Words John Edwards Pictures Jonathan Moore (at Crown Oil Arena)
Rochdale 3 Altrincham 0
ALTRINCHAM'S hopes of launching another unbeaten run at the first time of asking were hampered by a penalty miss and finally scuppered by two quickfire second-half goals at the Crown Oil Arena on Tuesday night.
Eager to bounce back from losing for the first time in 11 games at Eastleigh on Saturday, the Robins found themselves trailing to a 15th-minute Rochdale breakthrough but had the perfect chance to equalise after being awarded a spot-kick in the 32nd minute.
For once, Chris Conn-Clarke came off worse in the battle of wits with the opposition keeper, but Alty looked undeterred as they started the second half on the front foot in their quest for a leveller.
It wasn't to be for Phil Parkinson's side, though, as Rochdale doubled their lead in the 63rd minute and made the game safe with a third goal eight minutes later.
Quicker out of the blocks, Rochdale dominated the opening exchanges, but Alty mounted a threat themselves when Alex Newby broke clear and set up Eddy Jones for a dangerous cross that was scrambled clear at the far post.
For all the urgency and attacking intent shown by both sides early on, mostly by Rochdale, it was just past the 10-minute mark before either mustered an attempt at goal, Justin Amaluzor cutting in from the right and shooting narrowly wide.
Rochdale soon retaliated, Jimmy Keohane firing straight at Ethan Ross when well placed and the same player having a goalbound volley brilliantly blocked by Lewis Baines soon after.
Given their lively start, it came as no surprise when the home side struck first in the 15th minute, albeit with a slice of good fortune. A mishit pass by Amaluzor obligingly ricocheted into the path of Ryan East, who advanced a few yards before drilling a low shot beyond Ross.
For a side who had failed to string two wins together all season, Dale were looking bright, confident and full of ideas, and they went close again when East hit a dipping volley that flew a couple of feet over.
Little had been seen of Conn-Clarke up to this point, but Rochdale were made fully aware of his capabilities on the half-hour.
Hacked down near the halfway line, he fully exploited the referee playing advantage by springing back to his feet and weaving his way past four challenges in a dazzling run before unleashing a shot that was deflected off target for a corner.
Two minutes later, he was in the spotlight again after Gez Sithole turned a defender and was hauled down for an Alty penalty. Conn-Clarke for once erred from the spot, though, as keeper Louie Moulden guessed right to parry the kick and the Alty attacker dragged the rebound wide of the left post.
If Alty were caught cold in the opening minutes of the game, they looked determined to avoid any repeat when the second half got underway.
Newby burst clear through the middle in the 49th minute and, after slipping the ball wide to Conn-Clarke, motored towards the near post to receive a return pass, only to run out of room as he tried to squeeze an angled shot home.
There was more pressure on the home goal, but, as the hour-mark passed, a resolute home defence was still standing firm.
A second goal was surely coming, but when it did, it went the way of Rochdale, for all the Alty dominance that preceded it. The ball was played out to Cameron John on the left, and when the full-back crossed low, East met it first time with a shot that fairly flew past Ross into the roof of the net to make it 2-0 in the 63rd minute.
Alty escaped when livewire winger Cian Hayes cut in and hit a shot that Ross parried at full length, but there was no reprieve in the 71st minute when East's pass was swept home by Kairo Mitchell.
There was no way back for the Robins, who may well have felt hard done by at finishing three goals adrift but at least had the consolation of Matty Kosylo going on for the last 20 minutes or so, if you include stoppage time, and showing some sharp touches.
Rochdale Moulden, John, East, Ebanks-Landell (c), Clayton, Mitchell, Uchegbulam (Henderson 57), Keohane, Nevett, Hayes (Oduroh 72), Gilmour (Taylor 81). Subs not used: Rodney, Afuye.
Altrincham Ross; Banks, E.Jones, Baines, Osborne, Marriott (c) (Kosylo 72), Conn-Clarke, Amaluzor, Cooper, Sithole (Linney 67), Newby. Subs not used: Ja.Jones, Angus, Wilson.
Goals East (Gilmour) 15', East (John) 63', Mitchell (East) 71'
Yellows Gilmour 26', John 46' | Marriott 39', Cooper 88'
Referee Andrew Miller
Assistants Matthew Bacon & William Cavanagh
Fourth Official Oliver Noonan
Attendance 2,404 (337 away)
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