ROCHDALE 4-1 GILLINGHAM: MATCH REPORT
Ten-man Gillingham fell to a heavy defeat on a wet and windy afternoon at the Crown Oil Arena on Saturday afternoon, against a clinical Rochdale side in Sky Bet League One.
Josh Parker cancelled out Mendez-Laing’s superb opener in the first period but were behind at the break after Henderson’s chip regained the lead for Dale. The Gills failed to recover and went further behind when Camps tapped in early on in the second half and Vincenti added a fourth after Zesh Rehman saw red for two mistimed challenges.
Mitch Dickenson made his first ever professional start for the Gills as he replaced the injured Deji Oshilaja in the back three, while Parker came in to partner Cody McDonald with Joe Quigley dropping to the bench.
Scott Wagstaff recovered from injury to make the match-day squad and Ollie Muldoon shook off the knock he suffered against Bolton Wanderers to start at right wing-back.
The wet conditions meant the ball was zipping off the surface as both sides tried to feel their way into the game. Rochdale had the first chance when a corner fell to Camps but he shot over after he turned his man on the edge of the box.
The home team were controlling the bulk of possession early on, looking to get the ball wide at every opportunity, however the Gills did well to repel Dale’s crosses and clear their lines.
Rochdale did take the lead after 11 minutes when Mendez-Laing received the ball wide on the right before cutting in and blasting an unstoppable shot into the top left corner of the net.
The Gills continued to try and play through the centre of midfield and Parker engineered a great chance to equalise as he took the ball down on the corner of the box, ran past his man but decided to cut a pass back to McDonald which was intercepted when he perhaps should have taken on the shot.
A minute later Gillingham were level through Parker after great play from Mark Byrne. The Gills midfielder beat his man down the left and delivered a great cross into the box, which Parker headed against the post but the striker reacted quickest and blasted the follow up into the top corner of the net.
McDonald had a great chance to put the visitors ahead after 20 minutes when a diagonal ball foundhim on the bye-line. The striker nipped the ball past the Rochdale defender but the keeper blocked his shot from an extremely acute angle.
The Gillingham defence were continuing to marshall the Rochdale front line relatively well, although a cross from Mendez-Laing had to be diverted away by Max Ehmer with Andrew looking to pounce.
Soon after a great cross in from the right was met by Henderson but his header thumped into the post and away to safety with the Gills enjoying the rub of the green.
Rochdale were enjoying a great period of pressure and Stuart Nelson had to be at his best to deny Allen who was slipped in down the right hand side of the Gills box, tipping over his powerful shot that looked destined for the top corner.
The home side eventually did retake the lead as a long ball released Henderson through on goal and the Dale striker composed himself before chipping over Nelson and into the empty net after 33 minutes.
Dale had their third goal within four minutes of the second half as they broke on the Gills following a corner for the visitors. Mendez-Laing showed great pace as he ran from inside his own half before squaring the ball for Camps who couldn’t miss the open goal.
The visitors immediately upper their tempo in an attempt to get back into the game and McDonald was unlucky to his effort blocked following a neat Dack through-ball. Rochdale were sitting back and counter-attacking with lightning speed and the ever-dangerous Mendez-Laing saw another effort brilliantly tipped around the post by Nelson.
The Gills did think they had a second goal when Rehman put the ball in the back of the net but Parker was ruled to be offside as he headed Lee Martin’s deep free-kick back into the danger area.
Just before the hour Gillingham were reduced to ten men when Rehman was dismissed for a second bookable offence after he caught Mendez-Laing on the halfway line, leaving the away team with a mountain to climb.
Pennock brought on Elliot List and Wagstaff, shuffling his pack and moving to a 4-3- 2 in an attempt to reduce the arrears against a now-dominant Rochdale.
Dickenson and Ehmer both put in sensational clearances from Dale crosses with the Gills defence refusing to buckle, but the man deficit did not allow the Gillingham’s midfielders to get a foothold inthe game.
Dack did earn a vital chance for Gillingham when he disposed a Rochdale leaving their defenceexposed but the pass to McDonald zipped off the surface eluding the striker and the opportunity was gone.
The game was wide open with the Gills committing men forward as they tried to force away back into the game, leaving the defence isolated. Dickenson managed to get a head on a Dack free-kick but he was off target with his effort, and other than that Gillingham were struggling to break through a stubborn Dale back-line despite the introduction of Greg Cundle for his league debut.
Dale scored their fourth goal of the game in the last minute of the match as Vincenti latched on to a long ball before outmuscling Dickenson, rounding Nelson and slotting home to cap a miserable afternoon for the Gills.
Ady Pennock’s men return to home soil next weekend with Gills hunting three crucial points against Peterborough United at MEMS Priestfield Stadium.
Rochdale: Logan; McNulty, Canavan, McGahey, Bunney; Lund (Rathbone, 75), Allen, Camps; Mendez-Laing (McDermott, 81), Andrew (Vincenti, 75), Henderson
Unused subs: Wilson (GK), Owusu, Morley, Kitching
Gillingham: Nelson; Muldoon, Dickenson, Rehman, Ehmer, Martin; Hessenthaler (Wagstaff, 62), Byrne, Dack; McDonald (Cundle, 82), Parker (List, 64)
Unused subs: Holy (GK), Osadebe, M’Bo, Quigley
Attendance: 2,582 (away figure not provided)
Referee: Andy Haines