Rochdale AFC badge

5 things to look out for this weekend

1. Joshua inspires Rochdale revival
Joshua McCormack captured the hearts of everyone at ROCHDALE after they met the brave youngster earlier this year. The local lad has been a Dale mascot but the club went a step further this week by naming the brave five-year-old, who is terminally ill with a brain tumour, as a substitute for their Checkatrade Trophy win at Hartlepool. The Football League has responded to that gesture by naming Joshua their Honorary Player of the Month. As manager Keith Hill said after Wednesday’s game, “football pales into insignificance” compared to Joshua’s story and, with that in mind, perhaps it has freed his new team-mates from the pressure they’d normally feel on the pitch.
After suffering back-to-back defeats, Dale beat derby rivals Oldham and dug deep to salvage a draw at Maidstone in the FA Cup last Saturday. Then they won at Hartlepool and now face their third road trip in a week as they visit Bradford tomorrow. The hosts are third in League One but had only lost once all season before losing to Accrington (FA Cup) and Morecambe (Checkatrade Trophy) this week so Dale will be hopeful of sneaking back into the play-off places.

2. TV boost for local quartet
MACCLESFIELD TOWN pulled off arguably the shock of the round in the FA Cup last week as they won 1-0 at League One Walsall. The Silkmen were rewarded with a home tie against Oxford, another League One outfit, in the second round, and today they discovered the game will be shown live on BBC on Friday, December 2. That news will come as another boost ahead of tomorrow’s visit of National League leaders Forest Green. Although Macc have managed to progress in the Cup, a run of five league games without a win has seen them slip to 10th while Rovers are seven points clear at the top of the table. John Askey’s men have made a habit of defying the odds though.
The other TV fixtures have been announced and OLDHAM’s trip to Lincoln City will be shown by BT Sport on Monday, December 5. And just in case CURZON ASHTON and BURY needed any more of an incentive, they will be on TV if they win their replays next week. The winner of each tie will face each other on BT Sport, with either Curzon or Westfields at home, although the date is yet to be confirmed.

3. Two derbies in the National League North
ALTRINCHAM will be wearing a one-off shirt to commemorate Remembrance weekend as they host local rivals SALFORD CITY. While losing at Lincoln in the FA Cup last weekend, Alty also slipped to the bottom of the league and chairman Grahame Rowley has said their season starts tomorrow, an admirable way of looking at it. That is not the only derby in the National League North tomorrow though. STALYBRIDGE CELTIC host FC UNITED with both sides looking to bounce back from disappointing results last week. Celtic were thumped 5-0 by league leaders AFC Fylde while FC lost 3-2 at home to Bradford Park Avenue, who were bottom but that victory allowed them to climb above both Alty and Bridge.

4. Tameside duo hope for back-to-back wins
Goals by Harry Coates and ex-Bury striker Andy Bishop gave HYDE UNITED a 2-1 win at Colne in midweek and ended a run of one point from nine in the Evo-Stik North. The Tigers are still only 16th in the table after suffering a third straight relegation in the summer but a home win tomorrow against Ossett Town would do wonders for belief at Ewen Fields. The visitors look set to be amongst a keenly-fought promotion battle as they’re currently fourth, with just two points separating the top seven.
Up in the Evo-Stik Premier, ASHTON UNITED have signed Macclesfield keeper Ritchie Branagan on a three-month loan before they host third-bottom Frickley. Despite their unbeaten start, the Robins haven’t claimed back-to-back wins yet this season but hope to put that right tomorrow after last week’s 3-2 home win against Mickleover Sports, when summer signing Rick Smith became even more of a fans’ favourite by scoring a late winner for the second time in just over three weeks.

5. Can West close the gap?
Last week’s 5-2 home defeat by Ashton Athletic saw a gap open up between WEST DIDSBURY & CHORLTON and the top five of the North West Counties Premier. After winning just one of their last six, sixth-placed West are now 11 points behind 1874 Northwich before tomorrow’s visit of AFC Liverpool but they hope to take advantage of Northwich being in FA Vase action. That would also stop West falling further down the table as AFC are just a point behind them in ninth, level with ABBEY HEY, who visit a Barnoldswick side which is in the bottom half.

This weekend’s fixtures
EFL: Peterborough v Bolton (Sunday 12.15 ko, Sky Sports 1), Bury v Southend, Oldham v AFC Wimbledon, Bradford v Rochdale.
National League: Macclesfield v Forest Green, Altrincham v Salford City, Gloucester City v Curzon Ashton, Stalybridge Celtic v FC United, Nuneaton Town v Stockport County.
Evo-Stik League: Ashton United v Frickley Athletic, Scarborough Athletic v Droylsden, Hyde United v Ossett Town, Mossley v Burscough, Colne v Radcliffe Borough.
NWCFL: Barnoldswick Town v Abbey Hey, New Mills v Winsford United, West Didsbury & Chorlton v AFC Liverpool, Cheadle Town v Ashton Town, Holker Old Boys v Chadderton, Stockport Town v Widnes.