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Here are the THREE main Rochdale players looking to hurt Sunderland’s promotion chances tomorrow

They may be sitting second bottom of League One, but Dale possess one of the best strikers in the division, whilst a blend of experience and youth could cause Sunderland’s promotion chances further problems.

Rochdale v Tottenham Hotspur - The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Ian Henderson

League One Games/Goals: 39/17

Despite Dale sitting second bottom of the table, they possess an experienced striker that has outscored the majority of his League One counterparts. Sound familiar? It should do - he’s basically the third tier equivalent of Jermain Defoe whilst at Sunderland.

Henderson’s has gone through a bit of a dry spell recently and has only scored once in his last six games. Unfortunately, that goal came last Saturday during his side’s 1-1 draw with Gillingham, so with that pressure now lifted he’ll surely be looking to add to his tally against a tired Sunderland back four.

It would be fair to say Henderson took time to really blossom, and only eight career goals meant he tried his hand abroad, moving to Ankaragücü in Turkey. After only two appearances there, the striker made the move back to the UK, joining Colchester United in 2010, where he scored an average of approximately one in five.

That form gained him a move to the Spotland Stadium where he became a hero almost instantly. Now 34, he is Rochdale’s skipper and has now hit double figures for six consecutive seasons.

Henderson is, without a shadow of a doubt, Dale’s main threat this Saturday.

Aaron Wilbraham

League One Games/Goals: 16/3

At 39-years-old the former Bristol City striker is no spring chicken but, alongside Ian Henderson, the big burly target man is still proving handy in and around the box down in Greater Manchester.

He’s had a bit of a nomadic career, but has earned promotion from League One twice alongside two EFL trophy wins across his twenty-two-year career, so you could say he knows one or two things about what it takes to succeed at this level - or at the very least how to be a nuisance for Tom Flanagan and Jack Baldwin.

Whilst the goal flow comes from the little man - Henderson - alongside him, Wilbraham’s ability to wreak havoc in the box with his strength, wiliness, and experience is what creates the space for him. He’s exactly the kind of player we’ve struggled with all season - Flanagan and Baldwin will need to be up for a battle.

Oliver Rathbone

League One Games/Goals: 23/3

Son of former Blackburn Rovers player Mick, Rathbone junior is enjoying a fine season in the Dale midfield as he blossoms into one of their most important players.

A regular for Manchester United at under-18 and under-21 level, the now 22-year-old was released from the United academy in 2016 and was swiftly picked up by the recently departed Keith Hill on a short term contract.

However, his impressive performances meant Rochdale quickly renewed his contract, tying him down until the summer of 2019 - and it would be no surprise if they offer a further extension, such is his increasing reputation.

Whilst some players drop out of football altogether within a couple of years of being released by top academies as they struggle to adjust to competitive action, Rathbone is thriving in the League One relegation dog-fight, and has smashed home a career best five goals this season, whilst also picking up seven yellow cards - showing that he isn’t overawed when it comes to a battle in the engine room.

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