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Match Preview: Dale vs Newport
Friday, 17th Dec 2021 18:18 by AtThePeake

Rochdale will look to bounce back to winning ways on Saturday afternoon as they welcome Newport County to Spotland.

Date: Saturday 18th December
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Venue: Spotland

After three matches for which I couldn't find the time to write a preview before the match resulted in defeats for Dale, I've made sure I've scratched my superstitious itch by looking ahead to Saturday's home fixture against Newport County.

With matches up and down the country being postponed due to a large amount of positive COVID-19 cases in football squads, Dale are one of just three fourth tier teams set to host a league fixture on Saturday afternoon.

But they'll come into the fixture against Newport lacking in festive cheer. Dale have lost each of their last three matches to Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup and then Hartlepool United and Bristol Rovers on the road in League Two and as a result have slipped into the bottom six places in the table.

Worryingly for supporters, it's the same problems that we've seen for several seasons that are proving to be Dale's undoing once again this year, particularly the amount of late goals being conceded. In all three of these consecutive defeats, Robbie Stockdale's men went into the final 10 minutes level and indeed in the Hartlepool game, they had led at one point thanks to Josh Andrews' deadlock-breaking goal.

So where do Dale go to fix this issue? Perhaps more rotation within a larger squad that we've seen in recent seasons could lead to less fatigue, but there does seem to be a general lack of experience and character within a squad that includes a large percentage of players playing in their first season in the EFL.

There is also criticism for Robbie Stockdale's perceived stubbornness when sticking to his favoured 3-4-3 formation. Perhaps a lack of quality defenders and defensive midfielders in the squad have forced his hand somewhat here and maybe we will see some changes in personnel occur in the January transfer window.

But before we get to that stage, providing the situation regarding COVID-19 doesn't lead to a suspension of all festive fixtures, Dale have a handful of important games that they must try to win before they will have to start worrying about the teams below them in the lowest reaches of the League Two table.

Jay Lynch will hope to keep his place in goal for this one, but having been questioned by supporters over three of the goals conceded in the 4-2 loss at Bristol Rovers last time out, he may be replaced by Joel Coleman for the visit of Newport.

In defence, Jim McNulty's return to fitness saw him start over Max Taylor at the Memorial Stadium. Both Taylor and Sam Graham are fit to start, but have come in for criticism over the course of season so far. The other two spots are likely to be taken by captain Eoghan O'Connell and the in-form Jeriel Dorsett.

Aidy White will be expected to start again at left wing-back in the absence of the injured Jimmy Keohane, while Corey O'Keeffe, Dale's leading assist-maker so far this season, will surely start again on the right hand side.

In midfield, both Aaron Morley and Liam Kelly appear to be among the manager's favourites at the moment and will expect to start in midfield despite pressure from the likes of Stephen Dooley, Connor Grant and George Broadbent.

Josh Andrews dropped out of the starting eleven for the trip to Bristol despite scoring Dale's only goal in the defeat to Hartlepool a few days previously. He's an option to start as a central striker with Jake Beesley - who scored two goals himself at Memorial Stadium - to be moved out wide in that case.

On the other side, both Alex Newby and Abraham Odoh will hope to start, with the former returning the starting eleven from injury last time out. Indeed, both of those could retain their starting spots and Beesley may keep Andrews out of the central striker position.

With Keohane the only confirmed absentee, will we see Stockdale finally try and change things up after more frustrating performances and results, or will we see more of the same and a belief in his current system and style to turn things around?

It's been over seven years since these teams last met, but Dale fans will have fond memories of the trip to Rodney Parade on the final day of the 2013/2014 season, despite the team slipping to a 1-2 defeat to a ten-men Newport County outfit.

Had they won and results gone their way elsewhere that day, Dale could've been crowned League Two champions in South Wales, but the travelling support enjoyed the sunshine regardless and looked ahead to their return to League One the following campaign.

Since that meeting, Newport have placing outside the bottom two by the skin of their teeth on two occasions, but since gone onto be one of the better teams in the division, finishing in the play-offs on a couple of occasions, losing in the Wembley final in both 2019 and 2021.

