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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Big Match Preview

League Two
Bury vs. Rochdale
Monday February 1, 19:45, Gigg Lane

Few games in League Two have been bigger this season and when fourth-placed Bury host near neighbours, and runaway leaders, Rochdale, more than local bragging rights will be at stake.

Dale, beaten in the play-offs in the last two seasons, have been in scintilating form as they have stormed to the top of the basement division this term.

Keith Hill's side have a ten point lead at the summit, and a goal difference of +33 dwarves any other in the league. Their 13 match unbeaten run has left the Spotland outfit looking on course for a first promotion since 1969.

However, their 36-year spell in the lowest tier of the Football League could be set to end in title winning glory, and a win on Monday evening would complete a double over their Lancashire rivals.

Dale's success has been built on an abundance of attacking options with strikers Chris O'Grady and Chris Dagnall notching 15 and 14 goals respectively so far this term.

With young talent like Joe Thompson, and the bargain summer recruit of centre half Craig Dawson, the attractive football and skill of Hill's side has unsurprisingly caught the attention of bigger clubs

The club are determined to resist offers for Dawson though and, having sold Will Buckley to Watford this week, the rest of the squad should be kept together to finally deliver the most anticipated of all promotions.

All of which means that local rivals Bury will be desperate to put a spanner in the works of Dale's promotion charge, as well as further their own hopes for elevation from the basement division.

Shakers boss Alan Knill is mounting another promotion campaign

Like their neighbours, the Shakers were losers in the end of season play-offs last May, and appeared to suffer a hangover as they got off to a slow start this campaign.

Six points from their opening seven games was not the start fans had been expecting, however, Alan Knill's men have only lost three games since.

And, after winning their last three matches - including a win at high-flying Bournemouth, the Shakers rose into the automatic promotion places for the first time this season, before slipping to fourth in midweek.

Their form at Gigg Lane has also improved - unbeaten in eight, including six wins. It's a marked improvement from their opening four games - all lost without scoring.

Most pleasing to Knill will be the fact his side's improvement has come without the services of injured striker Andy Bishop, last season's top marksmen, with the form of forwards Ryan Lowe and Mike Jones covering his loss.

It promises to be a highly entertaining clash therefore between two sides in top-form, and with great attacking talent on show.

Dale are flying and should certainly secure promotion and probably the League Two title this season, but perhaps they're due a loss?

It can often be the way too that local rivals always seem to prove a stumbling block - even for the very best sides - and Bury just might be that to Rochdale.

Nobes' Prediction: Bury 2 Rochdale 1

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