|Mansfield Town 1 v 1 Rochdale|
SkyBet League Two
Saturday, 18th September 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Mansfield vs Dale
Friday, 17th Sep 2021 16:59 by AtThePeake
Dale look to continue their fine run of form as they head to Field Mill this Saturday to take on Mansfield Town.
Date: Saturday 18th September
It really is good to be a Dale fan at the moment.
Although rumours circulating on Friday afternoon suggest that former Charlton Athletic owner Matt Southall has purchased 25% of the club's shares from Morton House Management may put a dampener on things, the club have been quick to confirm they're yet to receive any communication from either party - but we must stay vigilant as the battle for the future of the club continues to rage.
But that aside, the future is looking bright right now. More genuine Dale supporters have been added to the board of directors and in Robbie Stockdale, the club have a manager who appears to be getting the best out of a talented young squad and winning over the fanbase in the process so far this term.
That elusive home victory in the league finally came last weekend thanks to a goal from substitute Danny Cashman - the Coventry loanee finishing with aplomb in the closing stages of an entertaining clash with Tranmere Rovers.
Frankly, this is a team playing with a style and confidence that we haven't seen for quite some time, as Dale laboured under previous managers Brian Barry-Murphy and Keith Hill in recent seasons to keep their heads above the parapet in League One for a handful of seasons before finally succumbing to relegation last term.
And although the victories and the enjoyment of this campaign so far has to be put into context of playing in a much weaker division - it can't be underestimated just how enjoyable this team have been to watch in the last few weeks.
Stockdale's 5-2-3/3-4-3 formation appears to be working a treat at the moment, with the skipper Eoghan O'Connell helping Max Taylor and Jeriel Dorsett to settle into competitive, men's football quickly and leading by example at the back.
The midfield duo of Stephen Dooley and Aaron Morley are proving their doubters wrong too in recent weeks, combining well with the runs of wing-backs Corey O'Keeffe and Jimmy Keohane despite a perceived lack of aggression in the middle of the park.
But the real excitement is coming in the final third, where Alex Newby and Abraham Odoh are running defences ragged and feeding off the work-rate of the excellent Jake Beesley, who also has a couple of goals to his name after a brace at Port Vale the other week.
After his goal against Tranmere last time out, Cashman may feel that he's worthy of a start in this game - but the question is, who can Stockdale drop to bring the former Brighton youngster in? It's a good headache to have and with Conor Grant and Liam Kelly among those also knocking on the door, there's more competition for places than there has been for quite some time at Spotland right now.
Corey O'Keeffe is of course on loan from Mansfield so could miss out on Saturday afternoon. If that's the case, most fans would expect Jimmy Keohane to switch to the right-flank, leaving the experienced Aidy White to slot in on the left.
While of course Dale fans will remain vigilant and ready to continue the fight for the club's future off the field, there is a real sense of excitement as to what this team can achieve on it over the course of this season. Long may that continue.
The Stags haven't plied their trade at that level of football since a solitary campaign in 2002/2003, but each year Radford appears to invest in the squad and each year they seem to fall short, managing to reach the play-offs only once in the last eight years since winning promotion from the National League.
And the owners appear to have little patience with managers too, going through eight in those eight seasons and even removing David Flitcroft, formerly of this parish, from the manager's role after that one and only play-off campaign in the last eight years.
The current incumbent at Field Mill is Nigel Clough, former Burton Albion hero and son of the legendary Brian. He took over in November of 2020, but wasn't able to lead the team any higher than 16th by the end of last season.
Unsurprisingly, Clough was backed in the summer and allowed to bring in some eye-catching signings including Oliver Hawkins from Ipswich Town, former Republic of Ireland international Stephen Quinn and striker Danny Johnson, who found the net 17 times at this level last season with Leyton Orient.
But to say those new signings haven't quite clicked into gear as yet would be an understatement as the Stags sit in 21st place in the table after seven games, having also been knocked out of the EFL Cup after a 0-3 defeat to Preston North End.
Mansfield did actually win their first two league games of the season against Bristol Rovers and Newport County, but they head into Saturday's game on the back of a five game losing streak in all competitions.
That run has included four league defeats, the most recent of which was a 3-1 loss away to Walsall and given Radford's itchy trigger finger, it may have Clough fearing for his job as Rochdale come to town. Indeed, the Stags do have a history of sacking managers after defeats to the Dale - just ask Carlton Palmer and Bill Dearden.
There is quality in this squad though and it would be foolish of Dale fans to undervalue that quality heading into this game. The likes of Farrend Rawson and George Maris are highly rated, as is Manchester United loanee Teddy Bishop - while James Perch was once a Premier League regular with Newcastle United.
The form book and recent head-to-head record below points to a Rochdale win, but most of us are long enough in the tooth to know how little that means in the fourth tier and the visitors will have to be at their best once again to stretch that unbeaten run to seven games in all competitions this weekend.
24 Nov 2007 - Rochdale v Mansfield Town - W - 1-0 - League Two
Photo: Action Images
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