Manager Keith Hill reflects on Dale’s Carabao Cup exit…
Premier League side Stoke City fielded an extremely strong team for the match at the bet365 Stadium, with the likes of Charlie Adam, Joe Allen, Bojan, Peter Crouch and Bruno Martins Indi all named in the starting eleven.
“Our lads were brave and they stuck to task,” Hill told iFollow.
“I wasn’t concerned about the score-line, I was concerned about players going off plan and giving up, but they never gave up.
“It has been a testing week but I’m optimistic looking at that. I’m pleased with a lot of what I saw.
“It wasn’t a performance that the supporters would have wanted to see but it was a performance that I wanted as a manager. I can understand why there was a little bit of frustration, but we actually needed to have more possession of the ball and we needed to be more patient, because when we gave the ball away, they scored. We were in possession for three out of their four goals.
“But I’m optimistic looking at what we did. I’m looking at the game in its entirety and that could be the platform that we want. There are a lot of players missing now and one or two players who played tonight may have thought that they had a great opportunity because of that. I looked at it and I thought ‘yeah, go on then’, and I was really pleased.”
He continued: “For us to step forward and to start the season, that, as a performance, is one I’m relatively happy with and I can say ‘come on then, let’s go now’.
“It’s a difficult task coming to Stoke, and when I saw the draw, I was mortified. I had just listened to Mark Hughes [Potters manager] the day before talking about how they were going to take the competition really seriously, and you can see that from the starting eleven.
“Sometimes you get a cup upset when Premier League sides don’t really fancy playing against a League One opposition away from home, but the Stoke players had a real intent tonight on a well-manicured pitch, and they were up for it.
“It was always going to be difficult, but from a characteristic point of view, that’s a builder for us.”
Hill named a relatively youthful squad for the tie against Stoke and while that was down to necessity, he was very pleased to have included Daniel Adshead (15), Aaron Morley (17) and Matty Gillam on the bench.
“I’m not too sure who’s going to be available for Saturday but I was very encouraged by the 17-year-old and 15-year-old that I had available.
“You get depressed sometimes as manager but I look at that tonight and I’m encouraged – what have I got to be worried about!”
The full interview is available to watch on iFollow. In it, Hill reflects further on the game, looks ahead to Bury and discusses squad selection.