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Player Reviews 2021/22 - Defenders
Saturday, 14th May 2022 16:42 by Chaff

We continue our player reviews for this past season with the defenders. * Disclaimer - This is just the opinion of two Dale fans, stupid enough to trek up and down the country spending more money than they earn watching Rochdale.

Corey O'Keeffe

Chaff – 7/10

AtThePeake – 8/10

Chaff – Very much a season of two halves for Corey. He was outstanding in the opening half of the season. He was assisting practically every goal and even chipping in with goals as well and comparisons were being made to Scott Wiseman. Because of his first half of the season form, interest was high in Corey and although Mansfield were more than happy for him to go out, it took a month to get the deal done amid reports of interest from the Championship and truth be told, he wasn’t the same player when he came back. He’s still chipped in with goal involvement, but we’ve not seen the same dynamism as we did before January I don’t think. I’d like him to stay but I don’t expect him to unfortunately. He’ll be very fondly remembered if he does end up leaving and will be welcome back with open arms if he stays.

AtThePeake - Look, I know Corey's not been quite as good since we signed him permanently, but I think it's important not to forget just how good he was in the early stages of the season. In a squad that perhaps lacks a winning mentality at times, I don't mind that he's the kind of players that will go to ground easily and try to wind up opponents. For the most part he's looked committed to the cause while bringing a real quality in running forward with the ball and joining the attack. For me, he's ended the season well too with some decent displays in the last three games. That winner at Port Vale was one of my favourite moments of the season too. Would absolutely love him to stay, despite it looking unlikely right now.

Aidy White

Chaff – 4/10

AtThePeake – 4/10

Chaff – I’ll be honest, I’ve nothing bad to say about Aidy White’s performances. I think he has done alright when he’s played but, predictably, he’s just not been able to get on the pitch enough. A two-year contract was surprising, but it was always a case of thinking ‘It might be worth it if he can stay fit’ but unfortunately, he hasn’t. Max Clark coming in and Jimmy Keohane returning from injury put White further down the pecking order even when he was fit as well. I’d be surprised if we start the season with him in the squad I think.

AtThePeake - Questions were always going to be asked about the decision to sign such an injury-prone player on a two-year deal and in reality, White's lack of availability is what has let him down this season as much as anything. It was clear from his early performances that he has an intelligence and experience that such a young squad needed, but then a lack of rhythm from the disruption of repeated injuries have stopped him from ever being a consistent starter and his performances have suffered as a result. A poor decision to give him a two-year deal in hindsight but if he can miraculously keep fit there's no reason why he can't be a good player for us next season. I just don't see that happening unfortunately.

Jimmy McNulty

Chaff – 6/10

AtThePeake – 7/10

Chaff – It’s probably fair to say I’ve never been Big Jim’s biggest fan, but he’s been used sparingly this season and he’s done well when he’s stepped in for the most part. I still wouldn’t want to have to rely on him but he’s there if we do need to and his coaching role seems to be going well so I’ve no real issue with him signing an extension to his deal in the same capacity.

AtThePeake - Jim's role as a player has obviously changed over the last couple of seasons but it's clear to see how much of an influence, he has had on the squad this season and to be fair to him, when he's been asked to step into the team he has, for the most part, done a decent job. The home win over Sutton back in October was probably one of his best performances of the 165 he's made for Dale. Given that I never wanted him to put on a Dale shirt again at one stage last season, fair play to him for stepping up when required. Hope he stays around the club in some capacity for a very long time to come.

Eoghan O'Connell

Chaff – 8/10

AtThePeake – 9/10

Chaff – Player of the Season by an absolute country mile for me and walked away with most of the awards at the recent End of Season do and fully deserving to as well. A fantastic footballer and probably one of the best ball-playing centre backs we’ve ever had. I agree that without him this season, we’d have probably gone down. Constantly putting his body on the line to make blocks and last-ditch tackles while having to be a mentor-like figure to the likes of Sam Graham, Jeriel Dorsett and Max Taylor which can’t have been easy. Another excellent season and we’ll miss him a lot should it be his last.

AtThePeake - The most under-appreciated Dale player for quite some time in my book, I genuinely think we could've been relegated this season without Eoghan O'Connell. To see him be slandered by some of our fans just blows my mind because to me, I've been watching a defender that's far too good for League Two try and lead an at times inexperienced backline while also attempting to consistently break the lines with his passing, drive forward from defence with the ball and attempt to be an inspirational captain, which can't have been an easy task on its own in such a difficult season. I was absolutely delighted by his goal versus Hartlepool and delighted by the awards he, deservedly for me, scooped at the end of season awards do. For those that haven't exactly waxed lyrical about him this year, I suspect it'll be a case of you don't know what you've got til it's gone.

Max Taylor

Chaff – 5/10

AtThePeake – 4/10

Chaff – I quite like ‘Super Max’ and think he will be a big asset for Dale. Don’t get me wrong, he’s very raw but I think there’s a player there. Positionally I think he’s been ok but occasionally he’s looked favourite to win balls and been made to look poor. He could do with being more of a physical presence in the side I think but I think he’ll come good. He’s added goals as well which we’re not used to seeing from our centre backs!

AtThePeake I know a lot of people will see this as a harsh rating, but Taylor hasn't convinced me whatsoever as yet. From the start of the season when it seemed he was having to be individually coached through games, to the Exeter and Bristol Rovers defeats towards the end of the campaign where his defending for almost all of the goals conceded looked weak and ineffective, I'm really unsure about his future in the game unless he can improve some key facets, particularly his concentration. It seems to me like the game is moving too quickly for him the majority of the time. He has at least chipped in with a few goals and his strike in the home draw with Exeter (when he happened to have his best game of the season) was a memorable one.

