MATCH PREVIEW: Bristol Rovers v Rochdale

GasCast Match Previews by Simon Gray

Bristol Rovers host Rochdale this weekend in a bid to climb away from the relegation zone.

Rovers had lost three league games on the trot prior to the midweek match against Peterborough but put in a spirited performance against the promotion hopefuls and managed to come away with a point and a clean sheet.

With just a few days left of the transfer window, Rovers still have not managed to bring in a striker which has been labelled as a priority in the past but manager Paul Tisdale and the former Exeter boss has had his say on the attempts to bring in a new frontman.

“We are looking and looking and doing all that we can to improve our squad in that position and all others,” Tisdale told BristolLive.

“You must have a strategic plan, but also be aware and ready that you might just get a call on a player that you’ve always wanted that suddenly comes available.

“It’s a particularly peculiar month in terms of how things can swing and how many ideas you have to battle with and discuss.

“I’m looking forward to the window closing. I’ll be happier if we do get the player we’re after.

“That hasn’t happened yet, it might not happen. The club has been incredibly supportive and has been trying its very best to help me do that.

“We haven’t achieved what we wanted to achieve yet in this window, and we might not yet do that, but we’ve tried really hard.

“Until the window’s over you just keep looking and being available.”

Tisdale has both Erhun Oztumer and Sam Nicholson to call on for the weekend’s game with Dale after the creative pair came through the 0-0 draw with Posh unscathed. James Daly has returned to training this week and could push for a place on the bench. Defender Michael Kelly, who has not featured much this season for Rovers, will not be available after he joined Yeovil Town on loan until the end of the season.

Rochdale go into the game still looking for their first win of 2021 but not for the want of trying.

Dale have been a free scoring side since December, making them the joint second highest scorers in the division. The problem is, they’ve also conceded the third most in the league.

Since the start of December, Dale have scored 26 goals but conceded 27 in 11 games and if there were any match to really show you this all at once it would be the 4-3 defeat to Oxford in midweek.

Dale went 1-0 down early on but managed to go in at half time leading 2-1 only for them to be 3-2 down with half an hour to play. Former Rovers midfielder Matty Lund equalised for Dale but Olamide Shodipo managed to get the winner in stoppage time for Oxford.

Manager Brian Barry-Murphy only had praise for his side after the game but admitted that they must put a stop to their defensive frailties soon.

“I think we’re in a brilliant place,” he told the club’s website.

“I’m not trying to spin any propaganda. Where we are – I will talk about the table for once – we were told that we would be marooned by Christmas and be relegation fodder.

“Players have raised expectation levels by their skill and by their performances. We’re on a run at the moment where results aren’t what we want but the performances have been consistently getting better and our attacking play is as good as anybody’s in the league.

“The defensive structure is improving every game but there is individual moments, especially on set-pieces, that we haven’t controlled well, but the volume of set-pieces that we’ve given away is our main area of focus to reduce the workload on our defence.”

“My excitement of working with this group going forward is only tempered by the initial disappointment after what happened in the last minute of the game.”

Former Rovers loanee, although he didn’t play for the club, Gabriel Osho is in line to face his former club.

Barry-Murphy has no new injury concerns to worry about and may opt to play the same side that lost to Oxford in midweek.

Lineup Predictions:

Gas Predicted XI: (3-4-1-2)

Rochdale Predicted XI (4-5-1): Bazunu (GK), Keohane, Osho, Roberts, Done, Baah, Morley, Rathbone, Dooley, Lund, Humphrys.

Score Predictions:

Max and Jack: The Gas 3-1 Rochdale

Harley: The Gas 1-0 Rochdale

Simon: The Gas 5-4 Rochdale