TOWN fans were rueing the one that got away as their team were held to a 1-1 draw on their first-ever visit to Rochdale.
While Ian Greaves’s side, playing outside the top two sections for the first time in the club’s history, were marooned in mid-table in Division III, Bristol Rovers were going great guns at the top.
Driven by Colin Dobson, the former Town midfielder transferred by Greaves a year earlier, they stretched their unbeaten start to the season to 10 matches with a goalless draw at Watford.
That left them four points clear of Oldham and Bournemouth, who had held Town 1-1 at Leeds Road the week before.
For the trip to Spotland, which attracted 3,220, comfortably Dale’s highest home crowd so far that season, experienced defender Geoff Hutt was in the side for the first time since injuring a shoulder the previous April.
But the form of teenage left-back Paul Garner meant Hutt turned out on the right of the back four rather than in his more accustomed position (Graeme McGiford made way).
While a groin injury ruled out Les Chapman, his fellow winger Bobby Hoy was sacrificed as Greaves went with a 4-3-3 formation.
Phil Summerill, skipper Alan Gowling and Jimmy Lawson played up front with Steve Smith coming into midfield alongside Graham Pugh and Terry Dolan.
Hutt and Garner played in front of keeper Terry Poole and either side of John Saunders and Brian Marshall, who was making only a second appearance of the season.
While the Dale side included future Town centre-back Keith Hanvey, their star man was teenage left winger Alan Taylor, later to prove a big hit at West Ham.
It was his darting 35th-minute run which opened up the visiting defence and gave striker Leo Skeete a simple sidefoot finish from five yards out.
Town had come close 10 minutes earlier, when Summerill hit a post direct from a free-kick and Gowling headed wide from the rebound.
And to their credit, they refused to let the home goal knock them out of their stride.
Lawson came close with an ambitious overhead kick which had keeper Mike Poole (no relation to Town’s Terry) stretching to collect.
Then Dolan drove a low effort just wide before, in the 69th minute, Town levelled.
Gowling punished defender Colin Blant’s hesitancy by pinching the ball off his toes and hammering in a shot.
Midfielder Steve Arnold stuck out a foot in a bid to clear but could only deflect the ball past Poole and into his own net.