ACCRINGTON Stanley manager James Beattie says their survival bid is being built around centre half pairing Dean Winnard and Tom Aldred.
The duo put in a solid defensive show to secure a memorable win over leaders Chesterfield last weekend, and followed that up with a clean sheet in Tuesday’s goalless home draw with Hartlepool.
And Beattie believes a fifth shut-out in nine games means they can go to promotion-chasing Rochdale – the third top scorers in League Two – with nothing to fear today.
“The first thing I did when I came in was to try to get a back four that I think is possibly one of the best in the league,” said the Stanley boss.
“Dean and Tom have forged this partnership which is very hard to break. They’ve played so well that it’s been hard for Rob Atkinson to get in.
“They’ve been magnificent and I think they just need to keep it going.
“They’re both very different in character but I think they are both blessed with pace, power and aggression and that’s what you need in this league.”
Winnard’s bravery resulted in his early exit against Hartlepool, after being the victim of two head injuries, but Beattie expects him to recover in time for this afternoon’s derby at Spotland.
And, together with Fulham loanee goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli, the Reds boss noted they make up the base of a strong spine.
“Growing up I was always part of a team that had a solid spine and that’s what we’ve got. Marcus (Bettinelli) has come in and been tremendous for us and I said to the lads a couple of weeks ago that it must be good for them to know that even if something gets past them Marcus is there and capable of making some spectacular saves,” said Beattie.
“The spine of the team is so important but the competition for places remains exceptional.
“If people show me in training that they can produce special things then they’ll get their chance in the team and I think we’ve seen that.”
He added: “We’ve worked hard on the defensive aspects of the team, getting back into our shape quickly, and I think that’s shown in the small number of goals we’ve conceded recently. We always know that we have the players going forward who have that bit of quality.”