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Northampton Town 0 v 0 Rochdale
SkyBet League One
Tuesday, 23rd February 2021 Kick-off 19:45
Match Preview: Northampton vs Rochdale
Monday, 22nd Feb 2021 21:56 by AtThePeake

It's six-pointer time for Dale on Tuesday night as they make the trip to Sixfields to take on fellow strugglers Northampton Town.

Date: Tuesday 23rd February
Kick-off: 7:00pm
Venue: Sixfields
With the bottom seven seemingly now cut adrift towards the bottom of the League One table, games against fellow relegation candidates take on an extra importance in the final few months of the League One season.

Although Rochdale currently sit atop the 'League of Seven' (TM Fitzochris), the gap between the teams is terrifyingly close. Just five points separate bottom of the table Burton Albion from Dale and when you consider that they are the team we face on Saturday - and that they possess two games in hand on us - you realise just how tight the relegation battle that lies ahead is likely to be.

On one hand, Dale's poor form continued in some way over the weekend. The goalless draw with Plymouth Argyle means that Brian Barry-Murphy's men have now won only once in 19 home games in all competitions this season and they've picked up just one victory in their last 12 League One fixtures.

However, there were few complaints with the performance from the hosts in that game, particularly from a lively second-half showing in the game. A clean sheet will do wonders for one of the worst defences in the league too, with Paul McShane's invaluable experience returning to the heart of the backline a huge boost for BBM and his team.

Whilst there is concern about off-field occurrences at Spotland with understandable concern being expressed following the recent resignation of chairman Andrew Kilpatrick, matters on-field will be more pressing to supporters on Tuesday night and Saturday afternoon in what are two huge fixtures in the fight to avoid the drop down to League Two this term.

Although Dale did look more solid defensively in both the draw with Plymouth and last Tuesday's 1-0 defeat at Blackpool, it did seem that the side sacrificed some of the attacking verve that saw them labelled as English football's 'entertainers' in order to sure up the defence.

It won't help matters on that front that two strikers are still set to miss out for a few more weeks yet in Jake Beesley and Blackburn Rovers loanee Jack Vale.

What's more, Matt Lund now looks set for a spell on the sidelines in what has been his career's most prolific campaign by far after he limped off just moments after being introduced from the bench on Saturday at Spotland. He will have fond memories of Sixfields too, having scored a hat-trick at the ground in Dale's 3-2 win there in 2016.

Jimmy Ryan is also set to be missing, so room for manoeuvre in terms of the starting line-up is rather limited for Barry-Murphy. However, most fans will be hoping that Gabriel Osho is not chosen to start at right-back again having seemingly struggled in that position in the last two games and eventually being withdrawn in favour of Ryan McLaughlin on both occasions.

Although the performance and indeed the point against an in-form Plymouth side are worthy of praise, it feels like this team is in desperate need of three on Tuesday night. Not only for their own confidence and position in the table, but also to put a dent in the survival hopes of a direct rival.
Northampton saved arguably their best two performances of last season for the play-offs when the table was decided on PPG and the Cobblers were awarded a spot in the top six despite some inconsistent form over the course of the campaign.

Having gone down 0-2 at home in the first-leg of their semi-final against Cheltenham Town, you would forgive the Sixfields faithful of being a little pessimistic of their chances of securing promotion, but instead their team produced a stunning comeback at Whaddon Road to win 2-3 on aggregate before thumping Exeter City 0-4 in the Wembley final to secure a road back to League One.

After delivering promotion, Keith Curle set about adding some experience to his squad in the summer by acquiring the services of players like Alan Sheehan and Ricky Holmes, but the plan has back-fired somewhat and as a result, Northampton have spent most of the season struggling towards the foot of the table.

Following a 0-1 home defeat to yet another struggling side in the shape of Wigan Athletic on February 9th, the Cobblers relieved Curle of his duties but caretaker Jon Brady has struggled to get a tune out of the side since taking over on a temporary basis after that defeat.

In his three games in charge thus far, the Australian has overseen defeats to Burton Albion and neighbours Milton Keynes as well as a goalless draw with Ipswich Town. Those results leave the side in 22nd place in the league, with 25 points accrued in 29 matches played.

The defeat at Milton Keynes did at least end one unwanted run for Northampton. Prior to the short trip to Buckinghamshire, they had gone six League One fixtures without even finding the net. After scoring three and leading twice, the manner of that defeat will perhaps have been more painful than most.

And so Brady will have to motivate his charges again on Tuesday night but he does have some quality to choose from in this squad. Cian Bolger has been among the better defenders at this level in the past while long-serving attacker Sam Hoskins will look to inject some creativity at the other end of the pitch.

There are deficiencies, hence why they are struggling towards the lower reaches of the table, and after recent results you'd be forgiven for expecting confidence to be low. A win for either side in this game could have huge implications, not only on the table but for momentum heading into the next vital run of fixtures in the battle to remain a third tier side.

Northampton Town:
Milton Keynes (a) - LOSS
Ipswich Town (a) - DRAW
Burton Albion (h) - LOSS
Wigan Athletic (h) - LOSS
Accrington Stanley (a) - DRAW

Plymouth Argyle (h) - DRAW
Blackpool (a) - LOSS
Milton Keynes (h) - LOSS
Charlton Athletic (h) - LOSS
Bristol Rovers (a) - WIN

DRAW: 24

17 Dec 2016 - Northampton Town 2-3 Rochdale - League One
01 Apr 2017 - Rochdale 1-1 Northampton Town - League One
17 Oct 2017 - Rochdale 2-2 Northampton Town - League One
03 Feb 2018 - Northampton Town 0-1 Rochdale - League One
24 Nov 2020 - Rochdale 1-1 Northampton Town - League One

Photo: Action Images

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