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Match Preview: Rochdale vs Ipswich
Sunday, 4th Apr 2021 22:49 by AtThePeake

Can Rochdale finally end their long wait for a home victory as they welcome Ipswich Town to Spotland on Easter Monday?

Date: Monday 5th April
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Venue: Spotland
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THE DALE:
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This season's dreadful home record continues to hang over Rochdale like a dark cloud as hopes of escaping the relegation zone before the end of the season begin to diminish.

Having picked up four points from their final two games before the international break seemed to slow momentum, Dale returned to action with a 2-1 defeat at Fratton Park at the hands of Portsmouth on Good Friday.

Two first-half goals allowed Pompey to cruise to three points in that game, despite a late consolation from Jake Beesley who otherwise struggled in leading the attack without his partner in crime Stephen Humphrys.

Indeed, Dale's injury record during this campaign has made for tough reading and still it seems that the likes of Humphrys, as well as Matt Lund, Jimmy Ryan and potentially Ryan McLaughlin will continue to miss out for the visit of Ipswich on Easter Monday.

To make matters worse, Jack Vale finally returned to fitness in order to make his Wales U21 debut last week, only to pick up yet another injury before the game at Fratton Park leaving him unavailable for selection. How does this keep happening?

Unlucky though Dale have been with injuries, they have equally been their own worst enemy at times this season. A poor kick from Gavin Bazunu led to the opening goal for Pompey at the weekend and it was a sorry tale of individual mistakes leading to goals that Dale fans have become all to used to this season.

The defeat in Hampshire leaves Dale five points away from escaping the drop due to Northampton's win over Shrewsbury, but thankfully there were defeats for Bristol Rovers, Swindon and AFC Wimbledon, while Wigan didn't play having lost at Gillingham on Wednesday evening.

There is still time for Dale to turn this situation around, but performances like the one at Lincoln and the second-half showing against Peterborough will be needed in pretty much every fixture remaining from this point on and given the lack of consistency over the course of the season in following up impressive results, that doesn't seem very likely at this stage.

And still, that home record lingers. Just to spell it out again, Dale haven't won at home since October 3rd in any competition. That's a run stretching back over no fewer than 18 matches and has included defeats against the likes of League Two Salford City, National League Stockport County and fellow relegation candidates such as AFC Wimbledon.

How any team can expect to avoid relegation with a home record like that remains to be seen and if Dale are to stand any chance of remaining in the third tier next term, then they simply must improve at home and not giving away last minute penalties (Peterborough) and not fluffing last minute clearances (Oxford) when in a winning position would be a start.

Frankly, we saw after the win at Lincoln what a win can do for the fanbase. The team seem to be behind Brian Barry-Murphy, but are the supporters? A win here would certainly give them hope that their team can still avoid the drop. But will we get it? I'm not holding my breath.
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THE OPPOSITION:
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Ipswich are one of several former Premier League clubs that will hope their status in League One is that of a short stay, but a third season in the third tier does seem to be looming.

After several years of struggling towards the lower reaches of the Championship, the Tractor Boys fell through the trap door at the end of the 2018/2019 season and were unable to secure a play-off place on PPG in their first season back at this level last time around.

Given the weight of expectation at Portman Road and given that the supporters had never really taken to manager Paul Lambert, perhaps in part due to his association with rivals Norwich City where he had enjoyed a successful stint earlier in his career, it was perhaps a surprise that owner Marcus Evans continued to keep the faith in the Scotsman at the start of this campaign.

However, with another season seemingly trailing off towards disappointment, supporters' calls for Lambert's head were finally heeded two months ago and he was hastily replaced by Paul Cook, a man with more than enough experience of winning promotions from the bottom two divisions of the EFL.

Although Cook hasn't yet been able to produce the kind of form that would mount a late play-off surge, Ipswich fans are likely to be more positive about the future and will hope that at the very least, the former Wigan and Portsmouth boss can start to imprint his plan for a promotion surge next time around.

Since Cook's arrival on March 2nd, the Suffolk side have won 4, lost 3 and drawn 2 of their fixtures - a solid if unspectacular record and as a result sit in 9th place - although just two points separate them from 6th placed Blackpool in what is a very tight race for a play-off position.

In the reverse fixture at the start of the season, Ipswich had looked like a potential promotion candidate with their defensive solidity and strength in midfield. Looking at their squad, there is plenty of potential for Cook to work with if he is to orchestrate a play-off push or a title charge next season.

Aristote Nsiala is a well-respected defender at this level and in midfield the likes of Gwion Edwards, Teddy Bishop and youngster Andre Dozzell wouldget into most starting elevens in the division.

The Tractor Boys have at times struggled for goals but James Norwood is always likely to be a threat and Cook will hope that Tottenham loanee Troy Parrott can start to live up to his potential in the final weeks of the season despite scoring just once in 13 outings thus far.

Former Dale youngster Luke Matheson is currently on loan at Portman Road but has featured just twice. It would be nice to see him return to Spotland although even if we were at the ground to celebrate his homecoming, it seems unlikely that he will feature here.
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FORM BOOK:
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Rochdale:
Portsmouth (a) - LOSS
Peterborough United (h) - DRAW
Lincoln City (a) - WIN
Sunderland (a) - LOSS
Hull City (a) - LOSS

Ipswich Town
Bristol Rovers (h) - WIN
Wigan Athletic (a) - DRAW
Portsmouth (a) - LOSS
Fleetwood Town (a) - LOSS
Plymouth Argyle (h) - WIN

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HEAD TO HEAD:
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ROCHDALE: 0
DRAW: 0
IPSWICH: 2

05 Nov 2019 - Rochdale 0-1 Ipswich Town - League One
26 Sep 2020 - Ipswich Town 2-0 Rochdale - League One

Photo: Action Images



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