We continue our summer study of the sides joining Barrow in League Two for the 2021/22 campaign – and today we’re making the trip to Spotland.
How did they get here?
Rochdale’s seven years at League One level came to an end in 2020/21 when they were relegated back to the fourth tier after finishing in 21st place.
Dale suffered a slow start during which they won just one of their opening six league fixtures, though back-to-back victories in October fresh optimism that they could improve.
However, home form became a big problem and their failure to convert draws into wins at Spotland saw them sucked towards the bottom four despite 4-0 and 5-0 victories at Plymouth Argyle and Wigan Athletic respectively in December.
Their six-month wait for a triumph on home soil came to an end when they defeated relegation ivals Swindon Town in April and that was followed by two more quickfire wins on their own patch.
The upturn in form had arrived too late though, and Brian Barry-Murphy’s men were condemned to relegation following a 2-1 home defeat to Doncaster Rovers on the penultimate weekend.
Who’s in charge?
Brian Barry-Murphy was appointed as Rochdale boss on a permanent basis in April 2019 following a promising spell as caretaker after Keith Hill’s departure.
A former Dale player, Barry-Murphy had been on the coaching staff at Spotland since 2013/14 before taking the top job and he went on to lead them out of relegation trouble at the end of 2018/19.
The Irishman began his career with Cork City before making his break into English football in 1999 when he clinched a move to Preston North End where he spent four years on the books.
After loan spells with Southend United and Hartlepool United, the midfielder moved on to Bury in 2004 and he played over 200 games for The Shakers before joining Dale in 2010.
Where do they play?
Rochdale have played their games at Spotland since their inception in 1907 though it had previously been known as St Clement’s Playing Fields.
As well as Dale, Spotland is also currently home to rugby league outfit Rochdale Hornets and it also hosted prestigious rugby events, including a World Cup fixture between Fiji and Ireland in 2013.
When did we last meet?
The two clubs clashed fairly recently in the FA Cup when Rochdale travelled to Cumbria in January 2017, running out 2-0 winners thanks to a double from Ian Henderson.
Prior to that, you have to go back to the 1969/70 campaign when the sides shared the old Division Three. That year, the games went with home advantage as Barrow lost 1-0 at Spotland in September 1969 before running out 2-0 winners in the return fixture just before Christmas.
What do the locals think?
Richard Partington (Manchester Evening News):
“Despite a late spike in form, Rochdale’s seven-year spell in League One came to an end after a season in which they went six months without a home win.
“With a squad short on numbers and susceptible to injuries given the condensed fixture programme, they set off on the back foot but managed to hover above the drop zone for much of the first half of the campaign.
“Having beaten Fleetwood early in October, Brian Barry-Murphy’s men had to wait until mid-April before picking up three points again at the Crown Oil Arena, a dire run of home form and results in between ultimately costing them a place in English football’s third tier.
“Four wins, two draws and just one defeat in their last seven games demonstrated what they are capable of - but proved too little, too late.”