Jon Taylor’s first minute goal was not enough as Oliver Rathbone’s late strike meant Rovers and Rochdale shared the points at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Rovers could have had more. Kieran Sadlier hit the post in the first half, saw a cross directed against the woodwork, had one cleared off the line, and another saved while Brad Halliday also had a shot saved and the right-back could well have been awarded a penalty in injury time.
Rochdale had plenty of say in the match too and Paul McShane probably should have got his side a goal when he headed Matt Done’s corner-kick against the crossbar in the first half. Rochdale scored their equaliser with just ten minutes left on the clock when Rathbone was given space to shoot from outside the box.
Darren Moore made two changes to his side which defeated Tranmere Rovers on the previous Tuesday evening with Taylor and Reece James coming back into the side. Brian Barry-Murphy also made two changes with Done and Luke Matheson coming back into the team.
Rochdale’s last trip to the Keepmoat Stadium saw them concede five – the first of these hitting the back of the net in just 27 seconds. This season, they managed to hold out for a further 20 seconds before Taylor gave Rovers the lead.
A slightly bizarre goal which came from an unusually direct footballing move by Rovers. A long ball over to the top found Sadlier, who brought the ball down and chipped it to Taylor who chested the ball into the back of the net.
That was to be the only similarity to the match that took place 14 months previously as - despite some anxious early passing around the back by the visitors which almost saw Eoghan O’Connell pass the ball into his own net – Rochdale began to play their way into the game creating two big chances.
The first came when Dieng palmed a save into the middle of the box which seemed to bounce around for an age before Brad Halliday cleared it, while the second chance was skewed over by Rathbone as smart passing play found him free on the penalty spot.
Despite the Rochdale pressure, Sadlier came closest to getting on the scoresheet in this period. His whipped effort from outside the box collided with the far post.
The Dale’s best chance of the half came in the next phase as Paul McShane’s header from a corner looped and found the top of the Dieng’s crossbar.
The final 15 minutes of the opening half belonged to Rovers. Jacob Ramsey fired a ball across the box which Devante Cole headed wide, before Cole almost turned provider when his hold-up play released Taylor down the right. Taylor raced away from the visiting defence but his shot from a narrow angle received an impressive stop by Sanchez.
The second half started in a similar vein to the first with Rovers gifted a big opportunity to double their lead. Sadlier’s cross into the box sent Sanchez into a bit of a spin and the keeper palmed the ball into his own post – the rebound was towards Cole, but the awkward bounce meant Rovers’ No.44 could only guide it over the bar from close range.
The introduction of Niall Ennis and Fejiri Okenabirhie as a double change with around an hour gone gave Rovers plenty of firepower upfront and the latter registered his first shot with what was virtually his first touch. It was blocked wide for a corner. The change also meant Sadlier was moved to his favoured right side - Rovers No.7 sent plenty of crosses into the box but Rochdale dealt with them.
At the other end, Jimmy Ryan fired wide from about 20 yards in what was Rochdale’s first effort of the second half.
Sadlier almost doubled the lead with 15 minutes remaining. He threw himself to the floor as he reached to toe Ennis’ cross goalward and somehow manage to dig out a shot from the floor when the rebound fell to him. He couldn’t get much power on it and McShane cleared it off the line.
The visitors pulled the match level with ten minutes remaining. Rathbone was given space to shoot from the edge of the box and pulled the trigger to send the ball beyond the outstretched arm of Dieng.
Both sides had a couple of half-chances in the closing stages. Rochdale put pressure on but Joe Wright and Tom Anderson block shots and crosses, while both Sadlier and Halliday had shots on target held by Sanchez and Ben Sheaf’s effort was blocked en route.
Rovers could well have felt extremely aggrieved in injury time when a tug on Halliday’s shirt in the Rochdale box by O’Connell appeared to be the only thing that prevented the right-back from reaching a through-ball but the officials waved away the penalty appeals.