If there was any further proof needed that this is a relegation season, then Saturday supplied just that. It wasn’t just that we lost the game in such a poor manner, it’s that the game was such a big opportunity to inject a sense of momentum into the season and we failed to take it. Being unable to win important games, or to build momentum at any point in the season, is what relegates teams – in addition to being crap.
The three goals we conceded against Swindon demonstrate just why we’ve struggled since Slade’s appointment. Given his reputation as a defensive manager, it was to be expected that we’d defend deep, however, failing to not only prevent crosses going into the box but also to deal with them renders his entire raison d’etre for being here pointless. If you’re going to be defensive, defend well, if you can’t defend, you’ve got to be more attacking.
This upcoming game against Bury is not so much last chance saloon as it is earning the right to call future games ‘last chance saloon’. We’re 11 points adrift of safety and the requirements to survive are getting bigger with each passing week. A three or four game winning streak may change the mood around the club, but it’s not something that would be nice if it happened, it simply has to happen over the next three or four games.
Having picked an unchanged team for the Swindon game, Russell Slade has promised changes for this game. It’s likely to be bad news for Dion Kelly-Evans, who seems likely to make way for Jordan Willis now that he’s available. Farrend Rawson could well step back into the defence too, likely to be in place of Jordan Turnbull given that Nathan Clarke is seemingly Slade’s man.
That rule is likely to keep Kevin Foley in the side too, although where he’ll be shoe-horned in will be of some interest. The 4-3-3 Slade deployed in the past few games could well be abandoned to allow Kyel Reid and/or Jodi Jones to play as wingers, while Stuart Beavon is likely to be given a partner to play alongside in attack. If I had to guess, that could mean Foley will be played as a central midfielder in a 4-4-2, along with Callum Reilly.
Last Time We Met
It was one of the least memorable games of the season when we last faced Bury, back in August at the Ricoh Arena. Off the back of a somewhat unfortunate draw against Shrewsbury, this game looked a chance to kick-start our season with a win. However, the game transpired to underline just how lacking we were in physicality and experience in an insipid display that somehow ended in a 0-0 draw – although Dion Kelly-Evans had a great chance in the second-half to win the game.
How Are They Doing?
It’s been an odd season for an erratic Bury side who have been through three managers and have used more players than any other team in this division. Having cut the budget massively over the summer, Bury started the season in excellent form under David Flitcroft. However, that good start quickly petered out, the club went on a record winless run, replaced Flitcroft with the academy manager, Chris Brass, and seemed content with blooding a few youngsters and finishing bottom of the division.
However, results improved around the turn of the year, they signed basically any player they could get their hands on, then they somehow managed to lure Lee Clark from a job at Kilmarnock to help them out of the relegation zone. Two games into Clark’s tenure, and Bury have had two wins to help them out of the relegation zone and now seem to have some real momentum behind them.
Bury currently have the division’s second top-scorer in their ranks in the form of James Vaughan, who has missed the past few games but could be fit for this one. They also have beanpole centre-forward Tom Pope in attack who has proved a pretty effective foil for Vaughan in attack this season. A 38 year-old Ryan Lowe scored the winner for Bury in their most game against Charlton, while there’s also the sprightly youngster George Miller who’s proving to be an effective attacking option from the bench, with five goals to his name this season.
In the middle of the park, Jacob Mellis has proven a useful creative outlet this season with five assists and offers both drive from a central midfield position and composure on the ball. Also in midfield, Callum Styles, born in the year 2000, and Scott Burgess have emerged as bright prospects in recent months. While winger Danny Mayor could be available for selection after returning from injury recently.
Bury boast some useful experience in defence in the form of Antony Kay and Leon Barnett, who’ve been used as part of a back-three recently. That change in system has allowed the impressive Greg Leigh at left wing-back greater freedom to demonstrate his attacking instincts, while the recent addition of former Birmingham City talisman Paul Caddis provides Bury with further quality from right wing-back. Additionally, Bury have added Joe Murphy to play in goal to provide them with additional quality and experience at the back.
Bury’s recent form, and the possibility that they could select the division’s second top-scorer tonight, should render them pretty heavy favourites for this game. Russell Slade has made noises this week about wanting to stay beyond the end of the season, but failing to win either of these next two games should really be grounds for sacking, even though that it would be unlikely affect our hopes of staying up.
All signs point towards a Bury win, I’m guessing it will be 2-0.