The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Sam All­sop

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.”

PIC­TURES: ProS­ports/ Dan Youngs

GOAL Nathaniel Mendez-Laing cel­e­brates mak­ing it 3-3 In­set: Mark Duffy scores with his free kick STAR MAN NATHANIEL MENDEZ-LAING Rochdale

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