Marcus Braddock looks ahead to Saturday's trip to the Crown Oil Arena
Following on from Wednesday's damp squib in Gillingham, Town travel to Rochdale this weekend. Currently sitting in 18th position, Dale have had a difficult few weeks since just before Christmas with only two wins and six defeats in their last ten games. They last won at home on January 11th when they beat Bolton Wanderers 2-0 at home with goals from ex-Town man Jimmy Ryan and Luke Mathiason. Their other win in their last ten games was a 2-1 away win at Accrington with goals from Ian Henderson and Stephen Dooley.
When we last met Rochdale in mid-August at Montgomery Waters Meadow when honours were even, and no goals were scored. It was our 51st meeting and the 11th draw between the two teams, with Rochdale historically the better team with 24 wins to our 16.
Top goalscorer for Dale is veteran striker Ian Henderson who is proving that he's as good as ever with 14 goals in all competitions. The ex-Norwich and Colchester front-man has played more games for Rochdale than any other team with well over 300 games under his belt. In that time he's scored liberally with 121 goals since joining Dale in 2013. Midfielder Callum Camps is the second-highest goalscorer with eight, including 2 in cup competitions. The 24-year-old is a successful product of Rochdale's youth system and made his debut as a 17-year-old in 2013 in a 2-2 draw with Port Vale. Camps is also Rochdale's top goal creator with five assists so far this season, with Ex-Manchester United youth player Oliver Rathbone the next highest with three in all competitions. At home, they've failed to score in 31% of their games and have lost without scoring in 23%.
Dale have kept six clean sheets this season, three at home and three away from home. They've also conceded 19 times, four more than they've scored, which is pretty similar to the clubs around them.
They score more goals in the first half with 57% but have conceded 63% in the second half. The most noticeable period in the game defensively is the 15 minutes after half time, during which they've conceded six, more than in any other period. Their best fifteen minutes in terms of goalscoring is the final 15 minutes of the first half with five. Oddly, they don't finish the second half so well with just one all season.
The man in the middle this weekend is Carl Boyeson from East Yorkshire. Mr Boyeson is a hugely experienced referee who started his career in 1993 in Hull. He has hundreds of games under his belt and should be a well-known name to many football supporters. He was last in charge of a Town game in September when we drew 0-0 away with Rotherham. In his games this season, he's dished out 50 yellow cards and just three red cards.
Rochdale will be without goalkeeper Rob Sanchez and influential midfielder Callum Camps this weekend, while Town will be without Josh Vela, Romaine Vincalot with Ollie Norburn looking doubtful. In their pre-match interviews, both managers mentioned the schedule of games and their efforts to prepare well enough in the time available.
Both managers have been busy in the transfer window, Brian Barry-Murphy has brought in young striker, Tyler Smith on loan from Sheffield United and Keaton Mulvey who has been scoring for fun for Curzon Ashton this season. As you may have read, Sam Ricketts has brought in midfielder Josh Vela from Hibs, defender Sam Hart on loan from Blackburn, right back Kayne Ramsey on loan from Southampton and forward Conor McAleny on loan from Fleetwood. With the transfer window to close later today, there may yet be further signings by either club.
The actual game looks to be another difficult one. As highlighted by Sam Ricketts, Rochdale like to pass the ball about a bit, which may suit us better than Gillingham's more direct approach on Wednesday. We're probably fortunate that Callum Camps is out of action because he's a real danger for Dale, but that doesn't mean there isn't a decent replacement for him and an unknown quantity to deal with. I'm hoping for a less jaded performance than on Wednesday. It's relatively common to see a little bit of a dip after a big game like the Liverpool one. We see a similar thing in the changeover from Champions League to Premier League only on a larger scale. Hopefully, we're now fully recovered and raring to go because a point or three would be handy while we still have games in hand.