Shrewsbury Town put in a convincing performance to pick up a much needed home victory.
First-half goals from Shaun Whalley and Captain Nathaniel Knight-Percival ensured Town took maximum points for the fourth time at the Greenhous Meadow this season.
Jordan Clark and Kyle Vassell came into the team in place of Dom Smith and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro whilst Jermaine Grandison misses out through injury, with Frenchman Elliot Grandin taking his place in the squad.
Town lined up with a 4-3-3 with Jordan Shaun Whalley and Kyle Vassell supporting Andy Mangan in attack.
Grant Holt made his first return to the Greenhous Meadow since his transfer to Norwich seven years ago.
Town’s attacking line-up was quick out of the blocks on a chilly night in Shropshire.
Within minutes, Clark and Whalley were linking up well, with Whalley seeing the first shot of the match fly harmlessly over the visitor’s crossbar.
In only his fifth start in a Town shirt, Kyle Vassell’s pace was causing problems for Dale’s back line and his delightful cross after five minutes deserved a finish to match.
Town continued their early pressure with Jack Grimmer delivering another teasing cross that lacked a finish before Ian Black saw his low drive deflected for a corner.
Moments later, they made the breakthrough their early pressure deserved.
A clearance from Junior Brown was helped on by Black and whilst Jim McNulty hesitated, Whalley pounced and bore down on goal from the half-way line.
With the former Luton man showing electric pace, he also showed a cool head to slot the ball across Josh Lillis to claim his fourth league goal of the season and put Town in front.
Minutes later, Town fans thought they had doubled their lead when Clark got in down the right-hand side and slid the ball across to Andy Mangan, whose outstretched poke failed to generate the power required to beat Lillis.
The fans favourite was at it again when he made room for a shot but again, it lacked the venom needed to really test Dale’s ‘keeper.
With 20 minutes on the clock, Rochdale saw their first sight of Town’s goal when Peter Vincenti and Ian Henderson linked up before the latter fired his volley narrowly over.
Vassell continued to look dangerous with his pace and quick feet causing several headaches in the Dale back four and saw another effort deflected wide.
Whalley thought he had earned his side a penalty when being tripped on the edge of the box, but the referee was quick to point for a free-kick, which Brown sliced narrowly wide of the far post.
Whalley went close again when he cut inside from the left and took aim for the far post, with Dale just about getting in enough bodies to force a corner.
From Whalley’s corner, Ian Black put the ball into the danger zone after skilfully turning his man on the edge of the box. But as his cross deflected into the penalty area, Knight-Percival failed to direct his effort goalwards.
Despite not having much possession, Rochdale looked a threat in their host’s penalty area with Town old boy Grant Holt forcing a smart close range save from Leutwiler before seeing his rebound effort cleared off the line from Zak Whitbread.
Rochdale went close again, with Abu Ogogo throwing himself in front of Matthew Lund’s effort before the Dale man saw his follow up deflect wide.
That chance was greeted by a chorus of boos from the home fans who, along with manager Micky Mellon, felt Town were denied a clear penalty seconds earlier. A quick free-kick from Black released Mangan who appeared to be hauled down by the last man Joe Rafferty, but the referee waved away the protests.
As the game entered the final moments of the first-half, Shaun Whalley won another corner which he floated in to the back post where Knight-Percival bravely headed in.
HALF-TIME: SHREWSBURY TOWN 2-0 ROCHDALE
Rochdale started the second half having made two substitutions and immediately looked to take the game to Town.
Goalkeeper Leutwiler was almost picking the ball out of the net early after the restart as substitute Joe Bunney saw his effort deflect inches wide of the near post, with the Swiss stopper wrong footed.
Jordan Clark continued to look a threat in and around the visitors’ penalty box and having been brought down right on the edge, Mangan saw his free-kick curl straight into the arms of Lillis.
Mangan broke away down the left hand-side moments later but his ball across goal evaded Vassell, who had halted his run looking for the pull back.
Rochdale, believing they were still in the game, started to throw more balls in the Town box.
A corner from substitute Reuben Noble-Lazarus found Niall Canavan with space eight yards from goal, but his cushioned volley was too high to trouble Leutwiler.
The visitors threatened again, with Noble-Lazarus sending in another teasing cross that Ashley Eastman headed wide.
Leutwiler was called into his first save of the match just past the hour mark as Henderson drilled in a low effort from outside the box, which Town’s number one did well to palm away.
Town still carried a threat, with Whalley’s corner being headed over by Abu Ogogo.
Jack Grimmer’s low cross was picked up by Vassell but after the on-loan forward twisted and turned his marker, he could only see his shot drag wide of the far post.
Entering the final ten minutes, Clark led a good counter attack after Whalley picked the ball up 25-yards from goal, the winger will be disappointed not to have hit the target.
As Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro came on to replace the tireless Andy Mangan, Rochdale went close again when Jamie Allen found some room in the box to shoot, but the towering Whitbread stood tall and guided the effort wide.
Noble Lazarus, whose set pieces had looked dangerous throughout the second half, had sight of goal with a free-kick some 25-yards from goal. But as the Meadow held its breath, he dragged his effort harmlessly wide.
As the match came to an end, the referee’s whistle was greeted with cheers and chants of ‘Salop’ as Town recorded their second successive clean sheet and a result that was well earned.
FULL-TIME: SHREWSBURY TOWN 2-0 ROCHDALE
Town: Jayson Leutwiler, Zak Whitbread, Ian Black, Kyle Vassell, Shaun Whalley, Junior Brown, Jack Grimmer, Abu Ogogo, Andy Mangan (Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro, 86) Nathaniel Knight-Percival (C), Jordan Clark.
Subs not used: Mark Halstead, Richie Wellens, Scott Vernon, Larnell Cole, Dom Smith, Elliot Grandin.
GOALS: Shaun Whalley, 13, Nathaniel Knight-Percival, 45.
Rochdale: Josh Lillis, Joe Rafferty (Callum Camps, 60), Jimmy McNulty, Ashley Eastham, Peter Vincenti (Joe Bunny, 46), Matthew Lund, Niall Canavan, Grant Holt, Jamie Allen, Michael Rose (Reuben Noble-Lazarus, 46) Ian Henderson (C).
Subs not used: Rhys Bennett, Donal McDermott, Nathaniel Mendez-Lang, Steve Collis.
Booked: Jamie Allen, 83
Referee: Ben Toner
Assistants: M. Amphlett and A. Clayton
Fourth Official: N. Hobbis
Attendance: 4221 (177 from Rochdale)