Rochdale 2-1 Wednesday
12/02/11 - 3pm
GARY Megson's first full game in charge of Wednesday ended in defeat as the Owls slipped to a 2-1 loss against in-form Rochdale at Spotland on Saturday.
A Mark Beevers own goal and Gary Jones penalty put the hosts 2-0 ahead inside 27 minutes in a first half which they dominated and could have added further goals before the break.
Gary Madine continued his good start in a Wednesday shirt with a late consolation goal but it just flattered the scoreline for a lacklustre Wednesday side that were often out-classed by Dale.
Megson didn't take full control of the Owls side as they drew 2-2 with MK Dons at Hillsborough last weekend, but he promised big changes for the trip to Lancashire.
And he kept to his word, with a new formation, new captain and changes to the starting eleven.
Clinton Morrison took the captain's armband from Nicky Weaver, with Megson preferring an outfield player to be his skipper.
The Owls stopper returned to first team action though after missing out against the Dons, while Mark Beevers and Mark Reynolds joined Michael Morrison in a three-man back-line, Neil Mellor partnered Clinton Morrison in attack and Darren Potter returned from suspension.
There was still no starting place for the on-loan Isaiah Osbourne, who had to make do with a place on the bench.
Rochdale came into the game on the back of an unbeaten run which stretched back to the start of December, and which saw boss Keith Hill collect the manager of the month gong for January.
But, although Dale will have been favourites for the win, Wednesday started quite brightly and had the first real effort on goal.
Dale stopper Owain Fon Williams punched an Owls free-kick clear but only as far as the head of Potter, who looped his effort over Fon Williams but saw the ball come back off the post.
It was a fast-paced start to the game at Spotland, and former Owl Brian Barry-Murphy clashed heads with Giles Coke in the opening exchanges, with Coke able to continue after lengthy treatment but Barry-Murphy had to be withdrawn.
The changes did little to Rochdale's impressive attacking football though and Hill's men took the lead in the 15th minute following some good football by the hosts.
The goal was carved out on the right flank, where Scott Wiseman picked up a neat ball and sent a dangerous low cross across the face of goal which Beevers could only steer into the back of his own net for the opener.
Wednesday's poor run of form has left player morale low, and the opener from Dale certainly didn't help.
Megson will have been looking for an instant response from his players, but he got nothing as a Rochdale side oozing confidence continued to improve and looked a constant threat as they kept their visitors pegged back inside their own half.
Their pressure was rewarded just ten minutes later when the hosts deservedly doubled their lead.
Done, who looked a threat throughout for the hosts, picked up the ball inside the box and turned Mellor with pace, with the Owls striker sticking his leg out to fell his opponent and concede a penalty in the process.
Done dusted himself off before drilling in the resulting penalty to give Dale a two-goal cushion and leave Megson's men with a mountain to climb.
He could have doubled his goal tally and send Rochdale 3-0 up not long after but he failed to connect with a superb cross by Nicky Adams.
Wednesday, although second best throughout the first half, did have their chances to get back into the game before the break.
The best chances fell to Clinton Morrison, with the Owls skipper working the ball well before curling an effort just wide in the latter stages of the half.
His best chance came minutes before the interval when he was through on goal but could only roll a tame effort straight into the arms of Fon Williams, an effort which pretty much summed up Wednesday's lacklustre first-half performance.
Half-Time: Rochdale 2-0 Wednesday
Megson had strong words at half-time during the Owls' previous outing against MK Dons, in a game which saw them come from 2-0 down to draw 2-2.
But Rochdale provided much tougher opposition and Wednesday knew they needed a special performance over the second 45 minutes to get anything from the game.
Megson made just the one change at the interval, with Madine coming on to replace Mellor.
Wednesday did improve in the second period, but then they couldn't get much worse.
With a two-goal cushion, Hill's men were able to sit back and allow Wednesday more time on the ball, but the visitors struggled to create many clear-cut chances against a strong Dale defence.
Madine had the best chance when a superb low ball across the face of goal found its way to the second-half sub, but he got the ball caught in his feet and the defence cleared the danger.
While Wednesday pushed forward to try and get back into the game, Dale looked dangerous on the break and could, and probably should, have all-but sealed the points with a third.
It was Done again who was through on goal but Weaver came racing from his line to block his effort and keep the Owls in the contest.
Osbourne was introduced for his Owls debut from the bench in place of Potter, and he forced Fon Williams into a superb save with a powerful volley shortly after his introduction.
James O'Connor also saw a shot charged down as Rochdale put their bodies on the line, and it looked like it just wasn't going to be Wednesday's day.
The Owls did get some hope of an unlikely point in the last minute when Madine neatly cushioned a header in from a Lewis Buxton cross.
But Rochdale soaked up the four minutes of stoppage time well, not allowing Wednesday any more chances on goal.
The victory kept Dale firmly on track for a play-off place, while Wednesday continue to drift further away.
Full-Time: Rochdale 2-1 Wednesday