The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO - By Matt Bam­sey To com­ment on this match go to http://boards. footy­mad.net/

KEITH Hill has be­come a mas­ter at eas­ing the pres­sure on his play­ers and he was at it again af­ter Rochdale climbed into the au­to­matic pro­mo­tion places.

Jamie Allen’s close-range ef­fort on the stroke of half­time stretched Dale’s un­beaten run to four games and, per­haps more tellingly, made it four games on the road with­out de­feat.

Hill’s side are a for­mi­da­ble force on home soil, hav­ing won 11 of their 17 en­coun­ters at their Spot­land head­quar­ters.

But they are be­com­ing a tough nut to crack on the road which bodes well as the pro­mo­tion race hots up.

Yet de­spite leapfrog­ging Ox­ford into third place in the ta­ble, Dale man­ager Hill was keen to play down his side’s pro­mo­tion prospects.

He said:“I don’t look too closely at the league ta­ble. There shouldn’t be any pres­sure on the lads. I said to one of the di­rec­tors be­fore the game that this club has spent 98 years of its 104-year his­tory in League Two.

“So it’s not as though we have had a suc­cess­ful past. All I do know is that we are en­joy­ing our foot­ball and my play­ers were pre­pared to run through a big wall in pur­suit of this re­sult.

“We could have been 3-1 up at half-time and in the sec­ond half they laid siege to our penalty area. But we de­fended re­ally well and had some good op­por­tu­ni­ties on the counter-at­tack.”

Dale started brightly and Jamie Allen forced Ex­eter’s young standin keeper Christy Pym into a smart save with his legs.

The home side squan­dered two glo­ri­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties to snatch the lead.

Danny Coles headed waste­fully wide fol­low­ing a pin-point cross from Matt Grimes be­fore John O’Flynn missed a sit­ter.

The striker might point to the bob­bly sur­face as the rea­son why he blasted over from seven yards out, but it was still a chance he should have buried.

And Rochdale made Ex­eter pay af­ter Allen crashed the ball home from close range af­ter Pym par­ried Ian Hen­der­son’s lofted ef­fort.

Dale keeper Josh Lil­lis pro­duced a bril­liant save to deny Tom Ni­chols af­ter get­ting fin­ger­tips to the young striker’s rasp­ing drive.

But it was Dale who came clos­est to scor­ing in the sec­ond half but Matthew Lund watched in agony as his crisp strike came back off the post.

Ex­eter boss Paul Tis­dale said: “I think they just about de­served it and we were beaten by a bet­ter team.

“I haven’t seen a bet­ter team in our league than Rochdale, they are a very good team.

“One goal sep­a­rates the two teams and it was a goal I was par­tic­u­larly dis­ap­pointed with. It was 30 sec­onds be­fore half-time and we switched off, so it was a par­tic­u­larly poor goal to con­cede and that is what sep­a­rates the two teams. “Goals change games and we had two glar­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties

be­fore they scored.”

EX­ETER: (4-4-1-1): Pym 6, But­ter­field 6, Wood­man 6, Ben­nett 6, Coles 6, Ser­combe 6, Davies 6 (Richards 46 6), Grimes 7, Oak­ley 6, Keo­hane 6 (Ni­chols 46 6), O’Flynn 6 (Wheeler 76 6) Subs not used: Ha­mon, Moore-Tay­lor, Gill, Parkin

ROCHDALE: (4-5-1): Lil­lis 7, Raf­ferty 7, Done 7, Lan­cashire 8, O’Con­nell 7, Ca­vanagh 6, Hen­der­son 7, Rose 7, Allen 7 (Don­nelly 70 6), Lund 7 (Kennedy 89 N/A), Ho­gan 7 (Vin­centi 70 6) Subs not used: Thom­son, Eastham, Gray, Porter

PIC­TURES: Pin­na­cle

MY BALL: Ar­ron Davies of Ex­eter City and Rochdale’s Michael Rose chal­lenge for pos­ses­sion

HEADS UP: Rochdale’s Ian Hen­der­son beats Danny But­ter­field to the ball

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