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11:01 15th April 2012

Rochdale 3 Exeter City 2

Exeter went to Spotland looking for back-to-back victories following their hard earned 3-0 triumph over Leyton Orient in their courageous attempt to avoid the plunge into League Two.

The City faithful made the long trip to a cold and windy northeast to witness what was potentially a relegation decider for both clubs.

Exeter started the brighter of the two sides, applying the pressure early on. The travelling fans rallied the team on but it was Rochdale that had the first real effort of the match with Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro's effort from outside the box going just wide of the goal.

Exeter then had chances of their own with both Daniel Nardiello and Liam Sercombe having trying their luck from long range.

The dominating opening continued with Troy Archibald-Henville's potential goal-scoring header being blocked by Rochdale's Matthew Edwards after a Billy Jones in-swinging corner.

Akpa-Akpro was a threat to the Exeter goalmouth yet again with a right-footed shot from close range in a rare Rochdale attack.

Exeter were quick to respond with Alan Gow producing a left-footed shot from just outside the box that went wide left of the target.

Exeter maintained the pressure with some very slick and simple passing movements that unravelled the Rochdale defence leading to Akpa-Akpro conceding a penalty for a foul on Nardiello on 27 minutes.

The Welshman stepped up and calmly slotted the ball passed Matt Edwards in the Rochdale goal, much to the delight of the Exeter fans.

With the travelling support in good voice, Exeter played a game of pinball with shots from David Noble and James Dunne being inadvertently blocked by Gow and Jake Taylor respectively.

Exeter maintained the pressure for the remainder of an entertaining first half with only the occasional flutter from Andrew Tutte to potentially worry Artur Krysiak's goal.

Rochdale started the second half brighter than the first but still weren't able to break the spirit of the Exeter squad.

City sustained their passing mentality, creating some fine passages of play but with no end product until the 62nd minute when Liam Sercombe scored what will be a contender for team goal of the season.

Exeter passed the ball freely around the field of play creating an opening to allow Gow to set Taylor free near the corner flag. He picked out the onrushing Sercombe alone on the edge of the box to tap the ball home.

Exeter continued to drive forward as they looked to extend their lead and rare Rochdale touches were ironically cheered by the home support.

The next chance of the match fell to arguably Exeter's man of the match Sercombe who came close with a decent effort which was stopped by the Rochdale goalkeeper.

Tisdale then introduced Fulham loanee Lauri Dalla Valle for Nardiello on 74 minutes.

Rochdale slowly got themselves back into the game and looked more likely to get back into the game. And they did exactly that on 78 minutes when some sloppy Exeter defending lead to Nicky Adams scoring from the edge of the penalty area, placing the ball low into the middle of the goal.

In two minutes of madness, Joe Simpson then found the bottom left hand corner from just inside the penalty area to make it 2-2.

With the 1,930 home crowd now behind them the Dale surged forward looking for the winner with Akpa Akpro's once again hitting the woodwork.

Tisdale then put veteran striker Jamie Cureton on as a last ditch effort to salvage the game but Rochdale looked the more likely side to score in the closing moments.

Rochdale piled on the pressure and unbelievably grabbed a winner with just three minutes to go, Jason Kennedy's low finish beating Krysiak from close range.

The match finished 3-2 to the Dale to leave Exeter eight points from safety with 9 points left to play for.

Is the dream still alive? Probably not. But the Grecians know that the great support that they received today will follow them into next season, regardless of which league they are playing in.

Richard Marks

    Data provided by Press Association