Dale heading for Wembley
Ben Muirhead scored the decisive kick as Rochdale beat Darlington on penalties in their League Two play-off.
By Andy Clarke
Last Updated: 17/05/08 8:19pm
Ben Muirhead scored the decisive spot-kick as Rochdale beat Darlington 5-4 on penalties to book their place in the League Two play-off final.
With the scores level at 4-4, the former Manchester United trainee fired his penalty straight down the centre after Dale keeper Tommy Lee had kept out Jason Kennedy's effort with his legs.
Rochdale earned their first ever trip to Wembley after a superb fightback at Spotland, winning 2-1 to overturn a first-leg deficit.
Keith Hill's side lost 2-1 at the Darlington Arena and fell 3-1 behind on aggregate when Clark Keltie converted a penalty after Rene Howe was harshly adjudged to have pulled back Kennedy in the area.
Rochdale fought back two minutes before half time when Darlington keeper David Stockdale, who will join Fulham in the summer, spilled Adam Rundle's free-kick and Chris Dagnall bundled the ball over the line.
Keltie almost restored the visitors' two-goal advantage in the tie when he struck the crossbar in the first minute of the second half, before firing over another long-range attempt.
Darlington were able to keep their hosts at arm's length for most of the second period, but Dale finally levelled the aggregate score in the 83rd minute when David Perkins' long-range shot deflected off Kennedy and over Stockdale.
Perkins was shown a straight red card for a lunge at Ricky Ravenhill in the second period of extra time, but it was Rochdale's 10 men who came closest to finding a winner when Adam Le Fondre clipped the bar with a smart volley.
Kennedy wasted a glorious chance for Darlington when he sliced a shot wide after some neat control, and the on-loan Middlesbrough winger was the villain again in the shoot-out when he became the only player to miss.