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Rochdale boss Hill tells critics to lay off Dele Alli ahead of FA Cup replay

Hill fears Alli is gaining a reputation for diving.

Rochdale boss Keith Hill has told critics to lay off Dele Alli ahead of the League One strugglers’ eagerly-awaited FA Cup replay against Tottenham at Wembley.

Hill defended Alli’s right to go down after he won a penalty in the pulsating 2-2 draw between the two sides at the Crown Oil Arena earlier this month.

Since then Alli has attracted further controversy having twice been accused of diving in Spurs’ Premier League clash with Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Hill fears Alli, one of England’s brightest prospects, is now gaining a reputation for diving because of the criticism and that is unduly influencing referees.

“I don’t agree with him being criticised,” Hill said. “I think he is an easy target. We should be protecting our best players.

“I think it is difficult for referees to make decisions because there is so much furore surrounding Dele Alli.

“Referees should be neutral in their decision-making but it looks to me as though they are second-guessing what Dele Alli is doing. I think that is unfair on Dele Alli and the English game and, for me, I think it is having an adverse effect on referees.”

Alli is one of a number of Spurs players Rochdale – 10 points adrift of safety at the foot of League One – will need to beware as they aim to pull off a shock in the fifth-round rematch and reach the quarter-finals.

Hill hopes his team can shut out the glamour associated with Wembley and trouble the Champions League challengers.

“They are one of the standout sides in the Premier League,” said Hill. “They are quite special, they can attack you from every angle. You have to be at your best defensively for 95 minutes.

“But we have done our due diligence on Tottenham. We have got to focus on our own game plan and not get carried away with the occasion or the trip and focus on the processes we have to go through. We have to be better than we were against Tottenham a week ago.”

Despite that, the opportunity to play at the national stadium will make for a memorable occasion for the Dale squad. The club have not played at Wembley since the 2008 League Two play-off final.

“It is going to be an amazing opportunity for everyone involved,” said striker Steve Davies, scorer of the late equaliser that secured the replay. “We are under no illusions, it is going to be tough, but we are going to go there and give our all.

“I’ve been there a few times as a fan but I’ve never played there. It’ll be something after the game’s over and the dust settles I’ll be able to look back on and be proud of.”

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