Darrell Clarke relieved after watching Bristol Rovers down Rochdale

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Darrell Clarke admitted Bristol Rovers rode their luck as they defeated relegation-threatened Rochdale at the Memorial Stadium.

Victory moved the hosts just five points off Bradford in the final play-off position, despite sitting in 11th place in Sky Bet League One, but Clarke gave an honest analysis as he watched his Rovers side struggle to a 3-2 victory.

He said: “I’m an honest manager and I thought Rochdale were very unfortunate not to get something out of the game.

“They caused us a lot of problems and we never really got to grips with them at the back. But again the lads have shown tremendous character to come from behind and win.

“We were miles off our best in the first half and Rochdale had a lot of impetus. I had to make changes tactically and it was just a case of deciding which ones to make.

“My players keep going, but it can be a hard watch at times. When we went 2-1 up, we conceded before the fans had chanted the first chorus of ‘Goodnight Irene’.

“It was a fantastic winning goal and we move on. But all credit to Rochdale, who played very well on the night.”

The visitors went in front after 29 minutes when Rovers failed to clear a corner and Ian Henderson shot through a crowded six-yard box to find the bottom corner.

Rovers levelled four minutes after the restart when Tom Nichols headed Lee Brown’s left-wing cross into the path of Liam Sercombe to volley home his 11th goal of the season.

The hosts went in front as Joe Partington headed home from a Chris Lines free-kick, only for Henderson to equalise seconds later.

All Rochdale’s efforts came to nothing when Byron Moore found Lines just outside the left corner of the penalty area with 11 minutes remaining before finding the opposite top corner with a sweet right-footed shot.

Dale boss Keith Hill said: “Two thirds of our performance was as we want it, but there were moments of individual weakness and poor marking that cost us.

“Chris Lines has scored a great goal, but when you think of how far the ball travelled across the box before reaching him, we should have closed him down.

“It is the story of our season. Of course we feel hard done by the way the game went, but mistakes have cost us too often.

“I have a united group of players and I stand up for them. The truth is that judged on budgets we are where we should be in the table, but this was an opportunity lost.”

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