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Bristol Rovers 1 v 2 Rochdale
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 30th January 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Bristol Rovers vs Rochdale
Friday, 29th Jan 2021 20:35 by atthepeake

In what may be termed a relegation six-pointer, Rochdale head to the Memorial Stadium to face fellow League One strugglers Bristol Rovers this Saturday.

Date: Saturday 30th January 2021
Kick-off: 3:00pm
Venue: Memorial Stadium
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THE DALE:
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Had the last two Rochdale games ended on 90 minutes and without injury time, the team would be heading to Bristol with a healthier three point gap over the relegation zone, but heartbreak against Gillingham and Oxford leaves that gap at just one point ahead of this pivotal fixture at the Memorial Stadium.

Last weekend, John Akinde came off the bench to slam home a last minute equaliser for Gillingham after a Jimmy Keohane brace had given Dale the lead while on Tuesday night, a moment of madness from loanee keeper Gavin Bazunu gifted Oxford United a winner in yet another high-scoring game at the Crown Oil Arena.

Again, the conversation in the fanbase switched to the issues that have plagued the team all season - a lack of strength in depth, a lack of experience and problems with defending corners. The manner of the late goals prompted frustration, as one would expect, but the reality is that for all of the frustration there were certainly positives to take from the games.

In the match at Priestfield in particular, Dale had the better of the game and looked to play on the front foot, despite injuries leaving them very short in attack and Alex Newby operating as a central striker in a role that seemed slightly uncomfortable for him. There were particularly good displays from Ollie Rathbone and Stephen Dooley, who have come in for varying degrees of criticism so far this term.

The performance on Tuesday was less impressive, although the defeat was still a difficult one to take after some excellent attacking play in spells and some fine goals including a smart finish from Stephen Humphrys from a corner. Unfortunately, as we are now into the second half of the season, results are becoming more important by the week and Dale need to start picking up victories quickly.

Teams beneath us have struggled for form of late, thankfully, but with more teams towards the lower reaches of the table playing each other in the coming weeks, more points are going to be won by teams towards the bottom of the table. Dale have plenty of these games too, with Bristol Rovers among the teams they are fighting against in said lower reaches of the table.

BBM will be hopeful that the injury issues facing his squad will have eased somewhat by the time this game kicks off. Stephen Humphrys passed a late fitness test to play on Tuesday night, but Ryan McLaughlin had to self isolate and so missed out on the matchday squad, so it's unlikely he'll return in time for this game.

Jim McNulty returns from suspension to be available for selection but it seems that Eoghan O'Connell, Paul McShane, Jimmy Ryan and Jake Beesley will be among those missing out on the match day squad again.

Dale have enjoyed some vitally important victories at this ground in recent years, including a 0-1 win in April of 2019 in which an Ethan Hamilton goal all but secured Dale of their League One status for another season.
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THE OPPOSITION:
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As things stand, Bristol Rovers sit below Dale in the League One table, but both teams are on the same points, Dale two goals ahead in the goal difference rankings having played two games more at this stage.

It was enjoyable clash in the reverse fixture, with first-half goals from Sam Nicholson and Alex Newby cancelling each other out in a 1-1 draw. Neither side looked like a relegation candidate that day - but their current positions in the table suggest that at this stage, they very much are.

Manager Ben Garner would last just two more league fixtures after that draw at Spotland, with back-to-back home defeats against Peterborough United and Fleetwood Town bringing an end to the inexperienced manager's 10 month spell in charge. The club have since turned to a man well-known in the lower leagues in the shape of Paul Tisdale, but the former Exeter man has had mixed results at best so far.

In his 11 matches in charge in League One so far, the Gas have picked up only three victories and they come into this game in need of another, picking up just one point of the last available 12 - although they have faced some tough opponents in that run including Peterborough and the league's in-form team, Oxford.

On paper, this is an exciting squad. The likes of Zain Westbrooke and Brandon Hanlan have minutes under their belt at this level but are at an age where they have plenty of opportunity to continue their development. Tisdale seems like a match made in heaven, but he perhaps needs time to imprint his personality on the squad.

Having spent several years rebounding between the 3rd, 4th and 5th tiers, the Pirates appear to have now settled into a rhythm of mid-table finishes in League One, but with an ambitious board and fanbase at the Mem, they will hope that Tisdale can slowly start to piece together a more productive side.

This is the kind of game that makes me even more frustrated at not being able to attend games at the moment. Although we wouldn't be likely to get the lovely warm weather we've enjoyed at this ground in the past this weekend, Bristol is one of the best cities to visit as an away fan and it won't feel quite the same watching along on iFollow once again. It never does, really.

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FORM BOOK:
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Bristol Rovers:
Peterborough United (a) - DRAW
Oxford United (a) - LOSS
Crewe Alexandra (a) - LOSS
Charlton Athletic (h) - LOSS
AFC Wimbledon (h) - LOSS

Rochdale:
Oxford United (h) - LOSS
Gillingham (a) - DRAW
Doncaster Rovers (a) - LOSS
Wigan Athletic (h) - DRAW
Charlton Athletic (a) - DRAW

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HEAD TO HEAD:
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BRISTOL ROVERS - 7
DRAW - 18
ROCHDALE - 13

13 Feb 2018 - Bristol Rovers 3-2 Rochdale - League One
02 Oct 2018 - Rochdale 0-0 Bristol Rovers - League One
22 Apr 2019 - Bristol Rovers 0-1 Rochdale - League One
02 Nov 2019 - Rochdale 1-2 Bristol Rovers - League One
31 Oct 2020 - Rochdale 1-1 Bristol Rovers - League One

Photo: Action Images



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