Both Rochdale and Plymouth Argyle come into Saturday’s League One encounter at Spotland in desperate need of three points in what could likely be a relegation six-pointer should things stay as they are. Just seven points separate the two sides in 18th and 22nd respectively with Rochdale looking to end a poor run which has seen them win just once in their previous five league games.
Forward Ian Henderson will look to return to the side having missed last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Wimbledon with 20-year-old Matty Gillam making way.
Fellow forward Zac Clough is expected to once again miss out. The 23-year-old arrived on-loan from Nottingham Forest in the summer but has failed to meet expectations, featuring just five times in the league this season and failing to score.
Goalkeeper Magnus Norman and midfielder Aaron Morley both featured in the midweek Checkatrade Trophy victory over Oldham but both will likely find themselves back on the bench for this league fixture.
Rafferty, Delaney, McGahey, Done
Dooley, Camps, Rathbone
Inman, Henderson, Williams
Style of Play
Rochdale like to play expansively and keep the ball out wide when they are attacking in their 4-3-3 formation. Whilst the emphasis is often on getting the ball to wingers Brad Inman and Jordan Williams, full-backs Matt Done and Joe Rafferty have a tendency to overlap in order stretch their opponents and add an injection of pace going forward. Both are attacking full-backs – Done has spent most of his career as a winger – and provide a lot of crosses from the wings. This has proved fruitful for them throughout a tough season with the pair registering seven assists between them.
Keith Hill’s side prefer to keep the ball on the floor rather than playing route one football. This can be attributed mainly to the lack of height in attack, with first-choice striker Ian Henderson standing at just 5ft 8in. Rochdale’s pace and technical ability allows them to create overlaps out wide for their wingers and fullbacks, in order to create spaces to lay the ball off for their 101-goal man.
Whilst Inman and fellow midfielder Oliver Rathbone have contributed a combined seven goals for Dale this season there is a clear burden on forward Ian Henderson to produce. Keith Hill’s side have scored a very respectable 28 goals from 21 league games so far this season with 33-year-old Henderson account for 12 of those making him the division’s second highest goalscorer. Not only this but in terms of creating chances for his teammates, only the previously mentioned Matt Done (four) and Joe Rafferty (three) rival his tally of three assists for the season.
With 12 goals and four assists to his name from just 20 league matches this season, Ian Henderson will be the threat that Argyle need to be wary of. His total of 16 direct goal contributions this season beats every other League One player, edging out Lyle Taylor (9G, 6A). Whilst he is neither the most pacey or physical of strikers, he has excellent spatial awareness and positions himself superbly to maximise his chances of being found by a teammate and scoring. Indeed, his awareness is the skill that has served him best throughout his career and enabled him to continue scoring well into his thirties.
His shooting statistics – 62% of his unblocked shots have hit the target, and 29% have found the back of the net – reflect a player who positions himself well to finish chances. Additionally, Henderson is a leader of his team and will tirelessly run for his side all afternoon, in the service of creating chances for himself and others or defending a lead.
This season, Rochdale have been poor defensively, conceding 39 goals from 21 league matches, with Argyle (40) and Scunthorpe (44) the only sides to ship more. Particularly the 3-2 defeat to Shrewsbury in mid-November highlighted a lot of the problems that have proven to be their downfall on so many occasions this season. The likes of Ollie Norburn and Greg Doherty were afforded vast amounts of time on the edge of the area to pick out passes and take shots with Rochdale simply too slow to track their markers and close down their men. This is the sort of thing that Argyle should look to exploit with the likes of Graham Carey in particular a possible benefactor.
Consistency has been another factor for Keith Hill’s side with the team have found themselves unable to enter any sort of rhythm throughout the campaign. Impressive wins over Bradford, Charlton and Accrington in which they kept clean sheets have been followed by defeats to Wycombe, Shrewsbury and Oxford in which they conceded a minimum of three goals.
Taking into account both teams’ poor defensive records it would be fair to suggest that this fixture could see a few goals. For Rochdale, Ian Henderson is in fantastic form but so is Freddie Ladapo, and both forwards will surely be fancying their chances at adding to their impressive goal tally’s for the season so far. A potential relegation six-pointer, both clubs will be going all out for three points ahead of a busy January transfer window.
I predict that Argyle will win 3-2.