Darren Ferguson’s men returned to winning ways on Tuesday after back-to-back defeats with a 1-0 victory over Portsmouth, albeit some luck was needed.
Harrison Burrow’s corner caught out Pompey’s goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray, heading goalbound with the keeper scrambling, forcing him to punch the ball against the back of his defender Rasmus Nicolaisen for an own goal.
The victory boosted Posh's promotion hopes, sending them three points behind league leaders Hull City with two games in hand, and they will look to build on this much-needed confidence when they travel to the Crown Oil Arena to face struggling Rochdale.
Team News and Predicted Line-up
Sammie Szmodics was a surprise exclusion from the Posh matchday squad on Tuesday against Portsmouth, with Burrows replacing the attacking-minded midfielder. Szmodics has been nursing an ankle injury he suffered in training and has been rated as 50-50 to return on Saturday against Rochdale, with eyes on Blackpool in mid-week.
Siriki Dembele also picked up a few knocks on Tuesday, but Ferguson expects him to be available for the trip to Spotland.
Jack Taylor (hamstring) and Ronnie Edwards (muscular injury) are still unavailable for selection, while Ethan Hamilton could return to the starting eleven after serving his one-game suspension.
Predicted Line-up: Pym; Ward, Thompson, Beevers, Kent, Butler; Hamilton, Brown, Burrows; Dembele and Clarke-Harris.
Rochdale is in the mix of a relegation battle, sitting in 23rd place and just three points from safety after four defeats in the last five League One games.
However, The Dale’s secured an important victory in their previous fixture, which also helped Posh in their promotion hunt, beating third-place Lincoln City at the LNER Stadium. Rochdale's Oliver Rathbone opened the scoring before Morgan Rogers brought the game level on the hour mark.
Then, Stephen Humphrys notched The Dales back in front with 16 minutes left on the clock, where they hung onto a vital three points.
While Rochdale will be in good spirits heading in today’s fixture, Posh will look to inflict more pain on their dreadful home record, winning just once in 17 games at the Crown Oil Arena.
Ferguson is wary of Rochdale’s quality despite their league position but knows his side can show different ways of winning, he said: “Rochdale are fighting for their lives and had an excellent win against Lincoln. I have watched that game and several others of late and they have quality.
“They like to play, they perhaps don’t do it as often early on in games, but that may change for the game with us, but we have to remain focused on what the job in hand is for us. We have shown that we can win in different ways, if it is a scrap, then we must show those fighting qualities that got us over the line against Portsmouth.”
2,000 Posh supporters were in attendance when these two sides met in December, as a 22-minute hat-trick from Clarke-Harris pummelled Rochdale at the Weston Homes Stadium.
Posh's leading marksman opened the scoring from a penalty after just five minutes, but the scoreline was level four minutes later after a smart finish by Humphrys.
However, less than 60 seconds later, Clarke-Harris grabbed his second of the match when he headed home Burrows' cross from the left. He added his third in the 22nd minute to complete his hat-track after reacting quickest to Mark Beevers’ blocked shot.
Nathan Thompson sealed the victory five minutes before half-time when he nodded home Flynn Clarke’s corner.
That convincing victory was Posh's fourth consecutive win over Rochdale, scoring a staggering 16 goals across those fixtures, so many supporters will be hoping for a comfortable and relaxed weekend compared to the mid-week game.
Last five meetings
Posh 4-1 Rochdale – Dec 2020
Posh 6-0 Rochdale – Sep 2019
Posh 2-1 Rochdale – Jan 2019
Rochdale 1-4 Posh – Aug 2018
Posh 0-1 Rochdale – Apr 2018
Although the victory on Tuesday was uncomfortable and at some points very unnerving, it would have massively boosted the squad spirits after back-to-back defeats.
Posh have an excellent record against Rochdale and I expect that to continue beyond Saturday to keep building their confidence in the fight for automatic promotion.
Rochdale 1-3 Posh