Manager Keith Hill looks ahead to Dale’s League 1 fixture v Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium…
Back-to-back promotions has seen the Gas rise from the Conference to the third division, and Hill says he has been impressed with the way Saturday’s opponents have responded to being relegated in 2013-14.
“I think the way they did it has been superb. Bristol Rovers are a big football club but there are a lot of big football clubs that have fallen on bad times.
“Bristol bounced superbly through good management, good recruitment and a solid plan. Not only did they bounce well out of non-league, they also had a tremendous season last season.
“And they’ve kept that positivity. They’ve got leaders, they’ve recruited well and they’ll definitely adapt to League 1.”
Rochdale’s last trip to the Mem came in April 2014, with Keith Hill’s side coming from behind to win the match 2-1. The win kept Dale’s automatic promotion hopes on track and dealt a blow to Bristol Rovers’ survival hopes.
Hill admits it was a day of mixed emotions, as he reflects on the victory.
“It was superb because there was a little bit of pressure on at the time and there was also pressure on Bristol Rovers because they ended up getting relegated. That was a travesty for Bristol Rovers but their bounce has been magnificent.
“From our perspective, that was arguably the game that got us promoted. We kicked-off before anyone else because of the early kick-off and we found ourselves 1-0 down at half-time, but we responded superbly to win 2-1. I think that cheesed off our promotion rivals because prior to that we’d just been beaten 3-0 by Mansfield and 3-0 by Southend, so the rest of the teams who were in contention for promotion were looking at us going on a bad run.
“But we turned it around with a great half-time and a great second half. That particular day, Joe Bunney scored and it was an emotional day for him.
“I know you can’t put getting promoted down to just one day but that result really gave us the opportunity to solidify our place in the top three. The next game was against Cheltenham and we won comfortably to get promoted.
“It was a great feeling down at Bristol that day but I also had a sad feeling for Clarkey [Bristol Rovers Manager Darrell Clarke] as well, because I go way back with Clarkey - when I first took over here, he was one the of players. He had been given a monumental task to try and stave of relegation for Bristol Rovers.”
Dale head into the game on the back of Tuesday night’s Checkatrade Trophy tie v Sunderland and Hill believes that performance has a positive effect in terms of confidence.
“There’s not a lot of difference between sides on a matchday in League 1 - top, middle or bottom.
“There’s a big difference in resources between the sides, but on a matchday it’s minor mistakes or a bit of brilliance. There’s not a lot of differences between the teams from a playing aspect and I don’t think you’ll see many big score-line differences this season. Our games have been marginal and we’ve conceded four goals in 88th minute or later, which needs to be taken care of.
“I think we had a good response from a confidence point of view on Tuesday. Again, I think it’s just that salt and pepper that just needs to be added to what is a very good squad of players. Results are king, not performances. I've been reasonably happy with performances but it can mislead you.
“You can be misled as a Manager when you feel as though you are very close because you can end up between a rock and hard place. At the minute, I feel as though we are reasonably close without being convincing, so we need to make sure that we convince ourselves.”
The full interview is on Dale PlayerHD.