Second-round place looks up for grabs.
It was back to square one for Rochdale again on Saturday. They competed well for an hour with high-flying Bradford City at Spotland but Matt Done had a first-half header ruled out for offside and Rhys Bennett failed to find the net from close range shortly after the interval before the Bantams scored twice in the closing stages.
Apart from a crushing 5-2 win against Crewe, Dale’s lack of firepower this season has been all too evident but perhaps the forwards will rediscover their eye for goal with a return visit to Gresty Road this week in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
Keith Hill may decide to change things around a little with the battle for league points put on the back-burner for the time being. The manager doesn’t have too many options with a small squad and several injuries to key players to contend with but George Donnelly and on-loan Shamir Fenelon will be pressing for a start.
There is also talk of a loan move for promising Blackburn defender Jack O’Connell, who may find his opportunities at Ewood Park reduced further by Rovers’ signing of Shane Duffy. The budget will have to be balanced, however, with youngster Joe Bunney possibly one of those who may be shipped out to get some game time.
That crushing win at Crewe last month has been the high point of Rochdale’s season so far and the Railwaymen have really struggled so far. They’ve lost all five league games, conceding 13 goals in the process, and ‘Dale look to have an excellent chance of making progress in this competition if they can keep the back door shut.
There are certainly signs of a promising partnership developing between Ashley Eastham and Greg Tanser and they will probably be first choices until Olly Lancashire returns.
Both teams will welcome the distraction that this competition offers but it may be wise to check out the starting line-ups before going in big as clubs tend to give fringe players an outing in the early rounds, within rule restrictions of course! ‘Dale are 6/4 to win in 90 minutes but this looks a tie that could go either way. Both teams to score in the second half is 2/1.
This match kicks off at 7.45pm on Tuesday, September 2nd at Gresty Road.