After another torrid fortnight which saw them withdraw from the LFA Amateur Cup last week due to a lack of players, Prestwich managed to field a team with Paul Mercer at 49 yet again the only substitute.
Despite this they overcame more adversity during the game and were extremely unlucky not to come away with a point, capitulating only in the last 4 minutes of play.
The game started well for Prestwich who were rewarded for their early endeavour with a 3rd minute goal from new signing Eren Salih who latched on to a deft flick by young Harvey Rhodes, sending him in on goal and he drilled a shot under the keeper and in at the near post for an early lead.
Sadly, this was as good as it got but not for the lack of trying. Rochdale perked up after this early shock and started to move the ball about well, creating pressure on the Prestwich defence but no clear-cut chances. That is until the 17th minute when a good move saw a pass played across the penalty box which was met by an advancing midfielder and fired into the bottom corner despite a desperate attempt to save by keeper Mike Hudson.
The rest of the half see-sawed back and forth with Prestwich perhaps having the best of the chances. Most fell to Salih who unfortunately could not add to his opening goal. Firstly, he was sent in behind the defence, opened his body but his shot was too close to the keeper and comfortably saved. Then he took aim from the edge of the box and bent an excellent effort which just went wide of the far post.
A few minutes later a great cross from Martin Hill looked destined for his head and an easy goal but the defender jumping in front of him either got a deflection or caused him to lose the flight of the ball and it hit him on the head and was scrambled away.
Rochdale for their part also had chances but the battling Prestwich defence kept them at bay and Hudson had no serious saves to make but a couple of efforts did go narrowly off target. This was all achieved with a backdrop of losing Richard Steadman on 24 minutes, Martin Hill moving to centre back and substitute Paul Mercer coming on to prop up midfield. In addition, Prestwich had to play with 10 men for 10 minutes after Stephen Charles was sin binned after 28 minutes.
The 1–1 half time score line was testament to the effort Prestwich had put in and was just what they deserved.
The second half was largely dominated by Rochdale in terms of possession but with very few clear-cut chances created. Most notable was an excellently struck free kick from just outside the box which hit the top of the bar and went over.
A scramble in the box some minutes later was cleared from the six-yard box and late on a good cross was headed over the bar. Prestwich did create a few half chances with Salih bringing a save from the keeper at the near post when he shot from a tight angle, then Rhodes sent free on the right side of the box hit a rasping drive on the turn which went just wide.
In the end all the effort put in by the whole team was for nothing in bizarre circumstances as a cross from the right seemed to be over the No 9, but he took a swipe at the ball with his left foot slicing his kick, it spun up in the air and over the slightly advanced Hudson and dropped under the bar for 1-2 in the 88th minute.
Prestwich tried to rally and took the game to Rochdale who wishing to hang on to what they had cleared everything as far as possible. Then to compound the agony a long ball was collected by Hudson who tried to dribble past a forward, lost the ball and it was passed into the empty net in the 91st minute to remove any chance that Prestwich had of getting the draw they so richly deserved for their truly heroic efforts.
The 1–3 score line was acknowledged by the Rochdale manager as a little fortunate for them, however it does put them at the top of the division so they will be glad of the result.
Next Saturday we are away against Old Mancunians at The Armitage Centre in Fallowfield, M14 6ZT, kicking off at 2:30pm.
PRESTWICH v ROCHDALE ST CLEMENTS GALLERY
By Leo Michaelovitz