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D-Day for Dale

It’s one of the first games that every football fan looks for when the fixtures are published, the game that brings the part time fans out of the woodwork, the game where the form book is thrown out of the window. I am of course talking about the first local derby of the season.

This bank holiday weekend sees Keith Hill’s Rochdale play host to “that lot from the other side of Heywood”, Bury. This is perhaps one of the most predictable fixtures on the list all year, not only because it seems to be played every August bank holiday, but for the fact that Dale haven’t managed to record a win over the Shakers at Spotland since November 1993. Funnily enough, the favour is returned when the two meet at Gigg Lane, with Rochdale having a much better record away from home in this particular fixture.

So what can be expected from the game on Saturday? It’s a tough one to call after only four games, with both teams having lost two of their opening fixtures, however Bury have notched up two wins as opposed to Dale’s one. Obviously I haven’t actually seen any of the Shaker’s games this season, and getting a Bury fan to admit they deserved to lose is as hard as getting a Liverpool fan to admit they won’t win the Premiership, so I must say I’m not too sure as to what to expect from them on Saturday. Reading their messageboard however, they do seem to believe that every defeat they’ve suffered this season is the fault of the referee so it’ll be interesting how “Select Group” referee Keith Stroud goes down with their fans.

Referee Keith Stroud

One thing I am fully expecting however is at least one goal from Bury’s star striker Andy Bishop. The ex-York player spent a few months on loan at Dale towards the end of 2003 (scoring his only goal against Bury) and has found himself the subject of a weekly feature on the Rochdale messageboard titled, “Andy Bishop – Value for Moneywatch”. To cut a long story short, a certain member of the messageboard documents Bishop’s return from injury and analyses what Andy Bishop has done this week to earn his reported rather large wage. Here’s an example from the latest installment:

Running totals (Week eight):

Money extracted from bury football club: £22,400
Goals scored against credible opposition: O (This will be 3 at least after Rochdale away!)
Goals scored against non-league teams: 1 (Radcliffe Borough away)
Amount per goal scored: £22,400

Notice how even the author admits he is “tweeking the nipples” of the so-called “Football Gods”? After that he goes on to calculate what Bishop could buy with his wage:

What Andy has bought so far with his wages:
700 copies of Bad by Michael Jackson
1,003 pairs of Metallic Blue pom poms.
70 Lightweight Walking Frames
510 Copies of The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey
6 Outwell Hartford XXL Tenta (2009)
2,828 copies of the Bottom 2 – Digger (VHS)
350 pairs of Fur Love Cuffs.
466 Tesco Learn Together abacuses

As a result of this I’m fully expecting Bishop to score on Saturday, and I’m hoping that our strikers can finally find their scoring boots. For all our hard work this season we’ve only managed to score a measly three goals. That’s not to say we’ve been playing badly, because we haven’t. We just seem to be trying to pass to ball into the net so to speak. Of course the loss of Adam Le Fondre to Rotherham was a big blow (which was proven by his goal against us on his home debut) and it leaves us without our top scorer from the last 2 seasons.

Adam Le Fondre recently left Dale for promotion chasing rivals Rotherham United

Dale will have to find a new source of goals without Adam Le Fondre

Despite the loss of “Alfie”, we still have a number of players capable of scoring goals, Joe Thompson and Will Buckley contributed a fair share from the wings last season, with Buckley’s 93rd minute consolation at Gigg Lane playing a part in keeping Bury in this league (they missed out on automatic promotion by one goal). However, the weight of expectation now rests on the shoulders of Chris Dagnall.

The young scouser, signed from Tranmere in 2006, has a record of around a goal every three games but has suffered with injuries over the last two seasons and has struggled to regain the form he showed when he first signed for Dale. This isn’t to say he has lost his talent because he clearly hasn’t, in fact most Dale fans I know would have rather lost Le Fondre than “Daggers”. His goal against Rotherham on Saturday will have given him a confidence boost and hopefully he’ll start scoring for fun once again.

Dale are hoping Chris Dagnall can find his form of two seasons ago

Chris Dagnall: 1st choice striker

The departure of Le Fondre also hands a chance for a couple of players to stake a claim for a first team place. Jon Shaw, signed from Halifax Town in the summer of 2008 hasn’t lived up to expectations and spent the final few months of last season on loan to Crawley Town, whilst Scott Spencer has little over two weeks to prove he is worthy of a full time contract having been signed on “non-contract terms”. Also keen to make an impression is Chris O’Grady, who has been signed on loan from Oldham until January.

There is no team news for the Dale apart from the long term absentees of Ciaran Toner and Rory McArdle still being out. However their replacements, Jason Kennedy and Craig Dawson respectively, are proving more than worthy stand in’s, the latter making the step from Radcliffe Borough to League Football look incredibly easy.

Jason Kennedy has impressed since signing from Darlington

Jason Kennedy has impressed since joining from Darlington

My prediction for Saturday: Dale 2 – 1 BuryThe bad record at home has to stop sometime…doesn’t it?!

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