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26 December 2017 Venue Ewood Park Attendance

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Report: Rovers 2 Rochdale 0

Mowbray's men get back to winning ways with a comfortable home victory

26 December 2017

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Charlie Mulgrew netted his ninth of the season as Rovers returned to winning ways with a 2-0 victory over Rochdale at Ewood Park

Mulgrew was forced to withdraw from the team that drew 1-1 with Northampton three days ago through illness, but he returned to skipper the side to success - producing a faultless performance at the back and scoring a penalty three minutes before the break.

Earlier, Rovers had taken the lead courtesy of an own goal for the second home game running when Kgosi Ntlhe put through his own net, after the lively Bradley Dack had seen his shot saved.

Derrick Williams came close to a Rovers third on 57 minutes, but his shot skimmed the top of the bar, whilst Dack almost added the icing on the (Christmas) cake with a superb solo effort late on, only for Josh Lillis to make the save.

David Raya, making the 50th league appearance of his career, was rarely troubled throughout, as Rovers recorded a 10th clean sheet of the campaign and extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 16 games.    

Ahead of the game, manager Tony Mowbray made three changes to the side that were held to a 1-1 draw by Northampton on Saturday. 

Mulgrew, Corry Evans and Bennett all returned to the starting line-up after missing the trip to Sixfields through illness, injury and suspension respectively. 

Elliott Ward, Peter Whittingham and Craig Conway were the players to make way, with the trio dropping to the bench. 

There was once again no place in the 18 for striker Dominic Samuel, who was still struggling with the sickness bug that had swept through the Rovers camp.

The first chance of the game went Rovers' way on 12 minutes when Ryan Nyambe's lofted ball into the box was nodded down by Danny Graham to Marcus Antonsson, whose volley went high and wide.

There was little else to report until Rovers took the lead on 35 minutes.

Dack played a one-two with Antonsson, before seeing his stabbed effort goalwards saved by Lillis, but the rebound went in off the unfortunate Ntlhe.

Dack almost got in behind the Rochdale defence again five minutes later, when Donervan Daniels looked to have underhit his back-pass, but Lillis just got to the ball ahead of the Rovers forward. 

However, Rovers did double their lead three minutes before the break. Superb pressure and persistance from Bennett saw him rob the ball off Lillis, who then bundled the midfielder to the ground.

The referee wasted little time in pointing to the spot and up stepped Mulgrew to fire home his ninth goal of the campaign.

Rochdale finally registered an effort of note in time added on at the end of the first half, but Callum Camps' strike from outside the area failed to trouble David Raya's goal.  

The visitors had a clearer sight of goal less than five minutes after the restart when Brad Inman's cross fell kindly for Oliver Rathbone, but Paul Downing made a brilliant block to stop the shot.

Dale threatened again on 55 minutes when Ian Henderson tried his luck from 25 yards out and Raya had to tip the ball behind at full stretch.

Momens later, Rovers almost added a third when Dack played a superb through ball to Williams, whose left-foot strike clipped the top of the crossbar.

Mowbray made a double change on the hour mark, bringing on Willem Tomlinson and Conway for Evans and Antonsson, whilst Rochdale boss Keith Hill followed suit with a triple substitution soon after.

Graham went close on 65 minutes, but his improvised overhead-kick went just wide, before he was replaced by Joe Nuttall.

The young striker almost got on the scoresheet on 87 minutes, but his flicked effort from Tomlinson's right-wing cross went just past the post.

A minute later, Dack almost scored one of the goals of the season as he danced his way past the entire Rochdale defence, before Lillis saved with his legs.

Harrison McGahey was then a whisker away from becoming the second Rochdale player to put through his own net, as Rovers cruised to a comfortable win.

Next up is a visit from an in-form Scunthorpe side on Saturday. 

ROVERS: Raya, Nyambe, Downing, Mulgrew, Williams, Smallwood, Evans (Tomlinson 60), Bennett, Antonsson (Conway 60), Dack, Graham (Nuttall 68). 
Subs not used: Leutwiler, Ward, Caddis, Whittingham.

Booked: Smallwood, Williams, Nuttall.

Goals: Ntlhe OG (35), Mulgrew - pen (42) 

ROCHDALE: Lillis, Ntlhe, McGahey, Camps, Williams (Thompson 63), Rathbone, Inman (Done 63), Keane (Davies 63), Daniels, Bunney, Henderson. 
Subs not used: Moore, Adshead, Cannon, Kitching.

Attendance: 15,115

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