Greater Manchester Football Wrap (Feb 4-6): Rochdale AFC, Salford City, Wigan Athletic, Stockport County, Bolton Wanderers

By: Joe Brayne, Callum Sutherland, Jacob Findell, Isaac Stronge, Matthew Holmes.

Relegation-threatened Rochdale’s daunting trip to Salford is the highlight of the weekend for our local clubs, whilst North West ties await Wigan and Stockport and Bolton look to continue their promotion push.

Rochdale AFC

Rochdale will hope that new signing Toby Mullarkey will be the right ingredient at the back to help them overcome their perilous form.

The trip to Salford on Saturday couldn’t come at a worse time for the club, sitting rock bottom of League Two, comfortably 25 points behind their next opponents.

Another defeat on Saturday came at the hands of promotion-chasing Carlisle, a one-goal deficit enough to sink Dale in another example of their shot-shy pattern of play.

Mullarkey, arriving from Altrincham in the National League, is perhaps a sign that Rochdale are already preparing for a tumultuous extended stay at the depths of the football pyramid.

Salford City

Salford City will still feel optimistic heading into this weekend’s game against Rochdale, despite being fortunate to escape with a 1-0 win on Tuesday night. Visitors Walsall had the better of the chances, but January signing Alex Cairns was in inspired form and made three point-blank saves to keep his side in front. 

Cairns’ will need to keep up this form if the club are finally to achieve the next step in their ownerships group’s ambitious plan to make an assault on the higher echelons of the English game.  

Louie Barry also arrived on loan late in the transfer window and the former La Masia academy graduate could well see his first start for the club in midweek. The Ammies may not have been at their best recently, but they should have more than enough to beat a struggling Rochdale side in this Greater Manchester derby. 

Wigan Athletic

Newly appointed Wigan manager Shaun Maloney will be looking for a positive performance from his team as they take on Blackburn Rovers on February 6.

The Latics’ short-trip to their fellow North West club will be Maloney’s first game in charge of his former club, where he bagged 15 goals in 91 appearances.

Wigan are currently propping up the Championship table, after a run of five losses and two draws since the World Cup has left the club four points from safety.

Maloney was previously at the helm for Scottish side Hibernian until last year. The 40-year-old was also an assistant coach for Belgium under former manager Roberto Martinez for three years. 

Monday’s fixture will be a difficult task for the Latics, with Blackburn currently sitting 6th in the table and battling for promotion.

Stockport County

Stockport County welcome Tranmere Rovers to Edgeley Park this weekend for a mid-table clash that could prove vital to either team in their play-off hopes.  

Tranmere arrive straight off the back of 1-0 victory to league leaders Leyton Orient, in stark contrast to the Hatters who will be looking for their first win in three.  

Stockport fans may put the recent dip in form down to heavy fixture congestion for now, but will be hopeful star man Paddy Madden kicks back into action, having been rested last weekend and failing to make an impact in the week against Crewe.  

A win for the Hatters could take them to the base of the play-off places if other results go their way and could reignite the recent surge up the league table.

Bolton Wanderers

Bolton Wanderers look to punish a spiralling Cheltenham Town and close the gap to automatic promotion in League One to just five points.

The Trotters edged past Charlton in their last outing, owed largely to Aaron Morley’s magnificent free kick, but have proved far more steadfast at the University of Bolton Stadium – winning nine of their 15 home games.

A winless run of five games has seen the visitors slide to eighteenth, teetering perilously above the relegation zone by just four points.

Ryan Broom’s late goal sealed a surprise 1-0 victory for The Robins’ over Bolton in October 2022 yet such luck seems to have all but dried out ahead of the reverse fixture on Saturday, 4 February.

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