The Rochdale manager, Keith Hill, has urged his side to create history in the League Two play-off final at Wembley a week tomorrow. The Lancashire side have not won a promotion since 1969 and have been in thebottom tier of English football since 1974, the longest unbroken run in the Football League's basement division.
Hill is sick of hearing about the club's inglorious past and has urged his talented young side to seize the moment when they go to Wembley. Hill, who turned 39 yesterday, headed straight to Edgeley Park to watch Stockport beat Wycombe 1-0 last night to join his side in the final.
"We're here to make history – I'm sick of hearing about the history of the football club and what we haven't done," said an emotionally drained Hill. "We talk about making our own history and creating history for other people to talk about.
"We are nurturing a very good young squad here and we want to be successful. That's how ambitious the players and the coaching staff are. We want to get into League One. That's our aim now."
Clarke Keltie's 28th-minute penalty put Darlington 3-1 ahead on aggregate but Rochdale showed tremendous spirit. They scored shortly before half-time through Chris Dagnall and a deflected strike from David Perkins, who was sent off in extra-time, put them 2-1 ahead to level the tie at 3-3 with 12 minutes left.
That ensured extra time which could not separate the sides, so the tie was decided by penalties. The teams converted their first four spot-kicks and after the Rochdale goalkeeper Tommy Lee saved Jason Kennedy'seffort, Ben Muirhead stepped up to claim the winning penalty.
Rochdale's long-suffering fans were ecstatic and invaded the pitch in their thousands. Hill, who will appeal against Perkins' red card, added: "I will be celebrating quietly tonight – I'm 39 not 29. If I was 29 I'd be out on the lash like everybody else."
A philosophical Darlington manager, Dave Penney, said: "That's life. It's a fine line and they were better than us just because they scored more penalties than us. We've had a good season and we just couldn't finish it off."
Liam Dickinson scored a fine individual goal to send Stockport to Wembley to face Rochdale in the final. In a tense battle with Wycombe at Edgeley Park, Dickinson scored the only goal of the match after seven minutes, which won the tie 2-1 on aggregate. The striker broke from the halfway line, powered his way into the penalty area and slipped the ball past the visitors' goalkeeper Frank Fielding for his 20th goal of the season.