With Rochdale’s campaign almost at the mid-way point manager Keith Hill has spoken exclusively to MM to deliver his side’s half-term report and gave us the low-down on his new year’s resolution.
The Dale manager rated his side’s performance in their League Two campaign at ‘seven and a half’ out of ten and revealed that his vow in the New Year is to not lose any more matches.
While many of us will be enjoying mince pies by the fire over the festive season Hill told MM that winning football matches is all that matters.
“Christmas is a great time of year for everybody but for us it’s business,” he said.
Rochdale currently sit in eighth position, just two points off the automatic promotion spots and Hill has been delighted by some of the expansive football his team have played so far this season.
However, the Rochdale boss believes his players need to acquire a bit more nous if they are to be in the promotion shake-up come the end of the season.
“We have performed well (but) I think we’ve shown a little bit of naivety when we haven’t been performing at our best,” Hill told MM.
“I believe we’re still a little bit green, a little bit naïve, in making sure we fulfil our ambitions.
“I think if you look at Oxford and Chesterfield (the league’s top two) and the experience that they’ve got in their sides they’ve managed to draw games where they haven’t been at their best.”
Dale have won ten, drawn three and lost seven of their opening 20 fixtures and Hill, who is targeting at least a play-off place, has thrown down the gauntlet to his team challenging them to be unbeaten in 19 of their 26 remaining league matches.
Bradford City reached the League Two play-offs last season with 69 points and, with Dale’s points per game ratio set to better that tally, Hill is proud of what of his side have achieved so far.
“I believe that at times we have played some of the best football this club has seen for a long time, said Hill.
“I’m most pleased with the bravery of the players and the way they want to play in possession. It’s very difficult to play the expansive way we want to play (because) it shoulders a lot of responsibility in vulnerable areas of the field.
“But I think we’re getting respected (and) I think that’s a great indicator of how good a side we are when the opposition do respect you.”
Direct, long-ball tactics are often suggested to be the only means of achieving success in the lower leagues of English football, but Hill, who spent the bulk of his playing career in the lower leagues with Plymouth Argyle and of course, Rochdale, believes that his team can play the beautiful game and get results.
“I’ve always wanted to play this way, from being a player myself,” said Hill.
“Some managers don’t and I understand why because it’s about winning, winning, winning but I want to try and develop a style which I believe I was good enough to play in.”
“You have to have a balance within any team of passers and pressers and there’s got to be that little bit of experience as well, so the style has really been influenced by my experiences as a player and I believe you can be successful trying to create this possession-based style.”
“Hopefully we’ll be successful I don’t see any reason why we can’t be.”
For all the plaudits their offensive play has received this season, Dale have at times been their own worst enemies often conceding sloppy goals which have led to points being dropped.
This is something Hill wants to eradicate as Dale strive for glory in the second half of the season.
“We’re making individual mistakes where the opposition are being allowed to score against the run of play quite often,” said Hill.
“It’s difficult for a manager (because) I’ve got to trust the players I’ve got to give them the experience (and) I’ve got to give them opportunity to make mistakes, but as a result of making mistakes they have to improve.
“It’s ok for me to forgive one, maybe two, maybe three mistakes but the continual same players making the same mistakes will not just cost me, but they’ll cost the football club (and) they’ll cost the team and I’ve got be aware of that.”
Hill believes now is the time for his side to really hone in on improving their weaknesses and turn an already good campaign into a great one.
“I feel as though we’re in a really, really good place but at this time of the season, it’s time for us as a squad to pin down where we can improve and make sure we continue to make progress,” Hill added.
Image courtesy of Rochdale FC via YouTube, with thanks