PHIL Male believes Dale’s first half performance gave them a mountain to climb following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of Leek Town at The Beeches.

Tivi had started brightly but two goals in three minutes from Niall Maguire and Tim Grice gave the visitors a clear advantage at the break.

And Male, who was replaced by Jacob Barnes at the heart of the Dale defence following Tuesday’s draw at Daventry claimed the first half display gave the hosts a mountain to climb.

“We were disappointing in the first half for different reasons,” said the 36-year-old.

“Myself and Ross (Thorpe) were trying to get the message across from the touchline but it wasn’t happening for whatever reason.

“There were one or two occasions where we held on to the ball far too long instead of using the pace of our wide players.

“The goals we gave away were disappointing, too, and that left us chasing the game.”

Dale improved after the break and Chris Sterling continued his impressive goalscoring form with 13 minutes to play.

A second chance fell to the former Rocester striker two minutes from time but Male praised ‘keeper Sheridan Martinez for thwarting Tivi’s top scorer.

“Sterls has been in great form and he put his first chance away very, very well.

“In the second instance, credit to the goalkeeper. He put Chris off by closing the angle down very quickly.”

Male’s side travel to Sheffield FC next Saturday before hosting high flying Coalville Town at The Beeches and the former Sutton Coldfield Town star says Dale need to start picking up points again after their five-game unbeaten run was ended by their Staffordshire counterparts.

“We have to respond to this defeat, and next week will be a tough game,” he added.

“Demetri (Brown) and Mark Danks picked up injuries on Saturday and we will assess them tomorrow.

“I think Danksy will struggle for the weekend. We may need to look at bringing one or two in this week to bolster the squad.”