Selection problems create tough test for Rochdale’s Hill before Oldham derby clash

Rochdale AFC manager Keith Hill faces derby-day selection difficulties ahead of his side’s League One clash with Greater Manchester rivals Oldham Athletic at Spotland Stadium on Saturday.

Dale picked up an impressive point when drawing 2-2 at Milton Keynes Dons on Tuesday, but have been plagued by suspensions and injuries to key first team players in recent weeks.

Despite going through a punishing stage of the season, Hill remains confident the tough times will benefit his squad in the long term.

Speaking to the official club website, Hill said: “We’re going through a phase of the season where we’re picking up injuries. I think any squad or team gets stretched when you’re missing Matty Lund, Peter Vincenti and Matty Done [through suspension].

“We’ve also been missing Jack O’Connell and Ian Henderson, so it’s really, really difficult when you’re going through that testing time because it’s testing the squad of players and testing me as a manager.

“But we’re at stretching point, not at breaking point. We’ll come out of what’s happening now stronger because there will be other younger players who get opportunities.”

A bruising run of fixtures has taken its toll on Rochdale’s squad, with Northern Irishman Lund joining long-term absentee Vincenti on the side-lines after picking up an injury before the game in midweek.

Stephen Dawson was also withdrawn as a precaution during the match against MK Dons, while Done remains suspended for the visit of Oldham.

Rochdale appealed the striker’s red-card against Doncaster Rovers but were unsuccessful, leaving Hill’s squad looking slightly threadbare.

The manager has acquired the services of Polish midfielder Tomasz Cywka in an attempt to bolster his options, signing the 26-year-old on loan from Blackpool until early January.

Centre back O’Connell recovered from an illness to feature in Tuesday’s draw, while Henderson also returned following his own ban, with both expected to feature on Saturday.

Additionally, Hill praised the emergence of talent youngsters Andy Cannon, Jack Muldoon and Reuben Noble-Lazarus, recognising the role they have played when asked to perform in the first team.

In particular, Noble-Lazarus has captured the attention by scoring against MK Dons with a thunderous long-range effort to almost snatch an unlikely away victory.

Rochdale are currently seventh in League One, level on points with Lee Johnson’s Latics yet ahead on goal difference.

Despite threatening to break into the play-offs in what has been a very impressive start to the season, Hill still has an eye firmly fixed on League One survival.

“I don’t think anything can derail the progress that we’re making”, he said.

“Do we want to get promoted? Do we want to be in the promotion shake up? Of course we do, if it was to happen.”

“But we can’t force it and we can’t say that we’re in a position to be in a promotion campaign. We’re just on a retaining League One status campaign.”

Oldham’s squad has been strengthened by the arrival of Tom Youngs and Paddy Kenny on loan from Bolton, while imposing defender George Elokobi is available following injury.

Adam Lockwood misses out, but Jabo Ibhere has returned from suspension and Daniel Johnson is also available, providing manager Johnson with plenty of options. 

Main image courtesy of OfficialRochdaleAFC via YouTube, with thanks.

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