Rochdale manager Keith Hill believes Grant Holt, whose second-half goal sealed Sheffield United’s fate at Spotland, could transform his team into promotion candidates next season providing the veteran centre-forward stays fit.
Holt, aged 34, was involved in an ugly flashpoint with sections of the travelling support after scoring the hosts’ second-goal during their 2-0 victory over Nigel Adkins’ side.
But Hill, who brought Holt back to the League One club when his contract with Wigan Athletic was cancelled by mutual consent earlier this year, said: “It was a fairytale, yes, but it does not always work out. It’s like going out with an ex-girlfriend, it’s never quite the same but Holt has come in and done exceptionally well in training and he’s done well when he has come in.
“At half-time I said ‘listen with respect to your energy I’m expecting you to go there and give me everything you’ve got and I might sub you in the last 10 minutes of the game.’ He said ‘you’re not doing that’ so I said give me everything you’ve got and he said no worries and his game management; wow, wow.”
Rochdale’s Josh Lillis made a series of fine saves as United threatened to overwhelm their opponents before Holt’s fellow substitute Peter Vincenti broke the deadlock with 23 minutes remaining. Holt doubled Rochdale’s lead when he met Michael Rose’s corner less than a quarter-of-an-hour later.
Hill added: “That’s the difference. If you want a promotion-winning team you’ve got to have game management, game knowledge, players who can go out there and just do it without being coached and Grant Holt has got all that.
“He’s played in the Premier League and he’s come on for us and managed the second half and managed their central defenders. Wow, superb.”
Hill introduced Vincenti and Holt after acknowledging he had made a tactical misjudgment beforehand.
“My set up wasn’t right for the opposition,” Hill said. “I thought it was. We had done a lot of work but did not get what we wanted out of the first half in terms of attacking intent.
“I made the substitutions. It’s all about winning match day and that’s what I wanted to do so I make no apologies for that. We looked very comfortable during large parts of the second half.
“We could not retain the ball in the first half so I needed to change it to give us an attacking momentum and intent.”