Stunned Page raps ref after pen shock
PORT Vale boss Rob Page was left ruing pivotal refereeing decisions as their four-match winning streak came to an end at Spotland.
Chris Birchall opened the scoring for Vale early on, before a controversial Ian Henderson penalty and Nathan Mendez Laing’s low strike handed Rochdale all three points.
The game was played in torrid conditions, but Page felt it was referee Darren England who drowned out his side’s chances of a win.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow,” said Page, who also had captain Carl Dickinson sent off at the death.
“Everyone was gobsmacked to see him point to the spot – how he can give that I don’t know.
“I get an opportunity to write a report on Monday and I will be doing that because that is so frustrating.
“We have just got to get on with it and do our best to bounce back. It is a defeat and it was not helped by decisionmaking, but we will get on with it.
“Second half at 1-1 we had opportunities to take the lead. With better decision-making in vital areas we would have gone on to win the game.”
Heavy conditions played a part in the visitors’ 13th-minute opener, as Birchall capitalised on a loose ball that stopped dead on the edge of the box before rounding the stranded Joel Castro Pereira to slot home. From there Rochdale came into the game, and the pressure told after 40 minutes when Dickinson brought down 18-year-old James Hooper inside the box. Captain Henderson converted from the spot for his sixth of the season.
Rochdale dominated after the break, and were almost ahead after 70 minutes when the outstretched Richard Duffy deflected Henderson’s cross on to his own post.
Shortly after Dickinson had headed onto the bar from a Port Vale corner, Mendez-Laing put Dale ahead on 78 minutes with a low strike from just inside the area after Hooper’s shot had been parried away.
Dickinson then saw red after an off-the-ball altercation seconds before full-time, and Rochdale held firm for their first home win since September to the delight of manager Keith Hill.
“I’m really pleased with the three points,” said Hill. “I think it was a three-point performance so I’m happy.
“It was a very attacking line-up and there was an attacking intent. As a manager you need points on a regular basis, but I was really pleased with the way we played.
“It wasn’t a penalty and I sympathise with Port Vale.The first goal was also a bit freakish and it could have rocked us confidence-wise, but I saw us grow.”
STAR MAN JAMES HOOPER Rochdale