MATCH REPORT: Rochdale 0 Fleetwood 2

Paddy Madden celebrates opening the scoring
Paddy Madden celebrates opening the scoring
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You could have been forgiven at half-time for sitting in the freezing cold Greater Manchester night and wondering what League Two had to bring for Fleetwood Town.

You could have been forgiven at half-time for sitting in the freezing cold Greater Manchester night and wondering what League Two had to bring for Fleetwood Town.
A lacklustre first half, with only a wayward Paddy Madden effort to show for 45 sullen minutes, left a bitter taste in the mouth and a feeling that the Shezz-urection was a mere dream.
But a blast of hairdryer treatment at the break from the new boss saw this Town side bounce back.
Town were there for the taking but a pretty Rochdale side showed why they too are battling at the wrong end as they failed to knock the stuffing out of Town when they had them on the ropes.
Alex Cairns was barely tested in the Fleetwood goal, and with a striker in Ash Hunter playing left-back you would have expected a bombardment on that right wing. And though they probed, Rochdale could not find a way to undo Town.
Fleetwood have played much better than this and lost this term.
But there is a grit to John Sheridan’s side and after three straight draws and a much-needed clean sheet last time out at Charlton, they built on that platform.
First Madden mopped up a Dempsey effort and then substitute Jordy Hiwula threw the sucker punch with a 90th-minute effort to give this Town side a much-needed winning feeling.
They are now two points above the drop zone, and after three solid performances there is no better tonic than winning ugly.
Skipper Nathan Pond retured to the side, with striker Conor McAleny also back in the starting line-up after missing out on Saturday.
They came in for forward Wes Burns and full-back Gethin Jones, with the latter not in the match-day squad.
Burns was on the bench as Sheridan switched to a 3-5-2 wing-back formation, with Lewie Coyle and Hunter deployed on the wings.
It was a dull opening 20 minutes, with only a wayward strike from distance by Stephen Humphrys cannoning over the bar as both sides cancelled each other out.
Town had packed the midfield to try to stop Rochdale playing to their strengths and passing them off the park with the visitors hoping to break out wide through Coyle and Hunter.
It was all a bit too hoof and hope from Town in the opening stages, with simple errors across the board. Still they contained Rochdale, even if Humphrys pounced for another effort, this one deflected to Cairns off Toumani Diagouraga.
Dale should have taken the lead just before the half hour mark. Scott Wiseman broke down Town’s weak flank, the left, before fizzing in a fierce ball that just got a touch off Cian Bolger, who ensured it missed a host of blue shirts and out for a corner.
Town survived, though tempers started to flare as the half wore on, with Madden booked for dissent and Hunter booked for cynically tugging an opponent back.
The hosts threatened on their right wing once again and should have taken the lead just before the break as Callum Camps whipped in a peach of a cross but Ryan Delaney, who had just edged in front of the red and white shirts, could only poke the ball over the bar.
Humphrys was the main threat for the hosts and he again created something out of nothing, curling the ball over the bar as the half drew to a close.
It was a speculative effort but at least it was an attempt to get a goal, with Sheridan’s men devoid of answers and ingenuity in the opposition third.
They finally woke up just before the break as Madden tried his luck from 30 yards but his effort flew way off target.
The 190 travelling Cod Army fans could be forgiven for thinking the worst at the break as both sides proved why they are battling at the bottom end of the table.
And though it was the worst 45 minutes since Sheridan had taken over, Town went in at the break at 0-0 and came out fighting.
It was a tame opening to the second half before an aerial collision between Sowerby and Andrew Cannon saw a long stoppage of play before the Rochdale man was stretchered off.
The game then ignited, with Rochdale having a huge shout for a penalty as Billy Knott tangled with Bolger in the box but referee Trevor Kettle waved it away.
That paved the way for a Fleetwood resurgence, and after Eastham’s header was tipped away by Josh Lillis, Town struck.
It was all down to Kyle Dempsey. Sheridan says he should be scoring more goals and the midfielder surged forward to try to put that right.
It was not to be the setting for his first goal of the season but his low effort was tipped away into the path of the on-running Madden, who gobbled up the chance to net his fifth for the club.
Just like at Charlton, where several huge blocks where needed, Town again had to stand up in defence and make some brave stops.
The hosts threw bodies forward in search of a leveller and that played into Fleetwood’s hands as they were able to counter, with substitutes Bobby Grant and Hiwula combining to serve the killer blow.
Grant slid the ball to the Huddersfield loanee, who calmly slotted the ball past Lillis just before the clock hit 90.
To Dale’s credit they kept pushing in the eight minutes added time, but Town absorbed the pressure to keep successive clean sheets and move two points clear of the drop zone.

Fleetwood: Cairns, Bolger, Eastham, Pond, Coyle, Dempsey, Diagouraga, Sowerby, Hunter, McAleny (Hiwula, 75), Madden (Grant, 85). Subs: Neal, Burns, Maguire, Glendon, Biggins.


Rochdale: Lillis, McNulty, McGahey, Humphrys, Camps, Wiseman, Done, Delaney (Dobrey, 71) Cannon (Gibson, 60), Knott (Inman, 72), Henderson. Subs: Rafferty, Rathbone, Davies, Moore, Kitching.

Referee: Trevor Kettle

Attendance: 2403 away 190