Rochdale AFC manager Keith Hill welcomes the return of key players before their League One clash with Colchester United this weekend, following a spate of injuries and illnesses that affected his squad in the last month.
Hill is in a positive frame of mind as Dale continue their frenetic Christmas period, buoyed by the availability of key figures as his side attempt to bounce back from a dip in form and return to the play-off spots.
Rochdale are on a four-match winless run after suffering a punishing November, but Hill says his team are close to matching his pre-season demands for this stage of the season.
Speaking to the official club website, Hill said: “We’re three points short of the target that I set the players, and we’ve got an FA Cup fixture replay to play, then we can go into the New Year with a real vibrancy and a real sense of achievement.
“I’m looking forward to the next five games because it can really give us a great opportunity to try and kick on.
“With the return of Matty Done from suspension, and Matty Lund and Andy Cannon from illness, we seem to be in better shape, not only for this weekend’s fixture, but for the five fixtures that we have in the next sixteen days.”
Rochdale will still be without Rhys Bennett and Joe Bunney who have not made the trip to Colchester, but Hill is confident that his squad is looking a lot fresher than in recent weeks.
Dale are eighth in the table having not picked up a victory since their 3-0 demolition of Preston North End on November 1.
However, their opponents at the weekend are in a far more precarious position, sat 22nd and without a league win since mid-October.
Nevertheless, Hill is expecting a tough game after Tony Humes’ side recorded a 1-0 win over Peterborough United in the FA Cup second round last weekend.
“Colchester had a real positive bounce in the FA Cup,” Hill said.
“They’re a good side and they’ve got League One experience. It’s important that we continue to learn no matter who our opposition is.”
Kaspars Gorkss will potentially make his league debut for Colchester after signing on a short-term deal until January, while Magnus Okuonghae and Frankie Kent are unavailable.
Ex-West Ham striker Freddie Sears offers the main attacking threat for Colchester, having notched 11 goals this season.
Rochdale present a threat of their own with the return of top-scorer Done and the ever-dangerous Peter Vincenti, much to the delight of manager Hill.
“Peter has been a key player since he has been at the football club and has done exceptionally well,” Hill said.
“There’s a vibrancy on the training pitch when Peter is on it. When he got injured he was probably right on point – he was in exceptional form and we will get him back to that.
“We can’t expect too much from him too early, but I do have to play him and give him game time to get him back up to match speed again.”
Vincenti made his comeback last weekend against Aldershot Town in the FA Cup, completing the full 90 minutes of the 0-0 draw without trouble.
Aldershot visit Spotland Stadium on Tuesday night for the second round replay – the winners will be rewarded with a home tie against Championship side Nottingham Forest in the third round.
Main image courtesy of Rochdale AFC via YouTube, with thanks.