Hill still confident of final spot
Gillingham will claim an advantage after grabbing a goalless draw in an entertaining first leg at Spotland, but Hill believes the clash is still wide open. The Greater Manchester side have seen the big boys from down the road progress to the Champions League final on the back of excellent away showings at Porto and Arsenal, and Hill wants his side to take that spirit to Kent on Sunday. "We're very confident going away from home in any football match," he said. "And when you can see what Manchester United have done in their last two away performances in the Champions League, it's somewhat of an inspiration to a smaller side like ourselves and it's there for us to be able to do. "If Manchester United can do it, then we can do it." Rochdale just shaded a tight clash between the sides who finished fifth and sixth, and Hill was pleased to see his side shut out the Gills, whose best chance came when Stuart Lewis' instinctive shot was superbly kept out by Frank Fielding. He added: "It was a good game and we're happy to keep a clean sheet. I thought we deserved a clean sheet. "We've been working on keeping a good shape from a defensive aspect and the shape of the opposition does make it difficult to score. "The first half was a cagey affair and it still is. At home, they'll probably keep the same shape but they're going to have to be a little bit more assertive with respect to trying to score more goals. "Having said that, you can afford to draw three games and still get promoted, so we've drawn one and there's two more to play for." Opposite number Mark Stimson, the first manager to win a trophy at the new Wembley in his days at Stevenage, hailed his side's band of travelling supporters. More than 600 made the long trip from Kent for the evening kick-off and Stimson hopes the noise they made can be intensified in Sunday's home leg. "They were brilliant," he said. "I don't know how many travelled, it looked to me between 600 and 700. "On Sunday it's probably six to eight thousand and if they can make half as much noise as those did tonight, it's going to be a great occasion." Experienced forward Lee Thorpe was the figurehead of much of Dale's attacking play and Stimson was delighted with his side's defensive efforts. He added: "Thorpe is a threat because he's experienced but Garry Richards and Kingy (Simon King) both stood up to him and I think he only got one free header all evening. "You have to defend well as a team. We didn't do that in the first half of the season and we got a couple of hidings but we've changed things around, we've changed personnel and now the guys are working harder to defend. "You have to do that, especially when you play top sides. And also on the counter, with the pace we've got, we do look a threat. "We've not been pinning teams in the final third of late but it's about results. I'm not used to 1-0s but I'd take one of them on Sunday."
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