REPORT FROM ROCHDALE SITE
STUART ASHWORTH AT SPOTLAND
Simply stag-ering is the only way to describe Dale's performance at Spotland this afternoon against high-flyers Mansfield.
Steve Parkin asked for steeliness, desire and passion from his side and it arrived by the truckload.
Rochdale manager Steve Parkin left out Michael Simpkins with Doughty taking up the position and McCourt making a rare start.
Jones went close with a second minute drive from the edge of the box that had Pilkington scrambling across his goal to push the ball around the post.
With five minutes played Williamson should have opened the visitors account running onto a left sided cross, but he managed to side foot his 12-yard shot into the roof of the Sandy Lane stand.
Rochdale were playing well and took a deserved lead in the 12th minute via the penalty spot. It all stemmed from a long ball through from Evans that Connor read superbly and nipped in behind the defenders and was up-ended by the 'keeper
Dale went close to doubling their lead after a quick break by Dale. Bertos beat Day down the left flank and fired a low cross for Connor, but the outstretched leg of Dimech managed to stab the ball off the post and away for a corner.
The long ball forward worked for Rochdale and Connor again managed to squeeze between two defenders, but his attempted lob was too strong.
Mansfield did show their teeth in attack on the odd occasion, but fortunately for Dale there was no bite.
Rochdale did double their lead from a Leo Bertos corner and a diving header from Grant Holt was scrambled over the line via a defenders thigh and a final touch from Paul Connor.
With Rochdale's tails high along with the home support volume Steve Parkin's side drove forward in search of number three, but were denied by a great save from Pilkington.
It was an effort from McCourt after he won the ball back in the middle of the park, but the keeper got down well to keep out the young Irishman's shot at the back post.
With six minutes to the break the Stags had to call on the services of their keeper again after a deflected Sean McClare shot looked to loop into the top corner, but again Pilkington was there to keep out the ball with a fine save.
The half belonged to Dale, but the star of the first 45 minutes was Pilkington, who shouldn't have been on the pitch after felling Connor for the penalty and just before the half-time cuppa's he was called into action again, this time it was Holt who got the shot away and Pilkington got down again to make the save.
Half-Time Rochdale 2 – 0 Mansfield Town
Rochdale began the half on the backfoot, but with five minutes of the half played they went very close to again extending their lead after Paul Connor broke free. Dale's record-signing despite the attentions of two defenders smashed his shot goalwards, but his shot crashed against the foot of the post .
Rochdale did put their third on the board after Jones was fouled on the edge of the box. Leo Bertos stepped up to take the free-kick and the Kiwi celebrated his return from international duty with a superb curling effort that for once eluded the hands of the Stags stopper.
Leo Bertos brought the home support alive again after a quiet period of the game for both sides on 72 minutes, but again Pilkington was there to deny Dale another goal.
It stemmed from the good run by Evans on the over-lap and a neat ball from Jones. Bertos picked up the Evans cross and let loose from nine-yards, but Pilkington was there again to block.
This game, if it hadn't already, became the Kevin Pilkington Show after again coming to the rescue of Keith Curle's side yet again after Paul Connor broke the offside trap.
Connor managed to squeeze a shot under the body of the 'keeper, but an over-worked hand diverted the ball out for a corner.
Grant Holt had worked his socks off, but it wasn't just his industry on show. Holt's deft touch sent Bertos on his way and his cross was begging to be tucked home, but Connor, on the slide, somehow put the ball over the bar.
Holt's final moment of the game before he was substituted by Ndwiwa, was to collect a lovely pass on the edge of the box, turn and shoot.
Again Pilkington, who was by far the man of the match, blocked and at the final whistle was applauded off the pitch by both sets of supporters.
This time though there was no tiring, no giving away a good lead - the commitment and the desire Steve Parkin asked for was there from start to finish.
By far the best display of the season and one Dale fans, the manager and players can be totally proud of.
Star Player Rating
Rochdale: Gary Jones
Just shaded star billing from a whole host of others behind him. Great industry and he earned me £25 on Dale Bet for scoring the first goal.
Mansfield: Kevin Pilkington
Latest | February 2004