Rochdale recorded a surprise 3-1 win over automatic promotion hopefuls Rotherham United on Saturday, with Ian Henderson taking the plaudits with two goals to help them on their way.
This season has seen the Dale continue their run in League One as perennial strugglers, striving to maintain their third-tier status by avoiding the bottom four (three this season).
Brian Barry-Murphy has been blending youth and experience in his side this season as the likes of Luke Matheson continue to shine alongside players at the other end of the career spectrum in Aaron Wilbraham and Henderson, who are currently in the twilight years of their careers, to say the least.
Rochdale entered the weekend just outside the relegation zone as they sat above Tranmere Rovers in 20th place and faced a Rotherham United side looking on course for automatic promotion straight back to the Championship after their relegation last term.
Many expected the Millers to record another victory to consolidate their place in the top two with Coventry City, but the home side had other ideas as they took a 3-0 lead at Spotland before Jamie Lindsay added a consolation for the visitors in injury time.
35-year-old Henderson was the star of the show once again for Rochdale in a massive result at the bottom end of the table, with the stats showing his impact on proceedings…
Having played the full game captaining the side once again, Henderson was at the thick of the action against Paul Warne’s side in a scrappy League One affair in less-than-desirable conditions.
The game’s first major chance came through the forward when he broke down the right-wing towards the Rotherham byline, picking out Wilbraham with a neat pass to the penalty spot, where he was unlucky not to open the scoring and take Henderson’s assist tally to three for the season.
However, Henderson was not to be thwarted when he was played through behind the left side of Rotherham’s defence, where he let the ball run across to a narrow angle before lobbing Daniel Iversen at the near post to give the hosts the lead.
His second goal came in the second half in the 70th-minute following some more smart movement to break the Millers’ line, but this time coming on the inside of the left-back to break clean through, before calmly slotting past Iversen to give the Dale some much-needed breathing space. This was added to five minutes later when Matty Lund lobbed into an empty net to put the home side in dreamland.
A very clinical afternoon on the whole for Henderson as three of his four total shots were on target and two of them found the net for the hosts.
His expected goals score strengthens that even more as he ended the afternoon with an xG score of just 0.76, meaning he overachieved massively in front of goal.
Rochdale had to be patient to get their chances as they had inferior possession throughout the game at 42.5% (via Sky Sports) meaning Henderson only managed five touches in the Millers’ box, two of which were goals and four of them were shots, meaning he wasn’t that active in the final third, but was deadly when it counted.
As he looked to play on the shoulder, there was little opportunity for him to drive at the Rotherham defence and he could only manage two progressive runs, but still was a solid outlet alongside Wilbraham in attack.
With the Dale struggling for possession, it’s no surprise to see that Henderson’s passing accuracy stands at just 71%, which he will be eager to see improve next week, but possession might need to be sacrificed in games against dominant opponents and they made the most of what they did have of the ball.