Keith Hill and John Coleman.

What they have in common is that they have both done wonderful jobs in second stints in charge of their clubs, Rochdale and Accrington Stanley respectively.

Where they differ though, is that they are at slightly different stages of their respective regimes.

Accrington are playing not dissimilarly to how Rochdale did after they first won promotion in 2014: they knock the ball around with energy, zest and creativity, supported by a crowd relishing the novelty of operating at this level.

Dale, by contrast, are a few years further down the line.

Having hit what appears to have been their metaphorical glass ceiling, which was three consecutive top half finishes between 2015 and 2017, they are now facing the repercussions.

Key players have left and proved difficult to replace on a shoestring budget; midfield technician Callum Camps is struggling to control games without the energy of Jamie Allen and Matty Lund beside him.

The style of football at Spotland, once so enterprising, now revolves around veteran forwards like Calvin Andrew, Aaron Wilbraham and Ian Henderson; while the latter is a proficient finisher with 10 goals already, his lack of pace can impact the fluidity of their final third interplay, meaning he has sometimes been shoehorned into midfield.

Keith Hill has found it difficult to settle on a best eleven from a squad bigger than previous seasons and thus some performances have been disjointed, whereas Accrington have benefited from the tactical consistency they built-up during last season’s League Two title win.

Although they lost Kayden Jackson in the summer, they had a ready-made replacement in Offrande Zanzala, who signed a permanent deal from Derby; Zanzala not only offers pace and tenacity, he has also scored five goals in his last nine appearances.

The 22-year-old is therefore the perfect foil for six-goal hold-up partner Billy Kee, who joined the likes of Pep Guardiola and Mohamed Salah in achieving recognition at the north-west football awards earlier this month.

Stanley’s recent form of two points from their last four league games might not appear great, but they have not played a team below them in the table for over a month.

In 10 encounters with teams 11th or lower, Coleman’s troops have taken 18 points; or 10 from five if we are to look solely at away fixtures.

Rochdale manager Keith Hill

By contrast, Rochdale have taken nine points from 11 games against top half opposition; four from seven on familiar soil.

They have also conceded 34 goals – the joint-second most in the division – and lost by a margin of two or more on five occasions this term.

There is little reason for them to be priced so close to evens for this match because, in last week’s 3-2 loss at Shrewsbury, neither of their goals came after a sustained spell of pressure; a defeat by two or three goals would have offered a more accurate reflection on the balance of play.

Accrington, therefore, could well add to the sense of stagnation at Spotland.

Tip: Accrington to win -1 handicap


Read Gabriel Sutton’s Championship betting preview here!

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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