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Reds ready for biggest challenge yet at Rochdale

Friday sees FC United take part in what is undoubtedly the biggest game since our club’s formation in 2005, as the Reds make their debut in the first round proper of the FA Cup sponsored by E.ON with a short journey to the Spotland Stadium to face League One side Rochdale. Craig Phillips provides this preview...

The Dale are the highest placed opposition the Reds have ever faced competitively by some way with 80 places separating the two sides in the football pyramid. United start the game absolute underdogs but, as with the win over Conference side Barrow in the previous round, manager Karl Marginson will be keen to stress to his players that they have nothing to lose.

Margy will expect his players to play with no fear and will want them to enjoy the occasion as much as the FC United faithful seem determined to do so. Our supporters have already bought an impressive 3,200 tickets for the fixture and the atmosphere from the travelling fans will be imperative to the Reds’ chances of pulling off a huge upset.

FC United come into the game in great form with six consecutive victories which have seen Margy win the Evo-Stik manager of the month award for October. To get to this stage, the Reds have seen off Radcliffe Borough, Gainsborough Trinity, Norton & Stockton Ancients, and of course Barrow.

As a Co-operative Excellence Winner in 2009, it’s also a nice touch for FC United to be visiting Rochdale as the town proudly lays claim to being the birthplace of the Co-operative Movement. With nice quirks like that and all the talk of FC United ‘reaching the promised land’ the tie has got a very unique feel to it.

However, Reds of a certain age will remember drawing Rochdale in the FA Cup before. Nearly 25 years ago, in January 1986, the third round of the competition saw Manchester United beat The Dale 2-0 at Old Trafford with goals from Mark Hughes and Frank Stapleton.

Back to this season though and Rochdale find themselves coming into the game suffering from indifferent form. They currently sit 13th in the league, just three points from the play-off places but also just three points from the relegation places, which shows how close the League One table is.

After losing 2-1 to Leyton Orient on Saturday, Keith Hill’s men have only recorded one win in their last five league games which has seen them defeated by Bristol Rovers, Yeovil and Exeter. The one win was against Dagenham & Redbridge the weekend before last.

The fact that Rochdale’s game against Paul Dickov’s Oldham Athletic was abandoned on Tuesday evening may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for The Dale. Torrential rain meant that Hill’s men avoided having to play two games in four days. Club captain Gary Jones, who is also The Dale’s top scorer this season having netted seven times, will no doubt appreciate being able lead his team out on Friday without the risk of tired legs.

Rochdale will no doubt be boosted by re-signing defender Tom Kennedy on loan from Leicester City, although whether the Foxes will allow him to become cup-tied remains to be seen. Kennedy is the son of Liverpool legend Alan Kennedy.

Another member of the Rochdale staff who has a well known family relation is assistant manager David Flitcroft, who is of course the brother of former Manchester City player Gary Flitcroft.

Rochdale AFC were formed in 1907, although they didn’t actually become a member of the football league until 1921. Although the club have never won a competition since becoming members of the football league in 1921, they have been promoted twice; in 1969 and 2010, and have an amazing record that they share with Hartlepool United of having played 82 consecutive seasons in the Football League without ever having reached the top two tiers, something which Hill is obviously looking at breaking in the not too distant future.

The club has had some good cup pedigree over the years, most notably reaching the 1962 League Cup Final, still being the only club from the bottom division to achieve this feat, before losing 4-0 on aggregate to Norwich City (as the final was played out over two legs in those days).

The past few seasons saw Rochdale knock on the door of promotion under Hill, losing out 3-2 in the play-off final to local rivals Stockport County in 2008, before reaching the play-offs again the following season.

But last season, The Dale ended 36 consecutive seasons in the country’s bottom flight, as they finished third in the league. Despite an amazing loss of form towards the business end of the season which saw them slip off the top of the table, The Dale sealed promotion to League One after beating Northampton Town to take them over the finish line.

On the whole, The Dale have a decent record in the FA Cup having reached the fifth round in 1990 and 1999 losing out to Crystal Palace and Wolves respectively, but they were knocked out of last season’s competition at this stage by non-league opponents as Conference side Luton Town beat them 2-0 at the Spotland in a first round replay after the sides drew 3-3 at Kenilworth Road in the original tie.

Friday’s game is a 7.45pm kick off with hopefully most of the 10,249 seats at the Spotland being occupied for what should make a fantastic atmosphere and a cracking cup tie.

Rochdale have generously lowered their ticket prices for the match to £12 for adults, £8 for over-65s and £5 for under-16s. As it currently stands it is still pay-on-the-gate but please check details elsewhere on this website before setting off.

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First Posted ~ 12:53 Wed 3 Nov 2010
News ID ~ 3199
Last Updated ~ 12:53 Wed 3 Nov 2010