Insider: Rochdale continue to defy odds

Rochdale's Callum Camps, left
Rochdale's Callum Camps, left
Pompey boss Kenny Jackett Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey weighing up retaining new system

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This is a bit of a transition season for Rochdale, having lost two key performers from last term.

The 2016-17 campaign represented a superb challenge for the play-offs, right up until the final match.

Considering Rochdale’s budget, it is a remarkable achievement to be contending for three seasons running, very much punching above their weight.

That is down to manager Keith Hill, but I think we’ll fall short of a challenge this year.

Still, last season the club were doing very well until January, when injury to left-back Joe Bunney coincided with a downturn in form and 11 matches without victory.

Bunney is a former centre-forward converted to a full-back who bombs down the left-hand side and puts in some very good crosses, as well as scores goals.

Regardless, they remained in with a shot of sixth place – and subsequently the play-offs – until the final week, but results went against them.

The two big misses for the approaching campaign are Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Matt Lund.

Mendez-Laing, who had a loan spell at Portsmouth earlier in his career, can be completely anonymous, when Hill got the best out of him before he made the switch to Cardiff.

He contributed nothing at all until the new year, then it was almost like his agent gave him a bit of a nudge because he was superb in the second half of the season.

The same occurred the previous year, when he suddenly kicked into gear in the spring and was unplayable from February onwards.

Lund had been at Rochdale for a few years, earning two Northern Ireland caps, and it was inevitable Championship clubs would be watching.

He’s a box-to-box midfielder and will definitely be missed, even if Hill possesses quite a few options in that area.

Jordan Williams arrived from Barrow in the summer and can be seen as Mendez-Laing’s replacement, while the likes of Brad Inman, Jamie Allen, Dan Adshead and Callum Camps can come into the midfield area.

There is also a plan to play Keith Keane as a defensive midfielder, having operated as a centre-half last season.

In terms of Rochdale players that are expected to stand out, striker Steve Davies has a real quality about him. If he can stay injury-free he probably wouldn’t even be at the club, but he scored 13 goals last season.

In addition, Camps has come into the side and done very well, with a good range of passing and goals from midfield.