|Rochdale 2 v 3 Fleetwood Town|
SkyBet League One
Thursday, 26th December 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Dale vs Fleetwood Town
Tuesday, 24th Dec 2019 15:17 by AtThePeake
Dale are looking to bring some Christmas cheer to the Spotland faithful as they play host to Fleetwood Town on Boxing Day.
Date: Thursday 26th December
After a couple of away wins against Rotherham United and Boston United, Brian Barry-Murphy's men were unable to make it three victories on the spin at Burton Albion on Saturday, despite taking the lead in the opening few minutes through a Callum Camps strike.
Goals from Ryan Edwards, Lucas Akins and Liam Boyce turned the game around for the Brewers and in the end, the hosts ran out comfortable victors. Dale missed a handful of chances but struggled to really force the issue at the Pirelli Stadium, consigning the side to a sixth defeat from seven League One fixtures.
Perhaps even more worrying than the defeat at Burton, which was perhaps to be expected, was the worsening of the injury crisis. Not only did Ian Henderson, our only effective attacking player, miss out following the knock he picked up at Boston, but Ollie Rathbone was also forced off after half-an-hour, to be replaced by Stephen Dooley who thankfully does seem to be over the worst of his issues now.
Aaron Morley also missed out on that game after scoring the winning penalty in the FA Cup replay at Boston United, whilst Paul McShane, Tyler Magloire, Ryan McLaughlin, Jim McNulty all continue to miss out in defence.
With an injury-stricken backline and midfield, Dale are always going to be likely to struggle since our attack is offering little at the moment. If Henderson continues to miss out, you have to worry where the goals are going to come from as we head into the hectic Christmas schedule. Away trips to Gillingham and Accrington lie between this Boxing Day clash and the mouth-watering FA Cup tie with Premier League giants Newcastle United on January 4th.
Having suffered three league defeats on the trot at Spotland and having not managed a home win in the league since October, it's fair to say that the Crown Oil Arena faithful are starting to lose a little patience at the moment. For the most part, this seems to be directed towards the board and the lack of investment into the playing squad, but if we start to slip closer to the relegation zone, who is to say that ire won't be turned towards the dugout?
It's hard to know exactly what BBM is supposed to do with a depleted squad and a lack of quality in key areas - but as we all know, reasoning and context don't face up to cold hard facts and with the gap between the Dale and the bottom three seemingly less comfortable by the week at the moment, a home victory to get the fans back on side is absolutely pivotal in this Boxing Day clash with the Cod Army.
Fleetwood are one of a handful of clubs that will have their heart set on a play-off push in the remainder of this League One campaign. With just five points separating Peterborough in 2nd from Shrewsbury in 11th as things stand, the top half of the table is looking very tight indeed and the Cod Army find themselves in the midst of that fight as things stand.
With 31 points on the board, the Lancashire outfit find themselves in ninth place at the moment, although they could be higher had it not been for some patchy form ahead of this trip to Spotland. They've particularly struggled on the road, earning just one point from a possible 12 in their last four League One away fixtures.
Last year was Joey Barton's first full campaign as a manager and he will have been fairly happy with the progress made in earning an 11th placed finish. Of course, as is always the case with the Liverpudlian, his achievements didn't come without controversy, but he seems to be highly regarded as a coach and a top six finish with the Trawlermen this season would undoubtedly cement his reputation going forward.
Dale have already faced Fleetwood once this season, with a rare league goal from Rekeil Pyke eventually cancelled out by Danny Andrew's first-half equaliser before the left-back's cross was headed in by Ched Evans in the 87th minute to hand the hosts all three points at Highbury Stadium.
Since then, form has been unpredictable to say the least, but there's certainly some quality in Barton's squad. Evans is partnered in attack with Paddy Madden who has racked up 12 goals in 19 appearances whilst a couple of highly-rated former Bury players in Peter Clarke and Jordan Rossiter have also been regulars so far this term.
There are a couple of former Dale stars in the side too, although neither goalkeeper Matt Gilks nor centre-back Ashley Eastham have been regulars.
On paper however, this Fleetwood side is a strong League One outfit and Dale will have to be at their best to pick up a much-needed home win here but with injuries and a lack of form, that's going to be a tough task
Photo: Action Images
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