It would be remiss to state that Bury supporters’ confidence is at an all-time nadir as they have suffered on many recent occasions but perhaps never has the gap between expectations, talent in the squad and latterly, the results and performances ever been so wide. Speculation continues to mount regarding Lee Clark’s future as manager at the football club. A likely defeat to coastal Lancashire outfit Fleetwood Town might spell the end of his tenure and would almost certainly plunge the Shakers into an early bottom four position.
Another late winner for their opponents on Saturday was the least both sides deserved; the current group look unmotivated for reasons that you don’t have to be a private investigator to uncover but which only further decrease the chances of a badly needed positive performance and result tonight. They face Uwe Rösler’s side who sit 10 places higher in the nascent table and with a game in hand on most other teams because of the international break’s effect a fortnight ago.
The Trawlermen have uncharacteristically shipped five during their last two matches against an erratic Bristol Rovers and a far from free-scoring Oldham Athletic, which must concern Rösler to some extent. However, they came back from behind on Saturday against the Latics to claim a share of the spoils from the penalty spot and are unlikely to give up the chase in any match, even when behind by more than one.
Even without my tip for top goalscorer in League One, Conor McAleny, the threats they possess are not to be dismissed lightly. The triumvirate of Devante Cole, Jordi Hiwula-Mayifuila and Bobby Grant all have distinctive individual abilities to worry even the most rampart-like of defences in the third tier. Cole and Grant are likely to sit in the inside channels without the ball and not let their opponents pass across their backline without any qualms. Cole can comfortably play anywhere across the front and Hiwula-Mayifuila has the pace and nous to time his runs to make deploying a high line tantamount to waving a white flag. Grant adds both creativity and physicality to the trio and will shuttle between the forwards and midfield in order to receive the ball from Aiden O’Neill or Lewie Coyle on the right flank.
Both Coyle and the opposite wing-back Amari’i Bell are adept in either a high-press 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 (which they reverted to in the Oldham game after the hour mark). Either way, they will patrol their territory and endeavour to keep their positional discipline in an extremely demanding role. O’Neill will offer some protection for the back three, who are almost certain to play a very high line and in doing so, keep the ball in the visitors’ territory for prolonged exchanges. Naturally, that particular tactic, as with all others, is a double-edged sword…
Nathan Cameron will not be involved in the matchday squad, so Tom Aldred will deputise and need to demonstrate similar leadership to help the concentration of a young back four. Greg Leigh and Jordan Williams are going to have their hands full against the wide players and must be careful not to get caught out of position, particularly if those areas are overloaded with red and white shirts. Alex Whitmore has to shake off a woeful display against Rotherham. Whilst he won’t be coming up against any target men in this encounter, the raw speed of the front three will keep him on the back foot.
Further upfield, expect to see Josh Laurent partnered with Rohan Ince now that Mihai Dobre made a reasonably successful cameo on the right wing. The combination with Phil Edwards on Saturday simply conceded too much space and time to the Millers and this will need some sort of reaction in order to stave off what feels inevitable at the time of writing. Dobre and Harry Bunn could swap wings at regular intervals and will need to ensure that their link-ups between the central two and Jermaine Beckford in particular are consistent. The key will be getting in behind Bell and Coyle and running at the defence, who aren’t the quickest unit.
Beckford could have some of the donkey work taken off him if Michael Smith makes his full debut. The former Portsmouth striker also turned in an above-par display from the bench and if he can occupy Cian Bolger, the main physical threat to Beckford and any other player in black will be effectively eliminated.
As for a prediction, I’m going to go for a repeat of Saturday’s scoreline in South Yorkshire: 3-2 to Fleetwood. Rösler’s charges are not short of goals and, whilst not exactly watertight in defence at the time of writing, are likely to again restrict the Shakers to a handful of chances at best unless something improves on that side of things under Clark. This could easily be his last game in the dugout. I want him to succeed but he appears to be his own worst enemy and without the players on-board to help get Bury out of their rut, it looks ominous.