Manager Brian Barry-Murphy looks ahead to Dale’s League One fixture against AFC Wimbledon at the Crown Oil Arena…
It’s Dale’s first fixture in 11 days, after last weekend’s game against Charlton Athletic was postponed due to international call-ups.
“I thought it [the break] probably came at a good time of us, in terms of our squad, and, as a result of that, we’ve been able to get nearly all of our squad back to full fitness, so as much as we were disappointed not to have the game last Saturday, I think, in hindsight, it has been a very positive thing for us,” said the Boss.
“I can’t wait for the game. We’ve been waiting since last week to get back into action. We’ve had a good rest and we’ve selectively decided to forget about what happened in our last two cup games and focus in on our league form which has been outstanding. Our home form, in particular has been very, very good, so we’re looking forward to getting back into action, in what is a very exciting game for us.
“We’ve been in very good form overall, the last five league games in particular have brought returns that have been exceptional, so we’re very keen to continue that form and really attack the next couple of games at our home stadium.”
Saturday’s opponents sit 13th in League One, something which comes as no surprise to BBM.
“It’s going to be an incredibly tough game. In pre-season, if I’m being honest, I alway thought the likes ourselves, AFC Wimbledon and Accrington were probably viewed as three of the smaller clubs in the division - maybe they’ll disagree me with on that. But I definitely thought they were capable of out performing the perception of where they would finish, and they’ve proven that.
“They’ve arguable been one of the most impressive teams in the league in terms of their work rate, and their goalscoring exploits is typified by Joe Pigott who is probably the star striker in the whole of the EFL at this moment. They are continuing to be a very competitive team in this division and their place in the table is no surprise to me.
“It will be a competitive game and we’ve had some very good games with them over the last couple of years - each game has been very close. It’s a game I’m very excited for us to play and really focus in on our home form and how well we want to play at home going forward.”
Dale have been beaten just once at home in the league this season, something that pleases Barry-Murphy.
“In terms of our performances in the league, we’re not saying that the last five games are it all, because prior to that we’ve beaten Fleetwood and we took a point off Portsmouth at home and since that both of those teams have shown how strong a team they are in this division and very few teams have taken those results off them.
“Our home form has been good and our performances over a long period of time have been very, very good. Like I said, I’ve conveniently forgotten about the cup game (against Stockport). And our lads have deserved that (the good form) because that was one game in insolation. The performances when we haven’t shown up this season have been few and far between and the overall effort of the lads has been magnificent. We’re looking to build on that as we go into the next block of games, which we feel as if we are in good health for.”
Stephen Humphrys continued his return from injury this week, completing 45 minutes against Fleetwood Town in the Central League Cup.
“Stephen had a very disappointing and frustrating start after getting injured in his first game and he’s had a long spell out. He’s done his rehabilitation in an exemplary manner. He has been fit and ready to train for the last 10 days or so, so that game came at the right time and he completed 45 minutes. You then look at the reaction to make sure he came out of fine, which he has done, and he’s continuing to build up his fitness towards the weekend and beyond. He obviously gives us an attacking dimension that we treasure going forward.
“Like all of our players, which has been a trend over the last six or eight weeks, we have to be very patient and understand where he is. He’ll be desperate to fly back into it and be at the forefront of everything. We’ve got a lot of games coming up in a very short period of time, so we need all of our players at every stage of that. And even though we have a small squad this season, I think the competition for places is going to be fierce as we head into this next block of games and that must be very exciting for everybody.”
BBM also says it offers competition for places.
“We have a very good group of players who can play in those forward positions and places are up for grabs. While we’ve had a settled team over the last four or five weeks, but that competition is something we’ve been after for quite a while. There are guys who have been working very, very hard in that period who are equally as hungry as Stephen to play in those games and it’s very much a level playing field. The guys who are in the best form at the best time will get the chance to play. That competition is going to be fierce as we progress into this month and beyond and that’s something that’s very exciting for me going forward.”
Gavin Bazunu sustained a hand injury whilst away on international duty and the Boss says he’ll provide an update in due course.
“We’ll have a full update on Gavin today (Friday) and hopefully over the weekend we’ll have a clear idea of how fit he is or how long he’s going to be out for, then we’ll react accordingly and speak to his parent club.”
Watch the Brian’s full 12 minute interview on iFollow freeview.