Cheltenham Town 2 Rochdale 0

Transfer-listed Cheltenham Town midfielder Martin Devaney scored twice as the Robins maintained their push for the play-offs at the expense of fellow contenders Rochdale.

Devaney has been told by Cheltenham that the club will not match his wage demands but on the evidence of this game, if the player does leave it will be a big loss to the Cotswolds club.

The match was not short on controversy with Rochdale deeply aggrieved about the circumstances leading to both Cheltenham goals. Defender Wayne Evans was sent off a minute from time for complaining too vigorously about the decisive penalty award given against him by the referee for a foul on Damian Spencer.

After a low-key opening the match sprang to life in the 20th minute when Evans was adjudged to have fouled Devaney 22 yards from goal.

The decision by referee Singh angered the Rochdale supporters and their mood was further darkened when Devaney drove the subsequent free-kick low past the wall and into the far corner of the net with goalkeeper Matthew Gilks rooted to the spot.

Rochdale struggled to get going during the first half and 20-goal striker Grant Holt received few opportunities in front of goal.

Central defender Gareth Griffiths had the visitors' first chance, a header from a Jamie Clarke corner that landed wide of the target, then, shortly before half-time, Holt saw a long-range shot held comfortably by Cheltenham goalkeeper Shane Higgs.

Chances were at a premium in a first period that featured plenty of huff and puff but little craft; and the final effort of the first half fell to Cheltenham's on-loan striker Steven Gillespie, who stabbed wide of the target from the edge of the area.

Dale began the second half strongly but it was Cheltenham who went close to scoring again with Devaney sending three efforts fractionally wide of the target.

The Robins began the day one point behind Rochdale in the table and there was little to choose between the sides. For a long while it seemed that Devaney's goal would separate the teams with both goalkeepers getting down to make saves and both defences generally on top.

Cheltenham goalkeeper Shane Higgs reacted sharply to deny giant Rochdale defender Griffiths five minutes from time, but the main controversy took place three minutes later.

Cheltenham substitute Damian Spencer, who had spurned a great chance to extend the lead only moments before, went to ground in the box under a challenge from Evans, who was dismissed for his part in the protests that followed.

Devaney stepped forward to bury the penalty and give Cheltenham their first home win over Rochdale in five attempts and their first league double of the season.