Rochdale AFC 3 Harrogate Town 3: Sulphurites concede late on as two points are thrown away at Spotland

Harrogate Town threw away a 3-1 second-half lead in what was a pulsating, end-to-end League Two clash at Rochdale.

By Rhys Howell
Saturday, 12th February 2022, 5:29 pm
Updated Saturday, 12th February 2022, 6:16 pm
Alex Pattison fires home from the penalty-spot to put Harrogate Town 2-1 up at Rochdale. Picture: Matt Kirkham
Alex Pattison fires home from the penalty-spot to put Harrogate Town 2-1 up at Rochdale. Picture: Matt Kirkham

Alex Pattison bagged a brace before Jack Diamond added a third shortly after the interval, though the Sulphurites struggled to contain their hosts throughout the afternoon and were eventually pegged back late on.

The visitors made the perfect start to proceedings at Spotland, getting their noses in front with barely two minutes on the clock after Josh Falkingham intercepted an attempted clearance deep in Dale territory.

The Town skipper passed the ball right to Brahima Diarra, whose first-time ball found Pattison inside the box and the former Middlesbrough midfielder blasted past Joel Coleman.

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Ahead in terms of the scoreline, Harrogate were however thoroughly second best for the quarter-of-an-hour which followed as the home side moved the ball around cleverly and controlled proceedings.

Goalkeeper Mark Oxley had to make a desperate save to deny Jake Ball following a huge scramble in the away box, then Leon Legge produced a crucial last-ditch challenge with Ball bearing down on goal.

With Dale continuing to turn the screw, an equaliser looked as if it was imminent, and although Oxley did well to keep out Alex Newby's effort on 18 minutes, the hosts did indeed pull level just seconds later.

Max Clark took aim from the left-hand edge of the box and his strike across the Town goalkeeper struck both posts on its way into the net.

With the crowd suddenly alive and Robbie Stockdale's men smelling blood, Harrogate looked to be very much on the ropes during the moments that followed, Newby testing Oxley with a long-range free-kick before Tahvon Campbell dragged a close-range chance wide at a corner.

But, completely against the run of play, the Sulphurites managed to re-take the lead on 24 minutes.

Pattison burst through on goal and, faced with the narrowest of angles, twice dribbled the ball around Coleman before the Dale custodian rashly went to ground and sent his opponent tumbling.

Referee Neil Hair pointed to spot and Pattison did the honours himself, calmly sending Coleman the wrong way as he stroked his kick into the bottom corner.

At the other end, Campbell nodded wide from Stephen Dooley's right-wing cross, before Town came on strong and Pattison was denied his hat-trick by a decent Coleman stop.

Diamond then got in behind and looked set to add the visitors' third, only for the advancing Coleman to divert the ball over his cross-bar.

It would be Dale who would finish the opening half the stronger, however, Oxley sticking out a leg to sensationally touch Dooley's shot around his upright before the resulting left-wing corner was deflected across the face of goal and narrowly wide.

Just as was the case at the beginning of the opening period, Town made a flying start to the second, Pattison driving down the centre of the field before slipping the ball left for Diamond, who drove into the area and fired a low effort across Coleman and into the far corner.

A huge opportunity for the visitors to put the game to bed then came and went on 57 minutes, Pattison again playing Diamond in behind, though on this occasion he attempted to beat Coleman at his near post and the Dale stopper was able to keep him out.

The significance of that moment became apparent when the hosts pulled one back four minutes later.

Oxley had already had to make an instinctive save from Clark when, for the second match in succession, Warren Burrell was exposed in a dangerous area in his own half.

Having got the better of the Harrogate centre-half, Newby found Dooley, who slid a pass across from the right-hand side of the penalty area for Abraham Odoh to tap into a gaping net.

With Town tiring as an attacking force, Dale began to enjoy more of the ball, though Diarra and Diamond both managed to draw stops from Coleman either side of referee Hair blowing up for a free-kick rather than playing advantage with Luke Armstrong through on goal.

Then, with less than three minutes of normal time remaining, Dale earned themselves a share of the spoils as Campbell finally mustered an effort on target and crashed a strike beyond Oxley after the ball broke kindly for the home side.