Can Dale make a return to League 1 after two seasons in the fourth tier of English football?
With the fixtures out next Wednesday, our previews continue with Rochdale. To find out when we'll be facing Keith Hill's side, visit the official site on June 19th.
From 1974 to 2010, Rochdale spent the longest ever time in the bottom division. Keith Hill was the man that stopped the rot. In his third season at the club -after losing a play-off Final to Stockport County in his first campaign and play-off semi-final heartbreak in his second – Hill oversaw Dale reach League 1, in 2009/10. The club finished 9th in League 1 before Hill moved on to Barnsley a month later in June 2011. Steve Eyre took over control, but after a poor start, he was sacked and John Coleman came in as Rochdale looked to beat the drop. However, it didn’t go to plan and Dale were relegated after two seasons in League 1.
Bolton-born Keith Hill is in his second spell as manager at Rochdale. The 44-year-old originally was boss at Spotland between 2006 and 2010 before moving to Barnsley. After his sacking from the Tykes in December 2012, and the dismissal of then Rochdale manager John Coleman a month later, Hill was brought back to the club. As a player, Hill started out at Blackburn Rovers in 1987 and then had a four-year spell at Plymouth Argyle. He returned north in 1996 to play for Rochdale, making over 180 appearances over a five-year stay. He made five appearances for Cheltenham in 2001/02 and then had a spell at Wrexham before hanging up his boots at Morecambe in 2003. Hill won promotion to League 1 with Rochdale in 2009/10.
Josh Lillis and Steve Collis will fight it out for the number one spot in 2013/14. Lillis, who is 25-year-old, began his career at Scunthorpe United before having loan spells at Notts County and Grimsby Town. After having a couple of loan spells at Rochdale, the move turned into a permanent one in 2012. Collis, is the more experienced ‘keeper having played for Yeovil Town, Crewe Alexander, and two seasons at Blues from 2006 to 2008. Defensively, Joe Rafferty and Rhys Bennett will have the experienced duo of former Shrewsbury Town and Preston Noth End man Shane Cansdell-Sheriff and 31-year-old former Accrington Stanley player, Peter Cavanagh, playing at the back. Midfield will see Andrew Tutte, ex-Aldershot Town and Stevenage player, Peter Vincenti and the long-serving Jason Kennedy in the mix, with former Colchester United man Ian Henderson on the wing. Up front, Keith Hill has the option of 25-year-old George Donnelly.
Young forward Bobby Grant made a great impression after his return to Spotland on summer 2012’s deadline day. The 22-year-old spent time at Dale in 2010/11 after joining on loan from Scunthorpe United. After this, he went back on a temporary deal to his former club, Accrington Stanley, where he spent four years, between 2006 and 2010. Grant came through the youth ranks at Liverpool.
After suffering relegation to League 2 the season before, it was important that, like some teams, Rochdale didn’t suffer a second one. The club had a good go at trying to reach the play-offs. A decent start was marred by some poor form from the start of November to the beginning of February, losing nine of their 13 games in this sequence. Ultimately, this proved to be Dale’s downfall, finishing eight points off the play-offs, in 12th place, one position below Blues.
Peter Vincenti has already arrived from relegated Aldershot Town on a free transfer, along with Bastien Hery and Scott Hogan, who joined from Sheffield Wednesday and Hyde respectively. Ian Henderson has signed a new deal to stay at Spotland after joining in the second half of last season. Leaving the club include forward Ashley Grimes, who scored 11 times for Dale last season, fellow forward Terry Gornell, Neill Byrne, Matt Edwards, Matt Pearson, Andy Haworth, Ritchie Jones and Kevin McIntyre.
BLUES vs. ROCHDALE:
Home: Blues 3-1 Rochdale
Blues moved up to fourth after a comfortable win against Dale at Roots Hall. The visitors went ahead in the 50th minute through Terry Gornell’s striker, but Britt Assombalonga, Gavin Tomlin and Marc Laird scored the goals to seal victory for Paul Sturrock’s men.
Blues: Smith, Clohessy, Cresswell, Phillips, Barker, Mkandawire, Timlin, Hurst, Laird, Assombalonga, Tomlin
Unused: Bentley, Prosser, martin, Spicer, Woodyard, Eastwood, Corr
Away: After defeat at Wembley, Blues headed north to face a Rochdale side that still harboured hopes of the play-offs. Michael Rose scored a well-taken free kick on 34 minutes, but Mark Phillips equalised just after half time. Bobby Grant scored a brace, his second a real cracker, before Ashley Grimes added a fourth. Barry Corr pulled one back for Blues in the 90th minute but that was to prove a late consolation.
Blues: Smith, Clohessy, Cresswell, Phillips, Barker, Reeves (Tomlin, 66), Mkandawire, Hurst (Eastwood, 78), Laird, Corr, Assombalonga
Unused: Bentley, Straker, Spillane, Leonard, Pinnock
Rochdale are 5/1 to win promotion this coming season.