|Port Vale 2 v 3 Rochdale|
SkyBet League Two
Saturday, 4th September 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Port Vale vs Dale
Friday, 3rd Sep 2021 12:42 by AtThePeake
Dale are back on the road this Saturday afternoon with a trip to Staffordshire to take on Port Vale.
Date: Saturday 4th September
Although only one victory in the league so far may tell a story, Dale have perhaps been unlucky to not take more from draws with Scunthorpe United and Colchester United at home while the away defeat at Harrogate was gut-wrenching coming after a last-gasp strike for the Sulphurites.
Last weekend's celebration of Dale's 100 year anniversary of Football League membership made for an exciting atmosphere at Spotland, with old players reminiscing and fans enjoying the festivities before, during and after the game.
But unsurprisingly, Dale rallied in the second half, continuing to create chances through the thrust of Corey O'Keeffe and Alex Newby on the right hand side, the latter eventually laying on Jimmy Keohane, in his first start of the season, to bag the equaliser at the back post.
And with an EFL Trophy fixture against Liverpool's youth side on Tuesday night, Stockdale took the chance to rotate the squad somewhat, handing Joe Dunne a first start of the season and Liam Kelly a debut, as well as opportunities for loanees George Broadbent, Aidy White and Josh Andrews, who have each started just once in the league thus far.
The rotated squad rewarded Stockdale and the hardy few that showed up to Spotland with a comfortable 4-0 win, kicked off by Kelly's wonderful first-time strike and followed up with a brace from O'Keeffe and a late strike from Andrews to round off the win.
Encouraging performances from those being brought into the team will no doubt give Stockdale a real headache heading into this trip to Port Vale, and the boss now has almost a fully-fit squad to choose from to so we may see exactly how he sees the team shaping up in this game.
While some players must surely be considered undroppable such as Alex Newby, Corey O'Keeffe and Eoghan O'Connell given the starts to the season they have had, the options available in other areas of the pitch, particularly central midfield, may lead to some changes to the side here.
Despite rumours of bids for the likes of Jake Beesley, Aaron Morley and captain O'Connell, Dale have managed to negotiate the final days of the window without seeing any more departures following earlier sales of Stephen Humphrys and Ollie Rathbone to Wigan Athletic and Rotherham United respectively.
There were no late incomers added to the squad either, but with 10 players having signed over the summer, Stockdale's squad looks well stocked at this point and he will have ample opportunity to rotate in the coming weeks and months.
However, Dale have not yet managed to win an away league fixture against the Valiants in no fewer than 26 attempts. Records are there to be broken however - and what better time to do so than the present?
After back-to-back 20th placed finishes in their first two seasons back in the division, the Valiants rallied and finished just outside the play-off positions in 8th in the COVID-hit 2018/2019 campaign, before a steady if unspectacular 13th placed finished last time out.
Having been relegated from League One in 2016, the U's finished in the top half of the League Two table in four consecutive seasons and enjoying a particularly successful 2019/2020 campaign in which they beat Tottenham Hotspur in the EFL Cup and reached the play-offs, only to lose out to Exeter at the semi-final stage.
Neil Aspin and John Askey were unable to push the club up towards the top of the table and the man now in the dugout at Vale Park is a familiar face to Dale fans.
Darrell Clarke spent a short spell on loan at Spotland in the 2006/2007 season towards the end of his playing career and he's been briefly linked with the manager's job at the club having enjoyed spells of success in previous stints with Bristol Rovers and Walsall.
After losing to Northampton Town on the opening day of the season, Vale have picked up their performances and results to go four games unbeaten since - although three of those matches have ended in stalemates.
After goalless home draws against Tranmere and Carlisle, a trip to Stevenage yielded a 1-1 tie before the Valiants picked up their first victory of the campaign last time out in the league, winning 0-2 over a well-fancied Forest Green Rovers outfit.
The big news during the summer was the news that Tom Pope would be moving on from the club. Having racked up 115 goals in 343 appearances for the club in all competitions, the Vale legend decided to move into non-league to join Congleton Town as his career winds down to an end.
Despite losing Pope, Vale made some impressive additions to the squad during the summer, including former Mansfield man Mal Benning, ex-Manchester United youngster James Wilson and journeyman striker Jamie Proctor, fresh from a loan spell with Wigan Athletic last term.
Adding those new boys to experienced players such as Leon Legge and David Worrall makes for an interesting mix and this Vale side, once gelled, could be an interesting outfit this term, but we'll hope not to see them at their best this weekend.
06 Apr 2015 - Rochdale v Port Vale W 1-0 League One
Photo: Action Images
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