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Match Preview: Rochdale vs Crewe
Friday, 8th Jan 2021 14:46 by AtThePeake

Dale will return to action with a home fixture against Crewe on Saturday afternoon providing the Spotland pitch holds up in freezing conditions.

Date: Saturday 9th January 2021
Kick-off: 3:00pm
Venue: Spotland
Having had their Boxing Day trip to Blackpool cancelled following positive COVID tests within the camp, Dale have since missed out on fixtures against Crewe and MK Dons, leaving fans starved of football since a 1-4 home defeat to Gillingham on December 19th.

This Saturday the club were scheduled to face Doncaster Rovers, who have made it through to the FA Cup Third Round where they will play Blackburn Rovers. As such, the club have moved quickly to rearrange the postponed Crewe fixture, with the Railwaymen also having been knocked out of the cup before this round.

So now, providing the pitch covers are completely effective in what are sub-zero conditions in Greater Manchester, the players will return to action in League One on Saturday afternoon.

Since that defeat to Gillingham, the complexion of the league has changed slightly with Dale dropping into the relegation zone. The main noises from the club during this break have been advocating a circuit-breaker to prevent more postponements within football, with club doctor Wes Tensel amongst those pushing this idea.

Although more games than ever are being called off in the Football League due to COVID complications, most of the teams in the lower reaches of the third tier were able to play games and in many cases, pick up points over the Xmas and New Year period.

Now, Dale find themselves in 21st place in the table with their total of 19 points. That's enough to keep them up on PPG if the season were to end right now however, as they've played just 18 games, leaving games in hand on the likes of Northampton, Wimbledon and Shrewsbury.

Perhaps a break was needed for this small Dale squad, particularly with the injuries that had been piling up over December, although it did seem that a raft of players were fit-again ahead of the scheduled trip to Blackpool on Boxing Day.

Matt Lund was set to return following his suspension and Jake Beesley was also being considered for selection again having sat out several games due to the concussion protocols. Ryan McLaughlin and Ollie Rathbone were said to be 'making progress' although no timeline had been given on their respective returns ahead of Christmas.

One man who Dale fans will be hoping to see a return for is goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu. The Irishman has missed a section of the campaign through a broken finger sustained on international duty with his country's U21 squad and it's fair to say that back-up stopper Jay Lynch has shown his limitations during his run of first-team games in the loanees absence.

A player that we know won't feature for certain in this game is Tolaji Bola. The loaned left-back has returned to parent club Arsenal after making 11 league appearances at Spotland and to put it bluntly, he won't be missed too much.

It seems that Brian Barry-Murphy will have options when it comes to his line-up for this game and he'll be desperate, despite the lengthy break since the game, to see a reaction following such a dismal display against Gillingham in his side's last game.

The main criticism of the manager's spell in charge so far has been the club's sub-par home form, so three points to kick off a new calendar year here would go a long way not only in the league table, but also in supporter's perceptions of the season and the project overall.

Crewe Alexandra are enjoying life back in League One having won promotion from League Two last season thanks to the PPG model, although in truth they were never likely to lose their top three spot in the final weeks of the campaign.

In their last 12 matches before the season was locked down, the Railwaymen had lost just once and as a result had risen to second place in the table and indeed, they may feel unlucky to have lost out on the title given that they had finished on the same points as Swindon despite having played one game more.

Manager David Artell has been with the club since 2014 in some capacity having previously been a player at Gresty Road and since taking the first-team job in January 2017 he has made steady progress year-on-year. Nobody will have seen the promotion push coming and indeed not many expected Crewe to fare as well as they have in League One so far this term.

With 20 games on the board, the Alex find themselves in 9th place and just two points away from the play-off positions although it has to be said that they have played more games at this point than every team above them other than leaders Lincoln.

Like Dale, Crewe have enjoyed something of a break since their last fixture, a 1-1 draw with Fleetwood, but form before that was excellent with the team enjoying three straight victories over bottom-half sides Northampton, Plymouth and Wimbledon.

While the hosts will be hoping the break can help them reset their league form a little, the visitors to Spotland will be hoping their own break hasn't seen them lose momentum from this fine run of festive form.

There are some instantly recognisable names in this Crewe squad for Dale fans, not least summer signing Donervon Daniels who enjoyed a loan spell at Spotland earlier in his career as well as Ollie Lancashire, who was part of the 2013/2014 promotion-winning squad at Spotland.

Luke Murphy's return to the club this summer was a shrewd bit of business, as was the signing of former Gillingham man Mickael Mandron - the Frenchman has scored nine goals in all competitions so far this term.

While Dale fans are acutely aware that the remainder of the season is likely to produce a battle to remain in League One, Crewe supporters might have their sights set a little higher if their team can continue their December form into the new campaign.

Gillingham (h) - LOSS
Wigan Athletic (a) - WIN
Peterborough United (a) - LOSS
Lincoln City (h) - LOSS
Plymouth Argyle (a) - WIN

Crewe Alexandra
Fleetwood Town (h) - DRAW
AFC Wimbledon (a) - WIN
Plymouth Argyle (h) - WIN
Northampton Town (h) - WIN
Hull City (a) - DRAW (lost on pens)
DRAW - 24
CREWE - 51

19 Aug 2014 - Crewe Alexandra 2-5 Rochdale - League One
02 Sep 2014 - Crewe Alexandra 0-3 Rochdale - Johnstones Paint Trophy
03 Mar 2015 - Rochdale 4-0 Crewe Alexandra - League One
06 Feb 2016 - Crewe Alexandra 2-0 Rochdale - League One
16 Feb 2016 - Rochdale 2-2 Crewe Alexandra - League One

Photo: Action Images

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