Peterborough United manager Steve Evans has ordered his players to ignore Rochdale’s lowly League One position ahead of another crunch encounter at the ABAX Stadium on Saturday (April 14).
Evans watched Dale lose 4-1 at home to leaders Wigan on Tuesday (April 10), but insists Saturday’s visitors are nowhere near as bad as that scoreline might suggest.
The defeat left Dale three points away from safety with six games to play. Posh are eighth, just a point outside the play-off places, and a win could propel them back into to the top six as Plymouth (fifth) host Portsmouth (seventh), and Charlton (sixth) entertain Scunthorpe (ninth) in to massive matches.
Evans said: “Of course Wigan have some top players but in the first half you couldn’t tell which of the teams was going for promotion and which one was battling for their lives.
“Rochdale were very much in contention until Wigan’s second goal went in. That rocked them a bit and then two more goals followed in the space of eight minutes.
“Rochdale should not be taken lightly though and they are capable of causing an upset.
“This time last season they were playing to get into the play-offs with virtually the same team.
“They have some very good players. I liked the look of the boy Davies (Steve), who came on as an early sub, and up front Calvin Andrew and Ian Henderson are a threat. Henderson scores all their goals and the Wigan keeper pulled off two superb saves to deny him a goal.
“Rochdale are a big, strong physical side and very hard-working and we’ll certainly need to be up and at it.”
There was good news for Posh at AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday night as they beat play-off rivals Charlton 1-0.
“That was their game in hand and who’d have thought they’d lose to Wimbledon,” said Evans.
“It just goes to show anything can happen. There are going to be lots of ups and downs over the last few weeks of the season.”
Evans is likely to be without Marcus Maddison for Saturday’s game and will definitely be missing centre-back Steven Taylor, who is serving a one-match ban following his sending off at Plymouth. Right-back Liam Shephard can play after winning his appeal against a red card in last weekend’s (April 7) defeat at Home Park.
Posh will hope Ryan Tafazolli recovers from a hamstring injury in time to replace Taylor, otherwise Andrew Hughes will have to move across from left-back. Tafazolli was due to have a fitness test today (April 12).
Maddison failed a late fitness test for the Plymouth game after twisting his ankle in training the day before.
“The chances of Maddison making it are 50/50 but the good news is that the scan showed he’ll defintely be okay for Blackburn next Thursday (April 19). The picture certainly looks a lot better than it did on Saturday,” added Evans.
“We’ll certainly miss Steven at the back but we’ve got plenty of options.”
Evans took a look at the club’s 18-19 year-olds in a training match on Monday but insisted none of them would be included in Saturday’s squad.
“There are some promising players there, certainly, but they’re not ready for this one,” he said.