PNE 1 Rochdale 0
The No.10 collected a throw in from Scott Laird, spun and shot in one movement nine minutes before the break as his bullet of a strike went low into the bottom left hand corner from a tight angle.
Dale keeper Josh Lillis was in fine form after the break to deny Robinson, Garner and Scott Laird, whose 25 yard arrow seemed destined for the top corner, but it remained 1-0 to extend the gap over third place.
Paul Huntington was absent after his injury suffered the previous Sunday against Fleetwood Town, but Bailey Wright was back to slot in at centre half; Calum Woods came in at right back, whilst Callum Robinson returned from international duty to replace Chris Humphrey, who dropped to the bench.
It was the visitors who started the brighter of the two teams; a free kick from Michael Rose in the third minute on the right hand side creeped through the crowd towards the near post, but it was pushed behind by Sam Johnstone for the game’s first corner.
North End started to come into the game the more in progressed and just before the quarter hour mark a great one-touch break with pace saw PNE attack; Joe Garner sent Robinson down the left and he shot low and hard on target but the ball was turned behind by Josh Lillis in the Dale goal.
Paul Gallagher’s set pieces were, as always a danger, and a free kick from the right saw Tom Kennedy put the ball behind for corner with Lillis nowhere, almost putting into his own net and then on 31 minutes another free kick from the No.12, after Robinson had been brought down, was over wall, but over bar from 25 yards out.
However, the first goal of the game came on 36 minutes. A throw in from Scott Laird was straight into the feet of Jermaine Beckford who spun and drilled a shot all in one movement into the back of the net past the near in the bottom left hand corner – a great finish.
There was almost an immediate response as Joe Bunney saw a shot come back off the post from six yards out after the ball was pulled back by Kennedy from the right.
But it was North End who went closest to the second goal before the break as Daniel Johnson saw a shot from 25 yards saved, the ball coming back out to Garner, who drilled across goal but no one could get a touch to put the ball into the net.
The visitors had a great chance to draw level eight minutes after the break as Hery crossed from the left and top scorer Ian Henderson was unmarked at the back post, but he headed over the bar from ten yards out.
Just before the hour mark Joe Garner had a great chance to double the lead as Daniel Johnson delivered an exquisite ball from the left, but the 21-goal man saw the ball late and could only steer the ball wide of the right hand post from eight yards out.
With 12 minutes to go a superb deep cross from the right by Calum Woods found Joe Garner at the back post; the frontman headed down, but Lillis saved with his legs to deny the No.14.
Daniel Johnson and Paul Gallagher combined for a brilliantly worked free kick with just four minute left, but as the former received the ball from the latter he scuffed his shot which rolled wide of the right hand post from 12 yards out.
In the final minute of normal time Scott Laird fired an exorcet towards the top right hand corner after a corner had been half cleared, but Lillis pulled out a world class saved to push the ball over the bar, but that was the end of the action as North End earned another valuable three points.
PNE line-up: Johnstone, Woods, Laird, Welsh, Clarke (c), Wright, Robinson (Little, 82), Johnson, Garner, Beckford (Humphrey, 63), Gallagher. Subs not used: Stuckmann, Wiseman, Kilkenny, K Davies, King.
Rochdale line-up: Lillis, Bennett, Eastham, Tanser, Vincenti (Brandy, 79), Hery (Noble-Lazarus, 64), Rose, Cannon, Kennedy, Bunney (Andrew, 70), Henderson (c). Subs not used: Diba Musangu, Rafferty, Barry-Murphy, Camps.
Attendance: 12,288 (1,063 away fans)
Referee: Mr A Woolmer