|Portsmouth 2 v 1 Rochdale|
SkyBet League One
Friday, 2nd April 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Portsmouth vs Rochdale
Thursday, 1st Apr 2021 16:19 by AtThePeake
Rochdale return from the international break with a tough trip to Fratton Park to face promotion-chasing Portsmouth on Good Friday.
Date: Friday 2nd April
Results in that time in terms of those teams towards the bottom of the table have been something of a mixed bag. Swindon Town have picked up another three points, as have Wimbledon, but Wigan managed to earn just one point from a possible six while Bristol Rovers and Northampton suffered defeats during Dale's break.
Brian Barry-Murphy's men as a result remain bottom of the table with just four points separating them from Northampton Town who now occupy that coveted spot just above the relegation zone, although the final seconds of our last fixture show just how quickly the picture can change in such a tightly contested table.
Having been 0-2 down at half-time at home to Peterborough United, a stunning second-half fight-back saw Dale almost rescue an incredible three points when Jimmy Keohane put them 3-2 ahead in injury-time, a result which would've seen Dale move out of the relegation zone.
However, with just seconds remaining before that long-running winless home win would've come to a much-welcomed end, Aaron Morley gave away a penalty which was subsequently dispatched by the prolific Jonson Clarke-Harris to rescue a point for the Posh.
Within seconds, Dale had gone from rising out of the relegation zone to being sent back down to the bottom of the table in a morale-crushing manner.
Morale surely will have been higher however given Dale's performance in both that game and the unexpected but magnificent victory over Lincoln City the previous week. The performances in both of those games showed that the squad still have some fight left in them as they look to avoid dropping into League Two at the end of this campaign.
With plenty of games still to play, those hopes remain far from extinguished, but Brian Barry-Murphy will surely have to stick with the wing-back set-up that has led to the two vastly improved performances in those two games rather than reverting to the 4-4-2 that was steadfastly stuck to in spite of a poor run of results prior to the switch.
Many fans will have been hoping the international break would allow more time for players to return to full fitness, but judging by an update from the treatment room on the official site recently, the likes of Stephen Humphrys, Matt Lund, Jimmy Ryan and Abraham Oooh are making progress while remaining unavailable for selection, although the news regarding Ryan McLaughlin did perhaps sound more encouraging with no time frame set on any of the players' returns.
Jack Vale could feature for only the 3rd time in his loan spell however as his recent call-up to the Wales U21 squad suggests he has recovered from the injury he picked up in the early stages of his time at Dale.
This is another tough fixture for BBM and his charges, but a performance like those against Lincoln and Peterborough will ensure that supporters' renewed hopes of surviving the drop will remain with more winnable games against the likes of Swindon, Accrington and Wimbledon still to come.
Having begun what supporters had hoped to be an ascent back up the pyramid by winning the League Two title in 2016/2017, Pompey missed out on the League One play-offs by two places the following season, lost in the semi-finals to Sunderland the season after and then lost again in the semi-finals last season, this time to Oxford United in a penalty shoot-out.
With fans growing frustrated by boss Kenny Jackett's inability to get that promotion over the line and a style of play they had grown tired of, Pompey have recently moved to replace the former Wolverhampton Wanderers manager with a man well known in the lower leagues.
Danny Cowley has been handed the reins at Fratton Park, with Jackett finally removed from his position last month following a fifth consecutive defeat in all competitions, a run that unsurprisingly had seen the Hampshire outfit's play-off hopes stutter and stumble somewhat.
Formerly of Lincoln City and Huddersfield Town, Cowley's arrival has had an immediate impact, with Pompey winning their first two matches under the 42 year old, at home to Ipswich Town and away to Shrewsbury Town.
There is enough time for Cowley to aim to chase down a top two spot, but the play-offs will be the absolute minimum expectation for a highly-rated coach and he has inherited a squad packed with quality that Jackett simply wasn't able to get playing to a level it should clearly be capable of.
In John Marquis, Pompey possess one of the most dangerous strikers in the division is utilised correctly, but also the likes of Ryan Williams, Ronan Curtis and Marcus Harness have bags of creativity and quality for this level.
Defensively, they are marshalled by the long-serving Jack Whatmough and the experienced Lee Brown, but the man that Dale fans will be looking forward to seeing again is Andy Cannon, who has established himself as a key player this season with 35 appearances for the club he left Rochdale for in January 2019.
Unsurprisingly, Dale's record against the former Premier League giants and FA Cup winners is not a great one. In the 14 previous meetings between the two clubs, Pompey have lost just once, winning a total of 10.
20 Sep 2020 - Rochdale 0-0 Portsmouth - League One
Photo: Action Images
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