Two defeats in a row, following the thrashing of Northampton, have brought Bristol Rovers back down to earth with a bang.
Whilst the loss at home to Oxford was a tight and exciting game the 4-0 drubbing at Shrewsbury showed just how far the Gas are from the top teams.
This weekend’s opposition Rochdale find themselves in even bigger trouble having finished in 9th spot last season, 3 points above Rovers.
They are currently sitting in 20th place with just two wins to their name. Their last win was a 3-0 dumping of Gillingham on 23 September.
As Rovers were being royally turned over in Shropshire the Greater Manchester team were being held to a 2-2 draw by Northampton at Spotland.
The home took the lead in the 25th minute; Ian Henderson volleying home and that was how it remained until they were awarded a penalty fifteen minutes into the second-half after the Cobblers David Buchanan clashed with Matt Done.
Matt Ingram saved Henderson's spot-kick, but the Dale striker followed up to score. Within 10 minutes Ash Taylor gave the away team hope with a low header from a corner. The whole complexion of the game changed in the 77th minute when Buchanan made up for his earlier indiscretion as he netted the equaliser.
The game nearly went right beyond Dale’s reach when the Cobbler’s were awarded a penalty of their own but former Gas player John-Joe O'Toole saw his 86th-minute spot-kick saved by Josh Lillis after Jim McNulty's trip on Brendan Moloney.
Talking on local radio after the game Dale Boss Richard Hill said, "You cannot allow the psychology to get any worse and you can't use a stick, you have to encourage players to hear one voice, which is mine. I've got to lead and support them. “
"I'm a fan of the players, I've recruited them, I'm a fan of the way we try and play but human beings react strangely. We've got to rise above strange behaviour and decisions and stick to a task, which is what we try and do."
"I enjoy this job and I want to continue enjoying this job. I've got memories all over my house about this football club and my family are supporters of this club. I get great support from the chairman and the board of directors and the players; it's a hard time and everybody realises that, but we'll come through it."
Looking back at previous clashes between the teams it is remarkable that the games often result in draws, with 16 of the 32 games played finishing level.
The very first game between the two teams took place on 27th September 1969 at Eastville. Both teams had got off to a bright start to the season and newly promoted Rochdale were happy to play an expansive brand of attacking football to thrill the 8,653 crowd.
Harold Jarman opened the scoring with a penalty after Robin Stubbs was brought down. Great work by Butler created a deserved equaliser for Dale and in the second half, they took the lead with a headed goal.
Stubbs brought the game back to parity with a weak shot past Harkin into the corner of the net. Bobby Jones put Rovers in front again as he took a high up field ball and struck it past an advancing Harkin. Dale stunned the Eastville faithful with a deserved last minute equaliser. So 3-3 for the first-ever game between the clubs.
In 2002-03 season goals from Paul Simpson and Clive Platt gave Dale a 2-1 victory in Bristol, whilst Lee McEvilly scored in the 1-1 draw at Spotland in March.
The following season both games finished 0-0 although the game at Spotland in December ended in high drama, as late in the game Gary Jones blazed a controversially awarded penalty over the bar.
In October 2010 Rovers just squeezed out all the points with a 2-1 win. A Jeff Hughes penalty on half-time gave Rovers the lead. Chris Lines appeared to make the game safe on 82 minutes before Byron Anthony put one past his own keeper four minutes later to ensure a nervous finish.
In 2012-13 both games finished 2-1 to the home team. The game at the Mem was a very dull affair until Ellis Harrison ran half the length of the pitch and let fly with a powerful shot into the top corner that the keeper had no chance of saving.
Dale were level on 75 minutes when defender Michael Rose hit a left-foot shot from 25 yards into the top left-hand corner.
Nine minutes later Eliot Richards sent a corner into the box, which Brunt failed to knock home from close range, but the ball fell sweetly to Harrison who slotted home the rebound to secure all 3 points for the Gas.
In 2013-14 Dale won both games. The game in Bristol was Rovers penultimate game of that relegation season. Rovers took the lead through Kaid Mohamed who squeezed the ball under Josh Lillis after 17 minutes.
The Rovers wide man showed great strength to get past two Dale defenders before nudging the ball under the rushing keeper. The ball travelled goalwards before hitting the right-hand post and dribbled along the goal line before the linesman gave the goal.
Dale came out all guns blazing in the second half and with less than a minute played were level through a stunning left-footed curling shot from Bunney.
The substitute advanced down the right-hand side before receiving a pinpoint pass in the Rovers area, which Mark McChrystal attempted to intercept. Bunney composed himself and slotted his left-footed effort in the far corner of the goal.
The visitors took the lead just past the hour mark as former Gasman Matthew Lund fired in from close range. Michael Rose whipped a low cross into the Rovers penalty area, which seemed to evade everyone before Lund popped up at the far post.
In the game at the Mem in early September last year, both teams had got off to a bad start to the season.
Rovers were 18th and Dale four places lower. A 2-2 draw did little to raise the relative positions of either team. The visitors went in front after 17 minutes when Callum Camps rounded Kelle Roos before shooting into an empty net.
Just four minutes later Peter Hartley headed a Chris Lines corner across goal for Matty Taylor to get a touch in the six-yard box. Within a minute Rochdale were level as Joe Bunney crossed for Ian Henderson to face an almost open goal.
Taylor brought Rovers back into the game with a scissor-kick from Hartley's header soon after the break.
Dale skipper Ian Henderson spoke about his current form, “It always happens like this, I go through little purple patches, and it’s always nice to score. “The first was unbelievable, even if I must say so myself. Campsy’s pass is outrageous!
"I see him on a daily basis and I’m not surprised by his passing ability or that he has dropped it on a sixpence. It was a counter-attack, after we had defended really well, and he’s hit an unbelievable diagonal after sliding inside and the rest is history, as they say.”
“We have to take the positives out of this evening. We played well, we played fluent football at times and we did go 2-0 up. At the end of the day, it’s another point towards our points tally and we haven’t lost the game.”
“We’ve just got to keep on digging away and working incredibly hard on the training pitch, and results will turn in our favour.”
“We’re going to go into Saturday’s game against Bristol Rovers really positive, and like every game, we’re going to try and win it. We’re going to come into training on Wednesday upbeat and prepare for the weekend’s game. All we can do is look forward to the next game.”