|Rochdale 1 v 2 Forest Green Rovers|
SkyBet League Two
Tuesday, 17th August 2021 Kick-off 19:45
Match Preview: Dale vs Forest Green
Monday, 16th Aug 2021 20:57 by AtThePeake
Forest Green Rovers make their first ever trip to Spotland on Tuesday night where they will meet a Rochdale side looking for a first ever competitive victory under new manager Robbie Stockdale.
Date: Tuesday 17th August
Dale fans returned to Spotland for the first time since March 2020 on Saturday afternoon and although they weren't treated to the most entertaining afternoon of action, it was a great occasion for many to be back in regular seats, renewing acquaintances with fellow supporters and watching live football again.
On the first home game of the season, there are often little detail changes making the ground look slightly different. A change in netting perhaps, or a new line of advertising hoardings. The kind of things that more often than not simply pass us by, but perhaps subconsciously mark this out as being a new start to a new campaign.
But it was all change on Saturday with a new ticketing system in place, a new scoreboard on show for the first time, a new catering menu to sample and a new manager deploying a raft of new players out on the pitch.
Only two of the eleven players that started Dale's last home league game played in front of supporters were in Saturday's starting XI vs Scunthorpe United and with the likes of Danny Cashman and George Broadbent making their first EFL starts, it's understandable that a lack of cohesion may have held Dale back at times.
That's not to say the team didn't have their moments and in reality, we should have led at half-time. Jake Beesley's diving header swerved agonisingly wide while Coventry loanee Cashman perhaps should've done better with a first-time effort that was saved by Iron keeper Rory Watson.
However, the game fizzled out after those attempts and Dale struggled to create many more chances, despite the industrious efforts of Beesley and Alex Newby and another encouraging cameo from substitute Abraham Odoh.
The real positives of the performance came in defence though, particularly after boss Robbie Stockdale's obvious displeasure at the three goals shipped in last weekend's defeat at Harrogate.
Captain Eoghan O'Connell's return at the centre of a back three gave Dale far more solidity and his obvious ability, alongside his assuring presence for less experienced team-mates Max Taylor and Sam Graham, were surely the difference at the back.
With Connor Grant, Jim McNulty and Aidy White all isolating having tested positive for COVID-19, Stockdale may opt to make few changes from Saturday's team as Forest Green come to town on Tuesday, or he may look to rotate ahead of a trip to Northampton Town on Saturday afternoon.
Stephen Dooley will hope for a return to the XI, while Odoh surely deserves another start if fully fit and last term's Player of the Season Jimmy Keohane will also hope to force his way into the manager's plans having not yet featured in the first two games of the campaign.
In the midst of a season in which Dale were fighting for promotion and would eventually reach the play-offs, they fell to a 2-0 defeat at then non-league strugglers Forest Green in the 2nd round in a game that was the main feature on that night's TV highlights coverage of the day's games.
That victory for the Gloucestershire club came prior to investment from their now-owner Dale Vince, whose money and ideas have helped not only to take the club into the Football League, but to also become renowned across the globe for being one of football's most environmentally football clubs.
FGR have a vegan-only menu at the club's New Lawn stadium complimented by the world's first organic football pitch, which is maintained by 'MowBot', the first solar powered robotic lawn mower to be used in British football.
While it's fair to say that Vince's leadership splits opinion, the club have won awards for their commitment to sustainability and attracted fans and investors from all walks of life as a result - most noticeably Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin, who is a minority shareholder.
Since reaching the EFL in 2017 via the National League play-offs, FGR have finished 21st, 5th, 10th and 6th, largely under the stewardship of Mark Cooper, but they're now coached by former England U16s head coach Rob Edwards. He'll be looking to challenge for the play-off positions once again as an absolute minimum.
The Green Devils could hardly have got off to a better start either, picking up back-to-back victories in their first two League Two games of the season. A 2-1 victory over Sutton United on the opening day was followed up by a 1-3 win at Walsall on Saturday where they raced into a three goal lead before half-time.
And just to add even more sheen to that start, Edwards' men also dumped Championship side Bristol City out of the EFL Cup last week, winning a penalty shoot-out following a 2-2 draw with the Robins at the New Lawn.
Sadou Diallo and Ben Stevenson have been added to a squad that was already bursting with quality and after a fast start, confidence will be high among the Forest Green squad for this trip north. Expect a tough test for Dale on Tuesday night.
Forest Green Rovers:
29 November 2008 - Forest Green Rovers 2-0 Rochdale - FA Cup
Photo: Action Images
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