Rochdale 1, City 2

Joe who? Scott Neilson, the winger City signed to replace Joe Colbeck, made his mark before the ink on his predecessor’s move to Oldham was even dry.

Neilson’s deflected drive 11 minutes from time completed the comeback after Michael Flynn’s spectacular free-kick equaliser.

It left City celebrating a third straight victory and their first win in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy since 2005.

Colbeck’s tea-time departure had opened the door to former Cambridge City winger Neilson for a first start on the Bantams’ right flank.

But the first excitement came from City’s left where Luke O’Brien’s cross-turned-shot in the fourth minute had home goalkeeper Kenny Arthur struggling as it bounced off the woodwork.

City keeper Simon Eastwood then pulled off an agile save to tip away Will Buckley’s header at the other end.

Steve Williams saw the first yellow card for pulling down Joe Thompson but a bigger concern for the visitors was the sight of Peter Thorne limping off in clear discomfort after just 17 minutes.

City came within an ace of scoring three minutes later as Flynn, who had taken the captain’s armband, fed Neilson for a snap-shot which flashed across the goal-mouth.

Dale old boy Simon Ramsden, playing at centre half alongside Williams, produced a key header from under his own bar but the pressure at either end was sporadic.

Chris Brandon was starting to have an influence in midfield and twice opened the play to pick out Jonathan Bateson’s overlapping runs.

Chris Dagnall whipped an ambitious effort over as Dale began to ask more questions. They concentrated their attacks down the left, exploiting the space left by Bateson’s pushes upfield, and another raid from that side almost brought a 37th-minute breakthrough.

Adam Rundle pulled the ball back into the path of Dagnall, who smashed it first time against Eastwood’s bar with the keeper well beaten.

City had two chances to make inroads on their left wing as half-time approached. First Gareth Evans burst away but Marcus Holness just edged out substitute James Hanson to his inviting cross. Then it was Brandon’s turn but Arthur claimed the ball at the near post with Hanson lurking behind him.

Eastwood almost presented Dale with a comical chance, slicing a clearance straight up in the air, but Williams hastily mopped up.

Dale went straight on the attack after the break and Eastwood did well to hang on to Thompson’s cross as Dagnall closed in.

Bateson continued to operate wider than Neilson going forward and collected a deep clearance from Williams on the byline. Neilson took over and sneaked into the box but fired into the side-netting when there were better options on.

Evans did better after chasing Hanson’s pass as he cleverly held off Craig Dawson before taking a shot which Arthur saved carefully at the foot of his post.

But City found themselves behind just before the hour. A Rochdale free-kick was headed back into the danger zone by Jason Kennedy and 19-year-old centre half Dawson had space to turn and drive his first goal for the club.

Eastwood prevented it from getting worse with a crucial save at the feet of substitute Scott Spencer after Dagnall picked him out in plenty of room.

Williams’ header was palmed away by Arthur before Brandon wasted a dangerous free-kick position – the midfielder’s last touch as Leon Osborne replaced him.

Neilson was not frightened to have a pop and another near miss brought a frustrated “ooh” from the travelling fans.

But they were celebrating after 73 minutes after a spectacular equaliser from Flynn. Rochdale disputed the free-kick given 25 yards out but there was no arguing the quality of Flynn’s strike, which was far too hot for Arthur as it flew into the top corner.

The midfield dynamo almost repeated the trick two minutes later with another long-range rocket which cannoned back off the left post.

City, though, were not to be denied for long. They poured forward again and Neilson let fly, his shot deflecting off Holness and beating Arthur’s right hand.

Neilson tried to slip in Evans for a killer third but the striker’s first touch took it too wide and there was no power behind his effort.

But City had earned the win for their much-improved display after the break. Round two beckons...

Rochdale: Arthur 5, Flynn 5 (Wiseman 82min), Holness 6, Dawson 8, T Kennedy 6, Buckley 6 (Spencer 58min, 6), Flitcroft 6 (Brown 86min), J Kennedy 6, Rundle 7, Thompson 7, Dagnall 7. Subs (not used): Higginbotham, Edwards.

City: Eastwood 7, Bateson 6, Ramsden 7, Williams 6, L O’Brien 7, Neilson 8, Flynn 7, Bullock 6, Brandon 6 (Osborne 70min), Thorne 5 (Hanson 17min, 6), Evans 6. Subs (not used): Clarke, Sharry, McLaughlin.