Rochdale will turn up at Vale Park on Saturday firmly believing in their ability to make the play-offs, though they have four points to make up on both Gillingham and Barnsley if they are to stand a chance.
With just three fixtures remaining, that is a tall order, and Vale will be going flat out to make sure they make life difficult for Keith Hill’s side on Saturday afternoon.
Vale are just three points behind ‘Dale and Rob Page’s men are looking to end the season off in style and see how high they can finish after the last three fixtures.
Although Vale’s own play-off hopes have been dashed in recent weeks, six points and two clean sheets in their last two outings show that the players are not yet ‘on the beach’.
Rochdale’s only defeat in their last nine matches was at Wigan, where the home side won thanks to a solitary goal fromConor McAleny who came off the bench to hit the vital goal midway through the second half.
Dale were reduced to ten men in the 33rd minute when striker Ian Henderson was red-carded after kicking out at Wigan defender Jason Pearce, yet still threatened League One’s form team right upt o the final whistle.
That is testament to boss Keith Hill’s influence since returning to Spotland after a stint in charge of League One promotion rivals Barnsley.
Vale go into Saturday’s fixture with a trio of injury concerns. Leading goal scorer Ajay Leitch-Smith and Louis Dodds each have problems with what have been described as slight hamstring injuries.
And defender Ben Purkiss, instrumental in both of Vale’s goals against Gillingham last weekend has been carrying a knee injury.
Rob Page will leave it as late as possible before making a decision, after consulting his medical team.
Vale will also be without Player of the Year contender Anthony Grant, of course, after the influential midfielder picked up his fifteenth yellow card of the season in the dying moments of Vale’s victory against Gillingham, earning himself and automatic three-match suspension.