Manager Brian Barry-Murphy admits that it has been pleasing to welcome Eoghan O’Connell and Ollie Rathbone back from injury this week.
O’Connell was on the bench for Saturday’s pre-season friendly against Bradford City, while Rathbone started at Ramsbottom United midweek and in the match against the Bantams.
BBM commented: “This season, as I’m sure everyone is aware, we haven’t got as big a squad. We’re going to be going with a smaller squad in terms of numbers, so it’s imperative that we back ourselves to keep those players fit.
“A large part of our planning around pre-season has been to protect those players and be cautious on their return to action. Ollie has bedded in well in the last couple of games and showing signs that he’s getting speed back. Eoghan was pencilled in for part of the second-half [against Bradford], so it’s exciting to get those players back because they are players that we need going into the start of the season.”
Goalkeeper Robert Sánchez, who joined Dale on a season-long loan from Brighton and Hove Albion earlier this week, started the match at home to the Bantams.
“I’ve studied Robert for a long period of time,” said BBM.
“I think it was nice for him to get a game at the Crown Oil Arena, to get used to his surroundings, and the players. He’s only been with us for a couple of days of training, and he looks right at home. He’s started to build up relationships with the players straight away and his talents are there for all to see.
“He’s an exceptional talent and he exudes personality and confidence. Our players can only benefit from having such a player in the ranks.”
Meanwhile, BBM revealed that Aaron Wilbraham has been sidelined with a calf problem but is making a good recovery.
“We had a training game a couple of weeks ago and he tweaked his calf. He’s missed the last ten days of training, but he’s had an upbeat report in terms of when he’ll be back and it’s very much a case of days rather than weeks.
“He may not be available for the Tranmere Rovers game, I don’t know yet. Aaron tends to surprise you with his recovery speed, but he’s very much in our minds and should be back within days and not weeks.”
And the Boss confirmed that the trialist who featured in the pre-season friendlies against Huddersfield Town and Oldham Athletic has now returned to his parent club.
“Jonny Smith was training with us for a week and he’s gone back to his parent club. He’s no longer with us.”