RIP-ROARING entertainment and some memorable moments for Town goalkeeper Ian Gray against his old club.

Having posted his first clean sheet of the season in the previous game against Northampton, only 18 seconds were on the clock last night when Gray was picking the ball out of the net from Paul Connor.

And the 28-year-old might have been repeating the feat but for the help of a post, the boot of Rob Edwards and an inspired performance from himself.

If Gray's late mistake cost Town two points at Bury, he certainly earned one of them back at Spotland and deservedly earned the man of the match award.

Caught cold by Connor's fifth goal of the season - many fans stuck in traffic still missed it despite the kick-off being put back 15 minutes to 8pm - Town responded in gritty style.

Jon Stead, raiding powerfully in front of scouts from Leicester and Norwich, had hit the bar by the time midfield worker Jon Worthington equalised with his first senior goal on 23 minutes.

Town - with Jon Newby replacing the injured Andy Holdsworth on the right of midfield - were building up a head of steam when Andy Booth sent Newby racing down the flank.

The ex-Bury man, dropped against Northampton, had already supplied some decent crosses and didn't disappoint this time when picking out Tony Carss at the back post.

When he headed back neatly to Worthington, the 20-year-old swivelled cleverly to drill a low right-foot drive past the diving Matthew Gilks.

Worthington had already had one long-range drive saved as Town's fantastic following of fans exercised their vocal chords and it was gripping end-to-end stuff for the first 45 minutes.

While such an early goal conceded had unsettled Town - the whole back four looking shaky at times - the midfield and strikers dug in to get them back into the contest.

Kevin Townson's pace created the Rochdale goal, leaping past Ian Hughes and Paul Scott down the right before crossing for Leo Bertos to head back for Connor to net at close quarters.

Only Efe Sodje's pace allowed him to halt a Connor raid shortly afterwards as Town looked vulnerable to the quick break, and Gray made the first of several super saves when Ged Brannan hammered a cracking ninth-minute volley.

Gray got down smartly to hold a Connor shot on 28 minutes, but Town needed a bit of luck to remain level at the break.

It came when Townson's shot rebounded across goal off Gray's lefthand post and Hughes slid in to block Doughty for an easy tap-in.

Rochdale claimed handball (with some justification!) as Hughes lay on the ground, but referee Howard Webb had other ideas and his next whistle was for the break.

Everyone needed a breather, because it was hectic stuff played at break-neck pace, and it was Alan Buckley's side who again made the running in the early stages of the second half.

Gray was again in the action with an outstanding save on 58 minutes, somehow getting down to his right to palm away a fierce downward header from Matthew Doughty at the back post.

From the resulting corner, Daryl Burgess thought his header would bulge the net, but Edwards was in the right place at the right time to boot away the danger.

Only three minutes later, Gray came to the rescue once more as Michael Simpkins' looping header released Townson, and it wasn't until Newby crossed for Carss at the back post on 69 minutes that Peter Jackson's side really threatened.

Booth and Stead weren't allowed to hold the ball up as much in the second half and, as a result, Town got forced back more than they should have.

Despite those problems, Town still managed to finish quite strongly and might have made more of some dangerous set piece situations around the box as Rochdale resorted to some tough tackling to keep them at bay.

Perhaps the best chance in open play fell to Stead on 76 minutes but, having taken Carss' pass in his stride, his right-foot shot was smartly saved by the sprawling Gilks.

Carss fired a 20-yard free-kick over the bar with the keeper struggling to cover and Stead had another one blocked when the better options would have been Carss or a back-post cross for Booth.

Carss still went close with a blistering drive after bursting through the middle - Gilks doing well to beat the ball over the bar - and from the corner which followed, Scott was unhappy to slightly mistime his jump with the goal at his mercy.

Town, at that stage, had been lifted by the arrival of substitute Adnan Ahmed for a League debut - he is the first player of Asian descent to play for Town at senior level - and Rochdale's more fluent play of earlier in the game had given way to some tired legs.

They deserve credit, however, for playing some cracking football, just as Town do for responding, and a point apiece was a fair result.

Perhaps it was fitting that Chris Beech, the last Town midfielder to get 10 goals in a season, was watching from the stand as Worthington notched his first, because the fearless tackler from Gomersal is certainly capable of hitting double figures given a long enough run in the side.

On this form, he won't be left out!

MATCH FACTS (Town 4-4-2)

Ian Gray Made superb saves to deny Brannan and Townson, but his best was from Doughty's powerful header Rating: 8/10

Ian Hughes Caught once or twice, but twice made excellent clearances from Bertos and then a great block near the line Rating: 6/10

Rob Edwards Not one of his greatest games, but made one crucial goalline block to deny a Burgess header in the second half Rating: 6/10

Paul Scott Missed with a couple of decent heading chances from corners. Dodgy first half but recovered in the second Rating: 6/10

Efe Sodje His pace rescued him as Town were too flat in the first half and made several vital challenges as Rochdale threatened Rating: 6/10

Jon Newby Back in the side for Holdsworth and had an excellent first half, providing a string of terrific crosses. Rating: 7/10

Lee Fowler Buzzing around at his best in the first half and chased back to make some splendid tackles. A few good passes, too Rating: 7/10

Jon Worthington Raided forward with real menace in the first half and thoroughly deserved his first goal at first-team level Rating: 7/10

Tony Carss Got up well to head back for Worthington's goal and had several decent shots himself. Lively once again Rating: 7/10

Andy Booth Excellent in the first half, was not given the same opportunity later to hold up the ball. Still a big threat in the air Rating: 7/10

Jon Stead Scouts from Leicester and Norwich were watching but his best chance, in the second half, brought a fine save Rating: 7/10


Gilks, Evans, Simpkins, Griffiths, Bertos, Connor, McClare, Brannan, Doughty, Townson (McEvilly 81), Burgess.

Subs not used: Edwards (Gkp), McCourt, Duffy, Grand.


Ian Gray

Beaten after only 18 seconds last night following his first League clean sheet for the club against Northampton, he responded in brilliant style with a point-earning performance for his team when Rochdale created some terrific chances to take all the points.


He has waited 13 starts and 14 substitute appearances for a first League goal, but Jon Worthington's strike last night rewarded a battling performance from Town and some brilliant support

Subs used: Rochdale: McEvilly for Townson 81. Town: Ahmed for Newby 77.

Subs not used: Rochdale: Edwards, McCourt, Duffy, Grand. Town: Senior, Thompson, MIrfin, Brown.

Scorers: Rochdale: Connor 1. Town: Worthington: 23.

Referee: Howard Webb (South Yorkshire).

Bookings: Rochdale: Townson, Brannan, Simpkins, Burgess. Town: Worthington.

Shots on target: Rochdale 7, Town 6.

Corners: Rochdale 5, Town 7.

Caught offside: Rochdale 2, Town 0.

Free-kicks awarded: Rochdale 14, Town 13.

Attendance: 4,626.

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