Rochdale 4 Cheltenham Town 1
CHELTENHAM Town suffered a nightmare before Christmas, going down 4-1 to a rampant Rochdale side at Spotland this evening.
They trailed 2-0 at the break, but an own goal from central defender Phil Edwards handed them a lifeline in the 48th minute.
Rochdale were far superior however, and they added two more goals to compound the Robins' misery and Mark Yates said immediately after the game: 'Christmas is cancelled'.
Only a virtuoso display from goalkeeper Scott Brown kept the scoreline respectable in the first half.
The Robins’ last line of defence made save after save with Rochdale looking capable of scoring with nearly every attack.
Brown made a smart block in the seventh minute, but the way he recovered to touch Andrew Tutte’s effort over the bar was a magnificent piece of goalkeeping.
Alan Bennett found himself unmarked to meet a Billy Jones corner three minutes later, but he made a poor contact with his header and it flew harmlessly wide.
Grant led a swift counter attack for the home side in the 12th minute and an attempted clearance cannoned back off Sido Jombati, providing Jason Kennedy with a good chance, but Brown blocked with his legs.
Cheltenham had another sight of goal after quarter of an hour after a mistake from goalkeeper Josh Lillis.
His attempted roll out to a defender was cut out by Shaun Harrad, who rounded the diving goalkeeper, but his low shot was blocked on the line.
Rochdale then took control and Brown had to save from Dele Adebola, who was through one-on-one, with Cheltenham far too open.
Grant cracking a shot against the bar in the 18th minute with Brown a spectator, but he was finally beaten in the 39th minute.
Kennedy broke away on the left and fed Adebola, whose lay-off to Grant left the livewire winger with plenty of work to do.
But he curled a beautiful shot inside the top left corner, giving Brown no chance and it was no more than John Coleman’s side deserved.
Brown made yet another save in the 44th minute, denying Kennedy, who cut inside Sido Jombati.
But Rochdale added another in the second minute of stoppage time, with Ashley Grimes curling one into the top right corner.
It was another fine strike and Cheltenham left the pitch for half-time seconds later with bemused looks on their faces.
Mark Yates sent on Jermaine McGlashan and Jeff Goulding at the break, with Marlon Pack and Harrad making way.
Cheltenham were handed an early Christmas gift three minutes into the second period.
Taylor’s shot was parried by Lillis and Phil Edwards, under no real pressure, looked set to clear his lines, but he contrived to slice it into his own net.
Bennett popped up at the far post to reach a flick on from Steve Elliott after a lovely Jones cross, but the skipper shot harmlessly wide.
A mistake from Bennett allowed Adebola to run through on goal again in the 57th minute, but Brown was once again equal to it.
Despite their defensive frailties, Cheltenham looked capable of finding a leveller, but Grimes scored his second in the 67th minute, curling another well placed shot inside the bottom right corner.
Less than two minutes later Grant cut inside Jones and shot low across Brown who stopped it, but he could only scoop it to Adebola, who tapped in from almost on the line.
Cheltenham then rediscovered some form of solidity for the remainder of the match, but the damage had been done and Yates was left fuming at his team's ineptitude.
ROCHDALE: J Lillis; R Bennett, R Edwards, P Edwards, K McIntyre; B Grant (R Putterill 82), A Tutte, J Kennedy (I Craney 86), P Cavanagh, A Grimes; D Adebola (G Donnelly 75). Subs not used: J Rafferty, B Barry-Murphy, M Pearson, B Smith.
CHELTENHAM TOWN: S Brown; S Jombati, A Bennett, S Elliott, B Jones; R Penn, M Pack (J McGlashan 46), D Carter, J Taylor (D Duffy 67); S Harrad (J Goulding 46), C Zebroski. Subs not used: K Lowe, S Deering, C Roberts, L D’Ath.
REFEREE: M Naylor.
STAR MAN: Scott Brown.
To see how the action unfolded, click below: