BREWERS DALE AND HEARTY
By Ian Hawkins
Burton Albion put a dampener on Rochdale's promotion celebrations with a battling 2-1 victory at Spotland. Two goals in the space of four second half minutes from Cleveland Taylor and Shaun Harrad, his twentieth strike of the season, ended a seven game winless run and sealed an impressive double over one of this season's form sides in the division.
After a promising second half showing against Bournemouth last week Romuald Boco kept his place in the side at right back in an otherwise unchanged defence. Jacques Maghoma's knee injury meant a recall for Cleveland Taylor and there was also a recall in attack for Steve Kabba. The Brewers were only able to name six substitutes including Aaron Webster who had been struggling with a hamstring injury since the game at Dagenham & Redbridge a fortnight ago.
Rochdale had the first clear opportunity in the 4th minute when dangerman Chris Dagnall weaved his way into the area but as he pulled the trigger to shoot Paul Boertien flung himself in to make an excellent block. Dale continued to pin Albion back and Kallum Higginbotham was rather wasteful when he blazed wide of the target after spurning an earlier opportunity to shhot on goal.
Albion's response was impressive. Steve Kabba's blocked shot fell nicely for his fellow Brentford loanee Cleveland Taylor and from 30 yards the winger had home keeper Kenny Arthur scrambling to his left to palm the ball away.
The Brewers had another half chance in the 15th minute. Good work by Kabba on the edge of the area allowed Harrad the chance to nip in. The striker took an early shot but dragged his effort wide of the target. His opposite number Chris O'Grady was closer at the other end moments later. The striker found himself in space on the edge of the box but his shot on the turn clipped the top of the crossbar. The Spotland hitman was a little more wayward shortly afterwards. Kallum Higginbotham made great strides into the Albion penalty area before driving in a low cross that O'Grady steered well wide of the post.
Strike partner Chris Dagnall then spurned a great opportunity when Tom Parkes lost his footing on the pitch allowing the striker a run on goal. He chose to go alone but ended up putting a rather tame shot straight at Kevin Poole.
Paul Boertien again came to Albion's rescue in the 29th minute. A poorly struck cross from Cleveland Taylor allowed Rochdale to launch a swift counter attack and with a four on one raid after Romuald Boco missed a defensive header the odds looked likely that Rochdale would open their account. Boertien did superbly to put enough doubt into Dagnall's mind as he weighed up his options and got in a fine block.
Poole then had to deny Dagnall again with a fine save at his near post, O'Grady this time the provider after a surging run from inside his own half to the edge of the Albion eighteen yard area.
Russell Penn became the first player to go in referee Karl Evans notebook. Granted Penn threw himself in with both feet into a challenge on Kallum Higginbotham but the pitch had already got the better of the Rochdale man and Albion's record signing got the ball but the booking probably reflected intent more than anything else.
Half time - Rochdale 0-0 Burton Albion
O'Grady was denied the first real opening of the second half by another superb challenge fropm Boertien. Dagnall sent his strike partner away down the right. Boertien read the situation and came across to cut out the danger before O'Grady could get his shot in on goal.
Out of the blue with the game in danger of drifting aimlessly Albion took the lead in the 62nd minute. Rommy Boco took a throw in to Cleveland TAYLOR on the right and his high lofted ball to the far post did enough to nestle inside the far corner with Kenny Arthur clawing it back from behind the line in vain.
It got even better for Albion four minutes later when Albion doubled their advantage. Some neat passing inside the area ended when Kabba went down under challenge from Craig Dawson. It offered Shaun HARRAD the chance to slot home his 20th goal of the season and he made no mistake drilling the ball down the middle.
A flurry of substitutions saw two Albion changes as Michael Simpson and goalscorer Taylor were replaced by Andy Corbett and Aaron Webster, Russ Penn moving into the centre to allow Corbett to patrol the right side of midfield.
Rochdale did not give up hope of getting something out of the game and continued to apply pressure but whatever they threw at the Brewers was repelled including a superb block by veteran keeper Poole who rolled back the years to keep out a thunderbolt from Dale skipper Gary Jones.
O'GRADY finally grabbed a goal with a lob that crashed down off the crossbar after Poole had come out to narrow the angle. The bizarre fact about it was that Tom Parkes was cautioned seemingly for a handball AFTER the ball had crossed the line.
ROCHDALE: Arthur, Wiseman, Kennedy, Stanton, Toner (Thompson, 63) , Dawson, Jones, Taylor (J.Kennedy, 67), Higginbotham, O'Grady, Dagnall (Gray, 68). Substitutes: Fielding, McArdle, Holness, Obadeyi.
ALBION: Poole; Boco (Pearson, 76), James, Parkes, Boertien; Penn, Simpson (Corbett, 67) , McGrath, Taylor (Webster, 67); Kabba, Harrad. Substitutes: Grocott, Kelly, Knowles.
Referee: Mr. KG Evans (Lancashire)
Goals: Rochdale - O'Grady (79), Albion - Taylor (62), Harrad (66 pen)
Albion man of the match - Paul Boertien - the classy defender was determined that nothing would pass him and he showed tremendous grit and determination against one of League 2's most lethal strking combinations.