Keith Hill, the Rochdale manager, could include several of the club’s younger players in the team which hosts Sheffield United this weekend as he chases play-off qualification.
And, speaking ahead of tonight’s game against Port Vale, Hill insisted his side are not far away from recapturing the form which saw them record six consecutive victories in all competitions over the New Year period.
United will travel to Spotland seven points clear at the top of the table and unbeaten in five outings following Saturday’s victory over Bolton Wanderers. But Hill, attempting to keep Chris Wilder guessing about his selection plans, said: “If it means playing some of the younger players then I’ll play them. It could be a great opportunity for them with them coming in with no fear.
“We’re not going through a good sequence of results but some of the performances have been really encouraging. If we cut out the mistakes then we can quickly become that team again who was winning seven on the bounce, the team who was unbeaten in eight, or who won five (league games) over the Christmas period and into January.”
Rochdale won last season’s corresponding fixture 2-0 before drawing 1-1 at Bramall Lane earlier this term. United, who appointed Wilder during the close season, could also ring the changes themselves after Samir Carruthers and Jay O’Shea both staked strong claims for a starting role in recent weeks.
“We’re pleased with the balance and the depth of the squad,” Wilder said. “There are good players waiting to come in and good players who are coming on. That’s why we’ve brought these lads here.”