Its been quite an interesting few months at Spotland. In March with the the club being mired in a second successive relegation battle, a bold step was taken to dismiss the most successful manager in their history and appoint the first team coach, Brian Barry Murphy to the caretaker role.
He took on the challenge with both hands though, to date collecting 17 points out of a possible 27, leading to him being appointed permanent manager at the start of April. Many Dale supporters have attributed this turn of events to BBM’s more consistent approach to team selection than his predecessor. He has tended to choose experience over youth, for example Aaron Wilbraham, who was widely criticised by many at Spotland has shown a complete turnaround getting regular game time under BBM and contributing with a much needed three goals.
Recent results have seen Dale catapult from second bottom to as high as 15th with only two games to to and now they only need to at most win one of those games to ensure League One survival. Dale supporters hope that this will be achieved at this Saturday’s final home game of the season against Southend United, who have relegation worries of their own to contend with. Southend are aiming to maximise their away support by generously laying on free coach travel to Spotland for travelling supporters.
Much must be said of the turn around that Barry-Murphy has brought to a team who appeared to be in free fall, conceding 44 goals in the last 18 league games of Kieth Hills spell in charge. Dale have conceded nine in nine under BBM’s leadership with five of those coming against sides who currently sit in the top four.
This seasons relegation battle in League One has been widely regarded as one of the tightest in recent memory due to the sheer number of teams that were in the fight at one time or another. With two games left only one side is confirmed relegated and if Wimbledon don’t win on Saturday, Rochdale are safe without needing any more points. If Dale win or draw with Southend they are safe. With Plymouth and Scunthorpe playing each other in the last match it’s only possible for one of them to gain enough points to pass them.
Many supporters now have Rochdale down as all but safe, but I am still erring on the side of caution. A win against Southend is far from a forgone conclusion but with results hopefully going Rochdale’s way, a point could be enough for survival, and will be left to be seen how BBM manages in his first summer transfer window as manager.