|Doncaster Rovers 1 v 1 Rochdale|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 8th February 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Doncaster vs Dale
Friday, 7th Feb 2020 11:43 by AtThePeake
After opening up a slightly more comfortable gap from the relegation zone with a win over Shrewsbury last week, Dale travel to Doncaster looking for another three points on Saturday afternoon.
Date: Saturday 7th February
Although it was hardly a vintage performance from the Dale against Salop, with attention among the visitors' ranks perhaps turning towards their FA Cup replay with Liverpool, Tyler Smith capitalised in the final moments of normal time to hand the hosts all three points at Spotland. And to put the icing on the cake, Tranmere were beaten by stragglers Bolton, and then lost again in midweek against Rochdale's upcoming opponents, Doncaster Rovers.
Those results mean Dale have actually gone four games unbeaten in front of their own supporters in all competitions, picking up pivotal wins against Bolton Wanderers and the Shrews in the meantime - but supporters travelling to watch the side on the road have suffered some heartbreaking moments in recent weeks.
Since a much-needed win at Accrington Stanley on New Year's Day, Dale have been thumped 4-1 by Newcastle United in the FA Cup and then conceded last-minute penalties in back-to-back league games on the road, going down 2-1 in both cases to Wycombe Wanderers and MK Dons - having originally taken the lead through Ian Henderson goals in the first half of both fixtures.
There have been some truly enjoyable afternoons out watching Dale this season, even before that win at Stanley, including entertaining victories at Tranmere and Southend plus a smash-and-grab win at current table-toppers Rotherham, back in December. After some gut-wrenching moments in the last few weeks, the travelling fans may feel they deserve a little more luck as the side head to South Yorkshire to take on Doncaster this weekend.
Matt Lund could make his first appearance since returning to the club in this game. The silver-haired midfielder left Spotland for Burton Albion and the Championship back in 2017, but after further spells at Bradford City and Scunthorpe United, the all-action midfielder returned in the final hours of deadline day on an 18 month deal. The Northern Ireland international has been in training this week and will look to add some steel to the centre of the park.
The injury problems that have plagued Dale all season now appear to have abated somewhat. Callum Camps remained out last time around and it remains to be seen whether he has returned to full fitness, but Luke Matheson will be available having been unavailable for selection last weekend following his deadline day move to Wolves and subsequent loan deal back to Spotland.
More energy will be required going forward in this game with Dale unlikely to dominate possession to the same extent that they have done in recent home fixtures, as they come up against the team with the best possession stats in the table. This will require some incisive play when we do have the ball - something we have certainly struggled with at times in this campaign.
Every game continues to carry real importance, but there is a feeling that away matches against Doncaster on Saturday and Sunderland on Tuesday carry less expectation than some recent home games. Plus, next Saturday, it's Tranmere Rovers at home and a win in that game could have Dale looking very comfortable going into the final quarter of the season.
With only nine points currently separating second-placed Wycombe Wanderers from ninth-placed Burton Albion, the top half of the League One table looks primed for a team to come from within the chasing pack and look to break into the play-offs and perhaps even the automatic promotion spots in the final few months of the campaign.
After a thumping 0-3 victory at relegation-threatened Tranmere Rovers in midweek, Doncaster Rovers will be hoping they can be that side. As things stand, they sit in ninth position in the table on 44 points - just three away from the play-off spots and six away from the top two, with Wycombe's position in the table seeming less comfortable by the week.
The issue for Darren Moore and his side has been a lack of consistency throughout the campaign. Even in recent fixtures, we've seen them breeze past strugglers Southend and Tranmere and pick up a credible away point at Sunderland - but they've also lost at home to Coventry City and were edged out by fellow play-off chasers Fleetwood Town at Highbury Stadium last weekend.
This is perhaps to be expected for such a young squad though. Despite the presence of the evergreen James Coppinger, now 39 years old, Donny possess a very young squad, with the majority of their regular starters being aged 25 or younger. They've been helped by some quality loan additions too, with Ben Sheaf (Arsenal), Niall Ennis (Wolves) and Seny Dieng (QPR) all playing key parts this season whilst another temporary addition - Jacob Ramsey of Aston Villa - bagged twice on his debut in the win over Tranmere in midweek.
The reverse fixture back in August ended level after a late headed goal from Kieran Sadlier rescued a point for Donny, but it was fair to say that Dale seemed to have gotten to grips with their manager's plans at that stage slightly better than their opponents. Since then, Rovers have really adopted the patient approach favoured by Moore during his tenure at West Bromwich Albion before his move to the Keepmoat Stadium.
With a quality, young squad that plays football the right way and a popular manager within the world of football to boot, it feels like Doncaster should be finishing in the play-offs this season. They'll no doubt hope that win on Merseyside in midweek will kick-start a run of form that takes them into the top six positions - can Dale put the stoppers on that this Saturday afternoon?
29 Dec 2017 - Doncaster Rovers 2-0 Rochdale - League One
Photo: Action Images
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