And it seems as though the Exiles are set for another promotion tilt this season as they currently sit in 4th place ahead of this match, with just one point separating them from Port Vale in the third and final automatic promotion spot.

This despite some unexpected upheaval in the dugout too. After several years service, Michael Flynn finally left the club at the start of October and was eventually replaced by James Rowberry, in his first ever managerial position following several years working within the backroom staff at Cardiff City.

Rowberry has enjoyed a fine start to life as a manager too, losing just one of his first 12 League Two matches in charge at Rodney Parade and his team make the trip to Greater Manchester in high spirits on the back of consecutive home wins over Sutton and promotion rivals Port Vale.

That run of form is in no small part down to the form of ex-Bury striker Dom Telford, however. The 25 year old is in scintillating form at the moment having found the net no fewer than 12 times in his last eight league matches, finding the net at least once in all eight of those games.

It appears that Newport have a squad that's well balanced with youth and experience and there are many recognisable names within their squad including Ed Upson, Mickey Demetriou, James Clarke and Robbie Willmott, each of whom have a wealth of experience within the lower leagues.

No name will jump out more than that of Kevin Ellison however. At 42 years of age, Ellison remains a goal threat to this day and will always live up to his role of pantomime villain having plundered goals from a hapless Dale defence a few times over his career.

With promotion now firmly in their sights, Newport will come to Dale expecting to compound the misery this Saturday afternoon - but can Stockdale's charges show a little more fight than they have of late to ride that challenge and come out the other side with three valuable points on the board? ________________________________________________________________________

23rd November - Rochdale 2-2 Stevenage - League Two
27th November - Rochdale 1-1 Exeter City - League Two
5th December - Rochdale 1-2 Plymouth Argyle - FA Cup
8th December - Hartlepool United 2-1 Rochdale - League Two
11th December - Bristol Rovers 4-2 Rochdale - League Two

20th November - Newport County 1-2 Swindon Town - League Two
23rd November - Crawley Town 1-1 Newport County - League Two
26th November - Colchester United 1-1 Newport County - League Two
7th December - Newport County 3-2 Sutton United - League Two
11th December - Newport County 2-1 Port Vale - League Two

Games: 32
Rochdale wins: 11
Draws: 11
Newport wins: 10

29 Apr 1980 - Rochdale v Newport County - W - 2-0 - League Division Four
19 Dec 1987 - Rochdale v Newport County - W - 3-0 - League Division Four
07 May 1988 - Newport County v Rochdale - W - 0-1 - League Division Four
12 Oct 2013 - Rochdale v Newport County - W - 3-0 - League Two
03 May 2014 - Newport County v Rochdale - L - 2-1 - League Two

Photo: Action Images

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D_Dale added 21:14 - Dec 17
One or two points of interest in the Newport preview:

Newport go into Saturday's trip to Rochdale off the back of back-to-back wins, but have three new absentees for the game.

Two comeback wins in succession, 3-2 at home to Sutton and 2-1 against Port Vale, also at Rodney Parade have County in good form and 4th in the table ahead of the trip to Spotland.

County will be without striker Alex Fisher though who has tested positive for COVID on a Lateral Flow test and is awaiting the result of a PCR.

Scot Bennett has an undisclosed injury that will keep him out as a precaution while Kevin Ellison has sustained facial injuries.

Rochdale have been in a tough run of form recently and are without a win in six in all competitions and their latest league win came back on October 30 thanks to a 2-1 triumph at Barrow.

Jimmy Keohane is the only absentee for the hosts though, with everyone else available for selection for Robbie Stockdale.

Rochdale are currently 20th in the home table with 11 points from a possible 30 while County are 6th in the away table with 16 points from 11 games.

County striker Dom Telford will be hoping to score in the ninth successive game for him with his 14 goals having him top of the League Two scoring charts while Rochdale's main man in-front of goal is Jake Beesley with seven.

Newport have not won at Rochdale since 1977, but it is worth noting that the two teams have only met in Rochdale four times since then.

The last meeting between the two sides was a 2-1 Newport win on the final day of the 2013-14 season with Aaron O'Connor and Kevin Feeley goals earning the comeback win after Rochdale took the lead in the first half.

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