WHEN Gary Roberts got ready to take Accrington Stanley's penalty there must have been a few hearts in their mouths.
The Reds record from the spot last season wasn't the best with four misses but the winger was given the job with Stanley's first penalty of the League Two season.
And he held his nerve to send highly rated Rochdale keeper Matthew Gilks the wrong way 14 minutes from time so Stanley at least got a point out of Rochdale's first visit to Accrington in 44 years - although the Reds deserved all three.
"For some unknown reason, I was put on penalties in pre-season so I have been practising them," said Roberts. "I hadn't taken one in a game in a long time so it was nice when it hit the back of the net.
"It is my first league goal and I have been winding Ian Craney and Andy Mangan up saying they haven't scored yet. It is good for me to get off the mark and hopefully I can kick on from here."
Stanley boss John Coleman had every confidence in the 22-year-old. "I have been watching him in training and he has been burying them so I knew he would score," he said.
But the manager was furious his side didn't take all three points after they conceded from another set-piece and then, after stepping up a gear, failed to take their chances. The Reds have taken two points out of the last six and deserved more.
"It is two points dropped not a point gained," said the Reds boss.
"We had that much territorial domination and I can't remember our keeper having a shot to save.
"Then their goal was a joke. We have practised defending free kicks all week in training and then we went to sleep on it. It was their only chance on goal in the first half and we have gone in 1-0 down and given ourselves a mountain to climb.
"No disrespect to Rochdale, but we should be winning our home games, although their keeper has made three top class saves.
"But we have to win games when we are on top. We have taken two points from Stockport and Rochdale and one win would have been better. We have got to concentrate as it was the fourth goal we have conceded from set pieces and that's disappointing. Luck didn't go our way as we should have won that comfortably."
The last time Rochdale made the short trip to Accrington was Stanley's last home game in February 1962 before they were forced to resign from the Football League.
That day Stanley were rock bottom of the Fourth Division and Dale won 2-0. This time it was Rochdale who were the strugglers, without a goal and a point in League Two.
And if Stanley had taken another early chance it would have been a bitter blow to the visitor's confidence. With 30 seconds on the clock, Andy Todd's cross found Paul Mullin but he headed straight at young goalie Gilks.
It was all the Reds with Jay Harris floating a shot just over, Rommy Boco came close with a curling shot and Roberts' left foot strike was deflected wide.
Then, Rochdale were awarded a free kick on the left wing following a foul by Peter Cavanagh on 20 minutes. Lee Crooks placed it into the six yard area and Chris Dagnall reacted first to fire home Rochdale's first league goal in more than six hours of football.
It was agony for the Reds but Stanley still dominated with Todd a threat on the wing and defender Michael Welch rifled a shot goalwards but Alan Goodall hooked it off the line.
Stanley were getting frustrated and Coleman threw on striker Andy Mangan after the break in a bid to get something out of the game - and it proved a goal-scoring formula with Boco moving into midfield and being the spur for most of the home side's second half moves.
They pressed and pushed without seriously testing Gilks until 14 minutes from time when Ian Craney had his legs taken by John Doolan in the area. The referee had no hesitation and Roberts kept his concentration to rifle home the equaliser.
Stanley then went all out for the win with Boco turning and firing over while Roberts dipped a shot over the crossbar.
Four minutes from time, the Reds thought they had clinched the winner when Welch's shot was pushed out by Gilks and the ball fell to Craney. He took his time six yards out and tried to place the ball with Mullin rushing in and chesting Craney's shot into the net. They all turned to celebrate - until they saw the off-side flag. "I would like to see that incident again," admitted Coleman.
There were still more chances with Welch heading wide and Gilks saved with his feet on the line to keep out a Boco volley in injury time that should have been the winner.
Then Stanley had to withstand two late corners as a lively finish ended with honours even - and the home side disappointed.
"We played them off the park and we should have got a win," said left back Leam Richardson.
"We need to start getting results especially when we are at home.
"In the first 20 minutes, we had a lot of chances and corners and we should score when we are on top as the other team is always going to have a spell of pressure in the game."
But Richardson, who has plenty of league experience, says the Reds are getting better as a team.
"We are learning with every game. After the first two games, we now know what to expect and we will go out every game and hopefully give a good account of ourselves.
"I do have league experience and I do try and put my point of view across. I don't know if it helps or if people take it on board but I try.
"Rochdale's gaffer has said he has seen us a few times and that we are a good side and will do well in this league which is always nice to hear."
And Roberts admitted: "It is tougher in this league, the players are stronger and faster but I think they are of similar quality to the Conference.
"This was a one-sided game and we battered them and should have won but we are a fit young side and hopefully we can keep our unbeaten run going."