|Rochdale 2 v 2 Leyton Orient|
SkyBet League Two
Saturday, 13th November 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Dale vs Leyton Orient
Friday, 12th Nov 2021 17:17 by AtThePeake
After two disappointing cup displays, Dale return to league action with a home fixture against Leyton Orient on Saturday afternoon.
Date: Saturday 13th November
So it's a return to league action for Dale on Saturday after they were eliminated from the EFL Trophy in midweek and last weekend were forced to a replay in the FA Cup First Round following a 1-1 draw with non-league Notts County.
Dale's fate in the EFL Trophy (unaffectionately referred to by many as the Pizza Cup) wasn't decided wholly by their 0-3 home defeat to Bolton Wanderers last weekend but was sealed by Port Vale's win over Liverpool U21s this week.
And as disappointing as that result, it's fair to say that the EFL Trophy is not a priority for Robbie Stockdale and his men, but it's also fair to say that the FA Cup has been a provider of key funds for the club in recent years so a degree of importance is placed on this competition with potentially huge money-spinning ties to be earned after just a couple of early rounds.
As such, it was disappointing to see the team struggle against non-league opposition last Sunday, even with the home advantage as Notts County proved difficult to break down and arguably created enough chances to take the win.
In fact, Dale's opener on the stroke of half-time through a brilliantly taken Corey O'Keeffe strike did come against the run of play, although Notts County's second half equaliser came when Dale were enjoying one of their better spells of play during the game.
A guilt-edged Jake Beesley chance before the equaliser should've put the game beyond the Magpies and indeed many supporters and players felt that Dale should've won a penalty for a challenge on Conor Grant in the latter stages of the game, but it wasn't to be.
As a result, Dale will make the trip to Nottingham on Tuesday night to try and put the tie to bed, with the reward being a televised Round Two tie against either Plymouth Argyle or Sheffield Wednesday, who also have a replay to take care of first.
But for now, it's back to the regular league schedule and on that front, Dale actually come into the game on the back of some improved form having not lost in their last four League Two matches.
Back-to-back away draws with Swindon Town and Salford City were followed up with victories over Sutton United and Barrow, but Dale's home form continues to be a worry with that victory over the Amber & Blacks being only their second league victory of the season at Spotland.
Robbie Stockdale's favoured formation may play some part in that. The former Sunderland & West Brom coach has stuck rigidly to a 3-4-3 formation thus far, although the two wide 'midfielders' are more like wing-backs in this system, leaving the front 3 isolated at times.
Whether we will see a change to that remains to be seen, but the reasoning for the three central defenders may be that none of the current crop look like they can be trusted in a two, aside from captain Eoghan O'Connell.
In midfield Aaron Morley and Liam Kelly appear to be forming something of an understanding at least at the moment, with the latter in particular proving to be effective in the latter stages of the pitch as well although there are still lingering questions about the lack of physicality within that midfield two.
Corey O'Keeffe and Jimmy Keohane will slot into the wing-back roles again, although Aidy White will hope for more minutes on the left, while Jake Beesley is expected to start as the central striker even with Josh Andrews back from injury to challenge him for a starting role.
Dale's home form still needs to improve and although the win over Sutton was hard-earned and provided a moment of relief, the draw with Notts County showed some of the deficiencies in this side that still need to be ironed out if a top seven push is still on the cards.
Before the turn of the century, Dale had managed just three wins from their 20 meetings with the London outfit but since then, they've had the better of the fixture, winning half of their next 18 clashes against Orient.
This will be the first meeting between the sides since the 2014/2015 campaign however, when Dale did the double over Orient as they were relegated out of League One while Dale would remain their for the net few seasons.
Having been sold to Nigel Travis following relegation to the National League, Orient took just two seasons to secure their return to the EFL, winning the league in 2018/2019 under the guidance of Justin Edinburgh, who tragically passed away after a cardiac arrest just a matter of weeks after celebrating a title win at Brisbane Road.
A 17th placed finish during the COVID-affected 2019/20 season preceded a comfortable 11th placed finish last term, although the club are now eyeing another promotion and have moved to appoint the experienced Kenny Jackett over the summer.
The former Portsmouth boss has made a solid start as well, with his side currently occupying 6th in the table with only two defeats in 15 games in League Two - but no fewer than eight draws have prevented them from pushing on towards the automatic promotion places for now.
Jackett has spoken about putting building blocks in place and as such, he's focused on making the O's difficult to beat in the early stages of his tenure, but they are capable of the odd thumping victory too, as Hartlepool found out two weeks ago, heading back to the North East on the wrong end of a 5-0 hammering at Brisbane Road.
Since then, the O's have picked up two more consecutive wins against Ebbsfleet United and Charlton Athletic in the FA Cup and EFL Trophy respectively, so they'll make the trip north in high spirits as they go in search of three more points to put the pressure on the current top three.
In terms of personnel, Jackett has unsurprisingly looked to mix youth and experience and the likes of Craig Clay, Omar Beckles and Darren Pratley are well known in the lower leagues and help form that solid defensive base that will likely make them a play-off contender at a minimum this season.
Going forward, the duo of Aaron Drinan and Harry Smith have 13 league goals between them already so far this season, so Dale's rocky defence will need to raise their game to keep a clean sheet this season - a clean sheet you may feel could be pivotal if the hosts are to stand any chance of taking three points here.
15 Jan 2011 - Rochdale v Leyton Orient - 1-1 - League One
Photo: Action Images
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