Bury play their final home game of 2016/2017 tomorrow against Northampton Town, with both sides on six match winless streaks and requiring maximum points to make survival more likely in the former case and certain in the latter.
Creditable though the Shakers’ point at the Macron was, it further underlined how one dimensional and increasingly reliant they are on top goalscorer James Vaughan as other reasonably potent sources have completely dried up in the past month. Manager Lee Clark must find a way to reverse that recent trend to avoid a very nervy seaside sojourn to Southend on Sunday week.
As for the visitors, only an improbable combination of results will see them drop to the fourth tier but visit Gigg Lane with four fewer options than they had at the start of their 1-1 draw with relegation rivals Shrewsbury.
With doubts lingering over the entire midfield diamond that ‘starred’ against Rochdale, we will more than likely see a repeat of the entire matchday squad as on Tuesday but with more emphasis on taking the game to their opponents. Look for captain Antony Kay to play slightly ahead of his central defensive partners when in possession and more onus placed on Scott Burgess to break from midfield to support the strikers and give the marauding wing backs another target to aim for.
With both stalwart David Buchanan and the talismanic John Joe O’Toole suspended, coupled with the recall of Greg Wylde and Luke Williams to their parent clubs, a big chunk of the consistency and creativity from open play in particular will be absent.
Lewin Nyatanga and Zander Diamond are threats from the commanding set pieces dished out by Matty Taylor and the Cobblers could try to soak up the pressure with a deep defensive and midfield lines and play direct to Marc Richards, with the captain and still effective outlet hopeful of extending his stay beyond the end of the campaign. Much of the link-up play between midfield and the forward line will go through Paul Anderson and Taylor Moore will need to be watchful of his forays forward on the counter.
As for a prediction, I’m going for a 2-0 victory for the men in white. As long as they can stick as diligently as they did on Tuesday to the task of defending from expert dead balls, Northampton shouldn’t be quite the threat they were in the reverse fixture and have less to play for but will nevertheless still push Bury all the way. Exile Jr. has gone for a very similar scoreline of 2-1. I hope we’re right!