|Rochdale 1 v 4 Gillingham|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 19th December 2020 Kick-off 13:00
Match Preview: Rochdale vs Gillingham
Friday, 18th Dec 2020 17:53 by AtThePeake
Dale look to build on a thumping away win at Wigan by picking up their second home victory of the campaign as they host Gillingham this Saturday.
Date: Saturday 19th December 2020
Well, we're not going back to Spotland just yet as many, including those at the club itself, had hoped. However, there is reason to be cheerful heading into the festive period for Dale fans following a terrific midweek performance at Wigan Athletic.
With questions understandably being asked following a below-par showing at Peterborough last weekend, supporters got the reaction they were demanding from the players at the DW Stadium on Tuesday night.
An early goal from Kwadwo Baah made the headlines, with the 17 year old's thunderous shot firing Dale into the lead, but further goals from Stephen Dooley and Matt Lund, plus a brace from Alex Newby, put a real gloss on the 0-5 scoreline.
It was the second time in a matter of weeks that Dale have romped to a comfortable Tuesday night victory on the road following the 0-4 victory over Plymouth Argyle at Home Park, but sandwich between those two wins have been defeats to Lincoln City and Peterborough United.
It feels very much as though the style that Brian Barry-Murphy has developed at Spotland has led to this boom-or-bust run of results, but it can't be doubted that when things click as they did in Wigan in midweek, it's a sight to behold.
In some cases, Dale have simply struggled to break down a well-organised defensive unit, but they need to find ways to unlock those teams when they don't score an early goal as has been the case in the wins at Plymouth and Wigan of late.
Midfield is the real problem area for the team selection in this game though. Matt Lund is set to miss out through suspension whilst Jimmy Ryan was withdrawn in the first-half on Tuesday through injury. Ollie Rathbone also looks set to be missing for a sustained period.
Even with a raft of key players missing, confidence will surely be high after that performance in midweek - can Dale capitalise by winning a second home fixture of the campaign here?
It's fair to say that although they are in no way local, there has been a competitive rivalry between Dale and Gillingham in recent years with the clubs usually playing in the same division and having even met in the League Two play-off semi-finals back in 2009.
The Gills ran out winners in that tie after a victory at Priestfield and indeed have been the stronger of the two sides in matches played out in Kent - but at Spotland, it's been a different story with Dale going eight unbeaten against the Gills in a run stretching back as far as the first-leg of that play-off tie.
Games between the two teams have often been quite spicy affairs too, including the 2-2 draw played out last term in which Jordan Roberts' brace rescued the visitors a point by cancelling out goals from Ian Henderson and Stephen Dooley from the hosts.
Perhaps adding to that spiciness is the identity of the Gills' head coach. Steve Evans remains a divisive character in the lower leagues for his time with Rotherham United and Boston United among other and he continues to split even the Gillingham supporters to this day.
This season, things are going pretty much as expected. Although they perhaps don't have the quality to compete among the teams at the top end of the division, there is a feeling that this squad is stronger than a large majority in League One - which goes some way to explaining their current position of 13th in the table.
After being dumped out of the EFL Trophy by Cambridge United just over a week ago, the Gills have since lost back-to-back League One fixtures against Doncaster Rovers and Accrington Stanley, the latter coming on home turf during midweek.
By Evans' standards, this is a fairly young squad, with teenagers such as Trae Coyle and Scott Robertson featuring regularly this season. The majority of the experience is provided by a frontline of 31 year old John Akinde and 29 year old Vadaine Oliver.
Oliver has four goals to his name so far and will possibly the man for the Dale defence to look out for this weekend in the absence of Jordan Graham, who had scored five times in his first 13 appearances of the season before picking up an injury last month.
Dale have the better record against Gillingham at Spotland and although they won't be able to welcome supporters back just yet, they will at least hope to bring some Christmas cheer to those fans by earning an important home win in this game.
13 Jan 2018 - Gillingham 2-1 Rochdale - League One
Photo: Action Images
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