Keith Hill’s Rochdale side take on Fleetwood Town this Saturday and it’s a game he’s looking forward to following a positive week preparing for a busy time ahead.
“We have had a really positive week of rest and recuperation because we know we have a lot of games coming up in quick succession,” said Hill. “The hard miles on the training pitch at this stage of the season have been done and now it is a question of getting the balance right and making sure the players have got the energy to see things through.”
With the form shown by Hill’s side in recent weeks a Tuesday night fixture could have been a welcome addition in keeping the momentum going, but the Dale boss believes the week without a game will prove far more beneficial to his side.
“If you look at the last 20 minutes of our previous game a few of the players who haven’t played on a regular basis looked like they had played a game too far. I thought we played ever so well in the first half and you have to give credit to Colchester United because they came with a game plan. They absorbed our energy by sitting deep and had one or two opportunities on the counter-attack. We did well to see out the game and get the points because psychologically they are very important at this stage of the season and they put us in great health.”
One press article this week headlined a story with ‘Forget the play-offs just enjoy the rest of the season’. It was a line that angered some Dale supporters but the gaffer insists it was a line that was aimed more at his players.
“We don’t want to burden the players with added pressure. There is enough pressure at this football club in trying to retain its League One status. We don’t know what is going to happen over the next few months so let’s enjoy the last 13 games.
“We have talked about what is possible, but we have to look at what is probable and those bigger teams above us will make a big surge towards those play off places. If we were to get one of those places it would have been planned there is no doubt about that, however it would be a happy accident.
“At the moment we are in a strong position because the six points we have just gained takes us 12 points clear of the bottom four with two games in hand and that’s a big boost psychologically. It helps us to look upwards at the table because any one of ten teams can still get involved in a relegation fight.
“We are under the radar and with a couple of games in hand, who knows. I just want to make sure we do well when everyone else is playing and use those two games as Bully’s Star Prize.”
Ambition to succeed is clearly well instilled in the Dale camp and despite his attempts to shield the players from the pressures of modern day football, Hill sees the desire in his squad every day and especially following a game.
“There’s always a scramble to look at the TV after games especially we have won and there’s a disappointing look at the results when we have lost. I try to stop it, but what is the point? They want to see if we have moved up the table or how close we are to that sixth place. I want the players to have ambition and I suppose to have the ambition to do the seemingly impossible at times too. While it is something still viable we will aim for it but I won’t be disappointed if we don’t achieve it.”
A trip to the seaside this weekend to face Fleetwood Town and following an excellent win last week at Sheffield United, they’ll be looking for more of the same.
“They will. Fleetwood are a side that have made tremendous strides in recent years. They are fortunate to have an owner that go and get a player the manager feels will enhance the squad. Sometimes when you have money at your disposal it can lead to pressure but Graham is handling that very well. They have a good relationship and they have had an excellent season. To be honest all the teams who were promoted last season have more than held their own and at times look like they can beat anybody. “
There is more from Keith on Dale Player including his thoughts on loanee ‘keeper Jamie Jones and all the latest from the treatment room.