Yes, it’s bloody Rochdale again.
For the third time this season we face off against Brian Barry-Murphy‘s side after two frankly unimportant clashes in the Carabao Cup and EFL Trophy.
The 5-2 reverse, after a flurry of late goals turned it around for Rochdale after we had led 2-1 and the defeat on penalties after a hard fought 1-1 draw in normal time at least showed that we are capable of scoring against them, albeit it was a much-changed Rochdale side from their league team in both games.
The 1-1 draw saw Wanderers legend Aaron Wilbraham score the equaliser after we had again led through Ali Crawford’s fantastic free-kick.
Rochdale had been on a slippery run of late before overcoming Accrington last weekend. The 2-1 victory, courtesy of a double from the evergreen Ian Henderson, halted a run of three consecutive league defeats in which 8 goals were conceded and was their first league win since the final day of August. With that win coming away against basement dwellers (I’m not counting us as it’s not fair) Southend United and the other at Tranmere Rovers, Rochdale have beaten three of the bottom six but have not managed to win any of their other 9 games and therefore languish in 17th place.
They also had their night in the limelight at Old Trafford in the Carabao Cup when the-then 16 year-old full-back Luke Matheson cancelled out Mason Greenwood’s opener to take the game to penalties, which they subsequently lost.
With the exception of two goalless draws in August with Blackpool and Shrewsbury, Rochdale’s games have tended to be goal-filled affairs. Whether that will be the case on Saturday after our recent miserly spell in conceding just two in our past four league games, remains to be seen.
34 year-old club stalwart Henderson unsurprisingly leads Dale’s scoring charts with 7 league goals and one strike in the Carabao Cup. He is clearly their biggest goal threat and has four goals in his last two games, after another brace in the 3-2 away reverse at AFC Wimbledon.
If you’re one of ‘those’ punters who always backs against his team, then Henderson to score anytime in a Rochdale win is 13/5 with Skybet.
Looking at the Wanderers side of things it seems likely we will be naming an unchanged side from the one that finished the game against Blackpool for this latest clash at the UniBol Stadium. Although both Connor Hall and Josh Earl completed 90 minutes on their comeback game for the Under 23’s in their 4-1 defeat to Crewe in midweek, with Hall scoring the consolation, I think the best both can hope for would be a place on the bench.
Joe Dodoo managed 68 minutes in that game and he could well be the only change to the side, perhaps coming in for Dennis Politic. Politic was replaced at half-time in the Crewe game by Sonny Graham, who looks set to continue in centre midfield after his encouraging display when coming on for the stricken Liam Bridcutt last Monday night.
As I am writing this Marc Iles has tweeted to confirm Chris O’Grady is now fit to return from his dislocated knee, so he is another that could make what is looking likely to be a very attacking bench.
Having managed to contain a soon-to-be Phil Parkinson’s Sunderland until their lucky injury-time penalty, a since-rampant Oxford United side and a normally free scoring Blackpool in our last three home games, it is hard to make a case for Rochdale bucking that trend by coming away with more than one goal.
As the players gain more match and general fitness in these last ten days training, it is hoped that we could also add that creative touch and sharpness in front of goal that is so badly needed to help our quest to turn these home draws into wins and kickstart our survival push.
A 2-1 victory is priced up at 10/1 but Bolton to win and both sides to score is boosted to 5/1, so it might be more prudent to cover a multitude of bases with the latter option.
It isn’t unfeasible that the HT draw/FT Bolton would have a chance of coming in at 11/2, as every game thus far under Hill at home has been level at the break.
As for goalscorers, the quality of Ali Crawford‘s corners have given me hope that we can garner as good a return as last time we were in this league, when Wheater and Beevers scored for fun from set-pieces.
Jack Hobbs and Yoan Zouma are 33/1 and 40/1 respectively to bag the first or last goal of the game. They are also 12/1 and 14/1 to score anytime.
I’m not too sure who else will step up to force the ball home for us in all honesty, it is difficult to make a strong case to back any of our midfielders or strikers to score really as there isn’t a precedent of it happening as things stand.
So there we have it, I’m going all out to say, somehow, we will have our first win in the bag on Saturday evening.
I’ll go 0-0 at half-time, Ian Henderson scoring first for Rochdale around the hour mark which then precedes a huge turnaround with Jack Hobbs equalising and a late winner from Joe Dodoo causing jubilation in the stands.
You can’t get odds on all of that to happen together obviously but Bolton to come from behind is a tasty 14/1.
Stranger things have happened!