|Rochdale 1 v 2 Chesterfield|
Tuesday, 26th September 2023 Kick-off 19:45
Match Preview: Rochdale vs Chesterfield
Monday, 25th Sep 2023 14:48 by AtThePeake
The TNT cameras descend on Spotland for the second time this season as league leaders Chesterfield come to town on Tuesday night.
- Rochdale vs Chesterfield
There's plenty of reason to be excited for Tuesday night's game against Chesterfield and not just because this clash against the league leaders is being shown live on TNT Sports.
Despite hopes being pretty low for the campaign following the appointment of the inexperienced Jim McNulty as full-time coach and the loss of key players such as Richard O'Donnell, Danny Lloyd and Ethan Brierley during the summer, Dale have been surprisingly good to watch so far in this National League season and look set for a more positive campaign than many expected.
While Saturday's performance in the club's first ever visit to Dorking Wanderers was far from vintage by all accounts, two injury-time goals from Ethan Ebanks-Landell and the GOAT himself Ian Henderson secured a dramatic last-gasp victory for Jim McNulty's men, showing a resiliency that's been missing from Rochdale teams for several years now.
After Tuesday's draw with Boreham Wood, in which the side seemed to tire in the latter stages, for Dale to show the fitness levels and mental toughness to still come back and win the game at such a late stage will be incredibly pleasing not just for the manager, but for long-suffering fans who haven't had enough to celebrate over the last four or five years.
There are still some issues with squad depth though and that may become a problem on Tuesday night against much tougher opponents, particularly after three difficult games on legs over the last ten days, but Dale can hope that momentum from such a big moment on Saturday can carry through into Tuesday's game.
While collectively there was a feeling that the recent home fixture against Barnet was a tough test, Chesterfield may yet prove to be the toughest test this season, so can tired minds and tired legs rise to the challenge and prove Dale's credentials as play-off hopefuls by going toe-to-toe with the early pacesetters in the National League on Tuesday night?
After a first ever meeting with Dorking on Saturday, Tuesday night's fixture against Chesterfield will see Dale come up against a much more familiar opposition - although this will be the first meeting between the teams since the 2016/2017 campaign.
The Spireites were relegated from League One that year and just 12 months later found themselves in the National League and indeed two years after that they almost dropped into regionalised football, as they sat one spot above the relegation zone when the National League campaign was cut short in the 2019/2020 season.
That summer, the club were taken over by the Chesterfield FC Community Trust and since then it's been a smoother ride with back-to-back play-off finishes. In 2022, the Spireites were beaten by Solihull Moors at the semi-final stage before falling at the final hurdle last season, losing to Notts County at Wembley in May.
With Paul Cook at the helm, a manager who has previously won the League Two title with Chesterfield in a title race where they just edged out Rochdale in 2014, the Spireites now have their sights set firmly on the league's one automatic spot this season and they've made a beeline for the title in the early stages of the campaign.
Eleven games into the season and Cook's charges have already built up an impressive five point lead at the top of the table and they make the relatively short trip to Lancashire on Tuesday night on the back of six consecutive victories following 3-2 home wins over both Halifax and Wealdstone over the last week.
In terms of players to keep an eye out for, ex-Wigan Athletic duo Michael Jacobs and Will Grigg are the obvious stand-out names, but midfielder Ollie Banks in his second spell at the club has also been a scourge of the Dale defence in the past and former Altrincham winger Ryan Colclough has enjoyed a fine start to his second season at the club.
HEAD TO HEAD
ROCHDALE WINS: 34
Chesterfield were a real bogey team for Dale at between 2009 and 2014, with Dale winning just one of the 12 meetings between the clubs in that run and the Spireites also beating us to the League Two title in 2013/2014.
Since then however, Dale have had the upper hand, winning four and drawing one of their last seven clashes with the Derbyshire outfit. The last meeting was a 1-3 away win for Dale in March 2017, with Ian Henderson, Callum Camps and Jamie Allen all on the scoresheet that day.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
09 Jan 2016 - Rochdale 2-3 Chesterfield - League One
Photo: Action Images
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