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Tranmere Rovers 2 v 0 Rochdale
SkyBet League Two
Saturday, 15th January 2022 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Colchester vs Dale
Friday, 7th Jan 2022 19:39 by AtThePeake

After what feels like an absolute age, Dale look set to finally return to action on Saturday with a trip to Essex to take on Colchester United.

Date: Saturday 8th January
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Venue: Colchester Community Stadium

Well the usually manic festive period ended up being the quietest in Dale history as not one, not two, but three fixtures fell foul to COVID-19 leaving many supporters wondering what exactly everyone else does in that period between Boxing Day and New Year without football in their lives.

The news of the first postponement, the away fixture against Carlisle, filtered through on Christmas Day, a bit of a gut punch to those of us who were probably already feeling a little sick having gorged on turkey and sprouts not long previous.

It appeared at this stage that the Dale squad had managed to escape the effects of this recent wave of omicron to some extent as that postponement was requested by the Cumbrians and Robbie Stockdale and his side had been ready to make the trip up to Brunton Park.

However, it was Dale who then requested the postponements to the games against Port Vale and Mansfield Town, which were due to take place at Spotland on the 28th December and 1st January respectively as positive tests started to be turned in by the playing squad.

It appears Dale will still be missing a handful of players through COVID-19 as they make the long trip to Essex this weekend according to the manager's pre-match interview, while a couple more will miss out through injury.

It's been so long since Dale's most recent fixture that it barely seems relevant at this point, but it was the team's best performance this season when they did last play as they thumped play-off contenders Newport County 3-0 at Spotland.

Jake Beesley scored twice in that game, as he did in the 4-2 away defeat to Bristol Rovers the week previously and that's the kind of form that has seen him become one of several players reportedly attracting interest from a higher level during the January transfer window.

Bees is likely to start here however and he'll begin in attack, with Conor Grant and Alex Newby likely to take the spots either side of him in attack after impressive displays from the duo in that victory over the Exiles three weeks back.

Aaron Morley missed out on the starting eleven in that match and is also subject to some speculation at the moment which could lead to him being left out here. Stephen Dooley put in a fine performance alongside the regular Liam Kelly against the Welsh outfit.

There will be at least one change at wing-back, should Stockdale still wish to persevere with the 3-4-3 following Corey O'Keeffe's return to Mansfield at the end of the loan. See you soon hopefully Corey. You will be missed.

Abraham Odoh, who has slotted in at left wing-back before this season, may take his place, while Aidy White will hope to remain in the starting XI on the left with Joel Coleman in between the sticks and the back three possibly including Max Taylor, Eoghan O'Connell and Jeriel Dorsett.

It's been a long road (and I'm not talking about the A1) but fingers crossed, we'll see Dale back on the pitch on Saturday afternoon. Thank god.

Colchester fans won't exactly have been happy to see Dale relegated back into League Two last season as the U's had failed to win any of the last six meetings between the two sides.

And that run was stretched to seven earlier in the season, when the two drew 1-1 at Spotland during celebrations at RAFC's 100 year anniversary of being in the Football League, with Max Taylor's own goal cancelled out by Jimmy Keohane's second-half strike.

In hindsight, with the home advantage, that match may be seen as two points dropped for Dale as Colchester haven't enjoyed the best of campaigns so far and currently occupy 20th place in the table having played 21 games.

There are some accentuating circumstances to take into account here though. This is boss Hayden Mullins' first season in a full-time manager's job and his team do have games in hand on every other team in the bottom six.

But they have managed to get some games in over the Christmas period and form has been poor. Mullins' men are winless in five in all competitions and have lost both of their League Two fixtures since the turn of the year away at Crawley Town and Sutton United.

The U's have been slightly better at home than on the road though and can point to a three game unbeaten run in League Two at the Colchester Community Stadium, which has included victories over Exeter City and Scunthorpe.

But that run will have to continue for some time for Mullins to win over an apathetic fanbase that has seen the team slide from a 6th placed finish in 2019/20 and a play-off defeat, to 20th place last year and what seems to be another struggle this time around.

There are some very recognisable names in what is a vastly experienced crop of Colchester players with a distinct former Ipswich flavour. Luke Chambers, Tommy Smith and Charlie Daniels help make up one of the most weathered backlines in League Two and they're joined by midfielder Cole Skuse and Alan Judge with Freddie Sears leading the line.

Sears, who made his name as a youngster with West Ham United, is the man to watch in attack for the U's with eight league goals to his name so far this season after returning to Essex this summer following a six year spell with, you guessed it, Ipswich Town.

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?

With so many older heads in this Colchester side, could there be some tired legs for Dale to take advantage of on Saturday afternoon after an unexpected and elongated winter break? ________________________________________________________________________

Colchester United:
5th December - Colchester United 1-2 Wigan Athletic - FA Cup
8th December - Bradford City 0-0 Colchester United - League Two
11th December - Walsall 3-0 Colchester United - League Two
1st January - Crawley Town 3-1 Colchester United - League Two
4th January - Sutton United 2-1 Colchester United - 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
18th December - Rochdale 3-0 Newport County - League Two

Games: 51
Colchester wins: 19
Draws: 19
Rochdale wins: 13

13 Dec 2014 - Colchester United v Rochdale W - 1-4 - League One
07 Mar 2015 - Rochdale v Colchester United W - 2-1 - League One
19 Dec 2015 - Rochdale v Colchester United W - 3-1 - League One
08 May 2016 - Colchester United v Rochdale W - 1-2 - League One
27 Aug 2021 - Rochdale v Colchester United D - 1-1 - League Two

Photo: Action Images

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