Third defeat in just eight days for lowly Colchester United
Rochdale 2 Colchester United 1
Colchester United suffered their third defeat in just eight days, at Rochdale this afternoon, to leave them deep in the League One relegation mire.
Midfielder Rhys Bennett headed the hosts into a sixth minute lead, from close range, before Ian Henderson doubled Dale’s lead with a neat finish from an acute angle on 55 minutes.
But the U’s did stage a fight-back, and Chris Porter halved the deficit from the penalty spot in the 63rd minute, after Gavin Massey had been upended by Michael Rose.
However, Tony Humes’ men could not fashion an equaliser, during the final quarter of the game, and so left Spotland pointless.
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They have just 11 games left, to save their season.
U’s boss Humes had made two changes to the side that lost 1-0 at home to fellow strugglers Notts County on Tuesday night.
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Elliott Hewitt was recalled on the right flank, in place of front-runner Macauley Bonne, with David Fox preferred to George Moncur in midfield.
Ex-U’s players Henderson and Rose were both in the Rochdale starting line-up.
And it was Rose who was the chief creator of Dale’s early goal, notched after just six minutes.
Operating as a central midfielder, Rose curled a cross into the danger zone, which was headed on by Joe Bunney for an unmarked Bennett to nod home from six yards out. The ball nestled in the bottom corner of the net, with Sam Walker well beaten.
The U’s were on the rack and Walker had to drop to his haunches to smoother a cross-cum-shot by Bunney, down at his near post, on eight minutes.
At the other end, Sammie Szmodics tried his luck with a 25-yard drive which was deflected behind for a corner. Keeper Jamie Jones easily caught Gavin Massey’s cross from the ensuing corner.
In the 15th minute, the two former U’s players combined, with leading scorer Ian Henderson heading narrowly wide from Rose’s pinpoint corner.
Ten minutes later and livewire Szmodics was close to an equaliser. Spotting Jamie
Jones off his goal-line, Szmodics lifted a 20-yarder goalwards – the Dale keeper was at full stretch to keep the ball out of his net.
Shortly afterwards, Jones was again in the action, plucking the ball out of the air after Massey had executed a scissors kick from Hewitt’s long throw into the box.
Massey turned provider in the 28th minute. His excellent cross, whipped over from the right touch-line, was headed over the bar by Chris Porter – that was a good chance gone begging.
The U’s threatened on the break again in the last minute of normal time in the first period. Szmodics prepared to offload with a shot from close-in, only for Andrew Cannon to deny him with a block-tackle.
Into the second half and the impressive Joe Allen, playing just behind the Dale strikers, cracked in a long-range shot which Walker did well to cling onto.
But it wasn’t long before Dale netted their second goal, thanks to Henderson’s slick finish for his 16th goal of the season.
The U’s did not deal with Jack O’Connell’s free-kick, which was allowed to bounce on the right edge of the six-yard box.
And Henderson made no mistake with a low shot into the bottom corner of the net, from a tight angle.
The visitors grabbed a lifeline, thanks to Porter’s 63rd minute penalty to reduce the advantage to 2-1.
Massey was chopped down in the box by Rose, and Porter, who had missed his previous penalty at Doncaster only last weekend, crashed the spot kick into the roof of the net.
Suddenly, the U’s had hope of grabbing a point, although they were indebted to Walker for palming away Allen’s goal-bound shot around his post on 70 minutes.
Substitute Bonne almost made an immediate impact for the U’s, with his 80th minute shot clawed away by keeper Jones, at full stretch.
But the U’s could not find a late equaliser.
ROCHDALE: Jones, Cannon (sub Dawson, 70), O’Connell, Eastham, Kennedy, Bennett, Allen, Vincenti, Rose, Henderson, Bunney (sub Noble-Lazarus, 78). Unused subs: Lillis, Brandy, Hery, Tanser, Logan.
COLCHESTER: Walker, Wynter (sub Sembie-Ferris, 79), Osborne, Eastman, Briggs, Fox, Gilbey, Hewitt, Szmodics, Massey, Porter (sub Bonne, 79). Unused subs: Lewington, Marriott, Lawrence, Moncur, McEvoy.
Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands)