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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 18:32 GMT
Lancashire hot spot
Rochdale's young star Kevin Townson celebrates a goal against Fulham in the FA Cup
Kevin Townson is one of Rochdale's brightest stars
In the short term, Rochdale's aim is to leave behind the basement division for the first time in 28 years.

But, regardless of what happens this season, the future looks bright thanks to an outstanding crop of young talent at Spotland.

The homely Lancashire club might seem an unlikely destination for a clutch of the Nationwide League's brightest young things.

But the scouts clearly know where it is and are beating a constant path to watch John Hollins' tyros keep Dale in the thick of the Third Division promotion frame.
Rochdale boss John Hollins
John Hollins is impressed by his young stars

Hollins had three teenagers and a 20-year-old taking the attack to York in the second-half of Tuesday night's thrilling 5-4 victory.

Three of Dale's goals came from 18-year-old Kevin Townson and 19-year-old Lee McEvilly.

Townson was denied a hat-trick by the post and 18-year-old substitute Patrick McCourt also hit the woodwork, having laid on Townson's second goal with a sublime pass moments after coming off the bench.

Townson, plucked from non-league football 18 months ago, now has 14 goals to his name this season and recently received a call-up to England's under-20 squad.

McEvilly was a 15,000 buy from Unibond League club Burscough a couple of months ago and looks ready to give Third Division defenders nightmares.


Patrick McCourt sees things and passes that other people don't,
Rochdale boss John Hollins

McCourt has already been called up to Northern Ireland's under-21 squad and, thankfully for Rochdale, he put pen to paper on his first professional contract earlier this week.

"He's vital to what we want to do. When he plays like he does, he sees things and passes that other people don't," said Hollins, charged with polishing Dale's gems since taking over at Spotland in December.

"Lee McEvilly's another one, not that we've been holding back, but who's come in and taken the bull by the horns. He's a super lad and brave as a lion.

"Kevin Townson plays off him and they are both young men. Townson is 18, McEvilly is 19, McCourt is 18, Matt Doughty is 20 and Steve Jones is just 25."

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