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Northampton Town 1 v 3 Rochdale
SkyBet League Two
Saturday, 21st August 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Northampton vs Dale
Friday, 20th Aug 2021 12:38 by AtThePeake

The games are starting to come thick and fast for Rochdale now, with a trip to Northampton Town on the agenda this Saturday.

Date: Saturday 21st August
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Venue: Sixfields
Rochdale continue to look for their first competitive victory under new boss Robbie Stockdale this Saturday after a stuttering start to the League Two campaign.

After a late goal condemned the side to an opening day defeat at Harrogate, supporters were hoping that back-to-back home games against Scunthorpe United and Forest Green would at least yield three points, but it wasn't to be.

The Iron were perhaps fortunate to escape with a point from a 0-0 draw last weekend as Dale dominated the first-half in particular and arguably should have scored through chances that fell to Danny Cashman and Jake Beesley, but neither could convert.

Dale started brightly again on Tuesday night against Forest Green, creating the better of the early chances but losing some momentum when Jake Beesley was forced off with a head injury, with Jamille Matt opening the scoring for the visitors before half-time.

Alex Newby forced home an equaliser just after the break, but parity didn't last too long as Jamie Stevens restored the Green Devils' lead a matter of seconds later and Dale were unable to find a second goal to take a point in the remaining 40 minutes.

At the moment, it's clear to see that the beginnings of a potentially strong side at this level. At times, the team move the ball well and despite the inexperience of players like Abraham Odoh and Max Taylor, their potential is obvious. Finding consistency and cohesion is likely to take time.

And patience, of course, is required from the supporters. Stockdale has not only had to find eight new players who will take time to gel, but he's also lost key midfielder Ollie Rathbone, while last season's star striker Stephen Humphrys also left the club on the eve of the new manager's arrival.

What's more, the former Sunderland coach is having to deal with quite a few unavailable players at the moment. Conor Grant, Aidy White, George Broadbent and Jim McNulty were all missing on Tuesday due to positive COVID-19 tests while Jimmy Keohane is still struggling for fitness it seems having still not played, despite being on the bench against both Scunthorpe and Forest Green.

With that head injury sustained against Forest Green looking like a nasty one, Jake Beesley is likely to be a doubt for this game which could mean a first start for Josh Andrews, who laboured to little effect on Tuesday night, although he is clearly still needing to catch-up on fitness having missed a vital part of the pre-season schedule, again due to COVID-19.

A 5-2-3 wing-backs formation was deployed by Stockdale in the two home fixtures, but we could see a return to 4-3-3 this weekend if Keohane is given a chance in midfield alongside Dooley and Morley, who were left isolated at times against a strong Forest Green midfield on Tuesday night.

Alternatively, Keohane could come in at left-back or left wing-back, while Cashman will hope for a start having come off the bench on Tuesday night. Stockdale's options are limited but he may feel a change is needed in some description having only picked up one point from an available six in those two home games.
I'll just start out this section by saying that my main hope for Saturday's match is that we don't see a repeat of the fixture these two teams played out in the second half of the 2020/2021 League One campaign.

In blustery conditions, chances were at an absolute premium in a dour 0-0 draw played at Sixfields back in February, in a game in which both teams looked destined for the relegation that they'd eventually suffer two months further down the line.

One slight positive to that draw was that it extended Dale's unbeaten run against Northampton Town to ten games, a rarity for any Dale side against any opposition over the years. That run has included five wins and five draws, the most memorable victory being a 2-3 win in December 2016 in which Matty Lund scored a hat-trick to the backdrop of festive celebrations at Sixfields.

I have to apologise to Northampton fans at this point, but I must admit I'm slightly disappointed in myself for even agreeing to go to this game. I've visited Sixfields twice before and it's one of my least favourite stadiums in the lower leagues.

Located a couple of miles outside of the town centre and opened in 1994, it has all the soullessness of most new builds in the lower leagues, made even worse in my opinion by the lack of terracing and, on previous visits, the building site that was the East Stand, although progress does seem to have been made on that part of the ground lately.

On the pitch, Northampton came down from League One with ourselves last season but decided to stick with Australian boss Jon Brady after he was promoted from the U18s last term to replace Keith Curle, originally on a temporary basis.

Although he couldn't keep the Cobblers in League One, Brady did enough to earn the job on a permanent basis and unsurprisingly set about putting his own stamp on the squad, making no fewer than 12 signings this summer including five players from the Scottish leagues (three of whom have joined from Kilmarnock).

Despite this huge turnover of players, Northampton appear to have settled much quicker than Dale and have enjoyed a blistering start to the season with back-to-back league wins over Port Vale and Colchester United coming either side of an impressive EFL Cup win over Championship side Coventry City.

After playing one of very few teams to have picked up two wins from two in League Two on Tuesday night, Dale now face a similar challenge and they'll have to improve on those two home performances if that unbeaten run over the Cobblers is to stretch to 11 games on Saturday afternoon.

7th August - League Two - Harrogate Town 3-2 Rochdale
14th August - League Two - Rochdale 0-0 Scunthorpe United
17th August - League Two - Rochdale 1-2 Forest Green Rovers

Northampton Town:
7th August - League Two - Northampton Town 1-0 Port Vale
10th August - EFL Cup - Coventry City 1-2 Northampton Town
14th August - League Two - Colchester United 0-1 Northampton Town
DRAW - 24

01 Apr 2017 - Rochdale 1-1 Northampton Town - League One
17 Oct 2017 - Rochdale 2-2 Northampton Town - League One
03 Feb 2018 - Northampton Town 0-1 Rochdale - League One
24 Nov 2020 - Rochdale 1-1 Northampton Town - League One
23 Feb 2021 - Northampton Town 0-0 Rochdale - League One

Photo: Action Images

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