Jeriel Dorsett

Chaff – 6/10

AtThePeake 7/10

Chaff – He's one of the few, maybe only players that you can say improved as the season went on, I think. His early season form was poor, really poor. He never ever looked comfortable on the ball and it looked like a step too high for him, but he got much better and, in the end, became one of our better players this season. He still looks like the football is an alien artifact to him when it’s at his feet but when the ball is in the air and it’s just basic defending that’s needed, he’s been very good in the back half of the season so fair play to him for coming through that sticky patch and it will be interesting to see how he does going back to Reading.

AtThePeake - Although in November we were probably hoping Dorsett's loan would be cut short and he would be sent back to Reading in January, in the second half of the season he's arguably been our best player and it's been one of the highlights of the season to watch his progress this year. His shakiness on the ball is still a downfall at times, but has improved, and defensively he has grown in confidence as the campaign has gone on. He has begun to use his strength and reading of the game to his advantage more and more often and ironed the mistakes out for the most part, to the point where until he was injured, he would've been one of the first names on the teamsheet in the final months of the year. Set for a very decent career in the EFL.

Jimmy Keohane

Chaff – 6/10

AtThePeake – 7/10

Chaff – It's fair to say he’s not played quited as much as we’d all have liked this season due to injury, but Jimmy is called Swiss Army Jimmy for a reason and that’s because he can play pretty much anywhere. We’ve seen him fill in at centre back and in centre midfield at times this season as well as his more favourable wing-back role. That said, I’ve seen enough now to be of the opinion I don’t want him at centre half because I think he’s struggled there a little bit. He’s much more of an asset at wing-back, getting forward and arriving late in the box and while last season was very much one that exceeded expectations in terms of goals, he’s still looked a threat this season when he’s played. If we can keep him fit, he’s a valuable asset to Dale, of that there is no doubt.

AtThePeake - At a club that's been anything but consistent in the last few years, Jimmy Keohane continues to be a beam of dependability in a sea of commotion. Never the most talented in terms of raw ability, Keohane's willingness to slot into different positions, to drive forward with the ball when possible, to drift into space and create danger by arriving late to join the attack from wing-back are key qualities and in my opinion, the injury he suffered earlier in the season set us back more than we would perhaps have realised at the time. That injury has maybe prevented him from having the kind of season he enjoyed last time around, but he's still been very solid this season and I'm glad he's with us next year.

Sam Graham

Chaff – 2/10

AtThePeake 2/10

Chaff – Erm, without wanting to sound too harsh here, it’s not been a good season for Sam Graham. I’m sure, like most Dale fans, when I saw we’d signed this lad from Sheffield United on a two-year deal, we were expecting him to be a decent signing. It’s just not worked out. He’s looked completely out of his depth and I actually got to the point where I felt sorry for him. Spent the latter part of the season on loan at Notts County where he’s fondly thought of due to a past loan spell, but it took a few weeks before he even started playing in that side. I’ll be very surprised if we don’t try and move him on this summer.

AtThePeake - It's honestly remarkable that it took 10 or so games for Stockdale to realise Graham was clearly not up to League Two standard, but it says everything that he hasn't even featured in the matchday squad since the 2-2 draw with Leyton Orient back in November. Poor with the ball at his feet, seemingly terrified of attackers running at him and not exactly confident in the air either, it got to the point where Graham's confidence was so low it became a pleasant surprise if he was able to control the ball without it rolling under his studs and out for a throw-in. I'd be surprised if he's still here at the start of next season. Another mistake to offer a two-year deal.

Paul Downing

Chaff – 7/10

AtThePeake – 6/10

Chaff – I was very pleased when we managed to bring Downing in on loan and from his first game, he looked dependable, solid and exactly what we needed in our back line. We instantly looked more solid at the back. His ability isn’t in question for me, he’s a very good defender, the issue, like Paul McShane, is that he spends too much time injured. We knew that when he joined but I’m sure all parties will have hoped to get him on the pitch more than we have. Gutted about his injuries as I would love to have seen him here next season.

AtThePeake - When Downing first joined, it looked like he was set to be the experienced cool head we had required in the back three for quite some time and he performed well in his first few outings, offering nothing particularly fancy but doing the simple things very well. However, like Aidy White, the injuries have prevented him from being available for selection on too many occasions and that lack of fitness has ended up letting him down when he's been coming in and out of the team, seeing his performances drop off as a result. Evidently could have been a great loan signing and potential permanent one, but not sure we can rely on him to stay fit enough to gain the consistency required.

Max Clark

Chaff – 6/10

AtThePeake – 5/10

Chaff – I've not been as unimpressed with Clark as some have. I do agree his form never matched that excellent debut, but I still think he’s done alright, and I’d like to see him stay and kick on again next season if possible. I think he has bags of ability, can defend, and can also offer quite a lot in attacking areas with his crossing.

AtThePeake - Aware that many of our fans have been impressed with Max Clark, but I'm not as convinced. Although he had a great debut against Bradford and put in some decent performances against Harrogate and Hartlepool at Spotland, the majority of his play has been pretty weak and ineffective. In the latter months of the season, when we've really struggled away, Clark in particular has been poor and in particular his crossing, though seemingly one of his best assets in his first few games, has left a lot to be desired. As with many of our players, there is ability there, but the question marks are around mentality and desire. Not surprised we offered him a contract, but slightly disappointed.

Photo: Action Images

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