|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
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.
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to start at right-back again having seemingly struggled in that position in the last two games and eventually being withdrawn in favour of Ryan McLaughlin on both occasions.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.
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.
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: 20
17 Dec 2016 - Northampton Town 2-3 Rochdale - League One
Photo: Action Images
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Letters from Wiltshire #48 by wessex_exile
“And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain…regrets, we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”. Not quite right Paul Anka, probably more than a few, but otherwise a fair assessment of where the U’s are today. It’ll be interesting to see how we perform with the relegation monkey finally off their back – I’m not expecting miracles, particularly with Tranmere needing at least a point to guarantee making the play-offs, but they’ll certainly be more nervous than we will be, so can we make that count? This will be my last blog of the season, and not yet sure what I may or may not do for next season, but suggestions are always welcome.
Letters from Wiltshire #47 by wessex_exile
Here we are, at the penultimate game of the season, and our last game in front of the cardboard U’s faithful at the JobServe. It has been a long, difficult, and definitely strange season, which frankly I’ll be glad to see the back of. That’ll we’ll be here again in August is definitely going to be something to celebrate, but I suspect we’re facing a summer of significant rebuilding both on the pitch, and possibly off it too. I won’t be the only one, but the biggest oddity for me has been being able to watch every single game – not always easy viewing, but something I’ve never done before, and probably never will again. But it doesn’t really make up for not being there in person, the long train journey away-days, meeting fellow U’s and other supporters, and of course sharing a beer or three. Fingers-crossed we can return to the terraces in 2021/22.
Letters from Wiltshire #46 by wessex_exile
That was quite a week for us all then. In the space of four short but remarkably tense days we have gone from having to take shoes and socks off to check how many more points we need to guarantee survival, or whether we would even achieve it, to breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we’re almost there. But close of play this afternoon, whether by our own actions or the failure of others, I am sure survival will be confirmed. Of course, Tuesday night not only all but guaranteed it, it also virtually condemned local rivals Southend United to non-league football for the foreseeable. Looking at the host of fully professional former football league sides currently battling it out for the two promotion slots out of the National league (including Hartlepool, Torquay, Stockport, Wrexham, Chesterfield and Notts County), it is not going to be a walk in the park for Southend to return any day soon.
Letters from Wiltshire #45 by wessex_exile
Tonight, Colchester United face Southend United in what may not necessarily be the most important game of our respective histories (though it’s certainly very close), but is almost certainly the most important Essex derby ever. However this season pans out, by the end of it there’ll either be only one team in Essex, or worst case scenario, none at all. If the U’s win, then Southend will be 9pts behind with just three games to go, and a minimum of a -12 goal difference to overturn if they want to overtake us. Certainly mathematically possible, but that would rely on a remarkable turnaround in their form, form that they’ve shown precious little sign of achieving so far this season. The stalking horse is Grimsby, with their game in hand, who have rather belatedly shown an improvement in form, so their match against automatic promotion chasing Morecambe tonight is equally important, particularly if we want to avoid the unthinkable, with both Essex clubs dropping out of the league.
Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.
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