Rochdale’s Season in Review 2012/13: No promotion, but old faces back to guide Dale to League Two safety

By Suraj Radia & Michael Kelleher

In a topsy-turvy campaign, Rochdale went from promotion hopefuls to battling relegation, prompting the departure of boss John Coleman in January.

But the return of Keith Hill saw an upturn in fortunes and the 2012/13 season ended on a high note as the Dale secured a comfortable mid-table finish.

MM takes a look back at the highs and the lows of the season at Spotland.


Following Rochdale’s relegation from League One the previous year, Coleman orchestrated a squad overhaul as he attempted to put together a side capable of gaining immediate promotion.

George Donnelly, Peter Cavanagh, Josh Lillis and Rhys Bennett all arrived at Spotland while Nicky Adams, Gary Jones and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro left for patures new.

Hopes were high at Spotland to begin the season, but draws to Northampton Town and Chesterfield were followed by a comprehensive defeat at Torquay United which left the Dale hovering dangerously above the relegation zone.

Not happy with what he saw on the pitch, Coleman went out and signed promising Scunthorpe United striker Bobby Grant to boost his attack.


Coleman’s men notched their first league win of the campaign against Barnet to kick off the month after goals from Ashley Grimes and Dele Adebola.

They followed that up with a penalty shoot-out victory over Fleetwood at Spotland in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

They lost their next game at home to Burton Albion in the league but rebounded with a win over AFC Wimbledon, as the strike partnership of Adebola and Grant proved too hot for the Dons.

The duo got on the score sheet again during an away win at Rotherham United. Rochdale closed out the month by drawing at home with Dagenham & Redbridge.


The Dale kicked the month off with a goalless draw against Bradford City, a result they had to grind out following Grant’s first-half dismissal.

They followed that up with an away win over Accrington Stanley – Jason Kennedy’s late winner secured a sweet win for Coleman against the team he managed for over a decade.

Rochdale’s struggles at Spotland continued to be a worry for Coleman however, and a penalty shoot-out defeat by Bury saw them exit the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Next came a home loss to Morecambe, which extended the Dale’s winless streak at Spotland to five, and an away loss at Plymouth Argyle.

Coleman’s men snapped their winless streak at home against Plymouth Argyle after late strikes from Donnelly and Grant and closed out the month with a goalless draw against Fleetwood.


In an effort to boost his attacking options, Coleman signed forward Terry Gornell on-loan from Shrewsbury Town.

The Dale kicked things off with a draw at Morecambe in the FA Cup First Round, securing a replay at Spotland which they lost in a tight affair.

In the league, a draw with Port Vale and wins against Wycombe Wanderers and Bristol Rovers saw Rochdale climb the table.

An away defeat to Southend to close out the month halted momentum and returned Rochdale to the periphery of the playoff places.


This is the month that sparked the beginning of the end of Coleman’s reign as Rochdale manager.

His side opened the month with defeats against York City, Exeter and Aldershot Town to make it four losses on the bounce and send the Dale plummeting down the table.

Dreams of promotion vanished and supporters became more and more restless as the Dale sank to 15th before recovering with a much-needed win over Cheltenham Town at Spotland.

Coleman remained confident in his ability to lead the side back to League One and hosted an event in which supporters were invited to voice their frustrations and hopes for the future.

Rochdale closed out the year with a disappointing loss at home to Burton Albion and an encouraging away win over Bradford as their uneven form continued.


2013 began in disastrous fashion for Coleman’s side as a last-minute defeat to Rotherham was followed up with a loss at home to Wimbledon.

Another galling late defeat to Dagenham and Redbridge proved to be the final straw as chairman Christopher Dunphy sacked Coleman after just one year in the job and only 14 wins in his 52-game spell.

Ex-Dale favourite Hill – who had left the club for Championship side Barnsley before Coleman took over – was handed the managerial reigns at Spotland for the remainder of the season.

Hill’s first game in charge ended the run of defeats as his new side were held to a goalless draw away to high-flyers Cheltenham Town but Rochdale finished the month five points adrift of a play-off place.


Hill added free agents Ian Henderson and Ritchie Jones to his ranks in February as he looked to save Rochdale’s season and re-ignite their play-off push.

After drawing to Chesterfield and losing at Northampton, Bennett’s solitary strike against Torquay gave Rochdale their maiden win of 2013 and Hill’s first since returning to the club.

However, a goalless draw at Barnet and a devastating 3-0 loss at home to strugglers Accrington left Rochdale in 15th and 13 points off a play-off place with 12 games to play.


March began with a second successive 3-0 loss, this time to Morecambe, as Hill found himself with just one win in his seven games in charge.

However, after Hill had questioned the character of his players, they responded with an emphatic 4-1 win over Wycombe Wanderers.

But the win emphasised Rochdale’s inconsistency as they picked up only three points out of a possible 12, with draws against York, Gillingham and Aldershot, along with a defeat to Bristol Rovers.

The month culminated with striker Bobby Grant being summoned to court following accusations he had made a racist remark to a Dagenham and Redbridge player during their game in January.


The final month of the season began in dramatic style as late goals from Henderson and Grant gave Rochdale a 2-1 win over Exeter.

Victories against Fleetwood Town and Southend United followed making it three wins on the bounce for the first time in the season.

And after a 2-2 draw with promotion-hopefuls Port Vale, Hill committed his long-term future to the club and signed a three-year contract.

Defeat to Oxford put a downer on the news but the final game of the season saw teenage debutant Joe Bunney score the only goal in a 1-0 win over Plymouth.

The win meant Rochdale finished in a respectable 12th place in League Two, eight points off a play-off place but with a good feeling going into next season as the foundations were set for a bright future.

Image courtesy of Texaco UKFC, via YouTube, with thanks

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