Goals either side of half-time from Andy Little and Neil Kilkenny put North End in the hat for the second round of the Capital One Cup.
North End took the lead just before the break as Little raced onto Bailey Wright’s long ball, showed a clean pair of heals to the full back and drove a shot in off keeper Josh Lillis.
It was 2-0 within four minutes of the second period getting underway as Kilkenny arrowed a vicious volley into the top left hand corner from the right hand corner of the box after a Paul Gallagher corner, killing the tie off.
Northern Irish forward Little was part of a three man front line, with Kevin Davies the only change, in for the injured Joe Garner as the central striker, and it was Little with the first real effort of the game, curling a left footed drive just wide after a good Neil Kilkenny through ball between the Rochdale back line.
On 12 minutes a Kevin Davies cross was deflected and saved by Lillis onto the post and put behind for the first corner of the game. The No.9 was heavily in the game for the Lilywhites and his
header down to Kilkenny saw the Aussie have a shot blocked and then a second attempt into Lillis’ arms.
The home side came into the game after the mid-point in the half and had much the better of the latter half of the opening period and could have been ahead apart from a great block by Wright on 36 minutes to deny Henderson, after a Rhys Bennett through ball into the right hand corner of the box.
So it was somewhat against the run of play that North End went ahead. There was one minute of normal time left in the half as Little latched onto a long ball from Bailey Wright; he raced away down the right. Referee Mark Brown did well to play advantage as his assistant furiously waved his flag for a foul on the former Rangers man’s favour, but the man in black waved play on and the PNE No.18 cut in and fired a hard low shot that Lillis could only parry into the net.
Less than 90 seconds into the second half Little almost doubled his and the yellow-clad Lilywhites’ lead, as he hit a half volley into the ground after Kevin Davies’ excellent hold up play. The shot bounced up and looped over Lillis, but the keeper scrambled back and brilliantly tipped the ball over the bar.
However, the relief for Dale was short-lived as Paul Gallagher’s corner evaded everyone until it reached the back post, eventually falling to Neil Kilkenny who hit a sweet volley through a crowd and into the top left hand corner of Lillis’ goal to double the North End lead.
The heavens opened immediately after the second goal and on 56 minutes it looked like North End had made it three. An inswinging corner from Paul Gallagher beat everybody and appeared to be well over the line as Rhys Bennett cleared, but neither the referee or linesman flagged in favour of the goal.
The home side made a triple change on the hour mark and one of those changes, Joel Logan had a great chance to half the deficit with his first touch of the game as Peter Vincenti’s cross from the right evaded everyone, but the young forward, who miss-kicked as he was unmarked six yards out.
Rochdale had to play the final 13 minutes with ten men after skipper Ollie Lancashire went off injured, having used all their substitutes, but the drama was over as North End progressed to the second round for the eighth consecutive season.
Rochdale line-up: Lillis, Bennett, Lancashire (c), Vincenti, Lund, Andrew (Donnelly, 59), Hery, Tanser, Rose (Rafferty, 61), Bunney (Logan, 59), Henderson. Subs not used: Diba Musangu, Eastham, Allen, Camps.
PNE line-up: Jones, Woods, B Davies, Kilkenny, Clarke (c), Wright, Little (Humphrey, 74), Browne, K Davies (Hugill, 80), Brownhill, Gallagher (Hayhurst, 74). Subs not used: Stuckmann, Wiseman, Welsh, King.
Attendance: 2,348 (772 away fans)
Referee: Mr M Brown