I certainly wouldn’t have expected either of the sides facing each other tomorrow afternoon to be in the bottom four at this stage. Bury’s travails are well-documented on these pages with the majority of the responsibility for the current woes squarely resting on Lee Clark’s shoulders. For his part, he’ll be looking to relieve a modicum of the
non-existent pressure on his position as manager with a badly needed victory against fellow early strugglers Plymouth Argyle.
Since their excellent 2-0 triumph at Home Park over Charlton Athletic back in mid-August, the League Two promotion winners have shipped goals at an alarming rate and have only mustered a single point in the matches after the victory. Derek Adams has bemoaned the effect of a spate of red cards in recent games and talismanic Graham Carey has not lived up to his billing; indeed, he is suspended for the next three and on current form, it’s not being perceived as the blow you might have expected it to be.
It’s probably wishful thinking to hope that Clark will have learned some lessons from Tuesday’s defeat to Fleetwood Town, so expect to see him persist with Phil Edwards in an unfamiliar role despite him looking very uncomfortable both in defensive midfield and at centre back of all places. Joe Skarz experienced a torrid time during his first minutes in his second spell at the club but could retain his place. The centre back pairing are likely to be reverted back to the Jekyll and Hyde duo at Rotherham United a week ago.
Thinly veiled criticism of Harry Bunn, coupled with being hooked after just half an hour in the previous match might mean he has to make do with a place amongst the substitutes. Mihail Dobre and Chris Maguire will look to exploit the gaps behind the wider men in the attacking midfield three the Pilgrims will almost certainly employ and feed captain Jermaine Beckford and the quietly impressive Michael Smith; the latter’s influence on the strategy and rapport with the four-goal striker in particular was a crumb of comfort for the travelling fans that the support Beckford receives could increase to a more consistently threatening level, especially with Smith’s presence from set plays.
The back four in front of custodian Luke McCormick will stay deep in an effort to stem the flow of chances created (and goals conceded) at all times. The double pivot of deep-lying playmaker Jamie Ness and his experienced teammate David Fox will shield the defence and also supply the front four mainly by playing raking long passes both along the ground and in the air to a lesser degree. The return of Antoni Sarcevic, a constant thorn against the Shakers in whatever colours he’s been in, will be a filip for Adams without Carey’s match-winning potential. Look for him to go beyond Nadir Çiftçi on a regular basis. Neither Jake Jervis nor Joel Grant are likely to be burdened with too much tracking back responsibilities and the home dugout will have to ensure that a better balance is struck between pragmatism and an attacking onslaught than witnessed thus far in 2017/2018.
As for a prediction, I’m going to go for a 2-1 victory to the Devon outfit. I have zero confidence whatsoever in Clark’s ability to arrest the slump both on and off the pitch. Adams’ charges have equally been the architects of their own downfall in the last month as much as that can be apportioned to their opponents. They are likely to have three or four green shirts perpetually buzzing in and around the penalty area and are almost certain as a result to find some joy against a similarly porous backline. Whether yet another setback in this ‘six-pointer’ will cost Clark his job remains to be seen but in Adams’ case, a win could just kickstart their campaign once more as like with their hosts, the talent in their squad is undoubtedly there but they look to be in much better hands regardless of their early position in the table.