Rochdale 0, Barnsley 4
(SkyBet League One)
It was Moore the merrier for Barnsley at Spotland on Tuesday night.
A hat-trick from striker Kieffer Moore sent them cruising to third place in the table with their third win in four matches, the other having resulted in a goalless home draw against AFC Wimbledon three days earlier.
Head coach Daniel Stendel asked for more from his side following that stalemate and he got it in abundance, with the unchanged Reds exploding out of the blocks and maintaining total domination from start to finish.
It was the second occasion that they had scored four times in a rampaging opening to the new campaign and as the goals continue to fly in at one end the Reds are keeping them out at the other. This was their fourth successive clean sheet in the League.
It is early days, but it is difficult to keep the expectations in check as the exciting, attacking, high-pressing system favoured by their German coach continues to earn the admiration of supporters and rivals alike.
Those who remained optimistic during a quiet summer on the transfer front are being vindicated. They pointed out that the majority of the players already on the books had been successful in League One and with a year’s Championship experience under their belts should now be even better at this level.
Moore, for one, is certainly proving the point. He has been a handful for the opposition in all four matches and Rochdale simply had no answer to his pace, power and aerial ability. He hit 13 goals in 22 appearances for Rotherham last season before joining the Oakwell Club and he looks in the mood to improve on that ratio this term.
He certainly has the support he requires, with Dimitri Cavare, Mamadou Thiam and Dani Pinillos all capable of providing the pin-point crosses on which he thrives.
He gave notice of what was to come as early as the third minute when he shook the crossbar with a thumping header from a Cavare cross and a minute later the latter had a goalbound effort deflected just wide by former Barnsley midfield player David Perkins.
Rochdale, managed by ex-Reds’ boss Keith Hill, somehow survived a continuing onslaught until the 34th minute when Cavare curled the ball in from the right and Brad Potts was there to head home at the far post.
Three minutes before the break Moore rose head and shoulders above everyone else in a repeat of the far post scenario, the only difference being that this time the cross came from Pinillos on the left.
Rochdale had a great chance to pull a goal back two minutes after the restart, when half-time substitute Joe Rafferty found space eight yards out, but Reds’ goalkeeping skipper Adam Davies made a great block save, and as the ball rolled clear the visitors produced a stunning counter attack that put the outcome beyond any reasonable doubt.
Thiam started it off, sending Moore charging clear down the left and the big striker cut inside to send a precise right-footer into the bottom corner of the net from 12 yards. It was electrifying.
In the 68th minute, just after Cameron McGeehan had substituted for the yellow-carded Kenny Dougall and George Moncur for the tiring Thiam, Moore completed a thoroughly deserved hat-trick with a superb individual goal, turning quickly on the edge of the box, side-stepping his way into a shooting position and adding a precise finish.
It was almost a nap hand ten minutes from time with Tom Bradshaw having a header cleared off the line.
There were 1,703 rapturous Reds’ fans in the crowd of 4,359 and no-one will be able to convince them that this isn’t going to be a promotion-winning season. And judging by performances so far they could well be right.
But teams like Peterborough and Portsmouth, who both have maximum points from their four games, and Walsall, level with the Reds on 10 points and boasting a similarly impressive goal difference of ten, are among those who will have other ideas.
Whatever the outcome it promises to be a campaign to savour.
Rochdale: Lillis (Norman, 61 mins); Cannon (Williams, 80 mins), McGahey, McNulty (Rafferty, 45 mins), Delany, Ntlhe, Williams, Perkins, Done, Andrew, Henderson.
Barnsley (4-4-2): Davies; Cavare (Williams, 79 mins), Pinnock, Lindsay, Pinillos; Potts, Dougall (McGeehanm 66 mins), Mowatt, Thiam (Moncur, 66 mins); Bradshaw, Moore.
Booking: Dougall (Barnsley).
Referee: Michael Salisbury.
Attendance: 4,359 (1,703 Reds).