Rochdale may have enjoyed a glorious FA Cup run this season but their progress in the knock-out competition will count for nothing if Keith Hill’s side are unable to preserve their League One status. Dale have been embroiled in a relegation battle at the bottom of the third tier throughout the majority of the campaign but they are showing signs of life and it could be their games in hand which inevitably save them from the dreaded drop.
Rochdale’s lowly position has belied their recent form but it was a slow start to the campaign which has left them in danger of falling back into League Two for the first time in four years. Their 2-0 victory at Gigg Lane against rock-bottom Bury on April 3rd was a significant result and simply added to the belief that this current group of players are good enough to stay in the division. Despite Matty Done’s injury-time own goal against Portsmouth which denied them all three points against play-off chasing Pompey on April 7th, the club should still have enough games left to save themselves and complete the great escape.
After losing against Dale, neighbours Bury are almost resigned to their fate which leaves just three places to avoid at the bottom of the table. Northampton are the current 1/25 favourites to join the Shakers in the fourth tier next season but MK Dons, Oldham, AFC Wimbledon, Walsall and even Oxford are all still in danger of falling through the trap door. Blackpool are priced at 50/1 in William Hill’s relegation market and realistically need only another three points to ensure safety.
Keith Hill’s side have played two fewer games than the majority of their rivals and still have crucial ‘six-pointers’ against both Oldham and Oxford before the end of April. They are priced at 1/3 to beat the drop and are also available at 9/4 to join Bury in League Two next season. William Hill have a full range of relegation markets available across the Football League and those who aren’t confident that Dale will stay up can use one of their free bets to protect their wager.
January additions have aided Rochdale’s survival bid with Fulham loanee Stephen Humphrys chipping in with a number of important goals whilst Ryan Delaney has certainly plugged a few holes at the back since arriving from Burton Albion.
There is still plenty of work to do but the fans and players believe that club can clamber out of the relegation zone and book their place in League One next season. They are playing with confidence and are in much better form than the majority of the teams around them. Their fellow strugglers will be keeping a keen eye on Dale’s results and they must ensure that they utilise those crucial games in hand as well as potentially taking advantage of some mid-table opponents, who have very little to play for at this stage of the season.
Keith Hill has done a magnificent job at the club over the past couple of years and he has instilled an unwavering belief that the club can overcome adversity and beat the drop. Whether Dale have enough to stay up remains to be seen but they’ve certainly put themselves in the driving seat and must continue to give 100% between now and the end of the season.