|Rochdale 2 v 0 Bolton Wanderers|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 11th January 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Dale vs Bolton Wanderers
Thursday, 9th Jan 2020 13:34 by AtThePeake
Iconic Dale manager Keith Hill returns to the Spotland dugouts with his Bolton Wanderers outfit this Saturday afternoon.
Date: Saturday 11th December
Having taken charge of Dale on no fewer than 570 occasions across two spells and having led the club to two of only three promotion in it's history, very few supporters can argue with the man's status as the most successful manager the Dale have ever employed.
And yet... given his constant bickering with supporters, coupled with some pretty horrendous performances across his final two seasons with the club, there's still an overhanging feeling that Hill's tenure ended on a rather sour note and there may be certain factions of the home crowd that aren't willing to give him the warmest of welcomes this Saturday afternoon.
Although current boss Brian Barry-Murphy worked under Hill for a time, the Irishman has looked to implement his own style in the 9 months he has spent in charge so far and that style reigned supreme when the apprentice faced his former master earlier in the season, with Dale eventually running out 1-3 winners at the Macron Stadium despite going behind in the second half.
After a stunning second half performance in the FA Cup against Premier League outfit Newcastle United last weekend, Dale will surely look to carry some momentum into this League One fixture against a Bolton outfit that still sit bottom of the league, thanks in part to the points deduction that they suffered at the start of the campaign.
Dale managed a much-needed win against another local rival, Accrington Stanley, in their last league outing too on New Year's Day and although some thoughts will understandably be turned towards Tuesdays exciting FA Cup replay at St James' Park against the Magpies, focus has to be on earning three important points in the battle against relegation in League One on Saturday afternoon.
Paul McShane missed out against Newcastle having made consecutive starts against Gillingham and Accrington Stanley, whilst Aaron Morley was also missing from the line-up once again. The likes of Rhys Norrington-Davies, Jim McNulty and Matt Done are reportedly edging closer to fitness after their own injury lay-offs although it remains to be seen if any of them will be available for this particular trip.
Luke Matheson and Aaron Wilbraham were impactful introductions from the bench against Newcastle - as they were in the reverse fixture against the Trotters earlier in the campaign - so may have earned themselves a starting berth for this one. Ryan McLaughlin also came off the bench to great effect against the Tynesiders and will hope to feature again here.
As exciting as the second-half heroics against Newcastle were, the vital three points earned at Accrington last week were of far more importance as Dale look to retain League One status this season. Having not won a home league fixture since October and with Bolton themselves struggling to see the light and stave off relegation this term, Dale have to seize this an opportunity to widen the gap between themselves and the bottom three in this one.
In the early stages of this campaign, it wasn't clear whether Bolton Wanderers would even be able to finish the season as they appeared to be heading out of the Football League like neighbours Bury at one point.
At the eleventh hour, the club was saved by a consortium known as 'Football Ventures', meaning they would not only remain a Football League club, but they would also be able to attempt to remain in the third tier - despite possessing a squad filled largely by unproven youngsters and having no manager following the resignation of a demoralised Phil Parkinson.
Step forward Keith Hill. Having been sacked from Rochdale last term, the Bolton-born gaffer was chosen as Parkinson's replacement and worked to bring in a raft of players on deadline day, but was always likely to struggle to integrate them quickly enough to mount a real challenge at overcoming the 12 point deficit the Trotters started the season on and fight against a drop into the fourth tier for the first time since the 1987/88 season.
Having gone 19 games without a win in all competitions following Rochdale's win at the Macron Stadium, the Whites have actually been better in the following weeks an have picked up five wins in the following 13 games in all competitions. There have however, been some real low points in that run - including a 7-1 mauling at the hands of Accrington Stanley back in November.
With three games in hand and now being just two points off Southend in second bottom, it's not inconceivable that a few more signings from the Trotters this month could help them to launch an unlikely survival attempt, and no Dale fan will doubt that the acquisition of Ethan Hamilton on loan from Manchester United will be helpful to their cause given his heroics in a blue and black shirt this time last year.
Hamilton, unsurprisingly, isn't the only former Dale man in Hill's squad. Joe Bunney has yet to feature for the Whites since being injured in a car crash in 2019, but Will Buckley and Chris O'Grady have each made a handful of appearances so far in this campaign.
This Bolton side may have improved somewhat since the two sides last met back in October, but Dale go into this one as favourites and with good reason.
27 Sep 2016 - Rochdale 1-0 Bolton Wanderers - League One
Photo: Action Images
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