Hill calls for his Rochdale team to play without fear in relegation battle

Rochdale host bottom of the league AFC Wimbledon at the Crown Oil Arena tonight in a match that is crucial for both teams hopes of staying in League One at the end of the season.

Rochdale have picked just one point from their last four home league games and face a Wimbledon side who won their previous league outing 1-0 at Walsall; a game Keith Hill watched with interest. Speaking via the club’s website ahead of the game, the Dale boss felt it was how the two teams dealt with the pressure that was key to the outcome of the match in the West Midlands, and he expected a tough examination by the South London club. He said, “It was brilliant to be sat in the stands, listening, watching and observing, looking at how people respond to pressure, and it’s not always good.”

“There’s this common idea that if you’re bottom of the league, then teams should be beating them, which I think AFC Wimbledon used to their advantage the other night against Walsall. The FA Cup experience has galvanised them under new management, and they had a spring in their step going into the weekend’s fixture against Millwall. I was impressed with what I saw on Tuesday night.”

He then called on his players to play without fear in the remaining fourteen games of the season. “The psychology going into the last 14 games of the season should be to express yourself, with no fear and to go and enjoy the opportunities of a game football, and that’s what we’re going to go with like we did last season.”

Hill also believed that his team need to transfer the good work they are doing on the training pitch and away from home into matches at the Crown Oil Arena. “We’ve got to make sure we express ourselves at home so that those results come, and it’s important that we share some of our away performances and what we’re doing on the training pitch with our supporters, so that they believe that we are good enough as well, because generally, we are good enough to stay up.”

He added that despite the clubs limited resources when compared with some of their competitors in League One, Rochdale belonged in the second tier of The EFL, “The football world keeps telling me that we’re a League Two football Club. If I say nothing now and leave you with that, I think everybody realises what we have been. We’re always fighting and fighting to retain our League One status because we generally believe that, as a Football Club, a group of staff, players, supporters, that this is where we belong and we want to stay there, it’s a simple as that.”

The Dons go into the game having picked up seven points in their last five away games, which is as many as they won in their opening 11 on the road this season, part of a turnaround at the club since they appointed Wally Downes as manager.

They will be desperate to win to stop themselves from being cut adrift at the bottom of the table, and assistant manager Glyn Hodges was in bullish mood on the club’s website. He said “Tomorrow will be similar to going to Walsall, we can expect the same kind of game. It’s a battle, the pressure is on, and we need back-to-back wins in the league, which we haven’t done for a while. We know what to expect, and we will be fully prepared.”

Rochdale are nineteenth in League One, one point above the relegation places.

Wimbledon are bottom, seven points adrift from safety.

Our View

A massive game tonight for both teams. A Rochdale win will ease the pressure on Hill and leave Wimbledon needing a miracle to stay up. It will be a tense night, and Rochdale will need to be on their game if they are to get a much-needed home win.

Wimbledon are improving, and I think they will get at least a point tonight, which unfortunately may still not be enough for them to stay up.



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