Player crisis ahead of cup clash
Date published: 05 November 2009
Rochdale could be without no fewer than ten players for their FA Cup first round clash at Luton Town.
Goalkeepers Kenny Arthur and Matt Edwards, Captain Gary Jones, mercurial winger Will Buckley and fullback Scott Wiseman are still sidelined through injury, while loan players Chris O'Grady, Dale Stevens and Simon Whaley have not been permitted to play by their parent clubs. The one week emergency loan of goalkeeper Josh Lillis, who deputised in goal in the win at Bournemouth, comes to an end tomorrow and Nathan Stanton will serve the first game of a four match ban following his red card on the south coast.
Last season Dale boss Keith Hill fielded a weakened side as Dale crashed out at the hands of Forest Green Rovers in the second round of the Cup. The current state of the finances at Spotland means that a run to the third round could have a massive impact on Dale's season, but this year Hill's team almost picks itself with so many players missing.
Youth team goalkeeper Danny Taberner is set to make his debut for the club, while defensively Hill can pick four from five available players if Wiseman fails to regain fitness. Rory McArdle could maintain his place at right back, leaving Marcus Holness to partner Craig Dawson in the centre, with Tom Kennedy on the left, or Matt Flynn could return at right back, leaving McArdle to battle with Holness for the remaining centre-half spot.
Midfield is where the real headache lies for Hill, with only one recognised central player, in the shape of Jason Kennedy, available should Gary Jones not make the trip. Joe Thompson and Adam Rundle should start on the wings, although Thompson may have to play in the centre to fill the void left by Jones and Stevens, and Kallum Higginbotham could be brought in from the cold to play on the right.
Up front it is a straight fight between Scott Spencer and Marcus Manga to start alongside top scorer Chris Dagnall as the prolific O'Grady/Dagnall partnership is broken for the first time since O'Grady joined the club on loan from Oldham.
Despite their problems Hill's men have reasons to be more than cheerful going into the Cup tie. The players that maintain their places in the side will be brimming with confidence following the 4-0 away win at the league leaders, while anyone joining them in the starting line-up will be eager to impress in the hope of earning a regular start in a side that lies second in the League Two table.
There is no doubt that the tie against Conference represents a potential banana-skin. Luton, relegated from the Football League last season, thanks, in no small part, to a massive points reduction due to financial irregularities, are going well in the lower league and have only lost twice at Kenilworth Road so far this campaign.
Dale last visited Luton in April, when Adam Rundle's equalising goal in a 1-1 draw was enough to confirm a spot in the end of season play-offs. Earlier in the season goals from Lee Thorpe and Adam Le Fondre, both no longer at the club, earned Dale a comfortable 2-0 win over Luton at Spotland.
Visit Rochdale Online over the course of the weekend for the match report and action photographs.
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