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Match Preview: Rochdale vs Blackpool
Tuesday, 20th Apr 2021 11:49 by atthepeake

As the future of Rochdale AFC and football as a whole are called into question, it's becoming easy to forget that the side are currently embroiled in a relegation battle with huge fixtures coming thick and fast.

Date: Tuesday 20th April
Kick-off: 7.00pm
Venue: Spotland
What can you say that hasn't been said already about this European Super League mess?

You may not feel that it will affect Rochdale AFC, but as clubs up and down the country continue to struggle financially through the pandemic, with kickbacks from Premier League money relied on to help keep them afloat, rest assured that shockwaves will be felt throughout football should this grab for money and power be executed by those who already possess the largest bank accounts within football administration.

And as we are told by Real Madrid owner Florentino Perez that this idea is to 'save football' due to the financial issues being faced by a club such as his own which manages to spend over £200m a year on the salaries of their playing squad alone, things aren't much better closer to home.

With the Dale Trust having called for an EGM and the club seemingly seeking outside investment, pressure is growing on the club's unpopular Chief Executive David Bottomley, with threats of boycotts and further protests against his running of the club continuing amongst supporters.

Who knows what the future holds for Rochdale AFC and for the game that we all love, but right now it's looking grim. And what's more, despite back-to-back wins for the team, it's looking pretty grim down at the bottom of the League One table too.

Having finally gotten the home win monkey off their back with a 2-1 victory over fellow strugglers Swindon Town last week, Dale followed up with another three points on Saturday against John Coleman's Accrington Stanley outfit.

Although the Robins were pretty poor opponents and Stanley looked like a team with little to play for in large portions of Saturday's games, those two wins have certainly given Dale fans a little something to smile about in what has been a very difficult few weeks in a very difficult season.

Unfortunately however, those smiles on Saturday won't have lasted too long as AFC Wimbledon later racked up a thumping win over Swindon, while Wigan had managed an earlier 2-0 win over Crewe Alexandra, leaving Dale still five points away from escaping the relegation zone with only five games of the season remaining.

There is still hope, however. In those five games, Dale do still have to travel to Plough Lane for a real six-pointer against AFC Wimbledon, while Wigan Athletic have only four games remaining leaving Brian Barry-Murphy's men with a game in hand - which happens to be that trip to London to take on the Dons next week.

The manager issued a rare injury update in midweek and confirmed that Haydon Roberts is likely to miss the remainder of the season, so we aren't likely to see him feature in a Dale shirt again with his loan deal set to expire at the end of the season.

Stephen Humphrys still isn't fit enough to feature and nor is former Blackpool man Jimmy Ryan, although Matt Lund - the club's top scorer so far this season - did return from injury to feature in the final few minutes of the win over Accrington on Saturday.

Jake Beesley has been turning in some terrific performances of late and tucked away his fifth goal of the season in the win over Accrington, but the hope will be that Jimmy Keohane can continue his hot streak in front of goal after two delightful, curled finishes in the last two games.

Every game at this stage takes on a huge importance in the shape of the bottom of the table and for 90 minutes at least, supporters will be hoping the players can give us another excuse to forget what's going on in the wider world of football and in the boardroom of our beloved club by turning in another strong performance and keeping the survival hopes alive.

Take out the first month of the season, in which they managed to win just one of their opening seven games, and Blackpool have been one of the best teams in the third tier of English football this season.

As questions were asked about Neil Critchley's credentials as a first-team manager however, the former Liverpool youth boss managed to turn things around and slowly but surely has built his team into a real promotion contender over the course of his first season at Bloomfield Road.

Now, as we enter the final stages, the Seasiders find themselves in fifth place and they could draw level with third placed Sunderland should they win their game in hand on the Black Cats - but with the likes of Portsmouth and Oxford snapping at their heels, nor is their play-off spot yet confirmed.

It seems unlikely though, at this stage, that the Tangerines will let their foot off the gas. They come into this game on the back of a 16 game unbeaten run in League One, a run that has included victories over the likes of Oxford, Portsmouth, Peterborough United and last time out, Sunderland.

And what's more, it's a run that all started with a 1-0 victory over Rochdale back in February, the game prior to that being their last league defeat at the hands of Ipswich Town.

In that game, Blackpool looked controlled and assured but didn't really seem to get out of first-gear in managing to bat away Dale's advanced and ensure the three points and boss Neil Critchley has earned praise from his team's fans this season in learning to be more pragmatic as the season has gone on.

Earlier in the campaign, the Tangerines were often described as naive, but as they've managed to make key additions to their squad and as Critchley has developed his style over the course of the season, results and performances have improved dramatically to put them on course for a potential promotion back to the Championship.

Left-back Demetri Mitchell was a reported target for Dale in January but has since featured more often and started last time out against Sunderland although he is largely utilised in midfield with the likes of James Husband and Luke Garbutt available in the defence.

Grant Ward and Ethan Robson compliment each other well in midfield while Sulley Kaikai provides the creativity alongside another former Dale target in winger CJ Hamilton, but the real danger man in attack is Jerry Yates, who has 18 goals in 39 games to his name in League One so far this season.

Accrington Stanley (h) - WIN
Swindon Town (h) - WIN
Fleetwood Town (a) - LOSS
Ipswich Town (h) - DRAW
Portsmouth (a) - LOSS

Sunderland (h) - WIN
Accrington Stanley (h) - DRAW
Lincoln City (a) - DRAW
Gillingham (a) - WIN
Swindon Town (a) - WIN

01 Jan 2018 - Rochdale 1-2 Blackpool - League One
06 Oct 2018 - Blackpool 2-2 Rochdale - League One
26 Dec 2018 - Rochdale 2-1 Blackpool - League One
24 Aug 2019 - Rochdale 0-0 Blackpool - League One
16 Feb 2021 - Blackpool 1-0 Rochdale - League One

Photo: Action Images

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