Calvin Andrew’s early second-half goal proved to be the difference between the two sides, though City were not short of chances.
The Sky Blues looked to build upon the team’s positive performance at Gillingham last weekend on their return to the Ricoh, but it was the visitors who made a quick start.
Lee Burge, making his first home start for the season, was forced into action inside 2 minutes, as his outstretched goal tipped over a close-range drive from the on-running Callum Camps, resulting from a Dale corner. Following up for Keith Hill’s side, Stephen Dooley also forced the 25-year-old down low, 5 minutes later, with a sweetly struck shot from 20 yards.
Though as the minutes passed, City began to settle into the game. Luke Thomas, also making his full home debut, sparked the Sky Blues into life as his charge down the right-flank led to a teasing cross, narrowly cleared away from the awaiting Jonson Clarke-Harris.
The partnership of Thomas and Jack Grimmer proved fruitful in the game’s opening 20 minutes. A combination between the two saw the full-back’s charging run met with a turn and shot from the Derby loanee, ending just wide of the goal.
Dale left-back Matt Done endured a torrid opening quarter of the game, as Grimmer, once again, looked to turn provider. Given the space to roam to forward, the 24-year-old’s cross invited Clarke-Harris to attack the ball, with the forward inches away from scoring in consecutive games.
Deviating from the Sky Blues’ success out wide, a more central approach saw Andreu almost break the deadlock, just after the half-hour mark. A measured pass from Burge found Clarke-Harris on the edge of the goal, and the former Rotherham striker knocked the ball down to the Frenchman, whose shot just missed Magnus Norman’s right-hand corner.
As the interval approached, there was still time remaining for Clarke-Harris to go close once more. A searching cross from Michael Doyle, from inside the City half, found the striker in the centre of the Dale box. Using the pace on the ball, Clarke-Harris’ flicked effort flashed just beyond the right-hand post.
Despite the strong first-half display from Mark Robins’ side, Dale once again started strongly. The Sky Blues found themselves a goal behind less than a minute after the restart, a floated delivery from Joe Rafferty towards the back-post found Calvin Andrew in space for a tap in.
As both Andrew and Andy Cannon looked to double the advantage for the away side, the Sky Blues looked to the bench to help reinvigorate their performance. Deadline Day loan signing Connor Chaplin was introduced to a vociferous Sky Blues welcome on 55 minutes.
A change of formation almost brought dividends 5 minutes later, as Clarke-Harris threatened again. A well-worked move involving Tom Bayliss and Thomas resulted in Grimmer unleashing a purposeful cross into the penalty area. In space, Clarke-Harris appeared destined to score as his header fizzed wide of Norman’s post.
The two young midfielders were again at the centre of City’s attack after the hour mark, as the pair combined to draw Norman into a fine save. Intricate passing led Thomas to have an extra yard on his marker, and after letting the ball roll, the 19-year-old was denied his first City goal with his fearsome shot stopped by the Swede.
And the pressure continued to mount. With less than 20 minutes remaining, City enjoyed their best chance of the game. Debutant Chaplin won the ball deep in the City half, and with the Dale backline stretched, his pass set Thomas free down the right-hand side. His surging run carried him into the 18-yard box, but his seemingly measured shot trickled agonisingly wide of the far-post.
With Norman suffering a head injury on 87 minutes, Robins’ side would have hoped that the late change would unsettle the Dale defence, with the Swedish keeper repeatedly having thwarted the City attack throughout the afternoon.
As the minutes ticked down, however, City sought to salvage a draw but enjoyed little tangible success. The team’s promising build-up lacked a crucial finishing touch, as the game petered out to a 1-0 defeat, despite the Sky Blues’ best efforts.
With shots frequently testing the Rochdale defence throughout the match, improved finishing would have seen this City side easily produce a more positive result.
Sky Blues XI: Lee Burge (GK), Jack Grimmer, Jordan Willis, Dominic Hyam, Brandon Mason, Michael Doyle (C), Tom Bayliss, Luke Thomas, Tony Andreu (55), Jordan Shipley (69), Jonson Clarke-Harris (77).
Subs: Liam O’Brien (GK), Tom Davies, Junior Brown, Abu Ogogo, Reise Allassani (69), Amadou Bakayoko (77), Connor Chaplin (55).
Rochdale XI: Magnus Norman (GK) (87), Joe Rafferty, Ryan Delaney, Harrison McGahey, Andy Cannon (79), Stephen Dooley, Jordan Williams (60), Callum Camps, Matt Done, Calvin Andrew, Ian Henderson (C).
Subs: Brendan Moore (GK) (87), Jim McNulty, Oliver Rathbone (79), David Perkins (60), Zach Clough, Aaron Wilbraham, Matthew Gillam.
Yellows: Jordan Williams
Goals: Calvin Andrew (46)
Attendance: 9,879 (Away; 303)