Town produced a superb display at both ends of the pitch to defeat in-form Rochdale 3-0 at The County Ground this evening – the Reds’ biggest win of the 2016/17 campaign.
Despite a slow start to the game, it was the Reds who struck the first blow and brought an end to their recent goal drought at SN1 thanks to Darnell Furlong’s well-taken effort.
Nathan Delfouneso then sent The County Ground into ecstasy after racing clear and picking his spot perfectly to strengthen Town’s hold on the game heading into the break.
Lawrence Vigouroux was called upon to produce more heroics a mere minute into the second-half, doing superbly to somehow tip Ian Henderson’s penalty onto the frame of the goal.
Although the Dale looked more threatening in the early stages of the second-half, Town eventually regained their composure and wrapped up a vital three points courtesy of Nathan Thompson’s first goal of the season.
Town were forced into making one change from the side that claimed a point away at AFC Wimbledon on Saturday, with Tom Smith replacing the suspended Yaser Kasim for his first start in the Sky Bet League One.
Academy Scholar James Georgaklis was named on the bench alongside fellow youngsters Tom Ouldridge and Scott Twine.
There was little action of note in the early exchanges with both sides contributing to a cagey opening twenty minutes or so.
However, the first goal of the game arrived out of nowhere minutes later with Town scoring with their first shot on goal.
After Dale failed to clear their lines properly from a dangerous Sean Murray free-kick, Darnell Furlong latched on to the former's sublime back-heel before picking his spot beautifully into the bottom corner to fire the hosts ahead.
And it only got better for the hosts just past the half-hour mark with Nathan Delfouneso producing a cool finish to double Town’s lead after being sent clean through on goal thanks to Conor Thomas’ sublime and pinpoint through ball.
The home side were riding the crest of a wave and were inches away from adding a third in the latter stages of the first-half after Iandolo flicked a header from Murray’s excellent free-kick just wide.
Joe Bunney then went close at the other end after flashing a shot inches wide in what was a rare attack from the visitors, and that proved to be the final action of the first-half.
It was a frantic start to proceedings after the interval with Rochdale awarded a penalty just 50 seconds in after John Goddard was adjudged to have brought down Joe Rafferty inside the area.
game for Town.thHowever, as he did against AFC Wimbledon at the weekend, Lawrence Vigouroux mustered up more heroics to somehow tip Ian Henderson’s spot-kick onto the bar on what was his 50
Dale – who had made a double change at half-time in order to change their fortunes – were looking a real threat but it wasn’t long before Town grabbed a foothold on the game again.
Iandolo breezed past two defenders before flashing a drive inches wide, while Anton Rodgers’ free-kick dropped the wrong side of the post.
The tempo had seeped out of the game with a flurry of fouls disrupting the flow of the match, and that culminated in Dale’s Joe Bunney seeing red for lashing out at Furlong.
More bookings followed before Town put the gloss on a brilliant performance, Nathan Thompson getting a touch on Rodgers’ pinpoint free-kick.
Jake Evans then replaced Ellis Iandolo for his first outing of the season, before Vigouroux showed quick reactions to keep out a close-range header from Calvin Andrew.
Second-half substitute Luke Norris saw his header drop onto the roof of the net and that proved to be it with Town able to celebrate their biggest win of the season and their first victory at home since early September.
TEAMS AND STATS:
SCORERS - Darnell Furlong (24), Nathan Delfouneso (32), Nathan Thompson (80).
TOWN - Vigouroux; Furlong Thomas, Thompson (C), Brophy; Rodgers, Smith; Goddard (Brad Barry 67), Murray (Luke Norris 67), Iandolo (Jake Evans 80); Delfouneso.
Subs Not Used - Henry, Georgaklis, Ouldridge, Twine.
ROCHDALE - Lillis; Rafferty, Keane, Canavan; Bunney, Camps, Lund (Sanmi Odelusi 64), Henderson (C), Mendez-Laing (Andrew Cannon 45); Andrew, Davies (Oliver Rathbone 45).
Subs Not Used - Logan, McGahey, McDermott, Morley.
REFEREE - Gavin Ward
TOWN - Nathan Delfouneso, Darnell Furlong.
ROCHDALE - Keith Keane, Calvin Andrew, Callum Camps, Andrew Cannon.
SENT-OFF - Joe Bunney.
ATTENDANCE - 6,049 (149 Away Fans).