BLADES BOSS: WE GOT LUCKY
THE well-oiled Sheffield United machine didn’t run smoothly enough to pick up three points, but Blades boss Chris Wilder claims they were fortunate to leave Rochdale with anything at all.
Dale played host in what was a truly exceptional exhibition of football with over 6,000 in attendance, the majority of whom had travelled from South Yorkshire.
And the travelling Blades faithful must have thought it was going to be all plain sailing when their side went 2-0 up after just 11 minutes, but that wasn’t to be the case.
“We’ve dodged a bullet,” said Wilder. “Fair play to the players for their desire because I didn’t think we were very good.
“We are there to be shot at, we are at the top of the division. I’ve got to say Rochdale were better than us.
“It wasn’t a comfortable afternoon, we didn’t defend very well and they’re a dangerous team going forward.
“To score three goals away from home and not win is disappointing, but I don’t think we deserved to.
“Whatever the conditions we’ve been the best team in the league so far, whether it’s away from home, at home, in the sun, on a tough pitch like that in wet conditions – we’ve turned out consistent performances.”
Dale midfielder Matty Lund got the slightest touch on a ball which goalkeeper Ben Wilson picked up to hand the Blades an indirect free-kick inside the area after just five minutes, and Paul Coutts set the ball to Mark Duffy, who curled home.
Full-back Daniel Lafferty then scored the pick of the afternoon’s goals when he fired into the top corner from 25 yards after the ball had been cleared from a corner.
But Rochdale fought back valiantly and levelled with a goal either side of the break – Lund crossed for Steven Davies to head home midway through the first half and then the midfielder got on the scoresheet himself by turning home Andy Cannon’s cross just minutes into the second period.
With 20 minutes remaining Billy Sharp grabbed his 24th league goal of the season with an emphatic finish but it wasn’t enough to win the game as Nathaniel Mendez-Laing capped off a wonderful individual display by calmly dispatching Reuben NobleLazaraus’ cross.
“I’m really pleased with the courage my players showed against the best team in the league”, said Rochdale manager Keith Hill.
“I enjoyed the way we played, I thought we played well first half even though we ended up being 2-0 down but the way the players responded to that scoreline was magnificent.
“We’re fighting against injuries and suspensions, Steve Davies has trained once in the last five weeks and he’s back on the pitch and made a difference.
“Matty Lund got through 90 minutes and he’s not been on the training pitch for four or five weeks.”
GOAL Nathaniel Mendez-Laing celebrates making it 3-3 Inset: Mark Duffy scores with his free kick STAR MAN NATHANIEL MENDEZ-LAING Rochdale