|Rochdale 1 v 0 Shrewsbury Town|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 1st February 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Dale vs Shrewsbury
Friday, 31st Jan 2020 11:22 by AtThePeake
After two away defeats to last-gasp penalties in the last two weeks, Dale look to earn themselves three much -needed points at home to Shrewsbury Town on Saturday.
Date: Saturday 1st February
Fast forward one hour and cold, wet and hungry, I stumbled around my bag for my phone - only to find out that not only had Dale conceded a last-minute penalty to be defeated in injury time for the second time in two away games - but that Leeds had somehow come back from the dead to beat Millwall in Yorkshire too!
That defeat really does leave Dale looking perilously over their shoulders towards the relegation zone. With Milton Keynes now just a point behind us, a couple of victories for Tranmere Rovers in their games in hand and the relegation dogfight at the bottom of the table will completely open up.
It's not even like we have the injuries to blame anymore. The vast majority of our first-team players are back in the picture, making it frustrating to see the likes of Jimmy Keohane and MJ Williams still starting games. Whilst I believe both of these players are more than capable back-up options, I don't see either having a case to start in vital fixtures such as the one in Buckinghamshire on Tuesday night when the likes of Aaron Morley, Ryan McLaughlin and Luke Matheson are considered fit enough to be included in the matchday squad.
As I mentioned in the Match Thread, it was particularly difficult to see us conceding once again from balls into the box. Without commanding presence of Robert Sanchez, we really do struggle aerially from this kind of threat and that could be an issue given some of Shrewsbury's physical players - not least former Dale loan star Ethan Ebanks-Landell.
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.
With only a matter of hours remaining in the transfer window at the time of writing, it remains to be seen as to whether Dale will be adding to their squad beyond the loan capture of Tyler Smith from Sheffield United. Rumours are circulating regarding the future our own players too of course - not least Callum Camps, who is out of contract in the summer. Another loanee, Tyler Magloire, was recalled by his parent club Blackburn Rovers in midweek, leaving an open loan spot in the squad.
Most games from now until the end of the season will prove important, but this one particularly so. A gap appears to be opening up between the bottom seven and the rest of the table and the Shrews are the team currently at the bottom of that 'rest of the table', sitting in 16th place with 34 points - only five more than Dale but with two fewer matches played.
With some tough away fixtures coming up against the likes of Doncaster, Sunderland and Portsmouth, getting points in this game will not only leave us breathing easier in the midst of this relegation battle, but it will also give us some impetus at home and a win would make it seven points from an available nine in our last three home games - perfect home form ahead of the visit of Tranmere in a few weeks for what is surely going to be the biggest game of the season.
Shrewsbury Town were one of the many teams that Dale leapfrogged in the final few weeks of last season as Brian Barry-Murphy led the side to 16th place, with Salop ending the campaign languishing in 18th.
Having spent the majority of their history bouncing around the third and fourth tiers - with rare forays into both the second and fifth at differing points, Shrews have played Dale several times in recent years and there have been some classics along the way, including 3-2 wins for the Shropshire outfit in two of our last three trips to the New Meadow and indeed we were the first away team to win at that ground with a stunning 3-4 comeback victory back in 2007.
In the present day, the Shrews are struggling for consistency this season. As previously mentioned, they appear to be clear of the relegation dogfight with a four point gap over Accrington Stanley, their next nearest team in the table. They also have a few games in hand having progressed handsomely in the FA Cup this season.
It's in the cup where Sam Rickett's men have made headlines recently of course. An incredible 2-2 draw with Premier League leaders Liverpool will be fondly remembered for years to come by the Salop faithful - will the small matter of an Anfield replay just a few days after this trip to Lancashire prove a distraction for the visitors?
The reverse fixture back in August ended goalless at the New Meadow and indeed it's in attack where Shrewsbury have struggled all season. A return of just 24 goals from their 26 matches played so far is the second worst in the division after Bolton, which is something of a surprise given the quality in their squad.
Jason Cummings, who hit the headlines for his brace in that draw with Liverpool, has managed just four league goals this term despite a decent track record in front of goal in previous seasons and with the likes of David Edwards, Josh Laurent and Ollie Norburn around him, it's fair to say that Ricketts' side should be doing better in this department.
The key question here is whether that upcoming trip to Merseyside will prove a distraction or motivation to this Shrewsbury outfit. Dale will have to be at their best going forward to break them down and we could be in for another low-scoring affair after that 0-0 draw earlier in Shropshire earlier in the season.
19 Aug 2017 - Shrewsbury Town 3-2 Rochdale - League One
Photo: Action Images
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