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Tranmere Rovers 2 v 0 Rochdale
SkyBet League Two
Saturday, 15th January 2022 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Tranmere vs Dale
Thursday, 13th Jan 2022 23:05 by AtThePeake

It's been approximately 84 years, but Rochdale AFC are set to play a football match on Saturday afternoon.

Date: Saturday 15th January
Kick-off: 3.00pm
Venue: Prenton Park

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.

And to make matters worse, three postponements turned into four last weekend at the last minute, after a four hour journey from Rochdale to Essex turned out to be a wasted one, with the fixture against Colchester falling foul to the weather at the last moment.

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.

When team news filtered through ahead of the postponement last week, it was noticeable that Jake Beesley and Aaron Morley were missing from the Matchday squad and it was later confirmed by manager Robbie Stockdale that the club had accepted bids for some first-team players.

As transpired over the next few days, Beesley was set to leave the club for Blackpool and Morley for Bolton Wanderers, meaning the team will have a distinctly different shape to the last time we saw the boys back in December.

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.

So, onto Saturday and how Dale may look to line-up in this game, with the first question being a matter of who will keep goal. Jay Lynch was in the provisional starting XI at Colchester, although if Joel Coleman has recovered in time he will expect to start after a fine display in that win over the Exiles.

Dale's only signing of the window so far has been that of experienced defender Paul Downing and, if match-fit, he'll hope to slot into the defence alongside Eoghan O'Connell and Jeriel Dorsett, although Dale will be without Corey O'Keeffe following the expiration of his loan contract at Spotland.

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 and there are options for Stockdale in midfield to replace the departed Aaron Morley.

The duo of Liam Kelly and Stephen Dooley linked up well in Morley's absence against Newport, although George Broadbent may hope for more minutes after extending his loan from Sheffield United and highly-rated youngster Ethan Brierley may hope to rise up the pecking order following the sale of a first-team central midfielder.

In attack, Josh Andrews is likely to start with no Jake Beesley for competition. Alex Newby will start on one side of the front three and there may be a recall for Danny Cashman on the opposite side given the limited options Dale now have going forward.

It's been a long road but, fingers crossed, we'll see Dale back on the pitch on Saturday afternoon. Thank god.

Tranmere Rovers will prove to be an altogether different challenge for Rochdale this Saturday than they were when they visited Spotland back in September.

With spirits high following a fine win over Port Vale, Dale ground out a 1-0 victory that day thanks to a Danny Cashman winner as an out-of-form Tranmere toiled but struggled to create enough chances to really challenge the hosts.

What was clear that day however, was that Tranmere had one of the most experience and solid defensive sides in the division and that much has been made obvious since, with a total of just 15 goals conceded giving them by far the best defensive record in the league.

And although goals are still an issue (they've scored five goals fewer than Dale despite playing two more games and sitting 15 places above us in the table), the promotion push is now well on track on the Wirral and moves have already been made this January to improve the attack.

Kane Hemmings has moved to Prenton Park from Burton Albion for an undisclosed fee and will likely make his debut this Saturday alongside current top scorer Nicky Maynard, who has five goals to his name thus far.

With the oldest average starting eleven in the league, boss Micky Mellon will be hoping experience can trump youthful exuberance over the rest of the campaign with no fewer than eight players aged 33 or older in his squad, including 40 year old centre back and captain Peter Clarke, well-known in these parts for his spells with local rivals Bury and Oldham.

And so far it's fair to say that experience is doing the trick. While the Whites' festive period was disrupted somewhat, they have played no fewer than four times since Dale's last game and their form has been terrific, with the midweek draw at Salford City stretching their unbeaten league run to eight matches.

That set of fixtures has included four consecutive home wins, with their last outing at Prenton Park resulting in a 4-0 mauling of struggling Scunthorpe, those worries about goals being put to bed for one afternoon at least.

After that defeat at Dale saw some Rovers fans start to question Mellon, a man who previously was very popular in Birkenhead after leading the team to back-to-back promotions from the National League to League One in a previous spell, the Scotsman has managed to silence all the doubters to put his team in a top three spot.

The challenge for him now will be to ensure those ageing legs in his squad don't tire as the likes of Northampton, Sutton and Swindon look to chase them down. Extending their unbeaten league run to nine games here would be a good way to go about that.

After that win over Newport, we were hoping to head into the festive break with some momentum but with key players leaving in the huge gap between that game and this, a tough afternoon could be in store for Robbie Stockdale's charges on Saturday afternoon.


Tranmere Rovers:
18th December - Tranmere Rovers 1-0 Leyton Orient - League Two
21st December - Tranmere Rovers 1-2 Harrogate Town - EFL Trophy
26th December - Tranmere Rovers 2-0 Barrow - League Two
8th January - Tranmere Rovers 4-0 Scunthorpe United - League Two
11th January - Salford City 1-1 Tranmere Rovers - 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 - 124
DRAW - 25

01 Feb 2011 - Tranmere Rovers v Rochdale D - 1-1 - League One
17 Jan 2012 - Tranmere Rovers v Rochdale D - 0-0 - League One
20 Mar 2012 - Rochdale v Tranmere Rovers L - 0-2 - League One
03 Aug 2019 - Tranmere Rovers v Rochdale W - 2-3 - League One
11 Sep 2021 - Rochdale v Tranmere Rovers W - 1-0 - League Two

Photo: Action Images

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