Match Verdict: Rochdale 0 Barnsley 1

Past and present managers shake hands, Danny Wilson (left) and Keith Hill.
Past and present managers shake hands, Danny Wilson (left) and Keith Hill.
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Barnsley battled their way to a terrific victory at Spotland on Saturday, upsetting the form-book as they stunned their former boss Keith Hill.

Rochdale had been flying high in Sky Bet League One courtesy of a super start to this season following automatic promotion from the fourth tier.

Peter Ramage heads the reds into an early lead at Spotland.

Peter Ramage heads the reds into an early lead at Spotland.

The Reds, meanwhile, had dropped into the relegation places following a miserable winless five-match run.

However, following the despondency which followed the previous weekend’s Oakwell mauling by Swindon, it was as though the Reds’ shackles were released.

With more than a more than 1,000-strong travelling army roaring them on, the pressure appeared to be off for this tough away trip, and the whole team played with a freedom seldom witnessed throughout September.

Peter Ramage scored the decisive goal early in the game, marking his second debut for the Reds with a first goal for the club.

Peter Ramage celebrates at full time.

Peter Ramage celebrates at full time.

But it was the overall team performance which pleased manager Danny Wilson most, who this time was out for his post-match media briefing within minutes of the final whistle blowing.

A delighted Wilson said: “We had a bit of a re-jig today and it’s clearly worked.

“I think we fully deserved to take the three points. The early goal gave us the confidence that we needed. Overall as a team we defended so well, from front to back.

“Sam Winnall put in a great shift up there, while Devante Cole was a threat throughout the game.

“The midfield had to be at their best, and they were against a Rochdale side who have been going well and who are right up there challenging. Allied to the defensive efforts, we had all the ingredients you need to win a tough game at a place like this.

“It was important to get the win, of course. Losing games like we have been doing does sap your confidence, but hopefully now it’ll come flooding back.”

The Reds’ previous game - against Swindon - had been a major disappointment so boss Wilson made three changes for the trip to in-form Rochdale.

Ramage was straight back into the starting line-up, having been captured on loan from Crystal Palace - for the second time - in time to take his place at the heart of the defence alongside skipper Martin Cranie.

Across the midfield four, Luke Berry was back in, as was Keith Treacy, while Sam Winnall and Devante Cole were handed the two striking berths.

The Reds’ second new loan capture during the run-up to the game - Ryan Williams - was named among the substitutes, alongside the dropped Joe Dudgeon and Kane Hemmings. Giant defender Jean-Yves M’voto was out of Barnsley’s 18 altogether.

Rochdale boss Hill also made three changes despite his side winning superbly at Leyton Orient last time out.

Joe Rafferty and skipper Oliver Lancashire were back to further tighten up the defence, with Matty Lund getting the nod in midfield.

The hosts featured two ex-Reds in midfielder Stephen Dawson and Matt Done, who has now been pushed into a strike role, with great effect courtesy of eight goals already this term before this clash.

It was the resurgent Reds who just about shaded the first half at sun-drenched Spotland, and they led at the break thanks to an excellent early opening strike from newly-signed Ramage.

The big defender was up for Conor Hourihane’s 10th-minute corner-kick and rose highest to power an unstoppable header past Conrad Logan.

It was a dream start for Wilson’s men, but they were almost immediately threatened with an equaliser. Ian Henderson dragged a shot narrowly wide, while Peter Vincenti saw a firm header comfortably saved by Ross Turnbull.

Back came the Reds, with Cole producing a moment of magic as he wriggled past three challenges before seeing a tight-angled shot saved well at his near post by Logan.

A topsy-turvy clash then turned back in the hosts’ favour, and when Vincenti found himself one-on-one with Turnbull, the Reds’ keeper came out on top thanks to a smart stop with his feet.

The Reds were knocking the ball around with plenty of purpose, but it was a trademark blockbuster from Hourihane that caused some consternation on the Reds bench before the break.

Barnsley’s leading scorer crashed in a terrific goal-bound effort that struck the arm of Oliver Lancashire, only for referee Mr Wright to wave away the vociferous appeals.

Treacy came close to making it 2-0 five minutes after the restart, but he side-footed wide after Hourihane’s corner hadn’t been cleared.

However, Rochdale responded with a great opportunity, culminating with captain Cranie heroically hacking a Done shot off the line.

Winnall ought to have doubled the Reds’ lead in 69th minute.

Cole drifted past Joe Rafferty before dragging over a perfectly-weighted cross for Winnall. However, the Reds’ front-man swung and missed, and the chance was gone.

Still Rochdale pressed for that elusive equaliser and both Done and Jack O’Connell fired efforts off target, before the Reds blew a gilt-edged opportunity to double their lead deep into stoppage-time.

Again it was Cole who was the tormentor, drawing a foul from O’Connell as he stormed into the box looking to get another cross in.

Referee Mr Wright pointed straight to the spot, only for Logan to spectacularly save Hourihane’s well-struck penalty kick with his left arm.

Thankfully the spot-kick came too late for Rochdale to respond further, leaving the Reds’ faithful who packed out the side of the tiny stadium to rejoice long and loud.

Hopefully the Reds have lift-off again.

Rochdale (4-3-3): Logan 8; Rafferty 6 (Hery 72, 6), Lancashire 6, O’Connell 5, Tanser 7; Lund 5 (Andrew 54, 6), Dawson 6, Allen 8; Henderson 5, Done 6, Vincenti 7 (Bunney 68, 5).

Subs not used: Bennett, Diba-Musangu, Rose, Kennedy.

Booked: None.

Sent-off: None.

Barnsley (4-4-1-1): Turnbull 7; Bree 7, Cranie 7, Ramage 7, Nyatanga 6; Treacy 5 (Brown 60, 6), Hourihane 6, Bailey 6, Berry 8; Cole 8; Winnall 6 (Hemmings 79, 6).

Subs not used: Davies, Dudgeon, Williams, Digby, Lita.

Booked: Cole (28), Hourihane (84).

Sent-off: None