HILL IS KEEPING PRESSURE OFF
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
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