celebration

In terms of the pure facts, Rovers achieved a notable away win with goals from Kyle Bennett, Theo Robinson and Curtis Main against a Rochdale side reduced to ten men after their goalscorer Matty Done was sent off.

But that tells only half the story.

At times, Rovers were excellent. In chance creation and midfield fluidity terms, they were probably as good as they have been this season.

Curtis Main scores the third goal

Curtis Main scores the third goal

But in other moments there was cause for concern. The defence and the goalkeeper looked rather nervous while finishing was appalling at times.

After Done’s red card on 54 minutes, Rovers consistently broke down an opposition that retreated deeper and deeper. But once presented with opportunities, they fluffed their lines.

It was a victory that would sneak four stars in review, but only just.

Rochdale started the brighter and initially looked more up for fight. They were quicker to every ball and Rovers struggled for possession - always a worrying side against one of the division’s best footballing sides.

The opening goal just eight minutes in could hardly have been more simple or easy for the hosts.

Reece Wabara was more concerned with appealing for offside as Done darted in to meet a clipped cross from Rhys Bennett with a diving header to turn the ball home while Luke McCullough did little to put pressure on the midfielder.

Rovers reacted quickly and switched formation from 4-4-2 to 4-1-3-2 with Bennett, Richie Wellens and James Coppinger a narrow three behind the strike pairing.

It changed the pattern of the game almost instantly as Rovers began to enjoy more possession and more attacking success.

Bennett was first to test Conrad Logan, drilling a shot from 20 yards which was parried out to Nathan Tyson who could not send the rebound on target.

After Tyson and Reece Wabara both hooked chances wide, Rovers did draw level with a goal of real beauty which fully demonstrated the intricate football they are capable of.

Starting out wide, the ball was worked through Wabara, Wellens, Coppinger and Tyson before being handed to Bennett just inside the box.

Bennett still had plenty to do and turned his marker before drilling low through the legs of Ashley Eastham and into the far corner.

Though they were enjoying the better of the play, Rovers did look vulnerable on the counter attack, something not helped by the defence lacking assuredness.

Players were slow to react and close down while Sam Johnstone’s was uncharacteristically hesistant.

On such moment of nerves almost gifted the hosts a chance. Paul Keegan sent a panicked heavy back pass towards goal, with Johnstone caught off guard and needing to scramble back to clear off the line.

Rovers really should have been in front before half time. Coppinger chased a lost cause and was rewarded with space but drilled well over from 12 yards.

And Main missed the best chance of the half after breaking clear but opted to shoot early with both time and Tyson available options to him.

If Coppinger and Main’s chances were glorious, one for Bennett just after the break was golden.

A poor pass out from the largely impressive Conrad Logan was cut out by Tyson. A quick pass went in to Bennett who lashed a first time shot both over the bar and the stand behind the goal.

The sending off certainly proved controversial for the home support, who already felt they were not getting the rub of the green from referee Jeremy Simpson.

Done certainly left the ground in going for a 50-50 ball with Coppinger. His studs were not showing however and he looked to make the tackle with shin more than feet.

There was little doubt however that his lunge into the challenge was the reasoning behind Simpson’s quick decision to flash the red.

Immediately the game changed. Rochdale dropped deeper with almost every outfield player sitting within 25 yards of their own goal.

The initiative was firmly handed to Rovers and they took it on.

Camped in the opposition half they knocked on the Rochdale door for more than half an hour.

Bennett danced into space, Wellens slotted passes through gaps and the front pairing made dangerous runs.

But once the back line was breached, Rovers’ good progress evaporated with a major absence of composure in front of goal.

Composure was not lacking when Tyson and Bennett both hit the woodwork shortly after the sending off.

First, Tyson turned a header off the underside of the bar from six yards.

And then Bennett superbly worked space for a shot from the edge of the area, with Logan touching the ball onto the post.

But composure certainly did evade Tyson on the rebound as he hacked a first time effort towards which deflected away from goal off team mate Main.

And Tyson was a guilty party again moments later, drilling a shot well over after a lay off from substitute Harry Forrester.

The feeling only grew that it was not to be Rovers’ day, no matter what they threw at Rochdale.

But no one accounted for the contribution of Robinson. Few can doubt the striker’s workrate yet his attacking contribution has come into question on several occasions this season.

His contribution on 86 minutes, just seconds after coming off the bench, was significant enough.

Bennett claimed back his short corner and sent in a cross with Robinson rising unmarked to head home past a scrambling Logan.

The relief from all concerned with Rovers was palpable after they deservedly took the lead and Rochdale were too entrenched on the back foot to do anything about falling behind.

So there was no surprise when Rovers grabbed a third on the stroke of full time.

Wabara sent in a low cross that delivered the ball on a plate to Main who produced a cute backheel finish from close range to make sure of the three points.

Against all indication, the story had its happy ending though there were more than a few concerns to be addressed in future chapters.