MELLOR 1 ROCHDALIANS 3 (RHODES CUP FINAL)
Mellor were unable to add to their Stockport Senior Cup win, losing 3-1 to a powerful Rochdalians side on a rain lashed pitch.
Mellor's hopes were dented before the match when striker Jack Hilton pulled out with a back injury.
His replacement Jack Kelly was unavailable through work.
Manager Si Dalby opted for Bruce Clarke up front, partnering Matt Peck. Hard as they worked they were unable to consistently trouble Rochdalians' giant centre backs.
In other changes, Adam Barlow came in at wing back for Ben Beer and Mark Oldham played at left wing back for Dan Byrne.
Joe Dalby took Barlow's midfield slot.
In the second minute Jamie McGregor had to plunge on the ball as a Rochdalians forward broke clear but slightly overran it.
Soon after Mellor had to defend a dangerous free kick.
On seven minutes Clarke, under immense pressure, controlled a long ball and got off a good shot from 10 yards which the keeper turned round the post.
The corner was cleared but from a second corner a minute later Paul Swann headed a terrific goal.
The lead was short lived.
On 10 minutes Rochdalians hit a post from a dubious free kick and the ball squirmed across the box for a forward to fire home the rebound.
On 13 minutes McGregor opted to palm away a cross-shot but it fell to a Rochdalians striker whose effort forced the keeper into a vital reflex save.
The ball went out for a corner and McGregor had to be alert again to catch the flag kick.
Peck almost got in but was crowded out on the edge of the area.
McGregor was called upon again on 18 minutes, making another fine save from a powerfully hit drive.
Rochdalians' harrying didn't allow Mellor to develop a rhythm.
And the lack of height up front meant the long ball was virtually conceding possession every time.
Mellor tried to get Peck and Clarke in down the channels, instead.
But it was hard going against a well drilled defence.
Joe Dalby was Mellor's best player in the first half.
On 27 minutes Dave Whelan drove a free kick into the wall.
Chris Coram's delicious curling pass on 34 minutes found a marauding Mark Oldham on the left wing but the wing back couldn't provide a telling cross on the greasy surface and the ball ran out.
Before the kick off
Bruce Clarke attacks
A split second later Clarke forces a good save
Build up to Rochdalians' first goal
Peck through but another save
On 40 minutes Peck was fouled and sent in a free kick which caused the blues defence an anxious moment.
Rochdalians spurned a good chance on 43 minutes, firing high after a clever ball bisected Mellor's defence.
Tragedy struck a minute after the re-start when a misguided crossfield pass found a Rochdalians' forward and he scored for 2-1.
A minute later Clarke was in again in the inside left channel and his close range shot was again well saved by the blues keeper.
In a drama filled three minutes Mellor were then awarded a penalty for handball.
Peck drove the ball on target high and hard but the keeper, plunging to his right, made a match winning save.
Mellor began to enjoy more possession and on 55 minutes Oldham's cross from the left was flicked on by Dom Randle deep inside the area but only to a blue shirt.
Whelan got round the back on 56 minutes and stood the ball up but a defender headed it over his own crossbar for a corner.
On 57 minutes Dan Byrne replaced Coram.
Ben Beer then came on for Bruce Clarke.
McGregor made another excellent save on 73 minutes and a minute later Rochdalians hit the base of a post.
The rain was now driving as both sides became desperate to score.
Jubb came on for Peck and minutes later Rochdalians were awarded a controversial free kick for a tackle by Craig Fairfield that many in the ground deemed fair.
In the aftermath Ben Beer was red carded for dissent, although witnesses later said he was harshly treated and the club will appeal.
In the final minutes Rochdalians headed in from a corner to seal the win.
It was a disappointing end (although there is still one league match to play) to what has been a momentous season for Mellor with many highs.
On the night Mellor probably underperformed against a physical side and needed to take every chance.
But congratulations to Si Dalby and his squad for reaching two finals.
And best wishes to Rochdalians for a deserved win.