Cycle broken, top half block and a Suffolk boy – The lowdown on AFC Rochdale
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Ipswich Town face AFC Rochdale for the first time ever tonight. STUART WATSON takes a look at the Greater Manchester hosts.
WHERE THERE'S A HILL, THERE'S A WAY
If you thought 17 consecutive seasons in the Championship was a long time for Ipswich Town, spare a thought for Rochdale fans - their club were stuck in League Two for 41 years.
That cycle was broken in 2010 when the Greater Manchester club claimed the third automatic promotion spot following on from two successive failures in the play-offs.
Following an unlikely ninth-place finish, in-demand manager Keith Hill moved to Barnsley and Dale went on to finish bottom. Eighteen months later, following on from John Coleman's short stint, Hill returned to mastermind another promotion.
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Rochdale have finished eighth, 10th, ninth, 20th and 16th in League One over the last five years.
Hill was sacked in March and is now in charge of his hometown club of Bolton. He was replaced in the hot-seat by Irishman Brian Barry-Murphy, the former Bury and Rochdale defender getting the job on a permanent basis after impressing in a caretaker role.
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THEATRE OF DREAMS
Victories against Bolton's kids and League Two side Carlisle set up a money-spinning Carabao Cup third round trip to near neighbours Manchester United.
Facing a team that contained the likes of Paul Pogba, Phil Jones and Jesse Lingard, Rochdale produced a spirited display at Old Trafford. A goal from 16-year-old Luke Matheson cancelled out Mason Greenwood's opener and, although defeated on penalties, Rochdale earned a standing ovation from their 5,500 travelling fans.
MID-TABLE FOR A REASON
Rochdale are placed 14th in the table for a reason.
October may have contained three successive victories, but the five teams they've beaten - Tranmere, Southend, Accrington, Bolton and MK Dons - are all positioned in the bottom six.
Following on from recent defeats to Oxford (3-0 away) and Bristol Rovers (2-1 at home), their record against teams currently in the top half of the table reads P10 D3 L7 F4 A20.
SOMETHING TO BUILD ON
After going 2-0 down to Bristol Rovers inside just 11 minutes on Saturday, Rochdale pulled a goal back just before half-time before dominating a goalless second half.
"In the first-half I thought we had pretty good control, but the disappointing thing for us as a group is that we were 2-0 down for no other reason apparent than individual errors and a collective error," said Barry-Murphy.
"It's frustrating. We've been defending set pieces really well for a long period of time, and in the last two games we've conceded from two set pieces.
"Our goal was a brilliant goal and it was testament to the players' courage because they continued the way we wanted to play.
"We were pretty relentless in the second-half. We created a lot of chances that we felt our play would. What we've worked on in previous weeks manifested itself in the second-half but we just couldn't find the final element of that in scoring a goal.
"We started to get a real attacking penetration in the final third against a team that were sitting deep, and they were entitled to do so because they were winning the game 2-0."
DOWN ON NUMBERS
Evergreen striker Aaron Wilbraham, who recently turned 40, is still going strong. The former MK Dons, Norwich and Bristol City veteran is currently serving a suspension for a recent red card at Oxford though.
Keeper Robert Sanchez, on loan from Brighton, could come back into contention after missing the last four games with a knee injury.
Defenders Ryan McLaughlin, Tyler Magloire and Jim McNulty are still not ready to return to action though, while midfielder Stephen Dooley remains a long-term absentee.
Midfielder Ollie Rathbone picked up a knock at the weekend and would be a big miss if not available.
Ian Henderson was born in Bury St Edmunds, is a former Thetford schoolboy, came through the Norwich youth ranks and had a spell at Colchester United. It's Rochdale where he found his home though.
The forward has scored 119 goals in 322 appearances for the club and, at the age of 34, very much remains a key man. He's already netted three braces this campaign.
Spotland Stadium is now known as the Crown Oil Arena for sponsorship reasons. Rochdale's average league attendance this season has been 3,572.