HARTLEPOOL United’s end-of-season slump continues as a dispirited display condemned them to a third defeat on the spin.
Humiliated 5-2 at Walsall last weekend, boss Mick Wadsworth had demanded a winning response from his men.
But, despite a promising opening, the hosts were woeful in the remainder of the match and the full-time whistle was greeted with jeers from the 3,000 home fans inside Victoria Park.
Pools had, however, come roaring out of the traps and poured bodies forward in the opening five minutes.
Fabian Yantorno was a surprise inclusion in the starting line-up but he soon set about justifying his place.
And it was from the Uruguayan’s cross that Colin Larkin cushioned for Andy Monkhouse to slam a first-time volley towards goal, only for Dale stopper Owain Fon Williams to divert over the crossbar.
Yantorno whipped the resulting corner to the near post but a fortunately positioned Scott Wiseman denied Sam Collins a headed opener as the defender blocked on the line.
But that early pressure soon elapsed and it was Rochdale who took the lead on 23 minutes, Nicky Adams sliding a low cross from the right flank onto the boot of skipper Gary Jones who turned home from six yards.
That strike took the wind out of Pools’ sails and half-time arrived without further threat to the visiting goal.
It was a similar story after the break as the hosts offered precious little on the attacking front and were instead penned in their own half.
Adams, creator of the first, was tormenting the Pools backline and he was denied a second by the facial block of Collins having skipped effortlessly by Joe Gamble and Steve Haslam and fired towards goal.
Dale were camped in opposition territory and only a goal-line block by Gamble, from Jason Kennedy’s 12-yard blast, and a smart save by Flinders on the follow up from Will Atkinson, prevented further concession on 53 minutes.
But there was nothing Flinders could about Dale’s second, centre-back Craig Dawson reacting quickest to Adams’ miscued corner to hammer through a cluster of bodies from 14 yards.
Wadsworth threw on Adam Boyd and Denis Behan midway through the second period and the former almost pulled one back with a late volley which was fumbled on the line by Williams.
Pools: Flinders, Haslam, Collins, Hartley, Horwood, Yantorno (McSweeney 70), Liddle, Gamble, Monkhouse, Donaldson (Boyd 64), Larkin (Behan 64)
Subs n/u: Rafferty, Humphreys, Murray, Mackay
Rochdale: Fon Williams, Wiseman, Holness, Dawson, Kennedy, Jones, Done, Atkinson (Joe Thompson 85), O’Grady, Adams, Williams.
Subs n/u: Edwards, Widdowson, Dickinson, Akpa-Akpro, Josh Thompson, Gray