Miracles of Spotland
However after a seven match unbeaten run since the turn of the year, Dale have avoided getting sucked into a relegation dogfight and are now hot on the heels of the play off pack.
An impressive start to the season saw us reach the heights of fourth in the table before a terrible run of form saw us pick up just one victory between October and December in all competitions. This included an embarrassing defeat to FC United of Manchester in the first round of the FA Cup which the Reds won in the 94th minute after striker Michael Norton kicked the ball out of Josh Lillis’s hands and slotted the ball into the empty net. A Manchester team called “United” scoring a late, controversial goal? Where’ve we seen that one before?
Without doubt the most impressive part of a fantastic season so far is the form of Gary Jones. Dale’s 33 year old captain is rolling back the years and has currently bagged 14 goals in all competitions from centre midfield, the pick of the bunch being a long range screamer in the 2-0 victory over Southampton at St. Mary’s. In my opinion, no matter what happens between now and May, he’ll sweep the large majority of honours at the club’s end of season awards night.
In terms of the transfer market, Keith Hill has once again proven himself to be a shrewd operator. The summer losses of Chris Dagnall and Tom Kennedy to Scunthorpe and Leicester respectively raised questions over our survival chances. However “Hilly” has pulled more rabbits out of the hat, as Joe Widdowson – a free transfer acquisition from Grimsby – has slotted in at left back more than adequately. Kennedy returned to the club on loan towards the end of last year but has struggled to displace the impressive Widdowson. The loan arrivals of Liam Dickinson from Barnsley and Will Atkinson from Hull City have also given the team a bit more bite going forward.
My only concern is that with success comes attention and Keith Hill seems to be linked with vacant managerial jobs left, right and centre. I used to take comfort in the fact that most clubs would approach Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe before looking at Hilly but since Howe’s move to Burnley, he is only going to rise up the pecking order.
However whilst he’s here we may as well enjoy the ride and although nothing lasts forever, there’s nothing to suggest that he won’t stay here and push through with his dream of being in the Championship in the next three years. For now though, survival is still the objective so we’ll take it one step at a time.
Anything above that for me, is a bonus.