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Rochdale v Doncaster Rovers: The Opposition View

Rochdale boss Keith Hill
Rochdale boss Keith Hill

As they look to put last season’s battle against relegation behind them, Rochdale are plodding along quite nicely so far this term.

As they prepare to welcome Doncaster Rovers this weekend, we spoke to Richard Partington of the Manchester Evening News to get the lowdown on Keith Hill’s side.

Q: How do you assess Rochdale's start to the season?

RP: Heavy defeats at home in the first two games against Peterborough and Barnsley saw a frustrating start to the season, during which their form on the road was far better.

There have been some decent performances undermined by individual errors which have been punished by clinical opponents, while on other occasions they have got it right defensively but have struggled to capitalise at the other end. But there has been a gradual improvement all round, both in terms of the team's defending and their ability to create and take chances    

Q: What were the expectations heading into this season?

RP: The changes to the squad Keith Hill made over the summer all looked positive with the experience missing at times last season provided by the likes of David Perkins and Aaron Wilbraham.

With promising young players like Ryan Delaney and Harrison McGahey having tasted regular first-team football last season, they looked well poised to improve on a tough season last time out and many were expecting them to be challenging in and around the top ten, possibly pushing for a play-off berth  

Q:  How is Keith Hill currently viewed by supporters?

RP: The vast majority acknowledge him for what he is - the greatest manager in Rochdale's history and without doubt still the man who offers them the best chance of success off and on the field, because he buys into what the club is about and needs to be about (ie, developing young players, operating on a tight budget and not relying on swelling attendances).

There is a smattering of detractors who will never forgive him for leaving the club to go to Barnsley a few years ago while a handful of others just cannot comprehend what it is for a club of Rochdale's financial standing to compete with long-established League One clubs. It's a lack of understanding that irks Hill.  

Q: What system and style of play does Hill favour?

RP: He's dabbled with three at the back and two wing backs during the last 18 months but of late has reverted to the 4-3-3 system which has served the club so well in the main since their return to League One.

Q: Who are the dangermen for Rochdale?

RP: Ian Henderson is the obvious one - he's closing in on Reg Jenkins' long-standing record as the club's highest goalscorer. Henderson's a real nuisance, full of energy and with quality on the ball.

Hill brought Zach Clough in on loan last month, but injury has limited his involvement so far - but if he can hit form then Rochdale have a real threat up front to complement Henderson.