Rochdale manager Keith Hill said his third-tier side deserved a second chance against Tottenham Hotspur after they provided some FA Cup fifth-round magic with a last-gasp 2-2 draw at a rocking Spotland Stadium on Sunday. His League One strugglers were heading for a harsh defeat when Spurs substitute Harry Kane put the visitors ahead with a penalty in the 89th minute but Steve Davies struck in the second minute of stoppage time to earn Rochdale a Wembley replay.
The old mill town, birthplace of actress and singer Gracie Fields, has not had much to cheer since The Dale reached the 1962 League Cup final.
Hill’s side are in danger of dropping back to the fourth tier but on Sunday they played way above their level in an absorbing Cup tie on a newly-laid pitch. “It was an amazing game and an amazing event for us. We took the opposition on and we know how good they are,” Hill, who almost lost his flat cap in the delirious scenes following Davies’s equaliser, said. “It was sacrificial behaviour at times and going 1-0 up we almost lit the bomb and knew what would come. Heads could have gone down at 2-1 but they didn’t. We got what we felt was a deserved equaliser. “We’ll see the replay as an opportunity I think the opposition will see it as a headache. It’s all on their terms now but we’ll go to Wembley and have a go,” he said referring to Tottenham’s temporary home while they build a new stadium.
Ian Henderson gave Rochdale the lead but Spurs hit back through Brazilian Lucas Moura, making his first start since joining the club from Paris St Germain, and their England striker Kane before the thrilling climax. “I’ve never had a moment like that. We’ve had promotion twice but to do that against a team like Tottenham,” Hill said. “Wembley is a reward for the players’ efforts. We’ve got that booster and momentum and they will be looking forward to it as will the supporters.”
His immediate priority, though, is to start winning some of the many games in hand his side have as they try to climb off the bottom of the League One table.
“It’s Milton Keynes on Wednesday and that’s the bread and butter,” said Hill. While Spurs curse having to play another game, their manager Mauricio Pochettino accepted it was the ‘magic’ of the Cup and Kane was generous in his praise of Rochdale where he began his league career while on loan at Leyton Orient seven years ago.
“A memorable place for me having made my professional debut here,” Kane, who now has 38 goals this season for club and country, said on Twitter. “Fair play to @officiallydale, we go again at Wembley.”