Darlington 1 Rochdale 0

Last updated : 31 January 2004 By Footymad Previewer

Darlington did well to get this game on as most other clubs in the North East fell foul to the weather. The rain fell constantly but desperate Darlington needed the revenue from the attendance of 5,689 in their time of need.

Darlington also needed to get the full three points in order to put the pressure on those sides around them, but Rochdale made life difficult for them throughout a scrappy 90 minutes.

The visitors rarely threatened throughout although they did have the first chance of the game. Gary Jones found Matthew Doughty on the left flank in the third minute and his cross was perfect for striker Paul Connor but he headed wide from a good position. And then another header from Kevin Donovan's right-wing cross, four minutes later, saw debutant Grant Holt head wide.

But from that moment on, the home side took control but they had to wait until ten minutes from time before finally breaking the deadlock.

In the eighth minute Barry Conlon failed to connect with a Chris Hughes cross and then another good chance for Darlington saw Dale keeper Neil Edwards push out a rasping drive from winger Neil Wainwright in the 30th minute.

And then nine minutes later, Darlington captain Craig Liddle tested Edwards with a 25-yard drive that was pushed away by the Rochdale keeper.

The visitors were again on the back foot in the second half and a long-range effort from Hughes, in the 54th minute, was narrowly over the crossbar.

In the 65th minute, Edwards was busy again as he kept out a header from Conlon.

The Darlington front man appeared out of sorts throughout the game and he was unfairly booed by his own supporters when he was replaced by David McGurk in the 75th minute.

It was later revealed that Conlon had been suffering from tonsillitis all week and had not trained.

Substitute McGurk almost broke the deadlock in the 77th minute but he sent a header wide from ten yards, despite being unmarked.

But the deadlock was broken three minutes later when full-back Ian Clark sent a deep left-wing cross across the area and teenager Hughes had time to control the ball and then drill it low across Edwards and into the far corner of the net.