By Tony Leighton
Five defeats in six games have not shattered Rochdale captain Peter Cavanagh's belief that an npower League 2 Play-Off place is a real possibility for Dale in what looks set to be an extremely hard fought promotion battle in the second half of the campaign.
After collecting just three points from the last 18 on offer, Dale have slid to 13th in the table, but so tight is the division that they are only three points below seventh-placed Fleetwood Town, the club that Cavanagh left in the summer to re-join his former Accrington Stanley manager John Coleman at Rochdale.
The Dale skipper told football-league.co.uk: "We can definitely still make the Play-Offs. Recent results have obviously been disappointing, but if we can get the consistency back into our game we can be a real threat in the promotion race.
"League 2 level teams are prone to inconsistency and so you see a lot of surprise results - just look at Barnet [21st] winning at Gillingham [top] on Boxing Day or us hammering Cheltenham [third] last week after we'd lost four games on the spin.
"We've looked back at the games we've lost and more often than not it's been a case of losing through our own mistakes rather than being beaten by the better team."
Dale looked the better team themselves at times during their Boxing Day game at Burton Albion, where Cavanagh scored his first goal for the club but nevertheless ended up on the wrong end of a 3-2 scoreline with manager Coleman bitterly complaining that, "we keep conceding stupid goals."
Cavanagh could not disagree with the man who he played under for eight years at Accrington and who he was happy to link up with again this season.
The 31-year-old midfielder, who began his career at his home town club Liverpool, had helped Fleetwood reach The Football League for the first time in the club's history but chose to join Rochdale rather than stay with the Cod Army.
"I had the option to stay at Fleetwood," said Cavanagh, "but when I spoke to John I liked the things he was talking about and I made my decision quite quickly.
"With the players that we've got at the club, and perhaps with one or two additions in the January transfer window, I think we've got a team that's quite capable of challenging for a place in the Play-Offs.
"This league is so tight that no team is running away with it, and if anyone can put four or five wins together they can put themselves right in the promotion picture - and that's exactly what we're aiming to do."
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