|MK Dons 2 v 1 Rochdale|
SkyBet League One
Tuesday, 28th January 2020 Kick-off 19:45
Match Preview: MK Dons vs Dale
Monday, 27th Jan 2020 15:15 by AtThePeake
Dale face a huge fixture against relegation strugglers Milton Keynes on Tuesday night as they look to create some breathing space towards the bottom of the League One table.
Date: Tuesday 28th January
That point at home to Steve Evans' side leaves Dale in 18th place, seven points clear of Tranmere in the final relegation spot. The issue is however, that the Merseyside outfit have two games in hand and above them in the table is Milton Keynes, who are just four points behind Brian Barry-Murphy's men as things stand.
As such, this trip to Buckinghamshire is vitally important for a Dale outfit that are looking to do what they've managed to do all season long and beat teams close to them in the table.
Of the nine games that Dale have played against other teams in the bottom eight positions in the table, we've picked up no fewer than seven wins, with an away defeat at Wimbledon and a draw at Shrewsbury the only blots on this excellent record.
Milton Keynes were one of the teams to have been beaten by Dale already this season too. Goals from Callum Camps and Ian Henderson gave the hosts a 2-0 win in the reverse fixture on a Tuesday night back in October.
Form on the road of late has been pretty shaky however as Dale make this trip on the back of four defeats in their last five away games. It's worth noting that two of those defeats came at Premier League Newcastle in the FA Cup and high-flying Wycombe due to a last-minute penalty just over a week ago - but it's still an area where improvement is needed after some stronger home performances over this period.
The walking wounded appeared to be no more for that home fixture on Tuesday as Brian Barry-Murphy announced in the build-up to the weekend that only Callum Camps and Robert Sanchez would miss out against Gillingham. It remains to be seen whether either of these players will be approaching full fitness for this clash.
Where this leaves the likes of Aaron Morley and Ryan McLaughlin, I'm not quite sure. Morley had been one of our more consistent players in the earlier stages of the campaign whilst McLaughlin has shown flashes of his ability on rare occasions where he has been fit enough to be involved. Fewer questions were raised about the non-inclusion of Calvin Andrew following a poor performance at Wycombe in the previous clash.
There will be options for Barry-Murphy to rotate here though should he decide that two games in a matter of days may be too much for some of his squad. Ollie Rathbone brought some real energy to the hosts' play after coming off the bench on Saturday and will hope to start, whilst Matt Done also enjoyed a bright cameo off the bench.
With some tough away fixtures coming up against the likes of Doncaster, Sunderland and Portsmouth, getting points in this game is absolutely vital. Not only will it provide a cushion between Dale and the bottom three, but it will also keep Milton Keynes at arms length as they look to escape the drop themselves.
Milton Keynes found themselves back in League One this season having won promotion at the first time of asking under manager Paul Tisdale, following the long-serving Exeter manager's defection from St James' Park.
It has, however, been a struggle for Milton Keynes as they've looked to establish themselves at this level having been something of a yo-yo club in their short history and Tisdale has since been sacked and replaced by former defender Russell Martin.
As mentioned previously, the Buckinghamshire outfit currently sit in 20th place in the table, just two points ahead of Tranmere in the final relegation spot and with two games in hand, the men from the Wirrall will no doubt be targeting overtaking Tisdale's charges in the coming weeks.
If recent form doesn't improve, that shouldn't be too difficult a task for Rovers. Milton Keynes have lost three and drawn one of their last four matches in all competitions and they have particularly struggled on the road, failing to win any of their last 11 games away from Stadium: MK.
To complicate matters further down near the bottom of the table, the only team currently separating Dale from Milton Keynes is nemesis Wimbledon. The Dons are two points clear with a game in hand and with the two arch rivals set to meet in the third-to-last game of the season, we could see a clash for the ages at Kingsmeadow in April.
With the quality they have in their squad however, Milton Keynes will feel capable of pulling away from the bottom three before then. The long-serving Dean Lewington continues to be a key part of the squad at left-back whilst the likes of Ben Reeves, Ben Gladwin, Joe Mason and Kieran Agard all have experience at a higher level than this.
All said and done, this is a huge fixture for both Dale and Milton Keynes and three points for either side will make the bottom of the table look a whole lot more comfortable come 9.30pm on Tuesday night. Fingers crossed, it's Brian Barry-Murphy and the travelling fans celebrating at the full-time whistle.
20 Aug 2016 - Rochdale 0-1 Milton Keynes Dons - League One
Photo: Action Images
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