HALF-TERM REPORT: Patience will be key to Shakers' survival
STEVEN Schumacher’s timely equaliser at home to fellow strugglers Shrewsbury on Friday night was a fitting end to what had been a topsy-turvy first half of the season.
The game was the Shakers’ 23rd of the campaign, and at the halfway point they sat third-bottom of League One on 20 points – three points from safety.
At this stage, the ultimate goal of 50 points – the standard benchmark for avoiding relegation – does not look out of their reach, but one look at the fixture list will tell you that Bury will have to be patient.
The Shakers face an almost exact repeat, albeit in reverse, of the horrendous run of games that saw caretaker boss Peter Shirtliff fail to guide them to a single victory in his eight league games in charge at the start of the campaign.
They only had three points on the board when Kevin Blackwell took over at the end of September, and did not register their first win until their 14th attempt.
Including that vital three points at home to Hartlepool, which saw Blackwell’s side leap-frog their opponents to move off the bottom of League One, Bury have notched up 15 points in their last 10 games.
A repeat of that form would more than likely see the Shakers escape the dreaded drop, but that may be difficult to achieve in the short term.
Bury will have to wait until Scunthorpe, on March 12, to entertain a side in the bottom half.
It’s a similar story away from home, with Saturday’s match at Carlisle United and a trip to Shrewsbury at the end of January the only winnable-looking games on the road in the first two months of the year.
Of course, this tricky run of fixtures will eventually ease off, but Bury must be ready to capitlalise when they face their relegation rivals at the business end of the season.
To do that, it is imperative the directors quickly do what is required to lift the current transfer embargo, in order for Blackwell to have enough time to rebuild his side in the January window.
It is also important that the club – the fans as well as the players and management – hold their nerve in what will a tricky couple of months.
If morale does not take too much of a battering in January and February, I’m quietly confident that Bury, with all their battling qualities, will be capable of finding the points they need to stay in League One.
One thing is for sure, however, it’s going to be another emotional rollercoaster. But would we have it any other way?
Remaining fixtures Home – Tranmere (Jan 1), Stevenage (Jan 19), Sheffield United (Jan 22), Doncaster Rovers (Feb 2), Coventry City (Feb 16), Crawley Town (Mar 2), Scunthorpe United (Mar 12), Colchester United (Mar 16), Crewe Alexandra (Mar 29), Oldham Athletic (Apr 13), Yeovil Town (Apr 27).
Away – Carlisle United (Dec 29), MK Dons (Jan 12), Shrewsbury Town (Jan 26), Brentford (Feb 9), Notts County (Feb 23), Swindon Town (Feb 26), Portsmouth (Mar 9), Bournemouth (Mar 23), Leyton Orient (Apr 1), Hartlepool United (Apr 8), Walsall (Apr 20).