Manager Keith Hill has offered an insight into Rochdale’s pre-season training schedule, as his side prepares to take on Middlesbrough at the Crown Oil Arena on Saturday…
Speaking on Friday, he also reflected on Dale’s three pre-season friendlies so far, particularly the midweek defeat to FC Halifax Town.
He told iFollow: “I got a little bit of what I wanted and a lot of what I expected, and now we’ve got to make sure that we start building towards Portsmouth.
“The lads have got a lot of endurance. We’ve mapped their endurance, and for example, if I go through the week after AFC Fylde, on Monday, we made the sure players trained on average up to 11k, and that was a big fatigue day, coming straight back in off the Fylde game. We took that fatigue into the two games on Tuesday and we split the players up into two squads because I wanted to have a look at a midfield four at Chorley and a defensive five at Halifax.
“There were the same old problems when there’s fatigue – concentration and decision making, and we saw that at Halifax. At Halifax, I wasn’t too bothered about the attacking intent, it was more about defensively making decisions and retaining and regaining the ball, and we did that quite well up until half-time. After that, we saw the mistakes that then resulted in a team implosion, and that’s something that we have to improve on from last season. That’s where have to protect our weaknesses better individually by being stronger. I thought it was brilliant in respect of knowing that those problems are there and what we have to do to hide them better.”
He continued: “Since the 11v11 in Tenerife, we’ve been working on endurance minutes and now we’re going to be working on speed, freshness and sharpness, because we’ve got the fitness levels to where we want them.
“It’s now a question of stepping back a little bit on the distance covered to really making sure that the brains are lively.
“We were focusing on team strategy today (Friday) for the Middlesbrough game tomorrow, in preparation for Portsmouth and beyond.
“It’s important that the players now start picking up their game brain and start picking up where they left off last season. Some of the players that we’ve got have come back in bad form and we haven’t seen the best of them yet.
“But we are talking pre-season – preparation, minutes, exposure, mistakes – leading into the first game of the season. I don’t want an easy pre-season – that’s why we chose AFC Fylde, Halifax, Chorley, Middlesbrough, Barnsley and Morecambe. I don’t want to be rolling teams over 8-0, 9-0 or 10-0. I need to be stressed – I’m stressing the players and I need the opposition to stress the players. I need our players to be able to work it out – the way that we play and to do the right things in the right areas of the pitch, including the goalkeeper and the substitutes when they came on. We need to sharpen up in our positional play to make sure that we’re affecting the opposition better when the ball is dead.
“There are plenty of things to work on but I have no concerns going into the first game of the season and the endurance of the 46-games, because players will come into form and players will dip out of form, but we’ve got a deep enough squad at this moment in time where we can carry one or two injuries, although I’m definitely looking to recruit a left-back and another goalkeeper due to the injuries sustained by Joe Bunney and Brendan Moore.”
Head over to iFollow to hear the Gaffer’s full open and honest assessment of the midweek pre-season friendly defeat to FC Halifax Town. He also discusses injuries and a trialist.