Manager Brian Barry-Murphy says it was business as usual during the international break for the players, as they looked to keep the momentum going following the win over Lincoln City and the draw with Peterborough United, heading into the 13 day period without a fixture…
Speaking ahead of Good Friday’s game against Portsmouth, the Boss commented: “Normally in past seasons the tendency has been for us to use that [the International break] as a rest period and maybe have some time away, but this season, because of the nature of it, and because we’ve had players missing for different periods, it was a great chance for us to get everybody together.
"It was a chance to train as much as we could and work on things that we want to use going forward and, I suppose, not lose the momentum of what had been a very productive couple of weeks before that in terms of our performances and results against Lincoln and Peterborough. The lads looked amazing physically in both of those games and we were keen to continue that momentum.
“We’d become accustomed to playing games in close proximity and the lads have fed off that recently. Like I said, we looked really, really good physically at the end of the game against Peterborough and that was despite having a really hectic schedule.
“We have certain players who are coming back or who are close to full fitness so we’re trying to get them included in the group as soon as possible. We had pretty much a full week of training last week and played a game on the Friday, which was with the aim of building on what we started and continuing that throughout the week as we head towards Portsmouth on Friday.”
And BBM is looking forward to welcoming Kwadwo Baah, Gavin Bazunu and Conor Grant back into the squad following their international exploits.
“There have been some great individual games there in terms of Conor Grant getting his first cap for Ireland under-21s and doing so well, and Kwadwo making such an impression against Wales during the week. And it has been a quick rise to prominence for Gavin in terms of how quickly he has got in there [with the Republic of Ireland senior squad] which has been of no real surprise to us, because there has been some real individual growth from the guys who have been selected for their counties and other lads in the squad.
“I think it has been a theme of the season, we’ve had players who have made great steps and have had great growth, but at this stage of the season, now when they come back into the group environment, it’s very much about the squad, the team and the club and making sure that we’re all really together and really united and ready to go for the inevitable ups and downs that the next 10 games will bring. Within that, it’s quite a lot of games in a short period of time and there will be a lot of twists and turns. We have to make sure that everybody within that squad is ready to go and can back each other up around every corner.
Jake Vale, meanwhile, who was also away on international duty, is set to remain sidelined due to injury.
“Jack didn’t play for Wales under-21s because they had some concerns over how little exposure he’s had to football, and since he’s come back to our club, there are still signs that he isn’t fully fit, which is disappointing for me. We just haven’t been able to get him on the pitch. The latest injury is that he rolled his ankle in training on the very first day that he came back to us, so I think it might be a week or two before we see him in action again for training. At the moment we just have to be intently focused on the players that we have fit and not get too disappointed or distracted by the inevitable injuries that are going to arise both before and during the rest of the season.”
Dale face Portsmouth at Fratton Park on Good Friday before welcoming Ipswich Town to the Crown Oil Arena on Easter Monday. BBM is looking forward to the two fixtures, as the side head into their final 10 games of the season.
“I can’t wait for it. We’re proven that we can compete against the best teams in the division. A lot of people don’t think we can but we’ve shown that we’re capable of producing the level of performance that we showed against Lincoln when we went in front and then went back in the lead again after conceding.
“To concede so early against Peterborough and then bounce back and then go onto winning the game to eventually drawing it, it was testament to the character that the lads have shown throughout the season.
“We’re just intently focused on producing that level of performance for the rest of the season in every game and if we do that then we’re very confident in terms of what we can achieve and that can be very special for the club, and we’ll be doing everything in our power to do that.
“The results of the last two games have been significant. The performances before that were of a healthy level, we just couldn’t put the finishing touches to it. The same as the supporters, the players want to feel the reward for efforts that they’re putting in. I feel as if we have gathered good momentum and the challenge for us is to maintain that. When we do come up against something that goes against us or maybe a result goes against us, we have continue to bounce back from every eventuality and knock back along the way, which there will be over the course of the last 10 games. We’re just focused on ourselves within that dressing room and really intent on producing the type of football that we have in the past games.”
Watch the Boss’ interview in full on iFollow Dale.