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Match Preview: Dale vs Coventry
Thursday, 20th Feb 2020 13:08 by AtThePeake

After what feels like an age following last weekend's postponement, Dale return to action with a home fixture against high-flying Coventry on Saturday afternoon.

Date: Saturday 22nd February
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Venue: Spotland
Dale find themselves in the midst of a particularly tough run of fixtures as they face 2nd place Coventry City on Saturday, with games against 6th placed Portsmouth and current league leaders Rotherham still to come - after a trip to 5th placed Sunderland last time out.

Frankly, looking at this run of fixtures, it's handy that Dale have managed to open up something of a gap over the bottom three, with ten points now separating them from Tranmere Rovers, who they were supposed to face at Spotland last Saturday only for Storm Dennis to put paid to that.

A defeat in that game, had it gone ahead, would really have had fans feeling angsty but instead, we now face some of the toughest teams in the division and we'll hope to raise our game to cup-tie levels and take inspiration from the draws with Manchester United and Newcastle United earlier in the season rather than the thumping defeats that have taken place at Sunderland and Peterborough in the league.

That Sunderland match was the last outing this Dale team had and it was a sorry affair. A dreadful opening 30 minutes all but put the game beyond Brian Barry-Murphy's men and they were unable to find a route back into it in the second half, with the Black Cats running out highly comfortable 3-0 victors.

That came on the back of a handy point earned on the road at Doncaster Rovers, but Dale will now have to raise their game somewhat against a Coventry City outfit that have gone unbeaten in ten league fixtures (winning eight) to rise up to second place in the table.

Coming into this game, it seems that Dale will have another strong squad to choose from. Callum Camps may continue to miss out having again not been included in the squad at Sunderland but Paul McShane will surely expect to return to the starting eleven having dropped to the bench for the defeat at the Stadium of Light.

Dale actually put in a relatively strong performance in their defeat at St Andrew's in the reverse of this fixture earlier in the season. A lovely team goal, finished wonderfully by Ian Henderson, had put Dale in the lead before a scruffy equaliser from Jordan Shipley was followed up by a wonderful solo effort from Liam Walsh to hand the hosts the points.

These two teams have of course met in two famous FA Cup ties at Spotland in the past, with Dale being the giantkillers on both occasions. A famous win in 1971 came when the Sky Blues were in the top flight, whilst goals from Gareth Griffiths and Paul Connor helped Division Three Dale to a win over second tier Cov in the 2003/2004 campaign.

Given how Dale have raised their game in the cup competitions this season, it may be prudent for Brian Barry-Murphy to adopt an FA Cup attitude to this game against the most in-form team in the division.

Coventry City are hoping to return to the second tier this season as they look to scramble their way back up the Football League pyramid - and they're looking in good shape to do exactly that as they sit in second place in the table behind leaders Rotherham United on goal difference but with a game in hand.

Despite possessing a relatively young squad on paper, Mark Robins has managed to get the best out of his charges so far this term and stars like Jordan Shipley, Liam Walsh and Callum O'Hare (22, 22 and 21 respectively), look set for big futures in the game - the former two were on the scoresheet in their 'home' win over Dale earlier in the season.

We use 'home' in inverted commas because part of the story of Coventry's season has been their ongoing ground issues. With vastly unpopular owners SISU unable to organise a continuing rental agreement with Wasps RFC who currently own the club's Ricoh Arena, the Sky Blues have been forced into a ground share agreement with Birmingham City - but the ground has proved a lucky charm for them in terms of results so far this term.

For a club with such an illustrious history to be facing a continuing battle with owners who do not seem to have their best interests at heart, it must at least be a pleasure to see a young, vibrant side doing the business on the pitch for the fans that have traipsed across to the Second City throughout this campaign.

There are some experienced heads among the youngsters that are helping knit things together for Coventry and one of them is striker Matt Godden. The 28 year old has racked up 10 goals so far this season in 22 league appearances and the Dale defence will have to be on their toes when up against the prolific forward on Saturday afternoon.

Given the disparaging history of the two clubs, it's perhaps surprising that Dale have won more than half of their fixtures with Coventry in the past few years. The odds suggest they won't be able to do the same this weekend against a Sky Blues outfit that seem to be on a path to promotion by the quickest possible route this term.
_________ _______________________________________________________________

Sunderland (a) - LOSS
Doncaster Rovers (a) - DRAW
Shrewsbury Town (h) - WIN
Milton Keynes (a) - LOSS
Gillingham (h) - DRAW

Southend United (a) - WIN
Portsmouth (h) - WIN
Bolton Wanderers (h) - WIN
Birmingham City (A) - LOSS (pens)
Bristol Rovers (A) - WIN

01 Sep 2018 - Coventry City 0-1 Rochdale - League One
09 Feb 2019 - Rochdale 0-1 Coventry City - League One
16 Nov 2019 - Coventry City 2-1 Rochdale - League One

Photo: Action Images

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