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Rochdale 0 v 0 Plymouth Argyle
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 20th February 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Match Preview: Rochdale vs Plymouth
Friday, 19th Feb 2021 20:38 by atthepeake

Attention reverts back to on-field matters and Dale's increasingly worrying slide towards the relegation zone on Saturday with a home fixture against Plymouth Argyle.

Date: Saturday 20th February
Kick-off: 3:00pm
Venue: Spotland
It feels like something is going to give at Spotland in the coming days. With pressure mounting on manager Brian Barry-Murphy, there seems to be growing dissent towards the direction of the club as a whole following the departure of chairman Andrew Kilpatrick.

As more off-field staff arrive and a new position of 'Sporting Director' is listed on LinkedIn, and with the board now consisting of none of the club's three major shareholders, questions are being asked among supporters. And what of American investor Dan Altman in all this - is he still looking for the opportunity to increase his stake in the club in this COVID world?

While these questions are rightly asked and pondered by Dale fans, the pressing matter of the relegation fight that the team find themselves in will be at the forefront of our minds on Saturday afternoon as yet another defeat on Tuesday night leaves Brian Barry-Murphy's charges just one point and two places above the relegation zone.

Although we would all be happy with such a gap come the end of the season in May, it has to be said that Dale's trajectory has been downward for quite some time now. Had the season began in November, when Dale were sitting in 14th place on the back of a four game unbeaten run, the side would now be in 24th position in the table, suggesting that as time goes on their descent is only like to continue.

The defeat to Blackpool at least saw Dale sure themselves up defensively somewhat in only conceding the one goal, but a lack of balance in the gameplan led to a toothlessness in attack. Few chances were registered, some penalties were claimed but never won and Dale came away from the game having failed to really force Chris Maxwell into a difficult save at Chris Maxwell.

And so on Saturday we return to Spotland, which frankly nobody seems to want right now, apart from perhaps opposition managers and players. On home soil, Dale have managed to pick up just one win in 18 games in all competitions this season. The team's last three points at home came way back on the 3rd of October, over four months ago and understandably, supporters are growing rather tired of that record being expanded each time the team play a home game.

We did receive an injury update from manager Brian Barry-Murphy ahead of this fixture but there wasn't particularly positive news on that front. Jake Beesley, Jimmy Ryan and Jack Vale are all considered to be three or more weeks away from a return, although Paul McShane was an unused substitute at Blackpool after another lengthy spell on the sidelines.

Perhaps more worrying than the comments regarding the injury list however were the manager's quotes on recent performances. Speaking to the official club website ahead of the game, the Dale boss had the following to say:

"Our performances recently have been very good and the lads are in very good form, so it’s not a case of me trying to build up any sense of false hope or disguise to the players that they aren’t in great form, because they are.”

One win in 18 home games? One win in 11 overall? Four defeats from our last five?

If this is great form, I sure as hell don't want to see bad form.
I suppose one positive for Dale fans to cling onto ahead of this tie is the fact that opponents Plymouth Argyle were on the receiving end of one of our best performances of the Brian Barry-Murphy era earlier in the season, when an early goal from Jake Beesley set the side on their way to a thumping 0-4 win.

Pressure had appeared to be building a little on Ryan Lowe at that point, but the former Bury manager has since led his side to a remarkable run of form that has transformed his side from potential relegation candidates to a play-off chasing team within four points of the top six.

And that form should rightly worry Dale fans. In their last ten games, the only defeat that the Pilgrims have suffered came at the hands of Premier League opponents Sheffield United in the FA Cup and they have continued to improve defensively (with Niall Canavan noticeable in his absence following a move to Bradford City).

Having beaten two other North-west opponents in Fleetwood Town and Accrington Stanley in their last two games, Plymouth will now be heading to Spotland with revenge on the mind following that shocking display in the reverse fixture at Home Park back in December.

The form of young striker Luke Jephcott has been a huge helping hand in this run of improved results for Plymouth. The 21 year old Wales U21 international has now hit 16 goals in just 24 games this season, although the fact that the Devon club reportedly turned down a bid of £3m from Cardiff City for the youngster shows the financial disparity between some of the teams in League One - and that's without suggesting that Plymouth are among the richest teams in the division.

The recent arrival of Liverpool loanee Adam Lewis may have helped the improvements defensively although the contributions of fellow youngsters Jerome Opoku (22) and Michael Cooper (21) shouldn't be overlooked.

Hoping to supply the deadly Jephcott with chances to convert are two of Lowe's former Bury charges Danny Mayor and Byron Moore while Tyrese Fornah and Kelland Watts have also made noticeable contributions to the cause in this rise up the league table for Plymouth.

While few Plymouth fans will be rueing missing out on such a long trip from their native Devon to our corner of Greater Manchester, they will certainly be ruining missing out on this terrific run of form that has seen their side go from potential strugglers to play-off contenders and they will no doubt hope to see their team exact revenge on a hapless Dale on Saturday afternoon.

Blackpool (a) - LOSS
Milton Keynes (h) - LOSS
Charlton Athletic (h) - LOSS
Bristol Rovers (a) - WIN
Oxford United (h) - LOSS

Plymouth Argyle:
Fleetwood Town (h) - WIN
Accrington Stanley (a) - WIN
Portsmouth (a) - DRAW
Accrington Stanley (a) - DRAW
Swindon Town (a) - WIN

DRAW - 9

01 Dec 2020 - Plymouth Argyle 0-4 Rochdale - League One
28 Oct 2017 - Plymouth Argyle 1-1 Rochdale - League One
24 Apr 2018 - Rochdale 1-1 Plymouth Argyle - League One
15 Dec 2018 - Rochdale 1-2 Plymouth Argyle - League One
23 Feb 2019 - Plymouth Argyle 5-1 Rochdale - League One

Photo: Action Images

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