Brian Barry-Murphy wants his players to produce a performance that has the same energy, enthusiasm and work rate as in last Saturday’s win at Tranmere Rovers.
Dale return to the Crown Oil Arena for Saturday’s home opener against Doncaster Rovers, and the boss is looking forward to it.
“It’s our home ground and a ground we were very comfortable playing at towards the end of last season,” said Barry-Murphy.
“I definitely want to retain that and have it as somewhere that we look forward to. Going to Tranmere was very exciting, the support we had there was exceptional, and we’re sure that will be replicated in our first home game of the season.
“We aim to produce the performance that’s got the same energy, enthusiasm and work rate. After that, we can’t really control a lot of things in the game, but we can control that and we’re very hopeful of doing so.
“They’re a high-quality team and probably one of the most technical teams that we faced last season. It’s probably keen not to emphasise too much about the away game which became a very chastening experience for us!
“But we learned loads of things from that and we’re aware of how big a test this is going to be. It’s a test that we’re very excited for, going up against a team of such a calibre, early in the season.
“Our lads are excited by that and I don’t ever want to take away the excitement of our players in taking on a bigger opponent and imposing our game on them. We try to be aggressive in everything we do and try to implement our game on them.
“If our players are committed to that and play with that courage then the result will take care of itself, and whatever it is we just accept it.”
Spirits have been high on the training pitch following last Saturday’s win, and Barry-Murphy is especially pleased with those players who didn’t feature at Tranmere, praising their attitude.
“It’s been a very competitive week. We try, as a group, to not be overly affected by the result, because we’re fully aware that results will go against us in the coming weeks and months.
“We have to be able to prepare as we would normally, but I think it’s only natural after a win that there’s an element of joy in a lot of the player, and I think that has to be encouraged and harboured, or else what’s the point in putting in so much effort.
“In that, there have been lads who didn’t figure last Saturday who have been really competitive and looking to put the pressure on. We have a very competitive squad and even though it’s not that big, we feel as if everyone has a chance of playing.
“That’s certainly the case this week. We want to continue to really encourage those lads that haven’t been in the starting eleven to push hard, and they’ve risen to the challenge. The standard has been set for this week’s starting eleven to be subject for debate.
“The first game of the season is always difficult from a player’s point of view, because you build up through the whole pre-season process and you’re very excited to get to that first game.
“Naturally, if you don’t make the first starting eleven, there is a sense of disappointment, and that was evident last Saturday, but the lads responded in a great manner. The ones who didn’t play last Saturday have been itching to try and get into that team.
“That’s the competitive nature of the squad we’ve assembled, and we hope everybody believes they have a chance of starting on Saturday and that’s certainly the case.”
The Dale manager has also given an update on the fitness of Ollie Rathbone, who was substituted after receiving a heavy challenge at the weekend.
“It was a late challenge and a difficult challenge for Ollie to withstand. He’s been sore all week so he’ll be touch and go for Saturday as he’s only done parts of training.
“I’m conscious of the fact that I don’t want to rush any given player into one game for the sake of it, even though he was exceptional last week.
“We believe we have adequate players who can step into that, and it wouldn’t make any sense for me not to play those players if they’re fit and available. If Ollie is struggling then we definitely have ready-made replacements.”
Barry-Murphy also mentioned first-year professional Harrison Hopper, who has been out of action since early in pre-season.
“Harrison was injured in pre-season. He had a thigh strain and he has a virus at the moment, so he hasn’t been on the training ground for the last week or so.
“That can happen with young players, it can be a big shock to their system and there are little things that can happen that can affect them as the season progresses. He’s not available at the moment but he should be back in training next week.”
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