FA Cup provides fresh start for Rochdale after brutal November

Rochdale manager Keith Hill is looking for his side to put a rough November behind them, starting with a trip to Aldershot Town for their FA Cup second round match this Sunday.

Dale will travel to Aldershot’s ESS Stadium having defeated Northampton town in the previous round, with Olly Lancashire’s late winner settling the replay at Spotland Stadium.

Keith Hill’s men picked up just one point from their last three League One fixtures, and have been struggling with key absences in recent weeks, most notably in the 3-0 loss to neighbours Oldham Athletic last Saturday.

Speaking to the official club website, Hill said: “We’ve taken a big hit in November, but I’m still full of confidence with respect to the remainder of the season.

“It’s been a difficult month. We had as close to our best eleven as you could possibly ask for against Preston, but since then we’ve never really been able to have any continuity.

“When we’ve got key players missing then it’s a big burden for us to carry to get results. It’s been very, very testing and disappointing, but understandable.”

Hill admitted that he was perhaps at fault for changing personnel too frequently in an attempt to rediscover a winning recipe.

The Dale manager has been contending with suspensions to his two top scorers, an illness that has targeted the squad and the ineligibility of centre-back Jack O’Connell, as well as injuries generated by the bruising nature of a League One campaign.

Aldershot Town are currently 16th in the Vanarama Conference, and required a replay of their own to set up the tie with Rochdale.

The Shot’s drew 2-2 draw with 2008 cup-winners Portsmouth at Fratton park, and a late winner from Mark Molesley’s was required to decide the return encounter.

Commenting on Sunday’s clash, Hill said: “I think everybody expected Portsmouth to come through as victors but Aldershot did and they’re going to be a difficult proposition, but one we’re looking forward to.

“I said after the Northampton game in the last round that we’d go anywhere to play in the FA Cup because it is a special competition.

“It’ll be a test, but we’re hoping to come up with the right formula to get through to the next round, which will give us something to look forward to just after Christmas.” 

Rochdale are still sat eighth in League One despite struggling in recent fixtures, and the manager is impressed with the performance of his team in trying circumstances.

However, Hill is pushing for his players to exceed pre-season expectations, saying: “We’re three points shy of the target that I set the players, but I expect the players to go beyond that target.

“We really have to start turning games into results but we’re still, in my estimations, in front of ourselves.

“League One has been harsh on us in November because the players have made one or two mistakes which have cost us games. It has been a difficult month, but a good month with respect to learning.”

Rochdale’s busy festive period continues over the next few weeks as they prepare for meetings with Colchester United, Notts County and Scunthorpe United.

But first eyes turn to Aldershot, with Keith Hill’s men within touching distance of the third round of the FA Cup and a potential meeting with a Premier League giant.

Main image courtesy of Official Rochdale FC via YouTube, with thanks.

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