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Match Preview: Rochdale vs Accrington Stanley
Friday, 16th Apr 2021 18:00 by AtThePeake

While conversations regarding the club's off-field future continue, on the field Dale are looking to keep their hopes of League One survival alive with a win over Accrington Stanley on Saturday.

Date: Saturday 17th April
Kick-off: 12.30pm
Venue: Spotland
Given that most of the conversation on this site's messageboard and social media in recent weeks has centred largely around off-field topics at Spotland, I was hoping to stick to football in writing the preview for this Saturday's fixture against Accrington Stanley.

However, it's proving difficult. With news breaking on Friday's RochdaleAFC.com podcast that Chris Dunphy's potential return to the club seems unlikely given the lack of support he has from the major shareholders, fans remain worried at the direction of the club despite pressure from the Dale Trust to enforce an EGM in the coming weeks.

The Trust have managed to secure the support of over 50 unique shareholders, equating to approximately 25% of the total shareholding in order to push through an EGM - although with Dunphy's return looking highly unlikely, it seems the most likely change is to come from an outside investor, of which it seems there are some options for the club as things stand.

Still, the pressure remains high on the club for something to change as supporters grow increasingly frustrated at their lack of communication on some parts (in responding to recent questions sent in by the trust, for example) among a myriad of other issues that fans have with the way the club has been run recently.

I've said before that it's remarkable for such important games to feel almost secondary to off-field events, but it's credit to the club's supporters that they continue to scrutinise and pressurise the board in these times, even when they aren't able to voice their concerns at matches.

Amid this, the players finally put a smile on supporters' faces on Tuesday night by securing a first home win at Spotland since October as they ground out a 2-1 victory over Swindon Town despite a late scare of a comeback from the Robins.

A wonderful first-half strike from Jimmy Keohane and Conor Grant's first goal for the club set Dale on their way to the victory, but in reality the result doesn't really change the picture at the bottom of the table all that much due to the wins picked up by both Wigan Athletic and AFC Wimbledon on the same night.

As a result of those outcomes, Dale remain bottom of the table with 36 points, five points away from 20th placed Wigan Athletic with a game in hand. There is still plenty to play for and with a match against Wimbledon coming up too, the players will surely feel they can still pull off another great escape this season even if time is running out.

If that is to happen, we will need more of the creativity and intensity that led to Tuesday night's win rather than the insipidness of last weekend's defeat at Fleetwood Town. That result and performance was unacceptable, but the squad appeared to respond in the best possible fashion a few days later.

Matt Done is likely to miss out due to concussion protocols after he sustained a head injury in the defeat at Highbury Stadium and it seems that the likes of Stephen Humphrys and Jimmy Ryan will also continue to miss out for this game.

There was however, a huge positive on the injury front as Matt Lund returned to the squad on Tuesday. In the end, the experienced midfielder didn't feature at all, but his mere presence in the squad gave Dale fans hope that he can return to action, perhaps this Saturday against Accrington.

Our hopes of survival haven't been fully extinguished just yet, but all supporters know that Dale will need to show the same desire that led to that victory against Swindon and perhaps more defensive solidity as the win did come against a Robins outfit that looked utterly devoid of confidence and ability throughout.

Another step-up is required on Saturday - but history is on our side when Accrington Stanley come to town.
This is the section where I am supposed to insert a milk joke isn't it?

When Accrington first returned to the Football League in 2006, the "who are they" jokes were prevalent bordering on incessant and constant jibes were made about the size of their ground and crowd sizes as most lower league fans expected their visit to the EFL to be a brief one.

15 years on and Stanley are now the envy of many lower league club. Despite their home of the Wham Stadium still being among the smallest in the EFL, they have a vocal and respected owner in Andy Holt and a long-serving manager in John Coleman and seem to be offering a blueprint on how clubs can compete in the lower leagues without the finances often presumed to be required.

Coleman, who of course spent an unhappy year at Rochdale during which he was unable to save the club from relegation out of League One, has spent several years in Accrington over his two spells now and is seen as the ultimate club legend among the Stanley 'ultras', who bring a colourful atmosphere to most of the games they attend, even if it's not to the taste of all fans at this level.

Having now established themselves as a League One club, Stanley even seemed to have their heart set on a push for the Championship at one stage as they were flying high in the table still by February with the play-offs looking like a very realistic target.

Form however has since tailed off for the Reds and they've slipped to 11th place as a result, with the seven point swing required for them to catch 6th placed Portsmouth looking highly unlikely at this stage.

Stanley's last few results make straneg reading. A 7-0 defeat at Peterborough at the end of last month perhaps signalled that some players felt the season was over, but they rallied well to earn a draw with in-form Burton Albion before a shock away win over Oxford United on Easter Monday.

However, just as Accy could've done us a favour, they crashed to a thumping 1-5 home defeat to relegation-threatened AFC Wimbledon last weekend and Dale will be hoping for a similarly sorry performance to take advantage of on Saturday, although they have since played out a goalless draw with Blackpool too.

There aren't many well-known names in this Accrington outfit as Coleman continues to mix experience and trusted pros with unproven non-league signings and youngsters. Among the key performers this season have been the likes of Sean McConville and Mark Hughes, but the real stand-out man has been striker Dion Charles, who has racked up 17 league goals so far in this campaign.

Stanley's win in the reverse fixture back in October was a rare one over Dale. In the 17 meetings since Accy won promotion into the Football League, Dale have won 13 compared - to just three for their Lancastrian opponents.

Swindon Town (h) - WIN
Fleetwood Town (a) - LOSS
Ipswich Town (h) - DRAW
Portsmouth (a) - LOSS
Peterborough United (h) - DRAW

Accrington Stanley:
Blackpool (a) - DRAW
AFC Wimbledon (h) - LOSS
Oxford United (a) - WIN
Burton Albion (h) - DRAW
Peterborough United (a) - LOSS

24 Nov 2018 - Rochdale 1-0 Accrington Stanley - League One
09 Apr 2019 - Accrington Stanley 0-1 Rochdale - League One
12 Oct 2019 - Rochdale 2-1 Accrington Stanley - League One
01 Jan 2020 - Accrington Stanley 1-2 Rochdale - League One
10 Oct 2020 - Accrington Stanley 2-1 Rochdale - League One

Photo: Action Images

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