MIDDLESBROUGH have never met Rochdale in a competitive fixture before, but that is not to say tonight’s opponents are ignorant of one another.
The pair met in a pre-season friendly at Spotland on July 24 when a rejigged Boro line-up lost 3-2 and a number of young visiting players who featured in that fixture are expected to be involved for the hosts at the Riverside this evening.
It will be an occasion where manager Tony Pulis will hand a further chance to Boro’s supporting cast, mindful of Friday’s televised top-of-the-table Championship trip to Leeds United being on the horizon.
Defender Nathan Wood, who become Boro’s youngest player at 16 years and 75 days in the previous round’s penalty shoot-out win over Notts County, is likely to be handed further first-team experience alongside several other rookies.
Fellow teenagers Stephen Walker and Djed Spence, who both went on against the Magpies, will be eyeing further involvement alongside the likes of centre-back Enes Mahmutovic, who scored in the last round, and left-back Nathan McGinley, 21.
Lewis Wing, one emerging player who has already made a name for himself at Championship level in the early part of the season, is also likely to start after having to settle for a role on the bench in Boro’s win over West Bromwich.
With speculation surrounding several of Boro’s squad players, including Marvin Johnson and Ashley Fletcher, ahead of Friday’s loan deadline an indication regarding their futures could arrive tonight when a lack of involvement in order to protect them from being injured will perhaps point to potential moves.
Boro’s opponents Dale have reached the third round of the League Cup in its various guises on just one occasion since being runners-up to Norwich City in 1961-62 in just the second year of the competition’s existence.
The Lancastrians head into the game on the back of three home defeats already this season, which have seen them concede a combined total of 10 goals.
Last six games: Middlesbrough DWWDWW Rochdale WLWDLL.
Referee: B Toner (Lancashire).
Last time: The two teams have never met in a competitive fixture.