Saturdays home game against South Manchester was a tough top of the table clash that could of gone either way, owing to this, many questioned the omission of seasoned midfield master Imran Ansari, who had been asked to umpire for South Manchester to allow them to play with one substitute.

However captain Dean Close’s  faith in his squad would pay dividends in a resounding 5-0 victory.

The opening exchanges proved evenly matched with Rochdale winning some early short corners, but the better chances came the way of South Manchester and it was some determined defending from Alex Paolozzi, Karl Wynn, Peter Ransome and Dave Marlow that kept the opposition at bay. On the occasion that South Manchester did breakthrough the Rochdale defensive line, they came up against Brian Robinson, Rochdale’s inform keeper, who’s clinically timed one v one challenged clearly rattled the South Manchester forward line.

Rochdale turned up the pressure and struck with 3 quick goals inside a frantic 10 minute spell. Graham Broadley came from deep in the opposition half to retrieve the ball and drove directly at the D, Rochdale’s attacking formation created space and Broadley shot as soon as he crossed the D. The South Manchester keeper made a great save, but the shear amount of Rochdale attackers meant that it fell kindly to Close who scored the first of his brace for the day.

Rochdale’s third came just before the break with Bradley Robinson providing his second assist, from 2 games, in as many weeks for Kieran Hunter.

Despite the scoreline South Manchester continued to press and the next goal could prove crucial. Bjorne Brauns and Aaron Hunter tirelessly ran the midfield and kept the pressure firmly on South Manchester for large spells, earning Hunter a well executed reverse stick finish, something coach Aasim Choudhary has been working on at training. To all but kill the game off.

Rochdale did add a fifth, taking full advantage of the full squad rotation, Rochdale maintained a level of fitness South Manchester couldn’t contain and when Ransome, who had made his first team debut the previous week, received the ball at the top of the D, he struck it with new renewed confidence and buried it in the back of the net.

Close did get the ball over the line on one more occasion for his hat-trick, but after the umpires had conferred, Rochdale’s regular umpire Stephen Woolley, confirmed it had hit Closes foot and the goal disallowed. The game saw Woolley, gain his level 4 umpire accreditation, a fantastic achievement for the 69 year old.

Vice captain Graham Broadley “It was a tough and demanding day at the office for Rochdale, but an enjoyable one with a well earned victory to maintain our lead at the top of the table. Hopefully we can maintain this momentum, in to next weeks fixture against promotion hunting St. Helens.

I would also like to congratulate Stephen Woolley on behalf of the whole club for all his hard work and effort on gaining his level 4 umpiring.”

The Flying Horse Man of the Match was awarded to Brian Robinson.