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Report: Rochdale 2 Rovers 1

21 July 2015

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Lee Williamson made a rare appearance on the scoresheet and Jason Lowe made his long-awaited comeback from injury, as Rovers continued their pre-season preparations at Rochdale.

Williamson is yet to register a competitive goal in Rovers' colours, but he opened the scoring at Spotland with a superbly-executed effort from outside the box.

Rovers were unable to build on that 19th-minute lead and Rochdale striker Ian Henderson, who had earlier struck the foot of the post, levelled proceedings just past the half-hour mark with a cool finish.

The visitors were also denied by the woodwork in the opening period, as John O'Sullivan went within a whisker of restoring Rovers' advantage just before the break.

As is so often the case in pre-season friendlies, there was a raft of changes after the interval - with Rovers replacing their entire starting XI with players from their development squad by the 77-minute mark - and Rochdale's experience told in the latter stages, with Henderson grabbing the winner seven minutes from time.   

Ahead of kick-off, Lowe returned to the Rovers line-up for the first time since February after recovering from the persistent foot problem which saw him sidelined for long spells last season.

The midfielder, who has put in the extra hours over the summer to get back to full fitness, was part of a predominantly youthful Rovers side, with only Williamson, Craig Conway and Markus Olsson over the age of 23.

Rovers were without a trio of striking options, with Jordan Rhodes (ankle) & Chris Brown (knee) both missing through injury, whilst Rudy Gestede played in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Crewe earlier in the day.

The towering targetman scored twice in a 45-minute run-out after recovering from the knock which ruled him out of the opening friendly fixture against Accrington and warm weather training camp in Portugal.

Chris Taylor (groin), Darragh Lenigan (back) and Anton Forrester (hamstring) were also unavailable for the trip to Spotland, whilst Jason Steele, Simon Eastwood, Ryan Nyambe, Matt Kilgallon, Tommy Spurr, Corry Evans and new signing Sacha Petshi all featured in the game against Crewe.

In a lively opening, Henderson saw a left-foot shot bounce back off David Raya's far post, whilst at the other end, a Ben Marshall free-kick forced Josh Lillis into a smart diving save. 

Rochdale then threatened from a set-piece of their own, but Donal McDermott's effort deflected behind off Williamson in the wall and, moments later, the Rovers midfielder opened the scoring.

After robbing a Rochdale player of possession inside his own half, Williamson advanced towards the edge of the area, before firing a fine 20-yard strike into the bottom corner. 

It was almost 2-0 when Marshall played in O'Sullivan, who found himself clean through on goal, but after rounding the keeper, his shot was cleared off the line.

Henderson ought to have equalised on 31 minutes when he got in behind the Rovers defence, but he lifted his shot over Raya and the frame of the Rovers goal. However, he made no mistake just a minute later, collecting a through ball from Jamie Allen, before coolly slotting the ball past Raya.

Rovers ended the half in the ascendancy, with O'Sullivan in the thick of the action. On 42 minutes, he teed up Williamson, who again drove a low shot goalwards from 20 yards out, but this time Lillis made the save.

A minute later, O'Sullivan controlled a ball forward on his chest and looked to lob the keeper, but put his effort just wide and on the stroke of half-time, the Irishman let fly from 25 yards out and was unfortunate to see his crisp strike crash back off the left-hand post.

Rovers made a change at the break, with Willem Tomlinson replacing Lowe, who had got the expected 45-minute run-out under his belt.

Rochdale were forced to make a switch shortly after, when the injured Matthew Lund had to be replaced by Callum Camps, who had the first chance of the second half on 58 minutes - Raya getting down low to his right to make a smart save from his 25-yard strike.

Rovers' substitute Tomlinson then tried his luck from distance, but Lillis watched it wide.

Conway was next to go for goal, but after a superb solo run down the centre, his effort from the edge of the area was straight at the Rochdale keeper.

Rochdale made a double change 20 minutes from time and one of the new introductions, Calvin Andrew, was straight into the action, heading a corner from the left just over the bar.

Conway came close again shortly after, but after cutting in from the left and letting fly, his crisp strike deflected just over off a Rochdale defender.

A David Carson cross almost ended up in the back of the Rochdale net moments later, before the hosts introduced Reuben Noble-Lazarus, who would make a telling contribution.

Before then, Rovers made nine changes, with the remaining first team players who started the game all coming off on 77 minutes and six minutes later, Rochdale grabbed the winner.

On a quick break, Noble-Lazarus was played into space down the left and his centre was tapped home from close range by Henderson for his second of the night.

Despite the defeat, it was another useful work-out for Rovers, who have a double-header against Tranmere and Oldham at the weekend up next.

ROCHDALE: Lillis, McNulty, Lancashire, Vincenti (Andrew 70), Lund (Camps 53), McDermott (Alessandra 70), Tanser, Allen, Cannon, Bunney (Noble-Lazarus 76), Henderson.
Subs not used: Musangu, Rafferty, Rose, Kennedy, Hooper.

Goals: Henderson (32, 83)

ROVERS: Raya (Fisher 77), Henley (Travis 77), Hanley (Platt 77), Duffy (Edgar 77), Olsson (Doyle 77), Mahoney (Carson 66), Williamson (Thomson 77), Lowe (Tomlinson 46), Conway (Wall 77), Marshall (Rittenberg 77), O'Sullivan (Preston 77).
Subs not used: Cham.

Goal: Williamson (19)

Attendance: 1,369

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