Despite plenty of rhetoric to the contrary in the past few days, the pressure is mounting on Bury manager Lee Clark to marry the added steel in defensive areas with an attacking strategy with a more creative bent to it. The general level of performance has increased in the past two matches, albeit from a very low bar.
Tomorrow, the Shakers make the trip for the first time to the AESSEAL New York Stadium in a competitive fixture and will come up against a Rotherham United outfit whose results in League One under the auspices of Paul Warne have been erratic. However, with almost every member of the roster now fit, they turned in an impressive display last Sunday against Portsmouth to earn their first victory on the road in what must have felt like an ice age, particularly to the contingent of Millers fans who have witnessed the majority of that utterly barren spell on the road.
Jamie Proctor’s forthcoming operations that will keep him out of contention until the very final moments of the campaign are a hammer blow to Warne and his strategies. Expect them to line up in the same way as they did at Fratton Park but a little more licence for the full-backs to push up and offer more verticality to a system that nominally looks quite rigid. Darren Potter will patrol in front of the back four to win the ball back and make excellent use of it himself, feeding his compatriots out wide or in the centre just ahead of him with a good range of passing. He will sometimes opt to carry the ball forward himself in order to ensure target the wingers are well supported and to keep the opposition’s more creative players hemmed in where they offer less.
Jon Taylor will be the closest body in a red shirt to target man Kieffer Moore. He could occasionally swap flanks with Ryan Williams to confuse their markers and now that he has a goal under his belt, his confidence is bound to be high and he needs to ensure that his link to Moore isn’t cut off. The Ipswich loanee is a mountain and his overwhelming physical presence has paid dividends in the early games of 2017/2018 with a four goal haul and his knock-downs to his teammates also reaping an assist. Although he requires a great deal of attention from the visitors’ centre-backs, it would be remiss to totally focus on him and they must maintain positional discipline in the face of the inevitable runners from midfield.
Mihai Dobre will only have joined up with the squad today after his international duty with Romania U21s. That said, I have little doubt that Clark will immediately deploy him into the XI, with Josh Laurent coming inside. The questions then are over who will get the nod at right back and up front alongside Jermaine Beckford; Jordan Williams has already garnered plenty of praise from his manager, so it might be that the vastly more experienced but less pacey Phil Edwards has to be content with a place on the substitutes’ bench. Chris Maguire will have augmented his match fitness with a full training regimen, so might be preferred to Ryan Lowe with the added bonus of his set piece expertise. Whatever the case, a little more caution is likely to be thrown to the wind.
As for a prediction, I think it will be a 1-1 draw. With Nathan Cameron’s command of the backline, the BL9 outfit have looked much more steadfast in the previous two encounters. Moore is certain to give no quarter to the fan favourite however and there could be some profit in the half-space for both sides rather than down the middle. That outcome is unlikely to keep the wolves from Clark’s door unless plenty of openings are carved out and that remains to be seen…