Johnny Moore asks Richard Partington from the Manchester Evening News to run the rule over Rochdale
Q: Rochdale have been involved in some high-scoring contests this season, but presumably they would have swapped that for a few more points?
A: Without a doubt. On the back of impressive 4-0 and 5-0 wins at Plymouth and Wigan in December came a run of high-scoring games in January (two 3-3 draws, a 4-4 draw and a 4-3 defeat) that attracted national attention, with Dale being talked up as one of the most entertaining sides in the country.
However, picking up points during that period was a somewhat piecemeal process, with just one win from the January and February fixture list.
More recently, and attracting much less attention, they endured a seven-game run without scoring which saw them drop to the bottom of the division.
Q: Are Rochdale playing well enough to suggest an escape from the drop is likely?
A: If you’d posed this question two games ago I’d have answered with a resounding no. At that point they had gone nine games without a win – seven losses and two draws – and seven matches without scoring.
Their dreadful record of just one win at home all season (back in October) has become an albatross around the club’s neck and with key players injured, they looked nailed on for the drop.
Victory at Lincoln and then a 3-3 draw against Peterborough at home – they were denied victory by a 93rd minute penalty – in their past two games has improved the mood and revived hope that they can at least compete in the fight for survival.
Q: Was a struggle like this on the cards before a ball had even been kicked this season?
A: When you’re operating on the smallest budget in the division and lose players of quality like Ian Henderson and Callum Camps, plus the experience of old heads Calvin Andrew and Aaron Wilbraham, you are on the back foot from the off.
So yes, a struggle was anticipated in light of those losses and Covid’s impact on finances. However, there’s a sense among many supporters that Dale added to their own problems by sticking for too long with a tactical plan unsuited to the survival fight they were facing and, at times, to the personnel at their disposal.
Q: Who have been the outstanding performers for Rochdale so far this season?
A: Matty Lund is an obvious choice, having taken over the responsibility of scoring goals from midfield following the departure of Camps.
He’s scored 11 times in the league so far this season, but is currently out injured and not expected back for two or three weeks – he’s a huge loss.
Stephen Humphrys has impressed on his return to the club. He suffered recently from a lack of support up front and cut an isolated figure for a spell – but with the return of strike partner Jake Beesley, Rochdale hopes will rest largely with his ability to make things happen in the final third.
Q: Both Pompey and Rochdale have looked better on the road this season, so do the visitors have enough about them to leave the south coast with all three points?
A: Yes, they do – putting aside their poor record at Fratton Park. Their best results have come on the road this season, with the big wins at Wigan and Plymouth, and victories at Burton and Shrewsbury before that.
They beat Bristol Rovers at the end of February and then produced an impressive performance against Lincoln on their last away trip. So the highlights of their season have pretty much all been away from home.
And, as strange as it may seem looking at their precarious position in the table, they go into this game with confidence just about as high as it’s been all calendar year having matched promotion contenders in their past two games.