Rochdale 1 Southend United 1

Last updated : 01 May 2004 By Footymad Previewer

Rochdale are safe after coming from behind to earn a 1-1 draw at home to Southend United.

Southend dominated the first half. Mark Bentley shaved the crossbar, Lawrie Dudfield continually hurried and outwitted the home defence and Leon Constantine was always a threat.

But somehow Rochdale survived until half time. Lacking any authority in midfield it was left to Rochdale's Leo Bertos to show any real effort by chasing long balls and capitalising on his pace and skill against the Shrimpers' defence.

More than half an hour had gone before Bertos attempted to put Rochdale back into the match by twice dribbling his way through the visitors defence to first shoot over the bar and then narrowly miss with another.

The only other Rochdale player showing enterprise was Gary Jones who forced a good save from Darryl Flahavan.

But if the first half was mostly unremarkable and forgettable the second was marked by controversy at both ends.

Rochdale keeper Neil Edwards fumbled a mediocre shot on his line from Constantine four minutes after the restart. As he attempted to redeem his mistake and scoop up the ball, the linesman vigorously waved his flag to signal the ball had crossed the line.

Despite furious protests from Edwards the referee sided with the linesman and it looked as if doom was staring Rochdale in the face.

However, nine minutes later further controversy came to Rochdale's rescue as the home side were awarded a penalty when the referee adjudged that Nicky Nicolau deliberately handled a Bertos chip on the edge of the penalty area.

Up stepped Rochdale's Gary Jones to take the spot kick. Trying to place the ball in the corner Flahavan managed to clock the shot but couldn't hold the ball and Jones ran on to tap it into the back of the net and save Rochdale's blushes.

From then on it was a battle royal to the end but Rochdale managed to hold on to that vital point that keeps them in the football league.